Speech on the Occasion of One Year since Dasha
I would like to say a few words about the intellectual message that stands out through Dasha, her life, her projects and aspirations, and the depths and heights of her heart as embodied in her diary and expressed in the two main ideas which I will now present.
First of all, along with us, her parents, Dasha loved the Intellect: not the everyday, mundane, rational intellect which Aristotle called phronesis, and not the modern, digital, calculative intellect that counts losses and profits, but rather the free, paradoxical Intellect, the Intellect that is the reflection and voice of the Divine Sophia, Wisdom, the Nous, as the ancient Greeks called it.
Our family often talked about the Heraclitean and later Aristotelian thesis “zoon logon ekhon" — “man is the intellectual animal,” or more precisely “the living being transfixed by the Intellect.” According to Plato, the Intellect can be revealed in its entirety to the human being like a gift from the Divine, and it can transform the human being into a unique pearl in the shell of the Universe, into an inquiring, wondering being that is conscious of its own insufficiency, its finitude, and its death.
The human is a being that has a paradoxical presence in the world, a “here-being,” in which life, body, soul, and spirit are united, in which action, will, passion, and emotion are blended into a special substance. But most important of all for a person, ideally, is for the Supreme Divine Intellect, the Logos, to be open and revealed to them, with reflection, understanding, and comprehension of its laws and logic. Then the human being is the site where the laws of creation are revealed, where the miraculous “human-inhuman” is realized to be a Project, one which is not simply about the fleeting life of an individual, but whereupon insights and suspicions as to the meaning of history, culture, civilization, and the purposes and meanings of human life are born and borne out. The human being is the site of the Intellect.
Dasha chose the pseudonym “Platonova,” because in Plato the main figure in the world drama is the Intellect and, even higher than the Intellect, the One, which surpasses the Intellect, draws it upwards, and renders it open, yet unnamed, not wholly knowable, apophatic, constantly being borne out upwards, not only to Heaven, but to the unknown Beyond-Heaven. At the Faculty of Philosophy, Dasha chose the Department of the History of Philosophy for her specialization and postgraduate studies, because she believed that in this way one could study the history of the Intellect and the incomprehensibility that accompanies the human being through the history of Thought, the Logos, the Intellect.
The modern Western world bans culture, bans thinking. At universities in the West, generalizations are not recommended, and philosophy has turned into reasoning over banal everyday problems, trifles, and particulars. The modern West has rebelled against its own history and tradition in which the Divine vertical had been built up, in which the Intellect had been revered, and in which the human being strove to replicate and imitate the Divine World Intellect that providentially fore-thought the world as a whole and the integrality of everything. Today, the world is collapsing, shrinking, restlessly fussing and going mad, because the reasoning with which it operates remains apart from the Divine Intellect, knowing only the particular, the individual, without knowing the totality, the Universal, the One, the Supreme, and the apophatic Divine Intellect that is open to the above.
Throughout her life, Dasha waged struggle for the Intellect, for the Logos. A very difficult struggle. Dozens of times throughout her diary, she set herself the task of committing to intellectual effort on a daily basis — for example, by reading a hundred pages of good literature or interesting studies on the history of philosophy every day. This is very difficult for modern man. We have all comfortably slipped into an oasis of what we take to be a lightweight, visual culture, a culture that is mostly superficial, lazy, poorly articulated, and almost disconnected from thought. For the most part, the modern person takes “thought” to mean the daily strategizing of hiding their doing nothing and rewarding themselves for empty pastime.
Following the Russian ascetics, Dasha repeated the maxim “Keep your mind in hell” — this means keeping oneself in action, in tension, in struggle against the hellish forces that provoke the demonic obsessions of the modern world. In Dasha’s opinion, the Intellect must be sought, its reflections and shimmerings must be found, one must dwell within them and move and ascend through them, for there is nothing sweeter and more ecstatic than intellectual understanding, then noetic ascesis. Dasha believed that the apophatic side of the Divine Intellect is not only high up in the Heavenly spheres of the Noetic space, but is here and now. The light of revelation is in the human being’s each and every effort to know, as is the darkness of the closure of problems, things, and situations. Apophaticism, or unknowability, the other side of the Intellect, lies beyond the boundary of understanding, and it flashes like lightning or smoulders like fire in a swamp, but comprehending ideas and ascending up the lines of intellectual contemplation does not mean being infatuated with the mind, “closing the issue” or “solving the problem,” as they now say about business, but rather revealing new dimension and layers, new heights of the Intellect. Apophaticism and the openness of the Platonic Intellect — these are the vertical of knowing, the hierarchies of essences and beings, the depths of the abyss up on high. This is the orientation that Dasha tried to uphold in herself and communicate to you, her young and creative comrades.
Dasha’s second distinguishing trait was her personal obsession, one which has now turned into a message to you, her peers who have resolved to creatively respond to the Creative Contemplation bearing her name: the idea of Beauty, aesthetics, aestheticism, which should permeate the life of every seeking Intellect, thought, and Idea of every young person. In Dasha’s diary entries from Sicily, we find her pondering how to carve a statue out of oneself, to bring out features and cut away the superficial in order to form and reform the interior while listening to the quiet wind of the higher states of the soul or the lightning flashes of intellectual insights.
In his article “The Philosophy of Irrationality,” Oscar Wilde had the idea that it is not art that imitates life, but rather life creates its own masterpieces by imitating art. Wilde called this “dandyism,” yet we can call it “spiritual aristocratism.” In Huysmans’ novel Against the Grain, there is the thought that sometimes the role of art is fulfilled by a person with a complex soul, which is itself a work of art. These ideas on the active imagination, on the human subject as a volitional and creative bearer of divine inspiration, on the secret fire within every person which links them to the divine vertical, and on the altar in the “secret room” within one’s own inner and innermost self, were very dear to Dasha. They were so dear to her that she made it her mission to make her life a poetic masterpiece or a beautiful canvas, to transform into a perfect statue, and to gradually, step by step, sculpt the ideal form out of a block of primeval natural material.
Behind all of this, of course, without a doubt, stands Platonism in its aesthetic emanation. Just as in the Republic Plato’s philosopher, or any ordinary real person for that matter, seeks intellect and ascends to it out of the cave of shadows so as to contemplate the beautiful ideas, so must the artist purify their vision from the extraneous and accidental traits of the visible material and carve a beautiful statue out of a shapeless slab, assemble out of words the skeleton of a ship for the poetic journey towards one’s higher “I”, create the architecture of cathedrals and museums out of chaos, and draw a harmonious world of human feelings and notions on any empty sheet. For Platonists, this is not born out of nothing, but comes from the Divine Intellect that embraces us all. To see structure in chaos, to see the vertical in the horizontal, to find the center on a plane, to look into the depths in the ocean and up to the heights in the heavens — this requires effort on the part of our soul and our small mind, this demands the transformation of our ordinary vision and look, and the transfiguration of our everyday soul. This requires the self-cultivation, ascent, transformation, and flourishing of the human being.
Here we come to a fundamental idea of Orthodox Christian theology: the idea that “God became man so that man could become God.” A person must enlighten themself, rise up against their lesser “I”, against everydayness, Altaglichkeit, and turn to the fundamental qualities of one’s greater “I”, to the capacity to think and be in accordance with the Intellect, the Divine Intellect, that is Truth and Beauty.
Dasha’s pseudonym “Platonova” was fateful. Platonism is the pure philosophy and even religion of the Intellect, the Nous, the One, the Logos. Dasha believed that the human being must dwell in the rays of this great system. Each and every one of us needs to be a Platonist, to be together with Plato, to be a Platonov or a Platonova. After all, the human being is an ascending being, an inspirited and inspiring or “spiritualizing” being, one who gains Intellect and Spirit. Moreover, the human being is an aesthetic being that knows Beauty and acts in accordance with its laws. These are the two testaments of Daria Dugina-Platonova that are united into One Message: We, all of us together, must overcome the fragmentary, decaying civilization of the Western world, overcome the partiality and fractality of our own “I”, and move towards a holistic, integral personhood and personality to ascend up the ladder of intellectual perfections. This was Dasha’s idea of and for herself and her friends.
I would like you as well to share this message, to “relentlessly create your own intellectual vertical!”
Translated by Jafe Arnold