Ontology and anthropology of the theater - intro lecture (part 1)
Alexander Dugin at Moscow Art Theatre Dubbing by Multipolar Paideuma
Today we are starting a course called “Ontology and Anthropology of the theater”. This course will be divided into three parts. We’ll talk about these three parts today, about each of them, one third of the time allotted to us, approximately corresponding to an academic double class.
In the beginning we will talk about the ontology of the theater. Ontology is the study of being. So, in the ontology of the theater, we will consider how the theater relates to such a major philosophical category as being. That is, if Martin Heidegger’s main work is “Sein und Zeit”: Sein – being and Zeit – time, “Being and time”. This is the main philosophical work of the XX century and perhaps one of the most important in the whole history of philosophy. Our course is dedicated to “Sein und Theater”, that is “Being and Theater”. So, theater will be for us the same problematical category as "being" for Heidegger. I would ask you in this regard to be rather concentrated, because the very concept of the course or the theme “Anthropology of the theater” is not so clear, but we will comprehend the dark by something even darker – obscurus per obscurium – this is how any hermeneutics act, because, according to Schleiermacher and Dilthey, we cannot know the whole, therefore we cannot study parts; we cannot know the parts until we know the whole. We have only one thing left: to study the whole and the parts in parallel, going round in circles around the considered problem.
The same thing with being. We can walk around it and try to discover the ontology, that is, the study of being, and every time we say: “This is being, here it is – the Being, that’s being, this is, and this is not”, we are always talking about something particular, as if we understood what "is" means. If we start conversely: “There is pure being, everything has come out of it” - it also seems to us there, as if we understand what “pure being” is, although we deal only with parts. Accordingly, being is a problem. And in the ontology of the theater we will touch upon this issue.
In the same way (but here is the most interesting), okay with being – it’s however philosophy, but it seems that we know what theater is. Here is the theater, the Moscow Art Theater. As Heidegger's Dasein, this-being, this-theater – Da-theater, that is, here it is. But, in fact, this is not right. And as Dasein is problematic, so is the theater. Accordingly, what theater is – we, frankly, do not know either. It’s better to agree with me right away that we don’t know, then everything will be more interesting. Who believes that he knows exactly what theater is – well, it certainly will be necessary to dispel a persistent delusion. Therefore, admit, agree, as a hypothesis, that we do not know what theater is. At least me. We will understand this together with you.
What about anthropology? Anthropology is the study of humans. The anthropology of the theater suggests how theatrical action, theatrical practice, theatrical theory, how the theater as a whole relates to human, what role a human plays in the theater, who is the actor and how he was called in different cultures and what his place is; who is the stage director, who is the screenwriter and who is the spectator. Because if we do not yet fully know what theater is, respectively, we do not know its humanistic, human filling and its parts. This is the second part of our course.
And the third part of our course is desacralization and resacralization of the theater. This, in essence, is about the history of the theater, which begins with sacredness, that is, with sacred cults. The theater (ancient theater) is fundamentally sacred, it develops from the mysteries (we will also talk about that, what is the mystery). Gradually, it is becoming more and more desacralized. And at the end of the course we will approach the most important problem – is it possible to return to the sacred roots of the theater? That is, is it possible to save the theater from the history of the theater, because the history of the theater moves in the opposite direction from its original meaning. That is, we have a drama, there is a kind of intrigue in this course, there is a certain detective story. Therefore, instead of the banal story about something we all know, I will try to turn this course into the opening of more and more new horizons that we will explore with you.
Today I will give a brief summary of the entire course, about all these series, so I will be very brief. I won’t be able to explain, argue, give a sufficient number of examples. This is just a presentation of the course.
Accordingly, the first part is ontology, ontology of the theater. From the very beginning, attention must be paid to etymology. Here we say the word "theater", but since it is not native in our speech, then we immediately, I would say, rob ourselves. Because we use the word of another language, where it has a specific meaning.
Like all Russian (Slavic) roots, but they are clear for us. We say [человеколюбие] (subtitle: человеколюбие (Russian) – philanthropy, humanitarianism), for example - it is [человек] (subtitle: человек (Russian) – human, ἄνθρωπος) (we know what it means) and [любие] – love (subtitle: любить (Russian) – to love, φιλέω).
[Человеколюбие] (subtitle: человеко + любие – phil+anthropy) is all transparent. But, for example, if we transcribe this term to German or Greek, people may use it but its meaning will escape from those who don’t know, for whom these words, these roots are alien.
So, [театр] "theater" is formed from the Greek word "θεάομαι", that is "to contemplate." Hence the concept of "sight". The most accurate Russian analogue of the concept “theater” is [зрелище] “sight” (from the word [зреть], [зрение], [наблюдение] (subtitle: зреть – to behold, зрение – eyesight, наблюдение – observation, созерцать – contemplate, видение – vision), because “θεάομαι” means precisely [зреть], [созерцать], [со-зерцать], [зрение], [видение]. On the one hand, and, for example, the old forgotten word [позорище] "stigma", "shame" (subtitle: позорище – stigma, shame, disgrace.
[Позорище] is an exposure to view, for contemplation. This old-Russian, old- Slavonic word [позорище] means that someone subjected to shameful punishment, disgrace, exhibited in the center of the city or village in sleazy appearance, tormented etc. In general, this exhibition of disgrace is closely connected with the theater, with the spectacle, with sight. Another word that is derived from the same Greek root "theaomai" is "theoria" - that is theory. In fact, this is not just harmony, it is a unity of understanding.
Why - I will explain now. Theory ("theoria" in Greek) - means the same contemplation, the same sight, the same spectacle. Therefore, in fact, “theory” and “theater” are very close things. In both “theater” and “theory” we contemplate so we are implementing the “theaomai” act - we see, we look. “Well, why,” you say, “what does the theater have to do (when the actors portray something on the stage and the others laugh or cry) with a philosopher or a scientist who makes up some abstract, theoretical constructions?” It is very important to pay attention to the hierarchy of sensory organs with which the ancient Greeks dealt, with whom philosophy was born, and almost simultaneously – theater. Namely theater and philosophy are the same age. In ancient Greece, they appear at about the same time. Full-fledged philosophy and theoria, as the main speculation, the main method of philosophy and - theater (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the others (classical theater). This is approximately the same historical cycle.
So, "theoria", which is the basis of philosophy, and "contemplation" are associated with the theater. So, it is very interesting, why the highest peak of philosophy as contemplation, speculation is associated with the theater? And this, in its turn, has a very deep idea. Firstly, Aristotle said that the sense organs have a hierarchy. C'est-а-dire, some sensations are more noble than the others.
Those that are more noble are more relevant to being (and now we are approaching the ontology of the theater). And those that are less noble are further away from being and from substance, and more and more material.
There are 5 sensory organs (at least the Greeks scaled this way, made such assemblage if we use Deleuze’s term). The supreme sensory organ was sight. Why (from Aristotle's point of view)? Because we see lightning at first, and then we only hear the thunder. That which is seen at the longest distance, that which is seized faster, is closer to the world of the gods, swift and light.
And what we hear later, what we perceive closer to our body relates to the animal world, to stones, to vegetative and mineral roots of being. Accordingly, being in its pure, divine form is associated with vision. And the hierarchy of feelings goes like this: first comes vision (according to Aristotle), then there is hearing (because we hear thunder secondarily), then comes the sense of smell (the smell of the sacrificial fire), by the way, the smoke of the sacrificial fire is the basis of the Greek concept of “God”, “θεός.” [theos] This has nothing to do with (just a consonance) with “theaomai”, it’s not about eyesight, but it’s about inhaling the aroma of the sacrificial animal, “θεός” [theos] - that is, God is revealed to us on the other side of the fire of fire, smoke comes from him, and God, who tastes this smoke, is there, in open space, on the other side of the smoke, on that side that is directed to him). This is the third feeling. The fourth feeling is the tactile feeling.
We perceive a tactile touch only when the source of this is in close proximity to us, and we can smell the smell in advance. And last, the basest sense is taste. Look, you can already see how the hierarchy is turned upside down. After all, we basically start with whether it is tasty or not, aftertaste, then tactile feeling, then smells, lotions, perfumes. And we leave for the last turn what we hear and what we see.
The ancient Greeks had the opposite order. And here a very interesting point arises: how is this hierarchy of the sensory world (and the sensual world is called “aesthetics” in Greek). What is αἴσθησις [ aesthesis]? These are feelings. Actually, aesthetics is a concept about the sensory world, about it organization). And so, aesthetic organization of the sensory world is built on this hierarchical vertical. And here is the most interesting. Which of these feelings, of these sense organs is more connected with being, more connected with what truly exists? Here, the hierarchy of these feelings clearly indicates that above all exists what we see. Secondly, what we hear. Thirdly - what we smell. Fourthly – what touches us. And only fifthly – what we swallow and say, what is inside us. And this means that the taste is less than a touch, the smell is more than a touch (at the next level). Sound is even more (has more being). And the highest being is sight.
This optic reveals what theoria, speculation, and contemplation actually are. At root, this is the relation to being. That is, through theoria, through contemplation, through emphasizing our ability to see being, we come closer to its essence.
Aristotle limits his sensory world hierarchy on this; thereby he completes the review of aesthetic structures that are associated not only with aesthetics, but also with philosophy, with ontology, with gnoseology.
But Plato (the teacher of Aristotle), depicts an even more complete, finally clear picture. His ideas are endowed with maximum being. Ideas are some disembodied material essences, which are examples of all things in our world (aesthetic world), corporeal, sensual world. This is the main Plato’s message – the doctrine of ideas. Ideas exist forever, they are patterns, they are projected into the world of becoming and give rise to all sorts of things that are temporary and which are subject to the law of birth and downfall, death. And ideas exist eternally. But what does theory have to do with it? Here we turn again to ideology. For us, “idea” is a word of foreign language. We never think what it means. Or think, but rarely. But in fact, an idea is a passive participle from the same verb idein - to see, that is, the same meaning as “theaomai”. That is, ideas are what we see. And that’s it. From this it is clear that if what we see exists; what we hear exists less; the fact that we smell is even less; what we feel is even less; and what we feel inside (taste) exists to an even lesser extent - here we understand how the epistemological and ontological hierarchy are built.
Because ideas (according to Plato) are what is. These are not the thoughts of a person in the head, this is what always exist. Thoughts come and go. Or don’t come. But anyway for Plato, ideas are not human thoughts, but what a thinking person is able to contemplate at the very peak of being. This is not an ordinary vision, but a kind of special vision. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, it is embraced by the concept of “epoptia”, another term associated with vision.
Optia (epoptia) - when the gaze drifts deep into being, at the being itself, to the divine eternal sphere of light – then a certain discovery of the very essence of what there is arises. Only through this concentrated exclusive intense vision we come into contact with being. Being and vision are inextricably linked. Further we are talking about the hierarchy of vision. And here Plotinus helps us. Because he believes that there is correct vision, and there is incorrect vision. Correct vision is vision with closed eyes, because what to look at in this world? - This world only confuses us.
Therefore, vision is divided into profanic (false vision, but still more noble than other senses) and true vision that occurs with closed eyes. What does it mean - with closed eyes? It means that our gaze should be immersed in ourselves, in our immortal soul, in our archetype, in the idea of ourselves. And in this contemplation of gaze shift (but of the gaze, and not of another sense) inward, we overcome the boundaries of corporal, aesthetic vision and go on to speculation, to a special form of perception of being, which is associated with speculation, with the vision of the mind, with smart vision (subtitle: умозрение – Rus. speculation, formed from 2 words – ум (mind) + зрение (vision).
And the moment of epoptia in the mysteries is when the deity is revealed to mysts/ neophytes who undergo this initiation. This is the moment of epoptia, again, of vision, sight, discovery of some kind of not ordinary object, but a certain scene, situation, or phenomenon, which is fundamentally there. In fact, the goal of philosophy is the contemplation of being. But contemplation of being in its pure form is extremely difficult, because in order to see being in its pure form, it is necessary to cross the boundaries of those spaces, those sections of reality, where being is scattered in many objects. This is the aspiration for unity. Such an internal movement to consciousness in order to see the absent, transcendental One - this is the true contemplation and true goal of philosophy.
How does this relate to the theater? There is a direct connection. Theater is the place where philosophical theory is realized. Namely, “theater”, “theatron” (in Greek) is a place of philosophy, this is a place of contemplation. And we would hardly come to the theater (ok, as for us, we might come), but hardly the ancient Greeks would have come to the theater if they had seen there something ordinary, something banal, something trivial, that is everywhere. They came there for the sight. And the sight, the source of the sight, the meaning of the sight is the contemplation of being. Therefore, the ancient Greeks came to the theater to contemplate being. Hence, theater is something philosophical; it is the field of speculation. And it is in this sense (later, in the Renaissance and at Petronius) that we meet such definitions as “Mundus universus exercet histrioniam” (this is in Latin), i.e. the universal world, everything in the world is a game of actors. So this phrase by Petronius is translated, and then the well-known Shakespearean phrase from "The Merchant of Venice", that "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players". Why is that so? Where does this metaphor come from? Why was Shakespeare’s theater called the Globe? Just because it’s actually a theater, any theater is a globe or “mundus”. It is the World, it is the "universus". This universus, of course, would never fit into any walls if it were a physical, plural world.
This is the paradigm of the world; it is his idea of world that is embedded in the theater. Hence its sacred meaning: we bring the entirety of being into one small stage, into one limited amount of time. It is a contraction of being to its concentrated expression.
Naturally, this requires a completely unique state. The theater in its origins was a sacrament, the sacrament of discovering the contemplation of idea. And, accordingly, it was the Globe, it was the World, a more real one than the external. It seems to us that theater is a reflection of life. Nothing of the kind, the theater never served as a reflection of life, the world, didn’t show ordinary people, what was happening to them; the theater never was a mirror. The theater was an emanating beam.
The theater created and made the World. The theater laid the content in life, in history, in politics, in culture. The theater is the place of cosmogony, when the small germ of the World only begins to reveal its fullness at its first stages. In other words, the theater is an absolutely philosophical phenomenon, a sacred phenomenon, where the whole Universe is reduced to this building, albeit a large one (amphitheater). The whole universe is packed into theater, and this is possible if we understand the theater as an idea (as a place of contemplating ideas, as a spectacle). That is, the ontology of the theater is that the theater is the territory of being. Not a narrative of something, but the territory of being in itself, in a condensed, concentrated form. The theater not only helps to close our eyes and look inside ourselves, but the theater makes us look inside ourselves. Because what happens on the stage, the right plays of the right theater, it’s happening inside our minds. This is our path to ourselves, to our origins. This World is pulled together into the theater and the being is gathered into our inner contemplation. Therefore, we didn’t come here to look outside (this can be done without theater). We come to the theater to glance inward. This is a place of insight, a place of introspection, a collective, well-organized, but introspection.
Well, and accordingly, we can say that the theater reproduces the world also in the simplest, most straightforward sense. The stage on which the action is played is the earth, and the earth is not only a stand for the human, or for houses, or for pets, the earth is such a living thing, it is a deity in Greece, therefore the scene (or podium) is sacred as sacred is the land. The sky, from which the figure of the deity often descends, deus ex machina (in contemporary theater this metaphor is largely used), is actually the place of ideas, the place of the upper layers of being, to which we rise. And the action itself takes place between heaven and earth. They are extremely important in the theater.
These are not just utility tools. Each history of the stage, decoration, organization of theatrical space behind the stage, around the stage, on stage is of tremendous importance, since it reflects the structure of the world.
But not only reflects. It reflects, looking not at the world, but looking at the origins of the world. Thus, the theatrical scenery that we see (these columns made of papier-mâché, some pictures of flat houses, with open windows) are stage-properties and we see that this is not real. Now, if we understand what theater is, we will understand that these papier-mâché columns, these artificial stones, these flat decorations are more alive than a real house.
That, in the end, a real house (with its walls, with its huge number of workers, costs, constantly breaking pipes, with its chaos and baseness, in which there’s nothing to look at, it is created for some of the lowest bodily needs. But the theatrical sketch of the windows, this flat picture gives us a map of being. It's a panhouse, the archetype of the house that is so lightly sketched here on the stage. Why do we need to see these real columns? After all, the task is not to feel them, to nibble these columns. We are not dogs (we will have another course dedicated to pets). There is still no theater for dogs, cats (although, as I know, there are already attempts to stage such performances for animals). But still we are humans, and therefore we don’t come to nibble and to try theatrical scenery for strength and vividness. It is enough for us to see them. And, having seen them, we will understand the existence of the column, we will understand the existence of the window, we will understand the existence of the house, the wall, the car, the bicycle – whatever we notice (even though it will be one gesture, one element) – contemplating it, we see through some fractal analogue (in modern theater) the idea that stands behind it.
Therefore, this theater props are more real than the objects of our life. This is precisely what follows from the ontology of the theater that we are talking about.
Another very important point is the moment of epoptia in the Eleusinian mysteries, the moment of the revelation of the highest sacrament, which was practically forbidden to communicate to other Greeks who passed this initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries. It happened in crypts, usually at night and in craters. That is, in order to pass the initiation, it was necessary to go down deep into the earth, because there, away from views of the crowd, from the profanic, from the day, the true ideas of being are sleeping. In fact, this descent into the earth, deep, deep into mystery, is symmetrical to the ascent (as described by Plato in «Phaedrus») of the chariot of the Gods to contemplate eternal existence beyond the bounds of heaven. This is the achievement of two polar points, two solstices, summer and winter – both of these points are the moments of entry into the mystery. And one of the stable elements of theatrical architecture is the organization of the amphitheater on the principle of concentric descending circles. What does this resemble? Well, if we take Dante, then this obviously looks like hell. But don’t be so afraid right away. Just hell is hell. And, accordingly, the theater, the theater hall imitates the dedicatory space of the descent into the territory of the Mysteries, that is, the descent to the center of hell. The scene, the actor, the action – the objects of our contemplation, "theaomai", "theater" – belong to the center of hell. It is to him, to the center of hell, that the fullness of being is gathered together. And, accordingly, if we look at the architecture itself (the Moscow Art Theater or any other ancient theater), we will see these concentric circles, which gradually, gradually come down.
Therefore, in fact, the stalls are not the best places, the best places are the loge (c’est a dire, still a little higher). Parterre is a certain bottom of hell. Accordingly, the gallery is much more attractive, it was there that the royal loges or Politbureau members loges were organized (as in the Moscow Art Theater there is a remarquable historical place where Brezhnev was sitting, not in the stalls, but in the loge). And the kings and noble people also sat in the box. This is a descent, but still a certain distance from the center of hell remains.
So, if we talk about the ontology of the theater – what we come to is that in the first part of our course we will successively examine and disassemble this connection between theater and being. Accordingly, we can speak in detail about, let’s say, the ontology of scenery, the ontology of the stage, theatrical architecture, the spectacle itself, in other words, about the status of contemplation. People who go to the theater come for initiation into the mystery. It may not be the mystery itself, but it is some analogue of it, an indirect analogue.
Perhaps one can imagine that the theater was a preparatory part for the mystery. If you went to Greece (Ancient Greece), you may have noticed the following pattern (even in we consider Delphi): there are sanctuaries, there is a theater and there is a stadium. And they were built, as a rule, together. The sacred temple for sacrifices, the theater and the stadium - were the three elements where Greece was created, where Greek philosophy was created, where all the citizens, real, aristocratic citizens of the Greek Polis, came to be a people.