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The journal ALTITUDES, CULTURE & SOCIETY, no. 8, October 2006 Article entitled:
“Resistance by culture” as freedom to exist otherwise than you are allowed. The yoga movement during the 80th (page. 5-6 – Column “Society”)
Author: Gabriel ANDREESCU Transcription according to the printed issue of the journal
“The most important forum for political contestations”
About the materials from the Intelligence Service archives regarding Constantin Noica, recently published in “The literary and artistic Truth”, was assumed that they contain nothing new related to what was known. The friends from abroad found since long time the efforts of Noica to defend the foreign policy in emigration of Ceauşescu or to make Mircea Eliade to come to Bucharest. The last project seemed to the authorities an ideological victory, a proof of ethno-national unity necessary to a government off cast also by his communist neighbours. It’s possible these observations were right, but we can say that “The literary and artistic Truth” brought something more. The published materials proved how the diversion from the strict rules established by the party was controlled. The Intelligence Service Archives argue that a phenomena as “Păltinişul” could survive as it was inside the borders carefully thought and controlled by the Intelligence Service.
Complicated roles in the sophisticated strategy of the Intelligence Service during 70th – 80th had other categories of intellectuals. For the outsiders as for the inner ailing it was astonishing to see the creation unions roles in the communist societies. Probably the explication lies in the origins of the communism, nourished by the old tradition of the Russian intelligence. However, it is easy to prove that it was not the intellectual work that ensured the artists with creation houses, travels abroad, holiday assets, when these were forbidden to the common people and in some cases of success were extravagant related to the success of the employees. If the professional excellence were the criteria, then the Mathematicians Union from Romania should be in the very attention of the Communist authorities.
The tropisms of the communist leaders established from the beginning the role of these unions. These unions could be, sure, simple belts for transmission of the cultural plans of the centre. Or they were during the years 50th, not during the post stalinist period. During the years when according to the declaration of Nicolae Manolescu, the Council of the Writers Union represented the “most important national, political, social and moral forum for contestation in the country” (the idea was resumed by the Directory Committee of US: the meetings of the National Councils and the National Conferences “represented for a for political contestation without comparison in the communist Romania”), and the Writers Union became a living, interesting and dynamic body. But it worked in the limits imposed by the government and especially by the Intelligence Service. The fact that there were fights against the adepts of “art for art” shows that in the literary field there were bets. But it doesn’t mean that the “bets” were not under control. The borders of the “play” were contested, negotiated, refused or accepted. But finally they were defined not by the writers but by the government. What happened to Dorin Tudoran represents a study of an exemplary case for limits analysis allowed by the party from the status-quo discussion. When the artist meets the predetermined limit, he could practice resistance only publishing in Occident, where in fact the writers who exceeded the limits emigrated.
During the 80th, the censorship and the restrictions – for example the disgraceful assertion as a writer’s debut is to be made only in collective volumes – were more austere than during 70th. The fact shows how gratuitous is the pretence to make the National Council of Writers the “forum” to withstand the government.
I will simplify the things and add to what I have said the play of the fortuities, emotions of the authentic creation. So were the general lines, no otherwise, of the lay between the intellectuals and the government during the communism.
I invoked the declaration of Nicolae Manolescu, because I feel in his enthusiastic assertion a surety and a desire for responsibility from the part of the writers. I don’t know why the “possible files” determined such a reaction. The intentions of the president of the Writers Union come out of the ad joint commentary: “I have no idea how many writers-collaborators were in report with the writers-objectors. But I saw in the same White Book that the most harassed writers by the Intelligence Service turned to be collaborated.” A way to say that we deal with a whole community of writers-objectors, and more discreetly, that the pursuit exceeds the collaboration.
The alternative forbidden culture
Regarding the acknowledgement of the resistance against the government, my arguments come out of the following principle: resistance is the freedom to exist otherwise than you are allowed. If this is resistance then “resistance by culture” (resistance “art for art”) can be only a form of the typology above mentioned by definition.
In the institutional communist system there were bodies that depended also upon the will of their members. Until a point. An example was given: the creation unions. Another very relevant case are the Churches. Some of them, as the Romanian Orthodox Church and the acknowledged cults could organize their activity, although their purpose was contrary to the atheism of the government. But everything took place under the careful control of the communist authorities. Other religious groups were forbidden. The Greek – Catholics, the Pentecostals and the witnesses of Jehovah were the object of a pitiless hunting. In spite of their international support, the Baptists were systematically harassed.
For the accepted cults, the control strategy began at the origins of the system – the law, institution, as The Cults Ministry - and ended by establishing the leaders. The patriarch, the metropolitans, the bishops and other religious leaders got their positions not to support the will of the cult, but to control it. They were used either in the fight of the Communist Party with the Greek-Catholics and the non-protestant groups, or against the home dissidence (the case of Oastea Domnului, the nuns from Vladimireşti etc.), or, finally, to propagandize for the communist leaders of Bucharest at the international, confessional conferences.
At the same time people had another religious life, living according other precepts than those allowed by the government. The Baptists, the Pentecostals, the witnesses of Jehovah, the Greek-Catholics and the members of other groups identified in a hurry as “sects”, met, preyed together, distributed books brought or copied clandestine. Here is a concrete form of resistance, and to check it, see the “detail” that the devoted paid for indiscipline. I quote in this sense from an interview with Petre Groza in the month of January 2006: “In the investigation, in the years 80th, the employees at Intelligence Service told me: « The Baptists, we found a solution for them, the Pentecostals - we solved them, in a week, but we have problems with you, we solved them, not you »”.
People who lived off the limits imposed by the government belonged to other cultures. An alternative culture, less than we call nowadays the cultural mainstream. Maybe some people consider the notion too large. The alternative culture that I speak about is not defined by performance, nor by the extension of the limits, neither by the conquest of the ego. It is more a lifestyle. But it is at the same time culture, because it gave to life a sense, and as any symbol able to nourish the existence, it freed people.
The yoga movement in 80th
Who were those that the employees at Intelligence Service didn’t manage to destroy? Petre Groza, above quoted, belonged to one of the groups identified by the 1st Direction of the State Security Department as, “acting independently, co-opting new adepts”, after resuming the activities of some persons on top and with influence, especially Bivolaru Gregorian, Chiaburu Constantin and Brodeală Natalia din Bucureşti, Mârţ Eugen of Bacău and Catrina Nicolae of Piteşti“. The Intelligence Service identified in the group of Bivolaru 32 de persons who acted “under the principle of a complete conspiracy, with branches in Bacău and Piteşti, as an abroad relations system still being qualifying. In a late interview, Nicolae Catrina remembered that once only at Torceanu family came 64 yoga exercisers.
What gathered the yoga adepts? The accounts are different, but they converge. At the beginning, Claudiu Trandafir was whipped up by transcendental meditation scandal: “so…it was an illegality consciously assumed. I witness that this interdiction made me be more decided. I was curious to learn better, to focus myself better, it means very well. So I began my yoga practice. By degrees I understood “that yoga answers some very deep aspirations of my soul, and Yoga Nidra, on that wonderful music, was a great revelation for me. It was like another dimension in my being was revealed and I realized how beautiful, sublime was this way.”
Angela Mayer came to yoga from a different milieu: “I have read Mircea Eliade, “The Fisher” by Jonathan Livingston, I was already looking for something, but I didn’t know where to look for, my life wasn’t the way I would have liked it to be. [...] In my class there were forty Romanian students and two hundred forty foreign students – Arabic, Greeks, Jewish. The foreign students were very kind to us, we helped them much at the seminars, and we gave them the courses at exams. Usually I finished quickly the exam in a written form, and I wrote for some two or three of other colleagues. We were just friends; none of them attracted me in a special way. It was pleasant but after that worldly period I had a feeling of void. If that was to be my life, it was too little. I went to Saint Josef; I knew the organist and I liked to listen to his performances and to sink in myself. It was a soul special relation with that cathedral”.
I resume to the interview with Nicolae Catrina. I quote:” At a certain moment I was speaking with Caudiu, just after the first or the second yoga class. “Do you realize, he told me, it is an extraordinary risk to do it, we can have any time problems.” I answered:” I also thought about it, and I assume this risk”, “Yes, a do also” Claudiu answered. It was really a risk that we took. And even they overpassed our expectations, in the negative sense; we were not completely surprised when investigations started, because we remarked since long time, that we were watched, sometimes step for step. The Intelligence Service appealed even to intimidation tactics. They let you see that you were watched just to make you be afraid, and give up to what they considered you didn’t have to do. In spite of it we didn’t give up to yoga practice, even the dangers were too hard and we realized what could happen. [...] In that period I read a lot of philosophy, novels, I read very much, even except the yoga books. I have been impressed by a character of Giovanni Papini – the man who wanted to read absolutely everything; he wanted to assimilate the culture of the planet. And he began courageously with letter A. He made a kind of encyclopaedia containing all the culture of the world but he was already overcome by the authors and their writings that he didn’t hear about, but that were very interesting. He understood that he couldn’t achieve his goal. The novel is called “Un uomo capito”, an ended man, and at the end of his life the character realized that he did nothing, and he had just moved a little in the sense he aspired. This novel impressed me a lot, because I understood that such assimilation on horizontal is impossible. I was looking since that time for something essential, to slake my thirst for knowledge, for culture, art, but at the same time that could be a synthesis of all this. But at the moment I began to read spiritual literature and I realized that finally I found. Because all I knew at that moment, all I have studied, started to coagulate, to turn into something coherent and complete.”
I have read with passion the interviews of those belonging to the yoga movement of 80th. Lack of space we can’t quote other accounts, all of them moving. I looked in the archives for the police’s measures to destroy the movement. But the archives didn’t register the humiliation, the beatings, the torture, the illegality of arresting the yoga exercisers and the penal files made on the names of the leaders (Eugen Mârţ, Nicolae Catrina, Gregorian Bivolaru), who got behind bars. Imagine a young lady after dozens hours of investigation, and the following scene: "At a certain moment, before the moment they let us go home, the investigator insisted to make me sign a paper – that I oblige myself not to get in contact with anybody from yoga and to notify them about what was going on at yoga. I signed it, but just after I woke up and griped the paper and I rent it. Then he slapped me so hard that he broke my nose”. The name of the girls is Gabriela Ambărus.
Or another scene that Petre Groza remembers: "In the workroom was also Mihai Triculete. He had made a Venus in marble, he had worked a lot. The Intelligence Service employees took it and made disdainful comments on it. Mihai intervened and grasped the statue from the hand of Păunescu. They took it again back. “What impudence he has!” then, they just drove him into a corner, but at the investigation at the Capital’s Police, they beat him very hard
In spite a cruel repression, in the most proper sense, these men continued to exist according their own aspirations since almost a decade. The practice supposed to realize them was not less than a message to the others. I resume at the quote, because to find the special situation of the yogis who withstood the authorities before the 80th is a goal of this text. "That sacrifice meant a lot, an exit from nightmare, from a very difficult period. What we did was to wake our consciousness. I knew it when I brought a lot of books and I gave them to my colleagues, accountancies and I even wanted that people knew this. The conversations and the meditations we did them sacredly. That time it wasn’t like now, a lot of us do them as they want, we were aware that, that kind of acting spiritually awake the consciousnesses and make appear in more minds elevated ideas, true ideas, ideas that can change everything. And although backgrounded and almost invisible for the others, except the Intelligence Service, we contributed to a certain measure to make this step”. And further: “We never spoke about it because there is lot to be said and in this for of background resistance a lot of spiritual things could bloom. It was effectively as a period of gestation the transformations both individual and collective. I’m sure the truth triumphs and this time it also will. The recognition of some merits from the part of the others has no importance. It is essential that truth triumphs”.
The alternative culture of the yoga movement in 80th brings to light a new theme “resistance by culture”, in fact “co-opting day by day” - Katherine Verdery’s term – sold today also to the public opinion as “resistance day by day”. If you move the stone on the history of the yoga movement set not only by the interested institutions, but also by the authors of the late history, you have all the reasons to exclaim: “This was the true resistance by culture”! It is true that the tools of the yogi way to exist have almost nothing in common with high culture. But they gave to some people the force to keep the individual autonomy. Those young people managed to cast away the limits imposed by the communism. They managed to save the feeling of fidelity towards the community; they were the carriers of the non-violence and compassion under a government excellent at brutality and shabbiness. They lived dignified and free. Or, how could someone call “resistant to the communism” without passing the test of dignity and paying for the freedom?”
1. The clandestine organization Peoples’ Wish, who intended to change the mentality of Russia by murdering the tsar Alexander the 2nd, was formed only by intellectuals. The Socialist Revolutionary Party was the direct descendant of the organization People’s Wish and it explains the presence of the members and leaders in the same intellectual-revolutionary category. The communist leaders, Lenin and his close made part of the same tradition.
2. Nicolae Manolescu, the Writers and the Intelligence Service, in Literary Romania No.36 of 8th of September 2006.
3. To colour things, here is a simple fragment of the archive. The daily report of the investigation department of Europa Libera, means, on 22nd of December 1987, the arrest of the Baptist lawyer Nelu Prodan, who had defended in the previous years a lot of Baptists, and who represented Nistor Popescu, a film editor, sent to an asylum.
4. Oltea Mutulescu has special merits in realizing these interviews.
5. Interview with Nicolae Catrina.