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On Faith Education Creativity [1]

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Author: Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Now science plays such an enormous role – and rightly, and I rejoice in this – that it seems to us that all questions should be decided in the same way that scientific questions are solved; and we want to apply purely scientific methods to topics to which they do not apply. We do not apply the methods of physics to biology, the methods of chemistry to history. Why should we apply the methods of the physical sciences to the realm of the human soul? I was once engaged in science, in particular, physics. Any physicist can decompose a piece of music into its component parts, disassemble them mathematically, turn them into curves; it’s called acoustics, but it’s not called music. After you have analyzed a piece of music with physical instruments, you have no idea whether it is beautiful or insignificant, because the perception of beauty in music occurs on a different plane.

* * *

The question is often asked: can I, a cultured, scientifically educated person, be a believer? Is not the concept of faith incompatible with the concept of scientific education? I must say that it is much more difficult for a person with little education to understand this than for a person with great scientific education; because, say, high school physics or chemistry is taught as the final and exhaustive truth about things; while physics or chemistry or biology, available to the scientist, who is in search of new and new areas of knowledge, appears quite differently. I graduated from the natural and medical faculties, and therefore this area for me, perhaps, is more understood than theological, because I have never studied at a theological school.

* * *

I became a believer when I was 14-15 years old, and went to university at the age of 18, studied physics, chemistry and biology at the natural faculty. The professor of physics was one of the Curies, he knew physics and could reveal it as a secret, and not just as a series of facts. There were other professors; they were all unbelievers, but they gave their subject as the revelation of the mystery of the world, and I could very easily see how the face of God is reflected in this mystery of the world.

* * *

The years that I spent at the university doing science, and then ten years when I was a doctor, five years in the war and five years after it, I experienced exactly as something deeply connected with my faith. I am not now talking about that side of medical work that expresses or can express Christian love, concern, compassion; but I took both my scientific upbringing and my scientific work as part of theology, that is, the knowledge of the works of God, the knowledge of the ways of God. If I can put it that way by analogy, for me it was like looking at the paintings of the artist and a revelation about him through his paintings. It may be absurd to draw religious conclusions from scientific facts. Let’s say when people primitively say: Ah! Matter and energy are essentially the same, which means that the basis of the entire universe is spiritual – this is a series of such jumps that are not justified by anything; but the penetration into the mystery of the created world, the vision of what it represents, the reverent attitude towards it, and that inexorable mental honesty that is necessary for this and develops through it, it seems to me, extremely fruitful, because an honest, good scientist who stands before the mystery with a lively interest, with a desire to penetrate into it, who can set aside his prejudices, his preference for this or that theory, is ready to accept objective reality, whatever it may be, is ready to be honest to the end – such a scientist can transfer this system to the whole your inner life.

Secular education and spirituality? If we talk about secular education as education in this or that particular ideology, then there may be a conflict; if we are talking about raising a child simply in the history of the country, in literature, in language, in science, I do not see a conflict. I do not see why, when the depths and riches of the universe are revealed to us, this should hinder our religious amazement before God.

* * *

… We must show the child that this whole world for us, believers, was created by God and that it is a book opened before us. Instead of opposing faith, the teachings of the Church, etc. the world around us, i.e. literature, art and science, we should show the children that in this too the mystery of God is revealed ever deeper and wider.

* * *

God created this world; for Him, everything that constitutes the subject of our scientific research is, as it were, theology, that is, the knowledge of God; all creativity is some kind of communion with Divine creativity. We have no right not to know what paths mankind is following, because the Christian faith, the biblical tradition as a whole, is the only tradition in the world that takes history seriously and the material world takes it so seriously that we believe in the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the flesh, and not only to the eternity of the undying soul. And I think that we need to deeply, subtly know and cognize everything that makes up the mental, spiritual, historical, social thought of mankind. Not because there is some political, or social, or aesthetic doctrine in the Gospel, but because there is no area on which Divine grace would not throw a ray of light, transforming that which is capable of eternal life, and drying up that which is not has a place in the Kingdom of God. And our job is to have a deeper understanding of the world than the world itself has.

* * *

Man must develop himself as richly as possible in all respects; and mind, and heart, and all his being to be as rich a person as possible. It is not necessary to be a Christian; in order to make a contribution to life as a Christian, I will say yes, definitely. To our young priests in London, I always say: you choose – either be an ignoramus and a saint, or a well-educated person; but while you are not a saint, please be an educated person, because otherwise it will turn out that the questions to which a person has the right to receive an answer, you do not answer either by holiness or by education. For example, when a normally educated parishioner says: I read a book by such and such a writer; what to think of him? – and you have never heard of him, while everyone around you has been buzzing about it for a long time, what will this person think? what will he get from you? If you went with the same question to Seraphim of Sarov, who, of course, would not have read Teilhard de Chardin, he would still answer the question, but from a different source, and nothing will be added from ignorance. I am not specifically secularly educated, but experience shows that sometimes what little I know gives me access to people who need this access; and if you say: I don’t know, I’ve never heard of it, people would simply leave.

I think this also applies to the lay person. Here, it is necessary to decide in the shortest possible time – either to become a saint, or educated. Becoming a saint, you can forget about education; but before that, one cannot simply say: education is worth nothing.

* * *

Everything that is seen on earth is God’s creation; everything that exists came out of the hand of God, and if we were to see, we would see not only a thick, opaque form, but also something else. There is a wonderful sermon on Christmas by Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow, where he says that if only we could look, we would see on every thing, on every person, on everything, the radiance of grace; and we do not see it because we ourselves are blind – not because it does not exist.

But, on the other hand, we live in a fallen, disfigured world, where everything is ambiguous; each thing can be a revelation or a deception. Beauty can be a revelation – and can become an idol, a deception; love can be a revelation – and can become an idol or a deceit; even such concepts as truth, truth, can be a revelation or, on the contrary, freeze the very thing that one wants to express. Therefore, one must look at everything through the eyes of either an artist or a saint; there is no other way out.

Here the question of inspiration of the artist and the question of his moral quality. From God’s point of view, one can see the radiance of grace—and the horror of sin. From the point of view of the artist, one can see both, but the artist cannot make this distinction, because this is not his role – otherwise he will speak of sin where horror should be spoken, or holiness where beauty should be spoken. . These are two different callings, which, like everything else in life, under the guidance of grace can be grace-filled; otherwise they may be different.

* * *

As far as whether or not to be creative, I think it’s impossible to lay down rules. I think that God leads each of us in a certain way. If we talk about the expression of one’s own essence, take, for example, a person like John of Damascus. He went to the monastery, being a gifted poet, a gifted musician. His abbot thought it was nonsense, and put him in hard, dirty work. At some point, a close friend of John died, and, despite all the prohibitions, he poured out his grief, his grief in eight troparia, which we now sing at the funeral. And when the abbot saw and heard this, he said: I was mistaken! Sing on…

Here is a man who ascetically, out of obedience, was not supposed to create – and broke through, because it was some kind of his essence. I know a case when a confessor forbade a person to express himself in a literary way – and the person completely broke down, because he had no other way of expressing himself … There are people who can express themselves prayerfully to the end, there are people who draw inspiration from prayer to express themselves -something else.

* * *

An artist who, from within some kind of experience of life, the experience of man, the experience of God, would express himself either with music, or in painting, or in literature – such an artist, it seems to me, can discover spiritual values ​​for others as well. Therefore, I don’t think it’s possible to simply say: write only ascetic literature and nothing else – nine out of ten people will not read your spiritual literature; you have to come to her. For example, in my generation, reading Dostoevsky played a colossal role, as did the reading of a number of other writers – and not necessarily pious or especially striving in this direction, but simply writers who had great human truth, who taught us the truth before anything else. , and brought somewhere. Therefore, I do not think that it would be possible to say in bulk to people: stop doing creativity, and do prayer – a person can stop doing one thing and not be able to do another.

* * *

… It seems to me that through spiritual perception, the picture often puts before our eyes a reality that we are otherwise unable to see. If we take not a picture, but a literary work: in a literary work, types of people are deduced, of course, in a simplified way. They are a type, but no matter how rich they are, they are simpler than the person you meet in life. Details are larger, more convex; and a person who in his faded life is unable to see these things, having seen them once in a good writer, begins to see them all around … Looking at a portrait painted by a good artist, you see how significant these or other properties are. And so, peering into life with the help of art, you begin to see something: both good and evil, but not necessarily with an assessment, because the writer does not have to divide people into good and evil.

* * *

I am a man of the old generation, so I cannot respond to it (rock music – ed.) as a young man could; but in my observation it is a kind of substance abuse. Let’s say you see young people walking down the street or sitting in the subway, on the bus with headphones and a cassette, and they play and play all the time – not for a minute do they experience silence and stillness; and that is, of course, an unhealthy thing.

And it is possible to educate a person in the perception of silence and silence. I know a teacher of babies who lets them play, then from time to time she suddenly says to them: “Quiet, listen! ..” And they sit straight as if spellbound and listen to silence, experience it, because suddenly the noise that they made ended, and silence is made real. And if you have learned to hear the silence, you might learn to hear the Presence in the silence too… Rock is incomprehensible to me. I don’t get its meaning, just as I didn’t get jazz when I was young. But in every thing – be it classical music, be it rock, there is a risk that you do not listen to music, but use it in order to kind of get drunk, to drug yourself. And in this sense, not only music, but everything that influences us from the outside can, as it were, drive us crazy, intoxicate us. This should not be allowed. It is necessary to keep sobriety in yourself, because if you lose yourself – in music or in anything else – then you will not find yourself, maybe.

It seems to me that rock music plays such a role for a lot of people. I see it all the time. But at the same time, I know people who listen to classical music for hours and hours only to forget; they do not listen to music, they try to forget their life, their difficulties, fears, they are waiting for the music to take them away from themselves. They do not perceive music, but destroy themselves, as it were. Therefore, whether it is music or whatever it is that “pirates” you, you need to know the moment when it is time to say to yourself: “Enough!”

* * *

One of the characteristics of a genuine, healthy spiritual life is sobriety. We know in ordinary Russian what sobriety means in comparison with intoxication, with drunkenness. You can get drunk in various ways, not only with wine: everything that fascinates us so much that we can no longer remember either God, or ourselves, or the basic values ​​of life, is such intoxication. This has nothing to do with what I would call inspiration – the inspiration of a scientist, an artist, to whom God openly sees behind the external form of what surrounds him, some kind of deep essence that he extracts, expresses with sounds, lines, colors and makes accessible to people around – not seeing. But when we forget exactly the meaning that is revealed by them, and make the object of pleasure what should be the object of contemplation, then we lose sobriety. It happens so often and so destructively in church life when people come to church for the sake of singing, for the sake of those emotions that are caused by the harmony or mystery of worship, when it is no longer God in the center of everything, but an experience that is the fruit of His presence. The main feature of Orthodox piety, Orthodox spirituality is sobriety, which transfers all values, all meaning from oneself to God.

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[1] A selection of Vladyka’s thoughts (both from published texts and archival materials) on issues of faith in its relationship with scientific education and activity, service to God and personal creativity, ecclesiastical and secular art, etc. Originally published in the journal Art in School.” 1993. No. 4.

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