From the “Blossoming Heart” to the “Rose of the World.” Daniil Andreev and Russian Symbolism

Alexei Bogdanov, University of Colorado

Daniil Andreev’s recently discovered visionary writings require a thorough examination in the light of the occult tradition in literature and philosophy. The works of Russian symbolists, whom Andreev called “my teachers and my ancient and stainless love,” provide an important link between the author of “The Rose of the World” and earlier sources of his knowledge and inspiration, both Western (Pythagoreans, Gnostics, Neoplatonists, Dante, Swedenborg, Blake, Romanticists, and Vladimir Solov′ev, among others) and Eastern (particularly Hindu and Buddhist). “Frighteningly, to a shudder, Andrej Belyj’s ‘heart is blossoming,’” Aleksandr Blok wrote in 1902. Blok was extolling Belyj’s emerging theory of symbolism as a “renewal of the oppressive Kantian epistemology.” Belyj’s goal was to reconcile the practice of symbolist poetry as spontaneous mystical creation with a conceptual system that would establish symbolism as an elaborate contemporary theory of cognition. In this paper, I argue that Andreev’s account and analysis of his mystical experiences related to artistic expression—his “metacriticism”—serves the same purpose and further develops the conceptual framework of symbolism as visionary art.

For example, Belyj employed Solov′ev’s teaching of universal love, with its emphasis on the spiritual meaning of Sophia (the Divine Wisdom, the World Soul—a notion that originated in Ancient Greece and was later embraced by Christianity, especially by Byzantine and Russian Orthodoxy), in his interpretation of Blok’s poetic visions of the Beautiful Lady. Andreev, an admirer of Solov′ev, even acknowledges the Eternal Feminine as one of the three persons comprising the Trinity, but he claims to be able to identify the actual object of Blok’s vision more accurately—as Navna, “the Ideal Collective Soul of the Russian metaculture.”

For Belyj, Blok was a true visionary whose poetic revelations of unseen worlds provided ample material for anagogic conceptualization. For Andreev, Blok (who had died long before the conception of “The Rose of the World”) meant even more: he was one of his “friends of the heart,” whose assistance in his transphysical (mystical) journeys Andreev compares to the guidance provided to Dante by Virgil. However, Andreev the metacritic does not hesitate to subject Blok to scrutiny, incorporating him and his poetry into a whole panorama of heralds—artists with a special spiritual mission. Andreev’s detailed descriptions of the transphysical planes and events that affect inspired artistic creation supply the kind of evidence that Belyj had been seeking in his anthropological studies under the guidance of Rudolph Steiner. Thus, continuing the occult tradition in literature and philosophy, Andreev adds another interesting dimension to the “profound kind of criticism” attempted by Belyj and other symbolists, his teachers.