Dharma, Drama, Rasa, and the Rose of the World

Alexei Bogdanov, University of Colorado

The aesthetic and poetic facets of Daniil Andreev's complex theosophical construct (The Rose of the World) are oriented, to a large degree, toward the classical Indian aesthetics, which presents art as a vehicle that drives the human mind beyond the veil of maya. In this paper, I argue that Bharata's notion of rasa (aesthetic experience), albeit absent from Andreev's writings, helps to explain his theosophical treatment of catharsis. The latter appears to be interpreted by Andreev both anagogically (as an exposure to the backstage workings of the "eternal play of Krishna," i.e., ultimate reality) and pedagogically (as cleansing and amelioration of the soul).

This comparative study is conducted in the context of the Western mystical tradition, to which Andreev's writings primarily belong. In particular, Meister Eckhart's "inner man"/"outward man" dichotomy is drawn into my discussion in order to demonstrate that the theosopher (the mystic who expresses his inner experiences in images) and the herald (the visionary who believes in his divine mission; Andreev himself being a prime example) are naturally attracted to artistic creation, which miraculously combines self-realization with the overcoming of the self and, thereby, of its epistemological correlate-the veil of maya.

Vyacheslav Ivanov's, Martin Buber's, and Mixail Baxtin's approaches to the I/Thou dynamic are taken into consideration, as they elucidate the process of the cathartic opening in the psychic organization of the reader's or spectator's "outward man" during the latter's dialogic interaction with "the other" that is presented in the work of art. Participation in a dialogue is, for Baxtin, a "petitionary advertedness outward from oneself, toward God" (Art and Answerability). However, dialogue is a form of discourse, and therefore it inevitably partakes of the failure of discursive thought to cognize the supersensible by means of linguistic labeling and conceptualization. It is thus not the verbal representation of an idea of the Absolute that is conducive to the knowledge of the supersensible, but the dialogic experience per se, the "act of pure axiological passing-beyond-oneself," which, for Andreev, is the cathartic aspect of aesthetic experience. For Ivanov (Thou Art) and Buber (I and Thou) the spiritual dimension of the dialogue with "the other" is of paramount importance, and as the "inner man" becomes this "other" for the "outward man," it partakes of cosmic qualities of the Other (the Absolute).

Similarly, the experience of rasa (the subject of David Haberman's study Acting as a Way of Salvation, 1988) is defined in Indian aesthetics not only as "dramatic sentiment" but also as "essence" and is connected with the Vedantic principle of liberation (moksa), as it transforms the closed illusory "I" of the sensual "outward man" into an open-ended, dialogic reality of the spiritual "inner man"-an experience resembling the mystical "tasting of the supreme brahman," i.e., obtaining the knowledge of Dharma, the law of Being that precedes any conceptualization and verbalization. Rasa, in classical Indian aesthetics, is a function of both drama and poetry.

Andreev's "metahistorical" criticism, especially his evaluation of drama as a genre and his analysis of Aleksandr Blok's poetic oeuvre, represent an anagogic kind of reading that is informed by the traditionally Christian dualistic axiology and ethics and at the same time by the essentially monistic Vedantic notion of Atman (Self). Catharsis thus becomes a point of conjunction and co-operation for Andreev's anagogy and pedagogy, a moment of self-effacement for the benefit of the Self and of the future spiritual communion-the Rose of the World.