300 years of Grigory Skovoroda. The sage from the banknote sang like a rock star and dared the Russian empress

300 years of Grigory Skovoroda. The sage from the banknote sang like a rock star and dared the Russian empress

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On December 3, 1722, the founder of Slavic philosophy, Grigory Skovoroda, was born. What is the Ukrainian philosopher famous for and what does the fountain on the 500-hryvnia banknote mean? Focus deals with the nature and creative heritage of the great thinker in a recent article.

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Everyone knows the face of this person – from the portrait on the 500-hryvnia banknote. Near his monument on Kontraktova Square in the capital there is a constant movement of students from the Kiev-Mohyla Academy and other universities. Everyone knows his phrase: “The world caught me, but did not catch me”, which is displayed as an epitaph on his grave. In 1959, Ivan Kavaleridze made a film about him at Dovzhenko's Kyiv studio, and he also erected a monument to Skovoroda on Kontraktova Street in 1976. Postage stamps with the image of the philosopher came out and the planet was named after him. But Skovoroda was not only a philosopher, but a musician and a poet, often performing things of his own composition (today we would say a singer-songwriter). He was at many universities and courts, but everywhere he preferred to go further. Focus deals with the character and creative heritage of the great Ukrainian thinker.

I am working on this text. Ten-year-old son Leo:

– What are you writing about?

– About Skovoroda. Do you know who Skovoroda is?

– I know.

– Who?

– The one who invented the pan.

We laugh. But, yes, it was this great graduate of Kyiv-Mohyla who made the very “frying pan” in which our specific Slavic worldview was prepared, where emotions, not reason, dominate.

Father of Slavic philosophy

The goal of any philosophy is to create a model of the world. Each nation builds it based on the peculiarities of its mentality. An Indian sage would hardly have argued, like the nihilist Nietzsche, that “life on Earth is an instant, an episode, an event without a plan”, since he was aware that according to the “master plan” the period from the birth to the dissolution of the universe is 4,320,000 years. Next, the supreme god Brahma folds the material universe and creates it again.

Western and Eastern philosophies are two polarities, between which Slavic has nestled. In the East, philosophy and religion are a single whole: such are Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism. A philosopher is a spiritual and moral mentor. In the West, philosophy and religion have been separated. Philosophers are academic scientists who create belief systems but no longer claim to be Socratic spiritual teachers themselves. Like the same famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), who was the same age as Skovoroda.

And the Cossack philosopher Grigory Skovoroda (1722 – 1794) founded the original Slavic philosophy, taking the worldview structure from Plato and the Christian religion, and the eastern one has the lifestyle of a wandering spiritual teacher.

Eastern and Western traditions are combined in his figure.

From a singer to a philosopher

December 3, 1722, in the Kyiv province (now the Poltava region) in the Cossack village of Chernukhi of the Lubensky regiment, Grigory Skovoroda was born. His relatives from the side of his father and mother were priests. The brother of his grandfather on his mother's side, Fyodor Shan-Giray, who comes from baptized Crimean Tatars, served in the temple.

From the age of 16, Gregory lived on his own. He studied at the Kiev-Mohyla Academy in 1734-1753 (with interruptions), as well as in Europe. He taught poetics at the Pereyaslavl and Kharkiv collegiums. He wrote in different languages ​​- Church Slavonic, Russian with Ukrainian expressions, Greek, Latin.

He became famous in his youth for his magnificent voice. Under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, he sang in the court chapel. He made friends with Elizabeth's favorite – Alexei Razumovsky (born from land-poor Dnieper Cossacks). Together with the choir, he accompanied the empress on a trip to Kyiv, but he stayed there. But he could have been a court star of singing all his life. But no, the road was calling him. It was a typical act for him.

In Kyiv, he writes his debut work: “Guide to Poetry”. The church authorities are unhappy with her – the freethinker destroys the canons, but the main thing is that he himself composes his poems and songs perfectly and performs perfectly.

But it sounds like a rock hit. Listen:

“Every city has its own customs and rights;

Everyone has his own mind;

Every heart has its own love,

Every throat has its own taste.” (1760)

Does it remind you of anything? Why, it's almost a “Song Without Words” by the rock band “Kino”:

“Every apple has a place to fall

Every thief has the opportunity to steal

To each dog a stick and a bone

And to each wolf teeth and anger”. (1989)

There are more than two centuries between these songs , but the idea and intonation are similar.

That's why they loved Skovoroda – for the depth and relevance, he was like an itinerant rock star. And at the same time sprinkled with aphorisms and witticisms. He adored communication and the social circle of his interlocutors was wide: from peasants and merchants to the first persons of the state. They say he even taunted Catherine II. The Empress ordered him to appear at court. When she entered, everyone froze in a bow, except for Gregory. “Why don't you bow to me?” Catherine II asked him. He replied: “I didn’t want to see you, but you wanted to look at me. But how can you see me when I bend in front of you?”.

At the Kharkov collegium, where Skovoroda taught, he also did not stand on ceremony. Instead of grades, he gave such written characteristics to the students: “very stupid”, “sheer stupidity”, but he did not skimp on praise either – “very sharp”. But he did not stay here either: he spent the last 25 years of his life traveling. At the same time, managing to publish poetry books – “The Garden of Divine Songs”, “Fables of Kharkov” and philosophical treatises – “The Alphabet of the World”, “Two Conversations”, “Dialogues”.

The concept of three worlds, two natures, teaching about the heart

Unlike many local philosophers, Skovoroda has a clear system of views. He was a neoplatonic moralist, the creator of the concept of three worlds, where he combined Christianity and antiquity, mysticism and rationalism.

His worldview system has the following formula: macrocosm (universe) – microcosm (man) – the symbolic world of the Bible (connecting everything together). I quote the original source: “The essence of the three worlds. The first is universal and inhabited, where everything born lives. This is made up of countless world-worlds and is a great world. The other two are private and small worlds: the first is a microcosm, that is, a world, a world or a person, the second world symbolic, that is to say the Bible… “.

“These three worlds, differing, form a whole: the macro and micro world in their mystical proportion,” the philosopher clarified. “I believe and know that everything that exists in the great world exists in the small one, and what is possible in the small world, it is possible in the great world, according to the correspondence of these and according to the unity of the all-fulfilling spirit. The main connection between worlds is through correspondences.

In each of these worlds, he singled out two natures – visible and invisible, external and internal, carnal and spiritual. But the external world acts only as a shadow of the true world, being a temporary, transient and mortal world. But “this invisible nature, or God, penetrates and contains all creation.” The invisible world is the plan, the core and the “tree of life” of the visible world.

Skovoroda called through the material nature – sensual – to see the spiritual plane. People, not knowing about the existence of an invisible nature, are carried away and tempted by deceptive appearances, losing contact with God.

In the famous philosophical dialogue “Narkiss” Skovoroda even developed the thesis about two hearts: external (“carnal”, “worldly”, Skovoroda also calls it “ash heart”) and internal, allowing through “trials” to reveal the image of God in oneself and thus “know thyself”.

The main compass for moving forward is God in the heart. “As a compass is in a ship, God is in a person. A compass arrow in a ship's heart is a secret language, a law, a head, an eye and a ship's kingdom. The Bible is also called an arrow, as the inscribed shadow of the eternal law and the darkness of God.”

Here are the main postulates of his philosophy – they are pretty clear. And he clearly demonstrated the essence of his teaching in the figure that we see on the 500 hryvnia bill.

The picture is called “Unequal Equality for All”. This is a metaphor: the fountain is God, the people are the vessels. The philosopher explained the meaning of the image in this way: “Different streams pour from different pipes into different vessels, standing around the fountain. The smaller vessel has less, but it is equal to the larger one, which is equal to the full one. And what is more stupid, like equal equality, which fools in the world Where is stupid everything that is contrary to blessed nature?”

That is, money is not superfluous, but the picture on the banknote is somewhat different: how much divine wisdom you take – everything is yours: water flows from above in the same way, but you yourself give the most capacious shape to your vessel.

After Kant and Hegel, European thought more and more went into natural philosophy, and Skovoroda finally left such a testament – “The world caught me, but did not catch me”, meaning that the worldly, vain could not get him in the net, deceive him with outward brilliance, but attracted only the timeless – the spiritual – this is the real wealth.

Restore the Museum

There is a very detailed verbal portrait of Skovoroda. “He dressed decently, but simply; he had food, consisting of potions, fruits and dairy seasonings, he used it in the evening, after sunset; he did not eat meat and fish, not because of superstition, but according to his inner disposition; he did not set aside his time for sleep more than four hours a day; got up before dawn and, when the weather allowed, always walked outside the city to walk in clean air and gardens; always cheerful, cheerful, light, mobile, temperate, chaste, pleased with everything, sympathetic; humiliated before everyone, talkative, where he is not forced to speak, deriving moralizing from everything, respectful to every condition of people, visited the sick, consoled the sad, shared the last with the poor, chose and loved friends after their own hearts, had piety without superstition, learning without arrogance, living without flattery ” , – this is how M. I. Kovalensky described the philosopher in the book “Lifestyle of Skovoroda in Kharkov” (1795).

In the village of Skovorodinovka near Kharkov, the outstanding Ukrainian philosopher often visited the estate of his student An Drei Kovalevsky. There, anticipating his imminent death, at the age of 72 he dug his own grave, bathed, put on clean clothes and died. Holy elders usually have such a presentiment.

Buried not far from his beloved oak. At the resting place of Skovoroda, as he bequeathed, there is no cross, only a huge stone with the inscription: “The world caught me, but did not catch me.”

On October 12, the Cabinet of Ministers decided that, despite the war in Ukraine , the 300th anniversary of the birth of Grigory Skovoroda will be celebrated at the state level: there will be celebrations, thematic exhibitions, round tables, discussions, seminars, literary readings and excursions dedicated to the great philosopher.

His work and teaching live on.

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