CHAPTER XIV

 

LITHUANIAN PHILOSOPHICAL

THOUGHT BETWEEN EAST AND WEST

 

ARVYDAS SLIOGERIS

 

 

The subject and the heading of the present report are obviously too solemn and rather mythologized. They bring the idea of the supposed cultural mission of Lithuania advanced by Stasys Salkauskis, to achieve a synthesis of Eastern (Oriental) and Western (Occidental) cultures. This idea which emerges, in one way or another, in bold or modest fashion, is a peculiar manifestation of a non-aggressive cultural Messianism. Of course, in trying to render concrete this Messianic idea of Salkauskis and apply it exclusively to philosophy, there are no great pretensions. As far as I know, no Lithuanian philosopher has sought to achieve or even set forth such an ambitious goal as a synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophy. Even the originator of this idea, Stasys Salkauskis, when it comes to his philosophy, was a quite moderate and fairly orthodox Westerner. Some unpretentious improvisations within the limits imposed by neo-Thomist thought was quite enough for him.

 

EXISTENTIAL ROOTS OF LITHUANIAN CULTURE

 

Yet this "between" of Stasys Salkauskis discloses one simple, but fateful feature of the Lithuanian philosophical thought: its lack of self-sufficiency and its dependence upon either Western or Eastern (Oriental) philosophy, and rather frequently its dependence upon both of them. Indeed, Lithuanian philosophy has never been either authentic or self-dependent. It has never become an organic, intrinsic part and parcel of high Lithuanian culture. It has not grown from its own roots concealed in the specific experience of the Lithuanian mentality. It simply failed to unfold from the "local" need to reflect upon everyday insights into the world and first-hand experience, or to communicate such insights and experience in other language than that of philosophy or metaphysics. We failed even to create a universal intellectual space for philosophical reflection wherein a dialogue among thinking people might take place. Space of this kind was non-existent before and does not exist now.

It is absolutely evident also that we do not possess a tradition of Lithuanian philosophy as an integral development of one essential and predominant thought, though the development of such thought might bring some freshness to the present day from the past and build new bridges linking us with the future. The history of Lithuanian philosophy cannot be viewed as a reflection upon the unfolding of a certain tradition of philosophical thought. Rather, it is a mixture of scattered and usually absolutely unrelated facts of intellectual life. Philosophy in Lithuanian culture has always been a foreign body brought in from abroad, either by ourselves or by foreigners. At best it unfolded in the form of academic disciplines.

Philosophy has always been only our culture and never our nature. From this fact stem its inherent decorativeness, rootlessness and dispensability. Our Lithuanian experience of the earth and the sky has been articulated most authentically through religion, poetry and — to a somewhat lesser extent — other forms of art, e.g. painting. Our nation’s cultural search for its inner self and self-expression was first and foremost poetic, and in its most brilliant aspects this was lyrical poetry. Emotions and imagery were definitely predominant — not philosophical abstraction.

It was characteristic of Lithuanians to observe the earth more frequently than the sky. The glance at the earth was poetic and mystical, while the glance at the sky was indicative of the Christian outlook. Lithuanians were never able to look at the sky like Plato and see pure ideas, mathematical relations, forms or metaphysical entities instead of clouds. The sky was empty and silent for us, sometimes evolving a poetic inspiration or a feeling of an aesthetic order — but nothing more. Earthly things were always more real than heavenly entities, and sensible reality always dwarfed the intellectual order. Consequently, Lithuanian figures arrived at conclusions based on an authentic experience that the supreme being should be or might be invisible. We were children of the earth. Even our God, Rupintojelis (a crucifix carved in the fashion of Lithuanian folk art), was obviously thinking not about heavenly but about earthly matters.

It is self-evident that such experience oriented towards the earth and sensible things did not possess a capacity to stimulate real metaphysical flight. Therefore when a fellow Lithuanian would dare to fly into the Platonic sky or the Kantian realms of pure reason, he instantly would lose contact with his own genuine experience and begin to speak in the foreign language of Western metaphysics or Oriental philosophy. Transcendence (in the sense of transcending all sensible) which is the kernel of Western metaphysics and Oriental philosophy has been brought into Lithuania from abroad, for the Lithuanian did not possess such an experience. As far as I know, no serious Lithuanian philosopher considered this world of sensible things either as the veil of Maya or the Platonic cave of shadows.

For Lithuanians the visible world was the sole, true and supreme being — within the limits of authentic experience, I would stress — whereas the traditional philosophy in the West and the East alike would always begin with transcendence and the negation of the real existence of the sensible world. Having annihilated the sensible nature or things with the help of the guillotine of thought or mystical intuition, traditional philosophy would always force its way into the realms of metaphysical things and mathematical relations (in the West) or into the Great Nothingness or Non-Being (in the East). For the Oriental and the Western philosophy the sky was of importance, while the Lithuanian, on the contrary, was catering for the earth and building on this native soil all the monuments of his spirit. That is why he has never been a philosopher either in the Western or in the Eastern (Oriental) sense of the word.

 

PHILOSOPHY IN LITHUANIA

 

For this reason a strange, though quite understandable, thing has happened: our first genuine philosophy, related to the nation’s revival at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, grew not of our own inherent experience, but from the alien world. Its true source, to put it in the words of Edmund Husserl, was not "the things themselves", but books and texts. This sole circumstance has destined it to a lack of self-dependence and to inauthenticity. That is why such a philosophy was inescapably marked with the seal of ideology.

Our first Lithuanian thinkers, Adomas Jakstas-Dambrauskas and Stasys Salkauskis, were essentially not philosophers in an authentic (Greek or German) sense of the word, but ideologues. The true object of their reflections was not the aspects of existential experience, but ready-made ideas adopted from the West or from the East. They were not the seekers after the truth (aletheia) that is thought of as not yet known or after the mysterious being (Sein). By no means were they the lovers of wisdom in a Socratic sense. They accepted the truth as a thing already discovered and took it for granted. At best they thought of such a truth as needing certain commentaries and some sort of more reliable substantiation. This truth was concealed in Catholicism, namely, in the Catholic philosophy which by the very reason of being Catholic served an ideological purpose.

A similar thing happened to Vydunas, a thinker of somewhat greater spontaneity: his philosophy is a mixture of foreign ideas — in this case not of Western, but of Oriental origin. One would not dare to call such a mixture even a decent eclecticism. That is why there is no essential difference between Jakstas and Salkauskis, on the one hand, and Vydunas, on the other. All these thinkers were ideologues — propagandists and proponents of ready-made systems, ready-made foreign ideas that had long ago lost their former vitality and failed to become a part of the existential experience of the aforementioned men.

The ideological orientation of their philosophy manifested itself in several essential features that are characteristic of ideological life: 1) philosophy fails to separate from the institutionalized religion and from the corpus of codified religious truths; 2) the truth is not thought of as a path to the unknown, but is meant as a thing known beforehand, in advance, that requires only some sort of substantiation or indoctrination; 3) the atmosphere of an answer instead of a question is predominant, wherefrom arises a pretension to gnosis, i.e. to omniscience; 4) a universalist effort to explain everything on the basis of a single (understood as the "only truthful") system of thought is predominant; 5) the practical and the instrumentalist orientations considerably outweigh the theoretical standpoint. Such a situation causes habitual relapses into moralization and references such as to "what a person should be like", "what he ought to do", how he must live in order to meet the standards of "righteousness", and so on. This orientation is utterly foreign to philosophy of the first magnitude and grand style, which emerges from intuitions about the real capacities and possibilities of a human being as well as those of the world. Therefore, there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that our first philosophers were the ideologues not only in a figurative, but also in a literal sense: Jakstas was an ardent Catholic figure and a censor of public morality; Salkauskis was the ideologue of ateitininkai (the organization of the Catholic youth); and Vydunas was a "public figure" and a mahatma-therapist in an Oriental fashion.

The second generation of Lithuanian philosophers (whose most distinguished representatives were, without doubt, Antanas Maceina and Juozas Girnius) resolutely focused its attention on Western thought, thinking skeptically of the idea of synthesis put forward by Salkauskis, as well as of the theosophy and Oriental mysticism favored by Vydunas. Yet this turning point did not change essentially or radically the very character of the philosophy of Maceina and Girnius. In its basic features this philosophy still remained ideological, though its ideological character was somewhat mitigated by the preoccupation of Maceina and Girnius with so-called existentialism, first of all, in its German version in the ideas of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger.

But these ideas were also subordinated to the "only truthful" Christian philosophy, though the latter received a much broader and freer interpretation in comparison with that of Jakstas and Salkauskis. Maceina as well as Girnius had never been orthodox neo-Thomist, yet at the same time they never overcame (nor did they make an effort to do so) the philosophical and ideological rhythms of Catholicism. Catholicism with its "eternal" truth managed to remain the alpha and omega of their philosophies. We shall not find in their philosophy a free search for truth, an atmosphere of risk and endless questions, an effort to begin from arche, nor a real passion for thought. The ideological motives to defend and propagate "the Catholic truth", that are rooted in their philosophy, always paralyse the resoluteness and courage to look at the abyss of the mysterious transcendence, where faceless truth emerges only as a dim hope and anxiety of ignorance.

They are not philosophers in a Greek sense of this word, for they knew the truth and were not searching for it. This is a sign, mentioned above, of dependence on anonymous and alien philosophy, be it presented in a written or a spoken form. That is why the main works of Maceina and Girnius could be ascribed to the genre of "the philosophy of culture". A spontaneous, "primordial" impulse to think is absent in those works, as well as an effort to reflect upon those things that are subject to direct revelation and not to that expressed through any medium of "cultured" form. In general, Maceina and Girnius think of philosophy only as of a certain theoretical discipline, an instrument of "investigation", and by no means as essentially a specific mode of thought aimed at sharing the existence with, casting a pensive glance (devoid of any practical motives) at, and reflecting deeply upon, the arche of the world that reveals itself directly and in a spontaneous and primordial manner.

This is the reason for the complete dependence of these thinkers not on things themselves, but on the thought expressed in words (in this case, I mean dependence on the West). The philosophy of Maceina and Girnius is not a testimony of transcendence itself; rather, it is only a commentary on foreign experiences of the transcendence. These philosophers are still soaring in a space of ideology, between the Eastern (Oriental) and the Western philosophical texts, and by no means between the Eastern and the Western modes of experience. They are still floating in the alien ocean of mythical and logical utterances, but not in the idiomatic and authentic outpouring of being that might be revealed directly. The moves of lively and spirited thought were not made; instead, they were only imitated. An independent step in the direction of evident experience of either being or non-being was still absent.

 

LIBERATION

 

Ideologies

 

It would have been difficult to foresee the future unfolding of Lithuanian philosophy if the fatal turning point of the year 1940 had not taken place. It not only disrupted the natural development of our nation’s intellectual life, but also annihilated the very basic conditions of normal spiritual self-expression. The Bolshevik occupation threw Lithuania back to the zero point. With certain stipulations being taken into account, we may call this a point of new beginning. But speaking about the new beginning of Lithuanian philosophy we should most emphatically state something which at first sight seems paradoxical: this second beginning was in its very essence (but not it details or models of expression) similar to the first beginning connected with the aforementioned names of Jakstas, Salkauskis, Vydunas, Maceina and Girnius. And again, for the second time, Lithuanian philosophy emerged as an ideology. But this time it was subdued not to the Catholic, but to the Bolshevik (or — as it used to be called — Marxist) ideology. As a result of ideological, political and economic terror for the next 50 years in Lithuania there was established a Bolshevik (and consequently, to some extent Oriental) version of Marxist philosophy. All professional philosophers willy-nilly became (or, rather, were forced to pretend to be) Marxists.

Yet there is also an important difference, though not connected with the very essence of philosophy, between the first and the second beginning. Virtually all philosophers of the early 20th century and the first period of Lithuania’s independence voluntarily accepted the Catholic ideology and philosophy, and even considered it as a natural and idiomatic form of expression. They freely and sincerely accepted and preached the truth of Catholic philosophy, whereas the major part of philosophers in Soviet Lithuania accepted the Marxist ideology and philosophy under the strain of dire, inescapable necessity forced upon them by the ruling regime. Of course, some philosophers were loyal to the Soviet rule and of sincere Marxist persuasion. Yet they presented an exception rather than the rule. The brightest minds accepted Marxism with reluctance and with numerous perceived, or more frequently unperceived, reservations. In general, the cases of natural, i.e. sincere, ideological fanaticism among the philosophers in Lithuania of that time were virtually absent. There were some exceptional cases, but their motivation had nothing to do with philosophy as such. In either event, we should state that Lithuanian philosophy for the second time was forming within an ideological framework. Unrestricted philosophizing that develops from authentic experience and efforts to reflect on this experience again became impossible, at least in the public field of philosophical discourse.

Yet, in my opinion, in no other period of the Lithuanian philosophy but that of the Soviet times does there seem to emerge a slow, difficult, but crucial breakthrough. I would call it a gradual liberation from the ideological way of thinking. It may be viewed as yet another paradox on the path of Lithuanian philosophy. Since the Bolshevik ideology (which was directly identified with the Marxist philosophy) was forced in a compulsory fashion, it gave rise to a silent yet persistent opposition to ideology as such, to ideology of any sort, not only that of the Bolshevik style, but to the ideological way of thinking amongst all Lithuanian intellectuals, philosophers included. The ideological terror and the enforcement of the dogmas of the Marxist philosophy quite naturally stimulated the brightest minds of Lithuania to think skeptically of any kind of ideology, irrespective of its content. A secret yet intensive liberation from the ideological mentality was under way during those years.

Certainly, this process was uneven, difficult and painful. One should acknowledge that a certain part of Lithuanian intellectuals for some time was bewitched by the socialist (or, rather, Communist) ideology and the Marxist philosophy. But I must repeat once again that such a pattern was much more an exception than the rule.

Even within the limits of the official Marxist philosophy an anti-ideological skepticism and even some kind of insubordination (certainly, without any visible forms) were undergoing development and maturation. I would even dare to assert that during the Soviet era liberation from the ideological way of thinking was much more intensive in the milieu of Lithuanian philosophers than in the environment of, say, Lithuanian writers and artists. There is nothing extraordinary in such a phenomenon, since the professional philosophers having a first-hand acquaintance with, and experience of, dialectical and historical materialism were in position best to notice from within the deficiencies, inconsistencies and weak points of Marxism. Lithuanian philosophers had an opportunity to get acquainted, though cursorily, with modern Western philosophy. Such an opportunity had never ceased to exist, but later was gaining momentum. As classical philosophy "before Marx" was acknowledged and officially permitted, the "only true" Marxist doctrine had its rival points of comparison. In most cases such a comparison spoke against Marxist philosophy, thus liberation from ideology was under way even within the framework of the official Marxist philosophy lectured at Lithuanian universities.

 

Eugenijus Meskauskas

 

Speaking about this liberation I would like, in the first place, to mention the name of Professor Eugenijus Meskauskas and to review briefly his work done in the process of the Lithuanian transformation of Marxist philosophy. In my opinion, the role of this person in destroying the ideological way of thinking was unique, though I know that most of my colleagues, in particular the younger ones, would not subscribe to such an opinion. Therefore, I shall make an attempt to substantiate my argument. The corpus of written works by Eugenijus Meskauskas is not great, since, in general, he preferred direct dialogue with living people to writing which, as I know, was a real torment for him. Such an unfavorable attitude towards the written word experienced by the Professor may well be viewed as a Socratic trait of his character which, of course, does not diminish the magnitude of this philosopher. The true vocation of Eugenijus Meskauskas was his lectures delivered to undergraduate and postgraduate students. During the Soviet period, the postgraduate lectures were an extraordinary intellectual event in the years 1968 through 1974. They were attended not only by the philosophers, but also by a great number of intellectuals from other fields and backgrounds.

A favorite method was employed by Eugenijus Meskauskas during his course (certainly, inescapably ideologized) on dialectical and historical materialism aimed at undermining and demolishing the ideological thinking as such. His basic proposition was very simple: in its true nature Marxist philosophy is scientific, though not in the Western, technological sense, for the term "science" in those times was employed to denote any sort of knowledge that was firm and coherent. Therefore, one should find and emphasize all the scientific capacities then thought of as inherent in Marxist philosophy, and at the same time combat the ideological dogmatism which was also thought to be firmly rooted therein.

The main thesis of Eugenijus Meskauskas that expresses his attitude reads as follows: Marxist philosophy is the general methodology of science and therefore should manifest the specific features of scientific thinking as such. Hence, it must teach one to think in an objective, unbiased, undogmatic and anti-ideological way. This contention in a very peculiar yet consistent fashion underwent reiteration and dissemination in the course of the dialectical materialism.

Eugenijus Meskauskas transformed the so-called materialistic dialectic into extreme skepticism and relativism. His lectures used to be a remarkable school of Socratic irony. All the basic, strictly defined and firmly fixed categories of traditional metaphysics which were enshrined by Hegel and left intact by his Soviet disciples and adherents in the canon of dialectical materialism (such as "being", "consciousness", "essence", "phenomenon", "form", "content", "quality", "quantity", and so on) in the horizon of Eugenijus Meskauskas’s interpretations would lose their metaphysical definiteness, substantial meaning and, turning one into the other in the course of dialectical interplay, would be deprived of any dogmatic stability and vanish like a puff of smoke. Matter would turn into consciousness, and vice versa; necessity would appear only as a mode of expression of chance; essence would merge with the phenomenon; phenomena would become essential; the truth in its dialectical unfolding would turn head over heels and become falsehood, all things would lose their intrinsic form and melt away into the universal interrelation of the world of phenomena, thus turning into process. Becoming would appear as a highest manifestation of being, while being would sink into the non-being of procedural transformations, thus leaving only a dim shadow of temporary stability.

All that dialectical interplay, similar to a conjurer’s tricks, led into nothing — quite in the fashion of Socratic dialogues. In the end all those entities — things and categories alike — that once had been thought of as stabile and reliable, would become non-existent or, rather, would begin to be viewed as sheer phantoms of the world of words. The skepticism and relativism sometimes approached the threshold of philosophical or even sophistical nihilism. The shadow of Pyrrho was soaring above those lectures.

Yet a somewhat more substantial part of ideological phantoms and dogmatism was left intact in the course of the historical materialism. The key dogmas of the Marxist social philosophy were not allowed to be disposed of or removed so easily, since such a step would have meant an open revolt against the sanctities of the Bolshevik ideology. In no way and by no means could one slaughter the sacred cows of historical materialism, i.e. the ideas of class struggle, the progressive development of history towards socialism, the superiority of socialism over capitalism, and other dogmas.

But Eugenijus Meskauskas, perhaps even being unaware of it, managed to drive a wedge of skepticism and nihilism into the monolith of historical materialism. Such an attitude and behaviour were expressive of his standpoint of radical historicism and historical relativism. The essence of that standpoint is simple: there are no eternal or eternally truthful situations or conditions in the world of the human being, since man’s history, like the Heraclitean stream, drags everything and everybody into nothingness, into non-being. Everything is temporary, everything is doomed to extermination, including the socialist paradise. The final conclusion arrived at not by Eugenijus Meskauskas himself, but by his listeners (for example, by the author of this report) is such: there is no being, but non-being is. Or, construed even in a more radical way: nothing (inclusive of non-being and nothing itself) exists, and we are subject to a sheer illusion of appearance that anything at all may exist. And all ideologies and iron chains of speculative systems must be rejected.

The extreme relativism of Eugenijus Meškauskas was sometimes bewildering. It provoked an opposite, dogmatic, reaction (though not the Marxist one) and aroused the revolt of a spirit yearning for stability and certainty. Yet this relativism accomplished its work of destruction, since the brightest minds of our generation ceased to believe in any ideology — be it the socialist, the liberal, the Catholic, or any ideology at all. Any attempt to link philosophy to ideological dogmatism was rejected.

At the beginning of the 1970s some philosophers emerged in Lithuania who at that time might have been the freest from any kind of ideology not only in the Soviet Union, but in a broader context as well. We were freer than our colleagues in the West who, in any case, subscribed to certain political views and, consequently, were bound to some sort of ideology. We did not possess political views, for in our country such a thing as politics at that time was simply non-existent. I would also add that the philosophical works of the Lithuanian philosophers of the first period of our nation independence exerted no influence at all upon the formation of our views and anti-ideological attitudes. Even in those years the ideas of Maceina and Girnius seemed too bookish, inanimate and dogmatic. On the other hand, at that time we were simply not acquainted with the works and style of thinking of Algis Mickunas, Alfonsas Lingys or Vincas Vycinas, which, as I may discern now, was much more expressive of our own philosophical mood during that period.

 

Existential Recommencement

 

In any case, specifically at that time — at the beginning of the 1970s — we energetically focused our minds on the West and turned away not only from the Bolshevik East, but also from the more distant Orient, since the East for us had a persistent association with despotism, oppression, brutal force, ideological and political terror. We returned to Europe quite easily and even naturally, for we found this free continent in ourselves, in Lithuania, here and now.

The art of Eugenijus Meskauskas helped us to find the West in our souls, yet it also taught us the capacity of resistance to the bewitchment of those ideologies and words that even Europe may one day try to force upon us. In the field of philosophy this turning point and awakening most clearly takes place in my generation, though the premises for such a change were prepared not only by Eugenijus Mekauskas, but also by his first pupils, still half-Marxist, i.e. Jonas Repsys, Vinciunas and Albinas Lozuraitis. This inner liberation was stimulated not only by the downfall of the Marxist ideology, but also by the collapse of so-called socialism, the first signs of which also appeared in the 1970s. All illusions vanished, and a cynical society emerged that was later called "the period of stagnation".

Yet for the youngest generation of Lithuanian philosophers (the most distinguished figures of which were Evaldas Nekrasas, Rolandas Pavilionis and a few others) that time was not one of stagnation, but of the most intensive thought. It was indeed a third beginning of Lithuanian philosophy. Despite external constraints and the need to pretend in public to be Marxists — albeit unorthodox, very liberal ones and by no means hardliners — during occasions of private sharing of opinions as well as in our souls we enjoyed complete freedom. We were free to such a degree that this freedom sometimes aroused in our minds some sort of worry and even fear. Specifically this freedom that sometimes is not very pleasant urged me to write my main book, Butis ir pasaulis (The Being and the World), wherein I made an effort to impose certain limits and guidelines on my thought as well as to find more clear-cut contours of my existential situation. In principle such notions as God, socialism, the East and the West, had lost their substantial meaning and importance in my eyes by that time.

In the public field of philosophical expression this freedom manifested itself in two forms — in an exceptional interest in, and attraction to, the history of Western philosophy, and the so-called "critique of bourgeois philosophy". The second form was more important, for the term "critique of bourgeois philosophy" concealed the apology and propaganda of modern Western philosophy. Yet this philosophy by no means became a new sacred cow or idol. The ideological loyalty to any idol, even to a very attractive one, was not acceptable to us. We were aware of the fact that we did not possess the truth and, therefore, we were simply destined to search for it by ourselves, with the help of our own brains and, what is most important, with the help of our own specific language. The acquired inner freedom initiated and gave momentum to our efforts to think in an original and, one may say, primordial manner, ex arches, without authorities or superstitions, without dogmas and ready-made systems of thought that might be forced upon us from outside or simply accepted by us voluntarily yet uncritically.

It appears to me that we finally and perhaps for the first time in Lithuania defeated our inferiority complex and the ideological way of thinking in the broadest sense of this word. A strong need to reflect upon our experience, to make sense of it and give it a philosophical meaning had awakened — I mean specifically that experience which emerges here and now, in the existential habitat of our place and our time in which we are destined to live. There was an urge to think by ourselves, to think from the beginning and to reflect upon the beginning itself. Yet revolutionary nihilism as well as idle running after originality were utterly foreign to us.

We had a perfect understanding of the fact that the beginning was not an absolute thing; that the beginning was neither the creation from nothingness, ex nihilo, nor was it a reflection on empty place. We managed to save in our hearts a deep respect for philosophical tradition and adopted, so far as we were in a position to do so, the experience and all the main problems of modern Western philosophy. Yet the tradition and the great contemporary Western thinkers were nothing more that a staircase leading us to things themselves. The stairs proved to be very long and gradually turned into mistaken paths and cul-de-sacs, wherein, unfortunately, we find ourselves now. We do not know where these paths are going to lead us. Yet we know that nobody else can think for us — neither the East nor the West, neither the socialists nor the Catholics. No such ideology or method, be it the most sophisticated and updated, is in position to substitute for our own painstaking reflections, for it is the same to be in the beginning and to think by yourself. Thus the existential variant of the well-known thesis of Parmenides seems to emerge as our main guideline.

At the end I would like to return to the beginning of this report, to its heading. In my opinion, Lithuanian philosophers most of all lacked trust in their own experience. This is the reason why the dilemma of what path to choose — that of the East or that of the West — could emerge in their heads. Too often and too timidly our philosophers were accustomed to look either to the East or to the West, forgetting the fact that essential and most meaningful things thrive nearby, here and now, before our eyes and beneath our feet. Lithuanian philosophy was always too fearful, it was always eager to check and compare itself against the standards and measures imposed by others. It was still wandering in the distance, in der Ferne, in the mythical and ideological realm of the foreign word which uttered an alien experience. The East and the West are those great phantoms that bewitched not only Vydunas and Salkauskis, but even now seem to cast a spell over a large number of our contemporary philosophers.

We should hope that in this magic formula, "between the East and the West", neither the East nor the West, but this "between" will become the main link and part of this chain. We shall find in this "between", wherein we are positioned, a place for the East as well as for the West, discarding all mythological syntheses and simply entering into contact and dialogue with the greatest thinkers of other nations. We are nobody and nothing without them, but turning them into idols and refusing to think by ourselves we also fail to become somebody or something, and yet again plunge into the emptiness of non-existent nothingness, nichtet-ing Nichts, to put it in the Words of Martin Heidegger. Thus the only possible conclusion is such: Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

 

Lithuanian Institute of Philosophy and Sociology