• Gelati Academy
The Spiritual Ideals of the Gelati Academy
A Lecture delivered at the L. Meskhishvili Drama Theater in Kutaisi , 20 May 1990
Dear friends, even in extreme political turmoil, our ancestors were not oblivious of science, poetry, knowledge. Even in times of war they cared for the development of spiritual culture. This was Georgian history. To excuse ourselves today from a similar concern by reference to our being engaged in political struggle, with no spare time for science and culture, would indeed amount to a betrayal of our historical traditions.
I wish to illustrate this by the example of the person to whom I am dedicating this lecture and whose service to the Georgian state and nation is incalculable. What is most important, he was himself a paragon of all this, setting up from his capital city, Kutaisi, the great spiritual center of Gelati. The person I refer to should today serve as an example for us, for he combined the struggle with Georgia’s foes and the building of the Georgian state with an extensive religious, philosophical, and scholarly activity that is truly astonishing. The man I am speaking of is David the Builder. We have no other example in our history of a king and commander-in-chief being such an outstandingly erudite scholar, as well as a poet arid creator of spiritual culture. And our ideal today too should be such activity. Our great kings followed this tradition not only when Georgia was felicitous, free and powerful but in the dark periods of her history as well. Take the king-poet Vakhtang VI, who was a scholar, commenting on and publishing The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. In other words, even in times of extreme historical adversity the interest in scholarship and spiritual culture never cooled down. Neither should we forget this today, when Georgia is swept by the national-liberation movement.. Let us recall how David the Builder during his campaigns, mounted on his horse, carried with him books by Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, the writings of philosophers, and – fully armed – read them in his ambush, holding his bow in one hand and a pen in the other A case is on record when the enemy all but overrun his hideout and the king slew one of them on the spot.
The situation is almost the same today, when we have to struggle for the freedom of Georgia and revival of her statehood. During this time we must not be oblivious of religion, culture, philosophy, science and schol-arship. Only in this way we can be victorious and preserve the image the nation had from prehistoric through historical times. As you know, Colchis was a seat of ancient culture and wisdom. Hellenic culture may be said to have been a superstructure built on Colchian culture, the for-mer arising front the latter. This is seen clearly from the myth of the Argonauts. What is the Golden Fleece? It is a symbol of ancient, myste-rious wisdom that had been preserved only in Colchis at the time. Cold is a symbol of the highest spirituality and purity, while the ram is also a symbol of supreme purity of thought, reasoning and culture, and the Golden Fleece is to be found in the country which possesses this wisdom. It is suspended from an oak, the latter being an embodiment of an ancient cult which started in Colchis and then spread worldwide, Greece included. As you know, the cult of the oak occurs in Europe too, and later in Greece. However, it began from Colchis, and the first oak – the first didi chqoni, i.e. “Great Oak” (the designation of the institution of Chqondideli being related to it) was that ancient Colchian oak on which the Golden Fleece was hung and for the acquisition of which the greatest Greek hero Jason had to undergo many stages of. self-development and purification. He did all this in order to acquire the wisdom symbolically embodied in the Golden Fleece. The sages of ancient Greece expressed their purport symbolically or allegorically, never conveying their wisdom directly. Thus, the great oak, the Golden Fleece, and the trials the Greek hero Jason underwent in order to acquire the Golden Fleece are all symbolic. What did he find in Colchis? He found a world of ancient wisdom, prehistoric wisdom – it may be said – the earliest wisdom of mankind. At that time, all this had been lost in Greece, for the country was then at a much lower cultural and developmental level than Colchis. But the fact that Jason was introduced to Colchian mystery, that he was put through certain tests by being confronted with warriors, the dragon and fire-breathing oxen – all this shows that ancient Colchians nurtured Greece, i.e. Illellenic culture.
But the Colchians were only a pad of a large group of other Kartvelian peoples, for at that early time the Georgian ethnos was lo-cated not only in the Caucasus but extended from the Pyrenees to India; this ancient Kartvelian or Iberian race had several distinct branches. These were the world of the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean world, the Minoan world, the Trojan world and Pelasgian world, the last two con-stituting the primordial population of Hellas or modern Greece.
This was the population found by the Vedic Greeks arriving in Hellas, the culture of the indigenous population being higher than that of the newly arrived Greeks, as expressed in. the myth of Prometheus. Prometheus symbolically embodies the wisdom of the ancient Kartvelian or Pelasgian tribes, which formed a single world, a part of which was Colchis. That is to say, Colchis was not the only seal of this culture: it was a culture – let me re-peal – diffused from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean and Aegean worlds, and to Asia Minor where later we find the Cappadocian and Meskhian or Moschian tribes mentioned in the Bible.
The alchemists were the ancient sages of the Caucasus, the priests of the mysteries. Guardians of rnysterious wisdom, the alchemists brought the practice of that wisdom into the Middle Ages. Alchemy involved the obtaining not only of physical gold but of spiritual gold as well. It had the ideal of the golden stone. This philosophers’ stone was the same Golden Fleece, sought in that pagan period by Greek sages and medieval alchemists.- Hermetic alchemists. (It was called the Hermetic way be-cause it stemmed from the wisdom of Hermes Trisgemistus, a legendary author.) The Caucasus was called “the mountain of philosophers” where – in their symbolic language – was located the ore of heavenly faith or the Golden Fleece. In other words, in the Middle Ages the Caucasus was considered a land of heavenly wisdom, for it possessed the ore of heav-enly faith. The ore – symbolically, of course – indicated this wisdom, that is to say, the wisdom of ancient Colchian mysteries, or the wisdom of the Golden Fleece. The expedition of the Greeks against Troy – that proto-Kartvelian, proto-Georgian, or Colchian world – had the objective of carrying away the wisdom that the Greeks lacked. This wisdom being symbolically embodied in the Palladium or a statue of Pallas Athena, which was preserved only in Troy, and not to be found in Greece. This is how Georgia, the Georgian world, and the ancient Colchian world were represented in Classical mythos arid poems. As you know, in his wanderings Odysseus comes to visit Circe, the sister of Aeetes, and the son of Circe and Odysseus was Latinus the progenitor of the Latins or Romans. Symbolically, this means that the Latins and Romans too are of semi-Georgian descent, for the Colchian Circe – the aunt of Medea and sister of Acetes – was the mother of Litmus the eponym of the Latins.
Consider too Theseus’ visit to the kingdom of Minos in Crete. He slew the monster Minotaur confined in tie labyrinth; and then escaped from the labyrinth with the help of the thread given to him by Ariadne. As is known, Minas was Aeetes’ brother in law: Aeetes’ sister Pasiphae was the wife of Minos – a situation that suggests the very close relationship of the vari-ous cultures of that period. The ancient Minoan culture, dating from the third millennium B.C., is of the same age as Colchian. The determina-tion of the age of Kutaisi, the seat of Colchian culture, at approximately 3000 years (some mention 2500) is a puerile mistake. Although it is not possible to determine the precise age of Kutaisi, it surely is a much older city and is, in my view, at least 4000 or 5,000 years old. The first name of Kutaisi, as you well know was Aea. The name is symbolic of the culture of mysteries, for the sounds of the word expressed ancient mys-teries. In ancient mysteries a sound combination called Aeo expressed definite wisdom and the character of mysteries. Aea was an ancient seat of mysteries or centers of wisdom. The origin of Colchis and its capital should be sought many millennia earlier, whereas the creation of the myth of the Golden Fleece may be said to date from a much later pe-riod, when that wisdom was on the decline and that culture was no longer at its highest level. Of course, it was even then at a much higher level than that of the contemporary Greek culture. In other words, these Colchian mysteries and the city of Aea were already on the wane when Aea was visited by Jason. The two stems – Cut and Aea merged, forming the name Cutaia. Thus, the ancient Colchian capital city appears to have been on this spot.
As you know; the location of Phasis is a subject of much controversy in scholarship. Today it is not possible to. establish its exact location be-cause of the change of the sea. However, archaeological excavations permit us to determine its location near Vani – in the vicinity of Nokalakevi, Vani and Kutaisi. This area was the center of the ancient Colchian culture, and Phasis seems to have been located in this zone rather than near the present-day coastline. This later Phasis was in a different location than the ancient, prehistoric Phasis, the change in lo-cation being the result of the change in the coastline. Authors of the first and second centuries, of course, speak of the Phasis that was situated in the vicinity of modern Poti. An ancient city site has been discovered at the bottom of lake Paliastomi, but the earliest Phasis was approximately to the right of the present railway; the sea must have been to the left of the railway, while land started on its right side. It was in this area that Phasis and other Colchian settlements, the centers of the ancient culture, began. This was the situation in the prehistoric period. As I have noted, the tradition of locating Phasis here continued into the Middle Ages. It was known in the ancient world that Colchis was the land of the Golden Fleece and ancient mysteries, the country of King Aeetes and Medea. She was tile founder of the first mysterious science that served as the basis of medicine. (The word medicine is related to Medea ) Of course, at that time medicine was at the level of treatment with herbs, a treat-ment that had attained its peak precisely here in Colchis.
It was here that the Argonauts found the herb – ‘blood of Prometheus’ – with which Medea treated the sick; here was the garden or Hecate, the most ancient garden of medicinal plants into which Mdea led the Argonauts and in which she introduced them to the knowledge of the medicinal wisdom that existed in Colchis. And it was precisely from here that this ancient medicinal wisdom spread throughout the world, in the same way as the culture of metallurgy diffused from Colchis arid the Tubals, Kartvelian tribes of Asia Minor, the tradition continuing into the Middle Ages. Thus, just as in the early world there was knowledge of Colchis being the homeland of the primary rnysterious wisdom, so too ii the Middle Ages the Caucasus, as noted above, was called the Mountain of Philosophers- the repository of the ore of heavenly faith and the home-land of the philosophers’ stone or Mons philosophorum.
In the Christian movement in Europe, this philosophers’ stone was otherwise called the Grail, the two words being semantically identical. Traditionally the Grail is the sacred cup used by the Savior at the Last Supper. The cup had wine in it and taking the cup, He addressed his disciples: “Drink front it, all of you. For this is my Blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew. 26:28) Then, according to one tradition, when he raised the cup for his disciples to see, it was not an ordinary cup but one of precious jasper. After the. crucifixion of Christ, his secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathaea, indeed filled that cup with the Saviour’s blood. Present at the crucifixion were not only the other disciples and the women-anointers, but also Joseph, referred to in the Gospel as the secret disciple of the Savior. In Georgian frescoes and icons Joseph of Arimathaea is depicted with a cup in his hand (this motif is frequent in our chased art as well), filling it with the Savior’s blood. Subsequently, according to tradition, Joseph of Arirnathaea took the cup to Ireland. Later, in medieval Europe, this cup was traditionally in possession of European knights – the knights of the Round Table and those of the Grail. Following the start of the Crusades, European knights. arriving to Jerusalem, absorbed the Eastern wisdom and thus, these two knowledge – European-Christian and Eastern – had merged.. Approaching the Caucasus as well, the Crusaders established close contacts with David the Builder’s Georgia. It was through this relationship that these two wisdom fused: Georgian arid European. It was in the Caucasus, the Mountain of Philosophers, the seat of the ore of heavenly faith, that the two movements merged, as recorded in the Chronicles of the Crusaders and in the work of the twelfth-century German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach.
The Grail, used by the Savior at the Last Supper, was brought to Georgia in the reign of David the Builder, as we learn from Von Eschenbach’s poem, in which David the Builder is referred to as King-Priest John. Wolfram von Esehenbach’s Parzival is a work in which events are described symbolically, with no real names of countries given. Instead of direct reference to countries, we have legendary or mythical lands figuring in the poem. Georgia is, of course, not mentioned directly, but it is suggested as a country adjoining the Caucasus Range. Here is the beginning of spiritual wisdom, the beginning of everything that later developed in Europe and in the world at large. It is also indicated in the poem that it is here that the Grail is – this highest symbol of Christianity – in this country over which King-Priest John reigns combining king and priest in his person.
What does the combination of king and priest mean? Let us recall David the Builder holding a church in his hand in the Gelati fresco: Why is he holding a church in his hand? Because he was an equally great statesman as he was a church-man; he was an equally great king as he was a theologian. Although we have no official evidence of his ecclesiastical rank (this seems to have been kept secret), that he had such rank is intimated in the Crusaders’ Chronicles, where he is called King-Priest John. In those days there existed a tradition of secret priesthood and monkhood. Kings often became monks in secret, assuming confidential names. David the Builder appears to have had such a name, for the Crusaders unanimously refer to him as John and King-Priest John. The implication is that he was both a mainstay of religion and of the state and the political life of Georgia, combining these two principles in himself.
But David the Builder had a preceptor- a leading personality – so to speak, father of the king and of the state. That was the Bishop of Chqondidi. Why was his name given to the institution uniting ecclesiastical and political power, the institution that was actually the supreme authority in the Georgia of the period? To be sure the king was an absolute monarch, but the Chqondideli was the symbol of supreme authority, hence the saying at the Court that the Chqondideli was the king’s father, and the same appellation is used in reference to him by the historian of David the Builder. This much we know from history, and that is why in Christian Georgia this institution was given the name Chqondidi, i.e. the name of the cult of the ‘great oak’ (chqoni meaning ‘oak’) and didi (‘great’), This was because in ancient Georgia – that is Colchi’s – the worship of this great oak had survived, while in the Christian period the name was given to an eparchy. The name ‘Chqondideli’ was preserved to express the traditional unity existing between the wisdom of the pagan period and that of the Christian era. This unity might have been given the name of Martvili or some other Christian name, but Chqondideli was retained. Priority was given to this name, I believe, to indicate the importance of David the Builder’s role in the coming together of the two wisdom. It does not indicate the superiority of pagan wisdom. But it does indicate the key role David the Builder personally played in the merger. He is depicted in the Gelati fresco upholding a church. No other king was accorded this honor, as a glance at the royal images in frescoes will show You cannot find a single other Georgian king holding a church in his hand, because we have had no other king who combined in his person Church and secular wisdom. And it was at Gelati that this merger took place – the merging of the ancient wisdom given in the myth of the Golden Fleece and the history of Colchis with biblical and Christian wisdom.
I linked this lecture to Gelati to let the residents of Kutaisi know what city they are living in and what place Gelati is. I can state with full re-sponsibility that the world has not had a similar center of medieval wis-dom and education, and this is recognized not only by Georgian scholars but by foreigners as well. I shall read to you the unprecedented view of the greatest modern Russian scholar, Academician Losev, on Gelati and Georgian Neoplatonism. This aged man visited Gelati, at which time I met him for a talk, and he later published an article in a Georgian journal. I want to introduce you to it, but, before I do, let me tell you that there was nowhere in Europe a cultural seat like Gelati, not even in Byzantium. There was at that time in Europe the Platonic Academy in Chartres which was comparable to Gelati, but neither that Academy nor any other seat of culture in that epoch could boast of a philosopher of the calibre of Ioane Petritsi. Here is what David the Builder’s historian has to say:
“In that place he assembled men of upright life adorned with every virtue,. not only those who could be found in his own kingdom: whenever he heard about someone of special piety and goodness, with perfection and abundance of spiritual and bodily virtues, in any part of the world, he sought that person out, made extensive inquires and had him brought to that place and allowed him to settle there… They were assured of a living free from want. Indeed. there is now a second Jerusalem of all the East for learning of all that is of value, for the teaching of knowledge – a second Athens, far excelling the first in divine law.” (Kartlis Tskhovreba, vol. 1, pp. 33O-331)
In short, Gelati was the kind of religious and spiritual center that Jerusalem was in Christian culture, and, in addition, it was a seat of Classical Greek wisdom, similar to the Greek capital Athens but far ex-celling it because the pagan wisdom was enriched by the wisdom of Christianity. In other words Gelati was Athens at Christian level.
What was taught at Gelati and wherein lay the greatness of this cul-tural centre? As you know, mediaeval – particularly Western – Christian-ity obscured everything that was humanistic, being opposed to whatever was thought to be worldly; only the divine side was pushed to the fore, while humanistic wisdom was relegated to the background. Classical wis-dom was generally declared unlawful, though the great Christian Fa-thers, e.g. Basil the Great, insisted on the study of Classical wisdom, saying that wisdom that could help in the salvation of the soul could be gleaned from ancient books too. Justin the philosopher, the first Chris-tian Father, said that Socrates and Plato were the same servants of Logos or Christ as were the Fathers. However, since these early Greek philosophers lived in the pagan period, they had only a partial opportu-nity to serve Logos. Justin’s view was opposed by the Byzantine Church, but at the time of the emergence of Gelati, this opposition had already been overcome in Byzantium and the interest in ancient Greek wisdom or philosophy was so great that the dogmatic representatives of the Church were unable to suppress it. But although the study of Classical philosophy had commenced in Byzantine theological academies, the level of such study at Gelati was much higher than in Byzantium and Europe, for the whole or Classical Greek wisdom was taught here, as seen in Petritsi’s works.
And it was not only ancient Greek wisdom that was revived here but also Chaldean, Egyptian, and that of all the other cultural seats of the ancient world. The philosophers at Gelati integrated all this organically into Christianity and the Bible. For them biblical wisdom was insepara-ble from ancient Greek wisdom. This is why this “new Athens far excelled the first”, as stated by David the Builder’s historian.
Now I shall quote Academician Losev’s words on Gelati.
“Georgian Neoplatonism is anthropocentric. Here man is the basis of everything, but there is a great difference between Georgian Neoplatonism and German Neoplatonism – between Eastern and Western Neoplatonism. The Neoplatonism followed by the representatives of the Georgian Renaissance* – Ioane Petritsi and Rustaveli – is anthropocentric. However, it is an anthropocentrism that does not abolish respect for nature – the nature worshipped by the ancients, particularly. the stars and their regular revolution. This anthropocentrism does not destroy nature, as was the case in the West, nature became enriched by man coming to it with his subjective needs and by turning into personality desirous of sensing and reshaping everything. Individual studies of Neoplatonism had been carried out but none with such a deep insight into this philosophical teaching.”.(*and, by the way. Losev shares Acad. Shalva Nutsubidze’s views that the Renaissance commenced in Georgia much earlier than in Europe – at the end of the eleventh century instead of, as in Europe, the end of the 13th century)
I shall now speak at length about the disciplines taught at Gelati Academy and about why we can assert that this seat of wisdom and scholarship was unique in the medieval world. Here the seven liberal arts consisting of trivium and quadrivium, were taught, just as they were in the rest of the medieval world, including Byzantium and Western Europe. Ieurope. The trivium consisted of grammar, rhetoric, and logic; the quadrivium – of arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. These branches of knowledge were taught at Gelati at a level unsurpassed any-where else. This was due to the fact that the great and wise king David the Builder brought together the greatest scholars and sages of the time and appointed Ioane Petritsi – that luminary of world philosophy and science – as their teacher. Incidentally, when Acad. Losev visited Tbilisi in my conversation with him I expressed my great admiration and re-spect for the Russian philosopher Solovyov. He was a great nineteenth century Orthodox Christian philosopher and theologian, unequaled in his day. Losev smiled and said: Why do you talk about him when you have Petritsi in your background? I was fully conscious of Petritsi’ greatness but refrained from comment out of politeness. It was Losev who took the initiative, saying that the day before he had visited the Academy at Gelati where he had knelt and prayed (incidentally, he was a profoundly religious man) to the reverend Father Ioane to intercede for -him. He had come to Gelati specifically to pray to the soul of Ioane Petritsi and to see the place where that great man had flourished. By the way, the publication in Russian of Proclus’ Elements with Petritsi’ commentaries is credited to Acad. Losev. Unfortunately, the translation is not without flaws, but this can be remedied. It should be said, however, that study of Petritsi has barely commenced, for he can be likened to a great sphinx into whose world we have so far gained but little insight. Regrettably, at this time we have not yet determined the purport of some of Petritsi’s terms or statements, and not yet risen to his level of thinking.
The seven liberal arts were taught here then as they were in other schools at that time. But in the Academy an emphasis was given to the human personality and its faculties that was quite unlike the practice elsewhere. Medieval scholastic Christianity typically focused only or God and was oblivious to the human personality. In a sense, medieval Scholasticism tended toward Monophysitism. But interest in God alone is not full Christianity; since complete Christianity calls for the union of God and man, for our Savior Jesus Christ was not only God but God and man. Both sides are essential to Christian wisdom and both were give due attention in Gelati. This approach results in genuine, Dyophysitism a way of thinking that considers the divine and human as an harmonious whole.
The emphasis given at this academy to the human personality is tes-tified to by the presence of the great Rustaveli – as great, it may be said, as Petritsi. The human .personality is central to Rustaveli. In fact, in that the emphasis on the human personality and human wisdom is the essence of the Renaissance, one can argue that the Renaissance began precisely here with Rustaveli and Petritsi, and developed in Europe only later.
Not only were the seven liberal arts taught, under the direction of Petrilsi, in the context of harmonic study of God and man but another element was added: a study of the universe. Just as the cognition of God and man are indivisible, so are these inseparable from a cognition of the universe. A study of the universe, which, as you know, really be-gan in Europe only in the 16th – 17th centuries, flourished at Gelati in the 12th century. Petritsi’s works exhibit a high level of study of the uni-verse and of the stars. Petritsi also speaks of the wisdom of the Chaldeans and of Abraham, which was stellar wisdom. Setting the Gelati Academy the task of studying this wisdom, he states that Chaldean wis-dom does not contradict the Bible, for the Bible – especially in the Psalms – refers to celestial bodies that are endowed with reason and soul, and that the “sun recognized its time of setting”, and that if it rec-ognized the time of its setting it would not lack knowledge of its rise. In other words, the sun and the stars are intelligent beings. This does not contradict Christian, biblical wisdom. Petritsi quotes from the Psalms: “The heavens tell out the glory of God” (19) against those who believed (apparently for certain dogmatic reasons) that astrology or stellar wis-dom was unacceptable and should be rejected. To be sure, astrology was unacceptable to Christianity, but astrosophy or stellar wisdom was legalized in Georgia and Christianity did not oppose it. Father Ioane was not only a philosopher and teacher but also a preceptor, ecclesiastic, and a dogmatic Christian, in the best sense of the term. Dogmatism should not be taken inevitably as something negative. There can be a narrow dogmatism, but respect for dogma is not a negative phenomenon, and Petritsi’s dogmatism was certainly not negative. He used it in his role as teacher, to reconcile human and divine wisdom, calling at the same time for the study of the Classical world and its mythology and wisdom in or-der to integrate mankind’s wisdom. Here are several passages from Petritsi’s works that illustrate his willingness to use in his studies all as-pects of human and divine knowledge. In one of his commentaries Petritsi speaks of ancient Greek, or Orphic, mysteries. The word Orphic is derived from the name Orpheus. And who is Orpheus? He is an ancient Greek hero closely related to ancient Colchis, that is, to ancient Georgia or the Kartvelian world.
But before I say more about Orpheus and his role in Petritsi’s inte-gration of all parts of human knowledge, let me point out a fact that the scholarly community is not well aware of: – that the ancient Greek culture, mythology, and mysteries presumably derived from the proto-Greek or Pelasgian world was in reality a product of the Kartvelian world. The gods of the ancient Greek pantheon were the same as the gods of Kartvelian or Pelasgian provenance, and all ancient Greek heroes are related to prehistoric Georgia. Heracles was connected with prehistoric. Iberia; he goes to the Pyrenees to bring back the apples from the garden of the Hesperides, this being the symbol of supreme wisdom. Theseus goes to the selfsame Kartvelian world – that of Minos in Crete – in order to gain possession of that wisdom in the form of the labyrinth. Jason and other Greek heroes come to Colchis to gain this wisdom.
Now Orpheus is another Greek hero closely associated with ancient Colchis, also called Egros. The father of Orpheus is referred to as Egros or Egri. Orpheus’ purpose was to revive that ancient Pelasgian or proto–Georgian wisdom, to convey it to Greece and to integrate it with the more primitive Greek culture. Hence this great artist of antiquity appealed to Petritsi who advocated the merger of Orphic and Christian wisdom. Petritsi used ‘my Orpheus’ in reference to the Apostle Paul. At that time such a reference was shocking because of the condemnation of everything pagan by the Church. However, such great ecclesiastics as Petritsi managed to revive Classical, pagan wisdom and adapt it to Christianity, in the same way as they sought to adapt the pagan philoso-phy of Neoplatonism to Christianity and to give it a Christian interpre-tation. In speaking of the benefit to Christians of praying for example, Petrilsi associates Orpheus with Christ: “Now let us speak of this spiri-tual organ (i.e. prayer), for from it stems the Orphic book and the good conveyed in it, coming from the super-powerful (mind) as it were”. In other words, Petritsi stresses the great good to be found in Orpheus’ book.
Let me give you another example of Petritsi’s practice of relating the Classical, pagan world to Christianity. In considering the Divine Spirit’s choice of Iese’s son David to be the creator of the Psalter, Petritsi writes “And in this man and king he excited the musical power of his strings so as to adorn the path of souls to the father of souls in this book”. Then he goes on to mention the “supreme wisdom” of Abraham and the Chaldeans. Finally, says he, the Apostle Paul, the preceptor of our Church, preached “the Divine wisdom hidden in mystery – the wisdom ordained by God from the beginning for our eternal glory, and which none of the rulers of the world had perceived.” . In other words, according to Paul, this wisdom existed from the beginning of the world, but it was hidden. Far front rejecting this wisdom, one should revive it. This original wisdom is found riot only in the Old Testament but Classical pagan wisdom, Orphism, the teaching of the Chaldeans, Platonism, and Neoplatonism. Paul, says Petrilsi, “illumines these intelligent towers with a single light.” We can also add that the Gelati Academy, and preeminently the person of Petritsi, shed great light upon the wisdom of the ancients and performed a great service in uniting it with Christian wisdom.
Now, how does Petritsi use the names and characters of Classical mythos? As noted above, his purpose was to create wisdom about man, and this wisdom is presented not in the dry terms employed in modern science, i.e. in figures and formulae, but in mythological names or corre-spondences. Petritsi points out the need for the disciplines taught to prove the existence of God and of the Trinity. In those times geometry was not studied in the same way as we study it today, – dryly, by for-mulae and drawings. For Petritsi the purpose of geometry was to prove the existence of God. How did geometry achieve this? Petritsi cites the example of the sphere which has three elements: center, radius and circumference. The center is God the Father, the radius is the Son, and the circle is the Holy Spirit. In actuality, this entire sphere is a unity of this Trinitv. That is why it is said that the Tnnity is one, of single essence, even though it has three elements. The Trinity is not three Gods but one, appearing in different modes or hypostases. Thus does geometry prove the existence of the Trinity, for space does not exist without a center, nor does the extension of a point exist without a radius; neither does space exist without the volume of this sphere. Trinity is that which is given in the relationship of the center, radius, and circle. This suggests that the world has a beginning, that this beginning is threefold, and that the Trinity is the basis of the world. Were the ma-terialist and atheist assertion true, there would exist neither the center, nor the radius, or the sphere, arid all would be nothingness.
How was arithmetic taught in Gelati? Not by dry addition and sub-traction, Are the first three figures the basis of all other numbers? Imagine a figure, a possible figure in the world, that does not involve one, two, and three. Is not one the basis of everything, and two derived from it? From two is derived three, and from three are derived all the numbers. That is to say, the entire universe of numbers is derived from these three elements, one, two, and three. In the same way are all things derived from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity here is one, two, and three, as the basis of all numbers or of the world. Today’s sci-ence – physics and mathematics – has arrived at the conclusion that only numbers are real in the world, that the entire constellation – the planets and galaxies – can be expressed numerically. Everything has its number, every atom has its number, the whole composition of matter, of the uni-verse is a number, and the only reality is number. Everything else may disappear – matter, the universe, the galaxy – but number will never dis-appear; it cannot disappear because number is eternal. The first three numbers are the eternal principle, and this is the Trinity. The arithmeti-cal or mathematical exposition of the Trinity and its role in the creation of the universe is the basis of Petritsian arithmetic.
How was music taught at Gelati Academy? Petritsi mentions three voices: “mzakh”, “zhir” and “bam”. “Zhir” is an ancient Colchian root denoting two or the second voice. In old Georgian the second voice in music was called zhir. The first voice mzakh, and the third bam or ban. Can there be a music without three voices or parts? These three voices form the ba-sis of all music. Thus, what is in geometry the point, radius and circle, or in arithmetic the numbers 1, 2, and 3, is in music the three voices or parts: rnzakh, zhir, and bam, this serving to prove that the Trinity is the basis of music too. Thus, these three sciences suggest the existence of God.
Further, Petritsi tells us how grammar relates to the existence of God. Incidentally, grammar was not taught then as it is today, i.e. as a series of grammatical laws and rules. Its study dealt with the depth of the word – its primary meaning or essence. Grammar embraced everything that can be related to word and speech, the Divine word being the primary basis of everything. Every word – like every number – has its basis or primary word. All words were born of the first word, and it was this first word that emerges, according to the Gospel of St. John, as Christ, the Word, God, ‘”When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was” (John, 1.1-2). It was this that Grammar argued.
What did philosophy or dialectic seek to prove? Again and again the existence of God. What was the ultimate purpose of rhetoric? To demonstrate the exis-tence of Cod and to arouse in man the divine principle and spark. And finally, the most important branch of learning – astronomy. Its purpose was not the creation of a dry mathematical study but of a spiri-tual one. It was actually not astronomy but astrosophy. You all re-member that in The Knight in the Panther’s Skin Rustaveli addresses the heavenly bodies as living beings, that in his letters Avtandil (hero of this poem) speaks to the planets as alive creatures or souls that must help him on the road of life. He addresses the sun as the supreme luminary – however, it is not the sun visible to the eye but the spiritual sun, i.e. Christ who is the creator of the world and the beginning of everything. This was the kind of astronomy that was taught in Gelati in that period. Through the exis-tence of the planets it demonstrated the existence of God, arguing that this vast intelligent world or cosmos cannot be irrational and devoid of a guide; it must have a rational basis, and be ruled by intelligence. This was the purpose of the study of astronomy in Gelati.
Much more could be said about the wisdom that flourished in Gelati and, as I have said, this had no precedent. Neither did the world at that time have a monarch to match David the Builder in education, knowledge and erudition. The fact that he combined in himself two supreme authorities – ecclesiastical and secular – also makes him stand out from other rulers. In Western Europe of his time we find monarchs who were barely literate. The single exception was the English King Alfred the Great, who alone is at all comparable to David the Builder. Alfred too was a scholar and translator, but as a thinker, philosopher and commentator of Scripture he was certainly not on a par with David.
All this was reflected, as I have said, in the Chronicles of the Cru-sades and in Western romances of the period, in which works David the Builder is referred to as King-Priest John. The bringing of the Grail to Georgia is a fact and I assume Gelati must have been where it was brought to rest, When the scaffoldings are removed after this current renovation is completed, you may go up and see that each mural ensemble is connected with that cup. The archangels hod the cup; the apostles hold the cup, and all the motifs seem connected with this cup. Christ, held by the Mother of God, has a cup drawn on his forehead. This is precisely the Grail; it is a representation of the cup which was doubtless brought here, as indicated in Western ro-mances and the Chronicles of the Crusades. The presence of the cup here points to Gelati as the principal center of Christian culture in the Middle Ages. It was a major seat of Church and secular education. Let me repeat that Church and secular were not separated, so that here one received both secular and theological knowledge – as a harmonious whole. This is what I wished to tell you about Gelati.
- “THE SPIRITUAL MISSION OF GEORGIA”
- Zviad Gamsakhurdia, The Nomenklatura Revanche in Georgia
- President Gamsakhurdia – APPEAL