Skovoroda Grigory Savvich


The best of mistakes is that one which had been made during the studies.

The human rest is the human death.

The time is being used correctly by somebody who recognized what is worth to seek and what is necessary to avoid.

( From Skovoroda aphorisms)


The Ukrainian philosopher G. S. Skovoroda was such an extraordinary and diversified personality, educated Ukrainians called him "our Pythagoras", "Ukrainian Socrates", "grassland Lomonosov". And the witness to the national commemoration, as historian N. I. Kostomarov puts it, is the fact that there were very few such national personages as was Skovoroda, he is greatly admired and remembered by the people. The vagrant poet and thinker's legendary life left its traces in Ukrainian national speech: sometimes as a joke or a saying, sometimes as an aphorism attributed to Skovoroda. In XIX century copies of Skovoroda's portraits used to be put up in many houses in Ukraine.


The impact of this remarkable Ukrainian thinker's works, lifestyle and philosophical ideas has been for a long time traced in literature. The first one to describe Skovoroda was V. T. Narezhny in his novel "Russian Zhilblaz" (1814), after that I. I. Sreznevsky's story "Mayor, mayor!" was published, where the philosopher was the main hero, and the great Ukrainian poet T. G. Shevchenko in his story "Twins" showed Skovoroda as a teacher of music. Skovoroda associations are found in Gogol's reasoning, in Dostoyevsky's philosophical views, in Vladimir Solovyov's works (by the way he was related to the Ukrainian philosopher through his mother's line), and in N. S. Leskov's works, Leo Tolstoy used to study his views.
And finally, cryptograms of M. A. Bulgakov's last novel that were deciphered in the XX century again tell us about Grigory Savvich Skovoroda. The signs that point at Skovoroda are scattered everywhere throughout the novel.
Among these signs is Master's name, (in ancient Slavonic society "master" was the general term to call a grammar teacher, a person knowledgeable in biblical texts, this is exactly what was Skovoroda, in the 1760's he taught catechism in preparation classes of Kharkov college).
There are also similarities between Master's and Skovoroda's personalities: Bulgakov's Master knows several foreign languages (English, French, German, Latin, Greek and can read some Italian). Skovoroda knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and a little Italian.
The scene of the plot in chapter "Master and Margaret's Lot is Decided" - all this points at the former Rumyantsevsky museum, later it became on of the buildings of the USSR State Library (now Russian State Library), the place where the works of prominent men of arts and educators have been stored for a long time, as the place where Master's legacy is kept (a collection of Skovoroda's manuscripts was bought by Rumyantsevsky museum in 1875 from M. I. Kovalinsky's granddaughter - Kovalinsky was the philosopher's friend and pupil).
Another sign the artistic depiction of the three worlds on the novel: the Earth's world, the biblical world, and the space world. The first world in the novel is represented by people, the second is represented by biblical characters, the third - Voland and his companions. (Skovoroda's theory of "the three worlds" in his tract "The Serpent's Flood" speaks about the principal, space world - the Universe, macrocosm - and two subworlds: one of them is the human world, microcosm, the other is "symbolical", that is the biblical world. Every one of the three worlds has a double "nature": visible and invisible, for the biblical world the two natures are correlated as "sign and symbol". All three worlds are made of evil and good, the biblical world is a kind of link between the visible and the invisible natures of microcosm and macrocosm. A person has two bodies and two hearts: corruptible and eternal, worldly and spiritual. The theory of double nature of man speaks about "true" people as people whose "inner" nature reigns over their "outer" nature. A persons happiness is not in riches, not luxury, and not even in health, but in the soul's harmony. "Where have you seen, or read, or heard about the happy person whose treasure was not inside him? It is impossible to find it outside of oneself. The true happiness is inside of us". A human being can only reach harmony, if he or she does what accords with his or her natural inclinations, in "one's own trade". And if a person tries to acquire more than he or she actually needs, according to Skovoroda it only brings disaster.)
Another sign is the novel's famous phrase "Manuscripts do not burn!" (As Skovoroda was unsatisfied with his book "Askhan", "he became so upset that he burned it". Later it was found out that one of the philosopher's friends had a copy of the manuscript. Master also burned his novel about Iyeshua.).
The philosophical model for the character of Master's beloved woman for Bulgakov was the toelogema of Sofya - eternal womanhood, originating from G. S. Skovoroda and V. S. Solovyov, who were inspired by her, and admired the ancient gnosticist teaching.
Even the heroine's name - Margaret is a sign. (The word "margarita" - pearl is of Greek origin. It is found in Skovoroda's works, in the context of his reasoning about female origin of the world, For example in his tract "Grateful Yerody". And Latin Margarita means a pearl.)
And finally Skovoroda's conception of search for peace - one of the main themes of his philosophy and poetry is clearly shown in the novel. Peace for the philosopher and poet personifies eternity, the eternal home, and the symbol of resurrection, the final way to peace is the moon road.
For thirty years Skovoroda roamed along Ukraine roads with his wallet on his shoulder and sopilka flute under his belt, taught people grammar, sang his songs to them, and gave them his living teaching about soul. None of his books was published during his lifetime, but everyone who knew him, especially his friends, his pupils and any who happened to study in Kiev Religious Academy did not admire him less for that. And Grigory Savvich spent his last days on Kharkov soils, just as he had spent his youth days. A legend says that he exactly knew the date of his death, and himself had dug his own grave in a park in Kalinovsky's estate, who he visited for the last time. His last will was for this short inscription to be put on his grave: "The world was trying to catch me, did not succeed". These were Master's last words, words full of deep sense and humour.
B i b l i o g r a p h y:
I. L. Galinskaya. Cryptograms of Michael Bulgakov. - M., "Science", 1986.
Luce Lyashenko. Lightning in the Dark Night. - Kiev, "Veselka", 1972.
D. I. Bagaley, D. P. Miller. The History of Kharkov Town During the 250 year period of its Existance (1655 - 1905), Volume One, Chapter 13 "Science". Reprinted Edition - Kharkov, 1993.
N. I. Kostomarov, The History of Ukraine.


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