Humanism, spirituality, religion

In the Preface of her book, Shevtsova notes a new perspective from which to look at Stanislavsky’s legacy, namely “that of the worldview which underpins the System’s practical purpose [...], rooted in Russian Orthodoxy”.1 As she further argues, “Stanislavsky’s religious outlook shapes the worldview that envelops his search for the organic actor-creator for whose benefit he elaborated the System until his dying day”. Moreover, “many of Stanislavsky’s early influences [...] included Old Believer Orthodoxy and the ‘heretical’ beliefs of Lev Tolstoy”.2

It is imperative to remember, however, that, because written evidence which may explain his use of ideas found in the Orthodox Faith (with their possible intended meaning) seems to be completely missing, there is no way of proving that, with the exception of his early religious upbringing and education, Stanislavsky had and used in-depth knowledge of Orthodox thought. At the same time, the constant employment of such religious principles as the “soul”, “incarnation”, “morality”, or “sacrifice”, appears to be highly important for Stanislavsky, and it cannot and should not be taken as a coincidence and fully disregarded.

Alongside religious ideas, there are many other broader spiritual and humanistic aspects to Stanislavsky’s legacy. Nevertheless, these apparently different categories may find common ground through their shared values. In terms of the human evolution, according to Louis Carini, multiple kinds of humanism developed through the ages. “There is, of course, the original Renaissance or literary humanism, and the classical humanism of Greece and Rome that the umanisti emulated”.3 There is also “Enlightenment or secular humanism”, often referred to as either “scientific, rational, atheistic, agnostic, or ethical humanism”. Additionally, although ambiguous, there is a “religious humanism”, especially a Christian one that “stands alongside Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish humanism”.4

And let us not forget about the “spiritual humanism” that looks at “the spiritual as a dimension of our humanity” and an attribute to “the artist, or anyone able to be drawn into something for its own sake rather than for some practical purpose for or used by us”.5 This, as further argued by Carini, implies developing a consciousness “that includes values apart from

Humanism, spirituality, religion 49 the [smaller] self, a gauge of what matters beyond «’//'-satisfaction or self-aggrandizement” to cultivate “true feelings of value”. It is precisely this “feeling of value which can be embodied in a spiritual humanism”.6 Probably Michael Chekhov best expressed the timeless communality of human values. Referring to the ancient yogis, for example, he states: "They were seeing the same thing as us”.7 It might be that, for Stanislavsky, such values, whether religious or secular, were first and foremost human. Yet, their constant, relentless, and careful use might have been also intended for higher spiritual purposes.

 
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