Jerzy Grotowski’s search for the original wholeness: a path to the primordial non-dual truth based on Ramana Maharshi’s teachings

Escrit per Anna Caixach el 15/12/2021
Jerzy Grotowski, 1998 & Ramana Maharshi, 1948.

Jerzy Grotowski explained in some occasions that he had two lines of research, one public and the other one personal and private.[1] The public line was his professional trajectory; that is the periods known as theatrical and paratheatrical: Theatre of Productions until 1969 and Paratheatre until 1978. The other line of research, his personal and essential research, started when he was nine years old with the discovery of a very special man and accompanied him for his entire life. He kept his personal search private during many years. He kept it secret surely because it was so sacred.

                  [1] Jerzy Grotowski, Interview with Jerzy Grotowski by Marianne Ahrne, place and time of the interview unknown (probably between 1980 and 1981). Language: French. Duration: 01:43:25. 


But for someone who is really in love with truth and wants to live this truth in all aspects of his life, he cannot keep what is most precious only in the privacy of his heart. Thus at the beginning of the seventies Grotowski started to share carefully his intimate and private essential research with a very small nucleus of collaborators. Around 1977 not being able to keep hiding his real work, the «secret» personal line became his official and public research —framed in an international project under the name of «Theatre of Sources»— and later was called «Art as Vehicle». As Ariadne’s golden thread, Grotowski’s essential line of research was the return journey to our true and essential nature, our Source, our original condition, the original joyous wholeness. This essential research was his real search, his personal path, to which he devoted his love and his life.[1]

                  [1] Ibidem.

Grotowski’s essential research has been completely overlooked because its field is not theatre —as he himself stated incessantly from the end of the sixties[1]— but spirituality, or verticality as he sometimes called it to avoid misunderstandings around the term «spirituality».[2] Which is not something esoteric or metaphysical but a completely experiential process —as it includes our experience of the body-mind and world—  that traditions have formulated as vertical —in reference to the vertical inner axe of the depths of our Being— or as central —in reference to the deepest and innermost center in us. Somehow this «searching for the essential» was already clearly intuited by some of his close collaborators and friends as Peter Brook,[3] Eugenio Barba,[4] Ludwik Flaszen,[5] and also by Richard Schechner who in stated that Grotowski had a life-long spiritual essential research that had not yet been studied,[6] linked to his inner journey. Question that Grotowski, at the end of his life, admitted publicly to be true and to have a great importance.[7] By some people very close to Grotowski he was considered a spiritual teacher devoted and always faithful to the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi.[8]

                  [1] Grotowski stated that, as early as mid-sixties, in the midst of the theatre period, he was already abandoning theatre. Around 1970 he declared publicly that he had abandoned the field of theatre. And for the next 29 years Grotowski repeated incessantly, in many slightly different ways, that his field of research was the vertical, inner, spiritual journey to our essential and true nature of open, transparent awareness that includes our human experience in a non-dual wholeness.     

                  [2] Grotowski used the term «spirituality» very carefully to avoid the wrong connotations currently superimposed on the term. Grotowski understands «spirituality» in his original meaning namely the path to our true self and the abiding in our true and essential nature of unlimited awareness. A complete path that includes lovingly the body and the world, becoming a way of living or a spiritual life. As in the tradition, Grotowski uses the terms «spirituality» «interiority» and «verticality» as synonyms. 

                  [3] Brook considers Grotowski’s research as the natural evolution of a great spiritual tradition. Cf. Peter Brook, «Grotowski, Art as a Vehicle» (1987) in With Grotowski. Theatre is just a form, edited by Georges Banu and Grzegorz Ziólkowski with Paul Allain, Instytut im. Jerzego Grotowskiego, Wrocław, 2009 (first Polish edition: 2007), p. 31-35. 

                  [4] Barba defined Grotowski’s whole trajectory as a spiritual search and a spiritual practice. Eugenio Barba, La tierra de cenizas y diamantes. Mi aprendizaje en Polonia. Seguido de 26 cartas de Jerzy Grotowski a Eugenio Barba, Octaedro, Barcelona, 2000 (1ª ed. italiana: 1998), p. 65.

                  [5] «Ha cercato con insistenza un modo per aprirsi un varco verso l’Essenza, per toccare con tutto se stesso il Fondamento, per provare “Ciò Che È”.» Cf. Ludwik Flaszen«Se ne è andato», in Essere un uomo totale. Autori polachi su Grotowski. L’ultimo decennio, edited by J. Degler and G. Ziółkowski, Titivillus, Corazzano (Pisa), 2005, p. 128-133.

                  [6] «The Grotowski work is fundamentally spiritual». Cf. Richard Schechner, «Exoduction», in The Grotowski Sourcebook, edited by Lisa Wolford and Richard Schechner, Routledge, New York, 1997, p. 458-492.

                  [7] «[…] a questo saggio che trovo di grande importanza […]. A mia conoscenza, tra tutti i testi a proposito delle attività della mia vita intera, il saggio di Schechner è il solo che tenti di toccare in globalità ciò che chiama il mio searching for the essential.»  Cf. Jerzy Grotowski, «Nota per gli amici» (1998), in Grotowski. Testi 1954-1998. Volume IV. L’arte come veicolo (1984-1998), edited by Carla Pollastrelli with collaboration of Mario Biagini and Thomas Richards, La casa Usher, Florència, 2016 (first Polish edition: 2012), p. 161-162.

                  [8] Ludwik Flaszen«Se ne è andato», in Essere un uomo totale. Autori polachi su Grotowski. L’ultimo decennio, edited by J. Degler and G. Ziółkowski, Titivillus, Corazzano (Pisa), 2005, p. 132. And, Eugenio Barba, Tierra de cenizas y diamantes, p. 167. In 1996 Grotowski said to Barba that he had always and still considered Ramana Maharshi to be his inner teacher. 

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