Spiritual Christmas and New Year

The wonder of the light-birth

During the autumn equinox light and darkness are precisely in balance with each other. Subsequently the influence of the darkness begins to increase more and more as the power of the light is fading. The darkness is the deepest around Christmas and we can only wait in confidence until the light is born again. That is how people of yore experienced the alternation and struggle between the light and the darkness in their own lives.

Before villages and towns were bathed in electric light, the increasing darkness was almost tangible to the inhabitants and they could not help but eagerly await the new light.
They heard stories about the miraculous birth that took place in this darkness in the distant past: God’s son was born in a hidden place in order to liberate humanity from the darkness.
The light that would soon become stronger again was a sign of this birth. It was not only an external light but could also be experienced as an inner light that pierced the darkness of
everyday life.
Christmas has always been interpreted in a spiritual way in the Christian mystical movements. It is not so much important whether the son of God ever came to be born on earth or not;
what matters is that his birth is going to take place within us.
Not until the increasing influence of the writings of Jacob Boehme was the inner meaning of Christmas discussed more and more outside the monastery walls: Christmas is not so much the commemoration of an historical event but rather a miracle that can happen to all of us:

it is the birth of this son within us.

The Christian Theosophical tradition of Jacob Boehme relates that we are living in darkness as long as there has not been an inner transformation or rebirth. What to our ordinary eyes is light, is deep darkness to the inner being.


This tradition emphasizes that we should make a radical distinction between the outer and the inner man. We are the outer being, as it is functioning in our daily lives. Our attention is
constantly drawn to our sensory experiences.

But above all we are governed by the incessant flow of our thoughts, feelings, fantasies and desires. Although we believe that we ourselves are the source of this continuous flow, we are unable to stop it.

Consequently we are determined by this stream, rather than the opposite.

Since this condition is comparable to the dream state, most traditions emphasize that we are not awake in our daily lives, but rather still asleep. The only difference between daytime sleep and the ‘normal’ night time sleep is that during the former we do respond to all kinds of sensory stimuli. And just as during sleep we believe to be awake, even in our so-called waking state we are still in a kind of sleep.

But what or who, then, is the inner man? It is the soul which can be born within us. Just as Jesus was born of Mary, so may the soul be born of us, external people. For that reason, Angelus Silesius, a pupil of the Christian Theosophical and Rosicrucian tradition , wrote:

What good does Gabriel’s “Ave, Mary” do Unless he give me that same greeting too?

We can – like Mary – learn to no longer identify ourselves with the incessant flow of thoughts, feelings and desires. But that implies that we, outer beings, need to wake up and be willing to
listen to the words that Gabriel and other messengers speak to us.
Living in our darkness, but awakened by these messengers, we learn to say in complete self-surrender: let it be to me according to Your word. Therefore, Angelus Silesius said:

Be silent, silent, dearest one,
Only be silent utterly.
Then far beyond thy farthest wish
God will show goodness unto thee

In order to receive this message, it should become silent within us so that we can become focused. It means that we no longer automatically respond to whatever we are being told, but that we are really going to listen, and – like Mary – keep the words in our hearts like a seed that will later be able to unfold.

This attentive attitude of life is a necessary condition for the inner man – the Son of God – to be born within us. Such an attitude to life means that we learn to listen and observe in a responsive manner.
Usually, however, we have already made up our minds before the other person has finished speaking and we do not really listen to what he or she is telling us. Only rarely do we let ourselves be surprised by what presents itself to us in the world. For we have seen it all so many times; by now we know what the world looks like.

A receptive mode of perception, however, suddenly allows the everyday things to present themselves to us in new and refreshing ways.That is the beginning of the return of the light!
When we are waiting, being quiet and receptive, then the light can penetrate into the darkness of our waking consciousness; then the moment of the inner Christmas has arrived.

The outer human being lives mainly from the head; hence the incessant stream of thoughts that constantly drags us along. On the other hand, the heart takes the central place, often symbolized by the rose. The heart will open, to the extent that we learn to live our lives with attention.
As Angelus Silesius said:
Thy heart receives God’s dew and all that with Him goes
When it expands toward Him as does an opening rose.

Dew is an alchemical symbol. When the dew descends from heaven on the outer man who has died, then the resurrection will take place: the soul – the son of God – will arise from the earthly shell of the outer man.

Indeed, this process means that the outer man must die. If we no longer speak and act from our own will and desire, but instead become attentive and receptive to the soul, then the outer man actually begins to die. Without this process of dying – without the darkness that precedes the birth of the light – the birth of the soul cannot take place:
If He should live in you, God first Himself must die.
How would you, without death, inherit His own life?

Without this birth, our life as an outer human being is infertile. The outer man is composed of dust and will return to dust. This ‘dust’ refers not only to the physical body but to our entire personality, to everything with which we usually identify ourselves.
We should learn to let go of all this, because:
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem were born,
but not within thy self, thy soul will be forlorn.

That sounds serious, and it is. But the annual return of the light which we celebrate at Christmas reminds us ever again of the light that can be born within us. The annual – and daily – return of the outer light nourishes our hope and our confidence that the miracle of the birth can also take place in us.

In English, the time period following Christmas has a meaningful name: ‘holidays’, which literally means ‘holy days’, days that can be seen as a gift to focus on healing in the broadest sense of the word.
These days, when you can be ‘vacant’ from all your usual worries, allow you to be filled with healing powers. The word ‘vacant’ means ‘empty’, while the word ‘holy’ is related to ‘being whole’.

PLATO’S Cosmic X: Heavenly Gates at the Celestial Crossroads
  • Zodical light , crossroads to Heaven

Zodiacal light, band of light in the night sky, thought to be sunlight reflected from cometary dust concentrated in the plane of the zodiac, or ecliptic. The light is seen in the west after twilight and in the east before dawn, being easily visible in the tropics where the ecliptic is approximately vertical. Sunlight scattered by interplanetary dust causes this phenomenon. Zodiacal light is best seen during twilight after sunset in spring and before sunrise in autumn, when the zodiac is at a steep angle to the horizon. However, the glow is so faint that moonlight and/or light pollution often outshine it, rendering it invisible.See Plato’s Visible God: The Cosmic Soul Reflected in the Heavens

PLATO’S X & HEKATE’S CROSSROADS ASTRONOMICAL LINKS TO THE MYSTERIES
OF ELEUSIS

Plato describes gates to the afterlife in the Myth of Er at the end of Republic – infernal
gates like the cave of Hades at Eleusis, as well as celestial portals that would be located at
the intersections in the sky that he describes in Timaeus. The initiated Cicero’s translation
into Latin of a section of Timaeus – The initiated Cicero’s translation into Latin of a section of Timaeus – the part with Plato’s celestial X – suggests an astronomical aspect to the Mysteries.
Read more here

  • The Twelve Holy Nights

According to several traditions the cosmic ‘gates to the divine’ are wide open during the period from December 24 until January 6. This time period from Christmas until Epiphany is also referred to as the twelve holy nights. This idea is not based on historical events of more
than two thousand years ago; rather it concerns cosmic processes.
Where did the idea of the twelve nights originate?

Long before Christianity arrived in Europe, the Germanic and Celtic peoples celebrated a midwinter feast (or Jul-feast) sometimes lasting eleven days and twelve nights, following the winter solstice.

That time period is exactly the difference between twelve revolutions of the moon around the earth, in 29.5 days (354 in total), and the 365 days it takes the earth to complete one rotation around the sun: 365-354 = 11 days and 12 nights.


The number twelve expresses fullness and completeness. Think of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the 12 hours of the day and the 12 hours of the night. Consider also the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples of Jesus and the 12 Knights of the Round Table. Twelve is the product of three and four: 3 x 4 = 12. The twelve holy nights can be seen as stages along the path of spiritual development, symbolically indicated in the twelve hours of the Nuctemeron of
Apollonius of Tyana, the twelve labours of Hercules and the thirteen songs of repentance in the Gospel of the Pistis Sophia.


In many traditions three is considered a divine number, while four is considered an earthly number. From this point of view the number 12 encompasses both the earthly and the divine.
Humanity also holds both the earthly and the divine within itself.
Human beings as we know them are indeed manifestations of the divine, but they themselves are not divine and never will be. Our physical bodies will eventually die. The physical body is dust and will return to dust.

The bridge between time and eternity

Several wisdom teachings speak about an immortal divine principle, lying dormant in every human being, that is just waiting to wake up and be active. Based on that awakened and active divine principle, the human being can become a bridge between time and eternity. What matters is not that we will enter eternity, but that the eternal being within us may be vivified. That is the core of all Gnostic teachings and also of esoteric Christianity: the human
being is twofold.

“The sleep of the body becomes the sobriety of the soul” are the profound words of Hermes Trismegistus. By directing ourselves inwardly, the quiet of the body can become the freedom of the soul. In the spatiotemporal nature there is no place of rest for the soul.

During sleep, however, it may travel to the place where the turmoil of the opposites cannot exist: the Temple of Silence.
In that sacred place, it is nourished with the essence of a higher human life and receives the rich teachings of universal wisdom.
Upon awakening, the soul will transfer the inner certainty obtained to the physical human being. In this way sleep can be a blessing for those who seek for the truth. Read more Here

Draumkvedet and the medival English Dream Vision

Draumkvedet” (“The Dream Poem”; ) is a Norwegian visionary poem, probably dated from the late medieval age.[ It is one of the best known medieval ballads in Norway. The first written versions are from Lårdal and Kviteseid in Telemark in the 1840s.

The protagonist, Olav Åsteson, falls asleep on Christmas Eve and sleeps until the twelfth day of Christmas. Then he wakes, and rides to church to recount his dreams to the congregation, about his journey through the afterlife. The events are in part similar to other medieval ballads like the Lyke Wake Dirge: a moor of thorns, a tall bridge, and a black fire. After these, the protagonist is also allowed to see Hell and some of Heaven. The poem concludes with specific advice of charity and compassion, to avoid the various trials of the afterlife.

The Medieval English dream vision evidence influences from a variety of earlier vision
literature, notably the apocalyptic vision and narrative dream. Philosophical visions by Plato,
Cicero and Boethius, and Christian revelations of John and Paul contain traits that found their
way into the dream poems by Langland, the Pearl poet and Chaucer. The Norwegian ballad
Draumkvedet exhibits features that mirror these English visions. Notable characteristics
pertaining to the character of the dreamer, the interplay between dreamer and dream, imagery of the vision, and structure, point to a common set of generic influences. Comparing Draumkvedet with its English counterparts demonstrates that they stem from the same tradition. Draumkvedet bares special resemblance to the Dream of the Rood, Piers Plowman and Pearl in its exploration of Christian doctrine and its appeal to the audience. Read more here…

Dream song of Olaf Asteson text and notes

  • Mystical Nativity for our Times:

The Mystical Nativity is a painting of circa 1500-1501 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, in the National Gallery in London. Botticelli built up the image using oil paint on canvas. It is his only signed work, and has a very unusual iconography for a Nativity.

It has been suggested that this picture, the only surviving work signed by Botticelli, was painted for his own private devotions, or for someone close to him. It is certainly unconventional, and does not simply represent the traditional events of the birth of Jesus and the adoration of the shepherds and the Magi or Wise Men.

Rather it is a vision of these events inspired by the prophecies in the Revelation of Saint John. Botticelli has underlined the non-realism of the picture by including Latin and Greek texts, and by adopting the conventions of medieval art, such as discrepancies in scale, for symbolic ends. The Virgin Mary, adoring a gigantic infant Jesus, is so large that were she to stand she could not fit under the thatch roof of the stable. They are, of course, the holiest and the most important persons in the painting. Read more here

  • The Prayer of the Heart in Hesychasm and Sufism

Dear friend, your heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust that has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.” 

-al-Ghazali

Read here The Prayer of the Heart in Hesychasm and Sufism

  • Symbol of  Divine Child, Peace and Mercy in Islam and Sufism.

We can find the same Symbol of  Divine Child, Peace and Mercy in Islam and Sufism:

Bism ‘Lláh al-Rahmán al-Rahim

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Bismillah

Now the letter ب  ba’ of the bismillah (meaning in)   implies connection, and it is itself connected (directly) to God (Llah); the word ‘Name” (Ism) does not separate them, since it is identical with the Named according to the Sufis as well as most of the Ash’aris.

Note: When the bismillah اسم الله‎, is written in Arabic, the letter ba’ ‘in’, is directly connected to the word ism, ‘Name’. ب س م ل    What the Shaykh al-Alawi is saying is that since the Name (Ism) is identical with the Named, i.e. God Himself Ism does not really separate the letter bá’ from the Divine Name Allah. الله

Thus the beginning is in God (bi’llah): from Him all begins and to Him all returns.

  • JURIDICAL : Four rulings can be deduced from the basmala:

Firstly,  all who write or recite the Qur’án must begin with the bismillah; this is inferred from that fact that the Almighty Himself begins the Book with it.

Secondly, we understand from this that God wishes us to praise Him for His Beauty more so that His Majesty ; this is inferred from how He begins with the two Holy Names ‘the Compassionate’ (al-Rahmán) and ‘the Merciful’ (al-Rahim), describing His Essence (Dhát) thereby.

Thirdly, we learn that there is a difference between the two Names, though they are derived from a single Quality (They are both derived from rahma);  for otherwise, to list both ‘the Compassionate’ and ‘the Merciful’ would be nothing but repetition.

Fourthly, we learn that the Name is identical with the Named; otherwise, it would not be proper to seek aid in it rather than its object, God (Allah).

  • ALLEGORICAL : The way the letter ba’ is fastened to the Divine Name(Ism al-Jalála, the ‘Name of Majesty’ ), though it is not part of it, inspires in us a consciousness of how everything in existence, with all its different realities and divergent paths, is fastened to God.

Do not imagine that it touches Him—for in His transcendence, our Lord is not touched by any contingent thing, and such could not occur without the contingent thing vanishing altogether because of its lack of permanence in the presence of Him who is Eternal—rather, we mean that it is connected to Him and given being through Him: it subsists through God; not through itself. Its being is borrowed from that of its Being-Giver (mujid), as it has been said:

That which has no being in and of itself Could not be at all, were it not that He is.

The way the ba’ of the bismillah is lengthened where otherwise it is not, is because it is connected to the Name, and the one who is connected to the Named—and is thus one of God’s Folk—is worthy of being raised above the other members of his kind. As for the lengthened bá”s standing in for the elided letter alif of the word ism, it symbolises the representationi of God by he who possesses the Muhammadan inheritance: 0 David, We have made you a vicegerent on earth [Q.38- 26]; Whoso obeys the Messenger has obeyed God [Q.4- 8 0] .

Note:  In the bismillah, the first downward stroke of the letter ba’ is often lengthened, particularly in North African orthography, so that it is as tall as a letter alif, because it serves the function of representing both the letter bei’ and the alif of the word ism, ‘Name.’ See Martin Lings, A Sufi Saint, p. 156.

We have translated the word niyába as both ‘standing in’ and ‘representation‘. The Shaykh is saying that the letter ba’ is lengthened to represent the alif in the same way that a prophet or saint is God’s intermediary and His representative .

As for the position of the bismillah at the head and summit of the Book, it symbolises how God is raised above His Throne; and since this `rising’ (istiwa ) does not mean, as ordinary people think, that He is `contained’ by the Throne, but rather that He is present in every element of existence, the bismillah is placed at the head of every Chapter of the Qur’án (Sura), whether short or long: And He is with you, wherever you are [Q.57-.4].   (In fact it is placed at the head of all Chapters but one, the exception being Surat al-Tawba – Chapter9)

Traditions affirm that everything in the Book is encapsulated in the words ‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’ ; this symbolises how all things are contained in the Being of their Being-Giver; that is, that everything in them branches from what is in Him: Nor is there anything but with Us are the treasuries thereof [Q.15.21]. That the Divine Name (Allah] comes before the other Beautiful Names  symbolises the precedence of the Essence, and how the Names and   Qualities are contained in Its treasury.see Commentary on the Bismillah.

  • “Peace” shall be the word conveyed to them from their Merciful Lord.” Surah yasin 36-58

Surah Yasin: Heart of the Quran

It has been proposed that yā sīn is the “heart of the Quran”.The meaning of “the heart” has been the basis of much scholarly discussion. The eloquence of this surah is traditionally regarded as representative of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. It presents the essential themes of the Qur’an, such as the sovereignty of God, the unlimited power of God as exemplified by His creations, Paradise, the ultimate punishment of nonbelievers, resurrection, the struggle of believers against polytheists and nonbelievers, and the reassurance that the believers are on the right path, among others. Yā Sīn presents the message of the Qur’an in an efficient and powerful manner, with its quick and rhythmic verses. This surah asserts that Muhammad was not a poet, rather he was the greatest and the Last Messenger of Allah (the “Seal of the Prophets”)

There are three main themes of yā sīn: the oneness of God (tawhid); Risala, that Muhammad is a messenger sent by God to guide His creations through divine revelation; and the reality of Akhirah, the Last Judgment.[12] 36:70 “This is a revelation, an illuminating Qur’an to warn anyone who is truly alive, so that God’s verdict may be passed against the disbelievers.” [13] The surah repeatedly warns of the consequences of not believing in the legitimacy or the revelation of Muhammad, and encourages believers to remain steadfast and resist the mockery, oppression, and ridicule they receive from polytheists and nonbelievers.[14] The arguments arise in three forms: a historical parable, a reflection on the order in the universe, and lastly a discussion of resurrection and human accountability.

The chapter begins with an affirmation of the legitimacy of Muhammad.[12] For example, verses 2-6, “By the wise Qur’an, you [Muhammad] are truly one of the messengers sent of a straight path, with a revelation from the Almighty, the Lord of Mercy, to warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, and so they are unaware.”[15] The first passage, verses 1-12, focuses primarily with promoting the Qur’an as guidance and establishing that it is God’s sovereign choice who will believe and who will not. It is stated that regardless of a warning, the nonbelievers cannot be swayed to believe. 36:10 “It is all the same to them whether you warn them or not: they will not believe.”[15]

Surah Yāʾ-Sīn then proceeds to tell the tale of the messengers that were sent to warn nonbelievers, but who were rejected.[12] Although the messengers proclaimed to be legitimate, they were accused of being ordinary men by the nonbelievers. 36:15-17 “They said, ‘Truly, we are messengers to you,’ but they answered, ‘You are only men like ourselves. The Lord of Mercy has sent nothing; you are just lying.”[16] However, a man from amongst these people beseeched them to believe in the messengers. “Then there came running, from the farthest part of the City, a man, saying, ‘O my people! Obey the messengers: Obey those who ask no reward of you (for themselves), and who have themselves received Guidance.’”[Quran 36:20] Upon his death, the man entered Paradise, and lamented the fate of the nonbelievers. 36:26 “He was told, ‘Enter the Garden,’ so he said, ‘If only my people knew how my Lord has forgiven me and set me among the highly honored.”[17] This surah is meant to warn the nonbelievers of the consequences of their denial. Verse 36:30 goes on to state: “Alas for human beings! Whenever a messenger comes to them they ridicule him.”[18] Ultimately, it is God’s will who will be blind and who will see.[12]

The following passage addresses the signs of God’s supremacy over nature.[12] This is presented by the sign of revived land, the sign of day and night, the sign of the arc and the flood, and the sign of the sudden blast that arrives on the day of judgement. 36:33-37 The sign of revived land follows:

There is a sign for them in this lifeless earth: We give it life and We produce grains from it for them to eat; We have put gardens of date palms and grapes in the earth, and We have made water gush out of it so that they could eat its fruit. It is not their own hands that made all this. How can they not give thanks? Glory be to Him who created all the pairs of things that the earth produces, as well as themselves and other things they do not know about.[17]

The disbelievers do not recognize God’s power in the natural world, although He is the one Creator.[12]

The surah further addresses what will happen to those who reject the right path presented by Muhammad and refuse to believe in God. On the last day, the day of reckoning, the nonbelievers will be held accountable for their actions and will be punished accordingly.[12] God warned the nonbelievers of Satan, and yet Satan led them astray. 36:60-63 “Children of Adam, did I not command you not to serve Satan, for he was your sworn enemy, but to serve Me? This is the straight path. He has led great numbers of you astray. Did you not use your reason? So this is the fire that you were warned against.”[19] Although God warned them against following Satan, the nonbelievers were deaf, and so now they will suffer the consequences of their ill judgements. 36:63 “So this is the Fire that you were warned against. Enter it today, because you went on ignoring [my commands].”[19]

The surah proceeds to address the clear nature of the revelation and assure that Muhammad is a legitimate prophet.[12] 36:69 states, “We have not taught the Prophet poetry, nor could he ever have been a poet.”[13] Yāʾ-Sīn concludes by reaffirming God’s sovereignty and absolute power. 36:82-83 “When He wills something to be, His way is to say, ‘Be’—and it is! So glory be to Him in whose Hand lies control over all things. It is to Him that you will all be brought back.” [13] It is to God, the one Creator who holds everything in His hands, that everything returns. The closing passage is absolute and powerful and carries an essential message of the Qur’an. Read more : Commentary of surah Yasin or  Heart of the Qur’an: A Commentary to Sura Yasin

“All that is on the earth will perish: But the face of thy Lord willabide forever – full of Majesty, Bounty, and Honor.” (Qur’an, lv. 26-27).

  • The birth of Jesus in man

Faouzi Skali in his book Jesus and the Sufi Traditon explains in the 10 chapter,The birth of Jesus in man:

The soul of the mystic, Rûmi teaches us, is similar to Mary: “If your soul is pure enough and full of love enough, it becomes like Mary: it begets the Messiah”.

And al-Halláj also evokes this idea: “Our consciences are one Virgin where only the Spirit of Truth can penetrate

In this context, Jesus then symbolizes the cutting edge of the Spirit present in the human soul: “Our body is like Mary: each of us has a Jesus in him, but as long as the pains of childbirth do not appear in us, our Jesus is not born” ( Rumi, The Book of the Inside, V).

This essential quest is comparable to suffering of Mary who led her under the palm tree (Koran XIX, 22-26): “ I said:” 0 my heart, seek the universal Mirror, go towards the Sea, because you will not reach your goal by the only river! ”

In this quest, Your servant finally arrived at the place of Your home as the pains of childbirth led Mary towards the palm tree “(RÛMi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

Just as the Breath of the Holy Spirit, breathed into Mary, made him conceive the Holy Spirit, as so when the Word of God (kalám al-haqq) enters someone’s heart and the divine Inspiration purifies and fills his heart (see Matthew V, 8 or Jesus in the Sermon of the Mountain exclaims: “Blessed are pure hearts, for they will see God! “) and his soul, his nature becomes such that then is produced in him a spiritual child (walad ma’nawî) having the breath of Jesus who raises the dead.

Human beings,” it says in Walad-Nama ( French translation, Master and disciple, of Sultan Valad and Kitab al-Ma’ârif  the Skills of Soul Rapture), must be born twice: once from their mother, another from their own body and their own existence. The body is like an egg: the essence of man must become in this egg a bird, thanks to the warmth of Love; then it will escape its body and fly into the eternal world of the soul, beyond space.

And Sultan Walad adds: “If the bird of faith (imán) is not born in Man during its existence, this earthly life is then comparable to a miscarriage.

The soul, in the prison of the body, is ankylosed like the embryo in the maternal womb, and it awaits its deliverance. This will happen when the “germ” has matured, thanks to a descent into oneself, to a painful awareness: “The pain will arise from this look thrown inside oneself, and this suffering makes pass to beyond the veil. As long as the mothers do not take birth pains, the child does not have the possibility of being born (. Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 2516 sq.) (…) My mother, that is to say my nature [my body], by his agony pains, gives birth to the Spirit … If the pains during the coming of the child are painful for the pregnant woman, on the other hand, for the embryo, it is the opening of his prison ”(Ibid., 3555 sq)

Union with God, explains Rûmi, manifests itself when the divine Qualities come to cover the attributes of His servant:

God’s call, whether veiled or not, grants what he gave to Maryam. 0 you who are corrupted by death inside your body, return from nonexistence to the Voice of the Friend! In truth, this Voice comes from God, although it comes from the servant of God! God said to the saint: “I am your tongue and your eyes, I am your senses, I am your contentment and your wrath. Go, for you are the one of whom God said: ‘By Me he hears and by Me he sees!’ You are the divine Consciousness, how should it be said that you have this divine Consciousness? Since you have become, by your wondering, ‘He who belongs to God’.

I am yours because ‘God will belong to him. Sometimes, I tell you: ‘It’s you!’, Sometimes, ‘It’s me!’ Whatever I say, I am the Sun illuminating all things. “(Mathnawî, I, 1934 sq).

Once the illusion of duality has been transcended, all that remains in the soul is the divine Presence: the soul then finds in the depths of its being the divine effigy.

It has become the place of theophany. This is what Rumi calls the spiritual resurrection: “The universal Soul came into contact with the partial soul and the latter received from her a pearl and put it in her womb. Thanks to this touch of her breast, the individual soul became pregnant, like Mary, with a Messiah ravishing the heart. Not the Messiah who travels on land and at sea, but the Messiah who is beyond the limitations of space! Also, when the soul has been fertilized by the Soul of the soul, then the world is fertilized by such a soul “( Ibid., II, 1184 sq.).

This birth of the spiritual Child occurs out of time, and therefore it occurs in each man who receives him with all his being through this “Be!” that Marie receives during the Annunciation: “From your body, like Maryam, give birth to an Issa without a father! You have to be born twice, once from your mother, another time from yourself. So beget yourself again! If the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dispenses again his help, others will in turn do what Christ himself did: the Father pronounces the Word in the universal Soul, and when the Son is born, each soul becomes Mary (Ibid., III, 3773.)

So Jesus can declare: “O son of Israel, I tell you the truth, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and earth unless he is born twice! By the Will of God, I am of those who were born twice: my first birth was according to nature, and the second according to the Spirit in the Sky of Knowledge!  » (Sha’ranî, Tabaqat, II, 26; Sohrawardî, ‘Awarif, I, 1)

The second birth corresponds to what we also gain in Sufism as the “opening (fath) of the eye of the heart“: “When Your Eye became an eye for my heart, my blind heart drowned in vision ; I saw that You were the universal Mirror for all eternity and I saw in Your Eyes my own image. I said, “Finally, I found myself in His Eyes, I found the Way of Light!” (Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

This opening is the promise made by God to all those who conclude a pact with the spiritual master, pole of his time, like the apostles with Jesus or the Companions when they pledged allegiance to Muhammad:God was satisfied with believers when they swore an oath to you under the Tree, He knew perfectly the content of their hearts, He brought down on them deep peace (sakina), He rewarded them with a prompt opening ( fath) and by an abundant booty  which they seized ”(Coran XLVIII, 18-19).(The abundant loot indicates Divine Knowledge (mari’fa)

Read more: Jesus and the Sufi Traditon

  • Twelve Days of Christmas Predict the Future … Weather or more

Just about everyone has heard The Twelve Days of Christmas song: that one about partridges and pear trees. And maybe you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s play entitled, Twelfth Night. But during the Middle Ages the twelve days of Christmas were also important for predicting the weather in the coming year.

If you thought the Christmas season ended on December 25, you would be wrong: That’s just the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas.

In the sixth century, the days between Christmas and Epiphany (6 Jan) were set aside for sacred festivities. It was a reminder of the Biblical Nativity story and a celebration of the time between Jesus’ birth and the visit of the kings (or magi). So Christmas day, 25 Dec, is the first day of Christmas and the day before Epiphany, 5 January,  is the twelfth (and last) day of Christmas.

Medieval Predictions

Today we mostly associate partridges and pear trees with the twelve days of Christmas, but according to Medieval tradition, these twelve days would forecast the weather for the entire coming year: The first day of Christmas gives us an indication of the weather in January, the second day for February, the third day for March, and so on…

But in addition to predicting the weather, the 12 days of Christmas also foretold of economic fortunes, health, political unrest, crop success, etc. with the main indicators being wind, sunshine, and thunder.

25 December – First Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of January.
Wind: A windy Christmas means there will be good weather in the year ahead. But it could also indicate a financially difficult year for the wealthy.
Sun: Sunshine means everyone will enjoy a happy and prosperous year.

26 December – Second Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of February.
Wind: Wind means it will be a bad year for fruit.
Sun: Sunshine on the second day of Christmas is a good sign: money will come easily in the new year.

27 December – Third Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of March.
Wind: If it’s windy, the coming year will be good for cereal crops.
Sun: A sunny day means economic gain. However the poor will fight among themselves while the rulers make peace.

28 December – Fourth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of April.
Wind: If it’s a windy day, it’ll be a bad year for cereal crops and finances.
Sun: Sunshine predicts wealth and plenty in the coming year.

29 December – Fifth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of May.
Wind: Strong winds mean the coming year will bring many storms at sea.
Sun: Sunshine forecasts plenty of flowers and fruit.

30 December – Sixth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of June.
Wind: A windy day predicts political unrest and scandal.
Sun: Sunshine means it will be a good year for dairy cattle

31 December – Seventh Day of Christmas – New Year’s Eve
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of July.
Winds: A windy day means there is a high risk of fire in the first half of the coming year.
Sun: Sunshine means it’ll be a good year for trees. 
Thunder: Thunder toward the end of the day, bad times are on the way.

If New Year’s Eve night’s wind blows south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and storms there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north east, flee it man and brute.

1 January – Eighth Day of Christmas – New Year’s Day
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of August.
Wind: A windy day means ill health for the elderly.
Sun: Sunshine means that mercury will be easy to get in the coming year. (This must have been important in medieval times.)
Thunder: Thunder during the early part of New Year’s Day means good times, and afternoon thunder means successful crops.

2 January – Ninth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of September.
Wind: Strong wind means damaging storms.
Sun: Sunshine on this day predicts a very good year for our feathered friends. 
Thunder: is same as New Year’s Day.

3 January – Tenth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of October.
Wind: Storms are in the forecast.
Sun: Sunshine foretells a prosperous year with a good supply of fish.
Thunder: Thunder is the same as on New Year’s Day.

4 January – Eleventh Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of November.
It seems that wind, sun and thunder all predict terrible events on this day. So let’s hope for a nice mild, cloudy day.

5 January – Twelfth Day of Christmas
The weather on this day is a forecast for the month of December.
Wind: A windy day means political troubles.
Sun: A sunny day means a year of hard work is ahead.
Thunder: Thunder warns of mighty storms.

And then there are some general predictions:

If it rains much during the twelve days of Christmas, the coming year will also be a wet one.

If there’s thunder during Christmas week, The winter will be anything but meek.

If it’s dark and foggy between Christmas and Epiphany, there will be a lot of sickness next year.

Thunderstorms on any day in late December could be a good omen for the coming year. But it depends on when the thunder booms: Early-afternoon thunder is the best, mid-afternoon is still good, but thunder later in the day just indicates storms.

Personal Good Luck

If the twelve days predict dire things for your part of the world, there’s a delicious and easy way to guarantee your own personal good luck: Eat mince pies. A medieval legend says that for every mince pie you eat during the twelve days of Christmas you will have one month of good luck in the new year.

  • the Yule Log

The Yule log, Yule clog, or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a winter tradition in regions of Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, and subsequently North America. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. Like other traditions associated with Yule (such as the Yule boar), the custom may ultimately derive from Germanic paganism.

American folklorist Linda Watts provides the following overview of the custom:

The familiar custom of burning the Yule log dates back to earlier solstice celebrations and the tradition of bonfires. The Christmas practice calls for burning a portion of the log each evening until Twelfth Night (January 6). The log is subsequently placed beneath the bed for luck, and particularly for protection from the household threats of lightning and, with some irony, fire. Many have beliefs based on the yule log as it burns, and by counting the sparks and such, they seek to discern their fortunes for the new year and beyond.[1]

Watts notes that the Yule log is one of various “emblem[s] of divine light” that feature in winter holiday customs (other examples include the Yule fire and Yule candle).[1] Read more here

These all feasts are part of the Yule, the wheel of the year

Historical and archaeological evidence suggests ancient pagan and polytheist peoples varied in their cultural observations; Anglo-Saxons celebrated the solstices and equinoxes, while Celts celebrated the seasonal divisions with various fire festivals.[4] In the tenth century Cormac Mac Cárthaigh wrote about “four great fires…lighted up on the four great festivals of the Druids…in February, May, August, and Novembe

– Blowing mid-winter horns to ward off evil spirits

Did you know that it is a long time tradition in parts of the rural east of the Netherlands to blow mid-winter horns between the first Sunday of Advent and Epiphany?

During sunset farmers take long horns made from hollow elder-tree branches and blow them while standing over water wells to amplify the sound. Some say the mid-winter horn is used to herald the coming of Christ while others believe it is blown to ward off evil spirits.

  • The yule goat

The Yule goat is a Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbol and tradition. Its origin may be Germanic pagan and has existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Modern representations of the Yule goat are typically made of straw.

The Yule goat’s origins go back to ancient Pagan festivals. While its origins are unclear, a popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is connected to worship of the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, it goes back to common Indo-European beliefs. The last sheaf of grain bundled in the harvest was credited with magical properties as the spirit of the harvest and saved for the Yule celebrations, called among other things Yule go at (Julbocken).[2]

This connects to ancient proto-Slavic beliefs where the Koliada (Yule) festival honors the god of the fertile sun and the harvest. This god, Devac (also known as Dazbog or Dažbog), was represented by a white goat,[3] consequently the Koliada festivals always had a person dressed as a goat, often demanding offerings in the form of presents.[4] A man-sized goat figure is known from 11th-century remembrances of Childermas, where it was led by a man dressed as Saint Nicholas, symbolizing his control over the Devil.[2]

Other traditions are possibly related to the sheaf of corn called the Yule goat. In Sweden, people regarded the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right.[2] Objects made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood could also be called the Yule goat, and in older Scandinavian society a popular Christmas prank was to place this Yule goat in a neighbour’s house without them noticing; the family successfully pranked had to get rid of it in the same way.

The World Turned Upside Down: Feasts of Fools, Lords of Misrule

Taylor’s almost 900-page long A Secular Age (2007) . I would highly recommend it to anybody who is seriously interested in the past five hundred years of Western history and culture – whatever their belief system and persuasion. If you can’t afford to buy it, try locating it in a library.

The central story and question of the book goes something like this: “how did man go from purposefully living in an enchanted cosmos” to “being merely included in an disenchanted universe”? This main strand branches into several sub-themes and the author makes use of a variety of disciplines as he puts forward his ideas – philosophy, theology, sociology, science and technology, art and aesthetics.

There’s a lot in A Secular Age that I find interesting, for example, the porous v/s buffered self distinction – more on that sometime later perhaps. For now, I want to concentrate on one particular topic in the book that I keep thinking of again and again and from which, I believe, we can learn something for our time – Taylor’s discussion of a set of medieval European feasts of “misrule” during which “the world was turned upside down”, that is, strict social hierarchies were subverted in some way or another, the ordinary order of things was inverted, and a temporary sense of equilibrium was achieved. These events were certainly Carnival-like in their theatrical display of mockery and mayhem but not necessarily celebrated immediately before Lent. Many were observed around December or January. Among these festivities were the Feast of Fools (rooted in the Roman Saturnalia), the Feast of the Ass, the customs of the Boy Bishop, the Lord of Misrule or the Abbot of Unreason and, to an extent, Charivari. The primary logic was this – parodying the religious and political authorities and/or catapulting into limelight for just a day those who lived in subordinate positions, flipping the high and low ranks.

Rene Guenon. The message of French Sufi

Guenon is the founder of a unique direction in metaphysics – integral traditionalism. The main concept of his teachings is Primordial (lat. Primordialis) Tradition. And pathos of teachings is a tradition against the modern world. Tradition is a single truth from which secondary truths – all world religions originate. But the fragmentation of the original tradition into secondary religious forms was regarded by Genon as a fall, a degradation that, after all, led humanity to a modern world of antitradition, profanation and lies.

From this position, progress is an illusion, and history develops from better state to worse. Guenon took this idea from Hinduism, according to which the whole human cycle steps through four epochs: golden, silver, bronze and iron ages. You and I live in the Iron Age or otherwise in Kali Yuga. In this dark era of total oblivion of tradition, “the profane considers itself entitled to evaluate the sacral, the lowest judges the highest, ignorance evaluates wisdom, delusion dominates the truth, human displaces the divine, the earth puts itself above heaven, etc.”

In short, in the modern world everything is put upside down, the highest principles are violated, spiritual criteria are lost. Because of this radical nonconformism Guenon’s contemporaries tried to ignore him, were afraid and silenced the works of this mystic. But his criticism of the modern world from the position of tradition is logically verified, mathematically accurate, ethically impeccable and relies on strict and pure truths of ancient teachings. And if we take into account the current global crisis of capitalism, which affects the foundations of the world view of the new time (and it is from the 16th century that European civilization broke up with spiritual tradition), now is the time to turn to the message of the great French Sufi, to his fundamental works, where you can also find an answer to the always relevant question “what to do?” In brief, to stand on the path of tradition revival. To tirelessly explore yourself here and now, to go from the outside world, where noise is terrorizing, to the royal silence of the inner universe, to listen to the whisper of intuition and the beat of your own heart, to understand that the core of tradition is not somewhere, in the outer mazes of the historical past, but in the caches of our genetic memory, in the spiritual nerves of each individual soul… read more here

  • The Feast of Fools

The Feast of Fools (Latin: festum fatuorum, festum stultorum) was a feast day celebrated by the clergy in Europe during the Middle Ages, initially in Southern France, but later more widely. During the Feast, participants would elect either a false Bishop, false Archbishop or false Pope.[1][2] Ecclesiastical ritual would also be parodied and higher and lower level clergy would change places.[2][1] The passage of time has considerably obscured modern understandings of the nature and meaning of this celebration, which originated in proper liturgical observance, and has more to do with other examples of medieval liturgical drama than with either the earlier pagan (Roman) feasts of Saturnalia and Kalends or the later bourgeois lay sotie.[3] Read more here

Look also Bruegel’s Festival of Fools: To See Yourself within It

  • Feast of the Ass

The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum, asinaria festa; French: Fête de l’âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on 14 January, celebrating the Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus’s birth.[1]

This feast mLord of Misruleay represent a Christian adaptation of the pagan feast, Cervulus, integrating it with the donkey in the nativity story.[2] In connection with the biblical stories, the celebration was first observed in the 11th century, inspired by the pseudo-Augustinian Sermo contra Judaeos c. 6th century.

In the second half of the 15th century, the feast disappeared gradually, along with the Feast of Fools, which was stamped out around the same time. It was not considered as objectionable as the Feast of Fools. Read more Here

here the concert René Clemencic – La Fête de L’ Âne : Procession (IV)

  • Lord of Misrule

In England, the Lord of Misrule – known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots – was an officer appointed by lot during Christmastide to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying. In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

The Church in England held a similar festival involving a boy bishop.[1] This custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Mary I and again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer.[2] On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basel in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century. In the Tudor period, the Lord of Misrule (sometimes called the Abbot of Misrule or the King of Misrule)[1] is mentioned a number of times by contemporary documents referring to revels both at court and among the ordinary people.[3][4][5]

In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

Boy bishop is the title of a tradition in the Middle Ages, whereby a boy was chosen, for example among cathedral choristers, to parody the adult Bishop, commonly on the feast of Holy Innocents on 28 December. This tradition links with others, such as the Feast of Fools and the Feast of Asses.

The commemoration of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, traditionally regarded as the first Christian martyrs, if unknowingly so,[20][b] first appears as a feast of the Western church in the Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485. The earliest commemorations were connected with the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January: Prudentius mentions the Innocents in his hymn on the Epiphany. Leo in his homilies on the Epiphany speaks of the Innocents. Fulgentius of Ruspe (6th century) gives a homily De Epiphania, deque Innocentum nece et muneribus magorum (“On Epiphany, and on the murder of the Innocents and the gifts of the Magi”).[c]

Today, the date of Holy Innocents’ Day, also called the Feast of the Holy Innocents or Childermas or Children’s Mass, varies. It is 27 December for West Syrians (Syriac Orthodox Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Maronite Church) and 10 January for East Syrians (Chaldeans and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church), while 28 December is the date in the Church of England (Festival),[21] the Lutheran Church and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. In these latter Western Christian denominations, Childermas is the fourth day of Christmastide.[22] The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the feast on 29 December.[23]

From the time of Charlemagne, Sicarius of Bethlehem was venerated at Brantôme, Dordogne as one of the purported victims of the Massacre.[24]

In the Roman Rite, the 1960 Code of Rubrics prescribed the use of the red vestments for martyrs in place of the violet vestments previously prescribed on the feast of the Holy Innocents. The feast continued to outrank the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas until the 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis replaced this Sunday with the feast of the Holy Family.

In the Middle Ages, especially north of the Alps, the day was a festival of inversion involving role reversal between children and adults such as teachers and priests, with boy bishops presiding over some church services.[25] Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens suggest that this was a Christianized version of the Roman annual feast of the Saturnalia (when even slaves played “masters” for a day). In some regions, such as medieval England and France, it was said to be an unlucky day, when no new project should be started.[26]

There was a medieval custom of refraining where possible from work on the day of the week on which the feast of “Innocents Day” had fallen for the whole of the following year until the next Innocents Day. Philippe de Commynes, the minister of King Louis XI of France tells in his memoirs how the king observed this custom, and describes the trepidation he felt when he had to inform the king of an emergency on the day.[27]

In Spain, Hispanic America, and the Philippines,[28] December 28 is still a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool’s Day in many countries. Pranks (bromas) are also known as inocentadas and their victims are called inocentes; alternatively, the pranksters are the “inocentes” and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin. One of the more famous of these traditions is the annual “Els Enfarinats” festival of Ibi in Alacant, where the inocentadas dress up in full military dress and incite a flour fight.[29]

Massacre of the Innocents (Bruegel):

See also Bruegel Tales of Winter – The Art of Snow and Ice

Bruegel: an Interpreter of Ultimate Reality and Meaning

  • Tudor Lord of isrule: How Edward VI Resurrected a Raucous Christmas Tradition

Antiquary John Stowe wrote of the popular Medieval tradition of the Lord of Misrule, explaining that:

“In the feast of Christmas, there was in the King’s house, wheresoever he was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Master of merry disports, and the like had ye in the house of every noble man of honour, or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal.”

He went on to explain that the Mayor of London and his sheriff also had their Lords of Misrule and that these lords would begin their ‘rule’ and organise “the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders” on All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en) and end their rule on the day after Candlemas Day, at the beginning of February. The revelry, Stowe explained, consisted of “fine and subtle disguisings, maskes and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, nails and points in every house, more for pastimes than for gain.”

Oxford and Cambridge universities, and Lincoln’s Inn, would also appoint Lords of Misrule, as would the royal court, although their ‘rule’ tended to be limited to the 12 days of Christmas. Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, continued the Medieval tradition, electing a Lord of Misrule for every Christmas of his reign. His son, Henry VIII, also embraced the tradition, going so far as to appoint a separate Lord of Misrule for the young Princess Mary’s household at Christmas, 1525. However, it was in the reign of Henry VIII’s son, the boy king Edward VI, that the tradition reached its zenith under the patronage of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who was Lord President of the Privy Council from 1550 to 1553. The tradition had declined in the latter years of Henry VIII’s reign – an ambassador to Edward VI’s court remarked in January 1552 that a Lord of Misrule had not been appointed for “15 or 16 years” – but it was resurrected with great gusto at the royal court in the Christmas seasons of 1551-1552 and 1552-1553, the final Christmases of Edward’s reign.

Portrait miniature of Edward by an unknown artist, c. 1543–46

While the king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and former Lord Protector, languished in the Tower of London awaiting execution as a traitor to the crown, the Duke of Northumberland sought to distract and divert both king and court with a programme of entertainment and revelry for the 12 days of Christmas. In December 1551, Northumberland appointed George Ferrers, a lawyer, courtier, MP, former servant of Somerset and a poet of some renown, as Lord of Misrule. Sir Thomas Cawarden, Master of the Revels, was informed of the appointment and asked to do all he could to aid Ferrers. Cawarden, who may well have felt slighted by the appointment of Ferrers instead of himself, had to be spurred into action by letters of complaint from both Northumberland and Ferrers regarding his inaction and the quality of items he had provided. In Cawarden’s defence, he was expected to provide a long list of apparel and items at very short notice indeed.

Although the Revels Accounts in the Loseley Manuscript are incomplete, they do show that the revels of these two Christmas seasons took the tradition of Lord of Misrule to new heights. Never before had the Lord of Misrule entered the City of London in a huge and elaborate procession that mimicked the procession of a monarch. Ferrers demanded a large retinue which, in January 1553, included no fewer than six councillors, a ‘dizard’ (talkative fool), jugglers, tumblers, a divine, a philosopher, an astronomer, a poet, a physician, an apothecary, a master of requests, a civilian, friars, two gentleman ushers and “suche other” as he needed. The fools included the “Lord Misrule’s ape”, his “heir apparent” and children.
Both of Edward VI’s final Christmases were spent at Greenwich Palace, the 15th century abode situated on the bank of the River Thames. Ferrers made his entry to the royal court at the palace under a canopy, presumably like a royal canopy of estate, and in one piece of pageantry at court he appeared “out of the moon”.

On 2 January 1552, Ferrers presided over a drunken mask at court for which he was furnished with eight “visars” (perhaps vizards or masks), eight swords and daggers, headpieces decorated with serpents and clubs that were full of “pykes” (spikes). The Christmas festivities also included the “Tryumphe of Horsemen”, in which 18 answerers ran six courses each against the Earl of Warwick, Henry Sidney, Sir Henry Gates and Sir Henry Neville as challengers. “Rich hangings” from the “King’s timber houses” were cut up and used for 12 bards for the challengers’ great horses, and caparisons and trappings for their eight light horses. A mock Midsummer Night festival was held that night and the furnishing of “as many Counterfett harnesses & weapons as ye may spare and hobby horsses” suggests that the entertainment included a mock joust. According to the Revels Accounts, other entertainment over the Christmas period included a mask of “Greek worthyes”, a mask of apes, a mask of bagpipes, a mask of cats and “a mask of medyoxes, being half man, half deathe.”

Two masked revellers by Jacob de Gheyn, circa 1595. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

On the night of 3 January 1552, there was a mock midsummer that required six hobby horses to be supplied, and then on 4 January the Lord of Misrule made his entry into the City of London. WR Streitberger points out that this entry was not only a parody of traditional royal entries into the capital but also “partly a burlesque of the power vested in royalty to dispense justice”. Diarist and merchant Henry Machyn gives a detailed contemporary account of Ferrers’ entry, writing of how Ferrers landed at Tower Wharf with a great number of young knights and gentlemen on horseback, “every man having a baldric of yellow and green about their necks”. They went first to Tower Hill, accompanied by a procession consisting of a standard of yellow and green silk with St George, guns and squibs, trumpet players, bagpipe players, flautists and other musicians, morris dancers, and the Lord of Misrule’s councillors in “gownes of chanabulle lyned with blue taffata and capes of the same”. Then came the Lord of Misrule, apparelled in a fur-trimmed cloth of gold gown, 50 men of the guard dressed in red and white, and a cart carrying a pillory, gibbet and stocks. The procession then made its way to the Cross at Cheapside where a great scaffold had been erected. There, a proclamation was made of Ferrers’ “progeny”, his “great household” and his “dignity”, before a beheading took place. Thankfully, it was a symbolic beheading; the ‘head’ of a hogshead of wine was “smitten out” for everyone to drink. After that, the Lord of Misrule enjoyed a sumptuous feast with the Lord Mayor before visiting the Lord Treasurer at Austin Friars and then taking a barge back from Tower Wharf to Greenwich.

As well as the pillory, gibbet and stocks described by Machyn as being part of the Lord of Misrule’s entry into London, the Revels Accounts list joints for a pair of stocks with hasps and staples, locks for the pillory and stocks, keys, manacles with a hanging locks, a “hedding ax” and “hedding block”. As well as symbolising the power of the monarch – or the Lord of Misrule at Christmas – to dispense justice, these items and the scaffold at Cheapside my well have alluded to the forthcoming execution of the Duke of Somerset.

On Twelfth Night 1552, a tourney was held during the day, and that evening, following a play performed by the King’s Players, there was a contest or feat of arms between Youth and Riches, with them arguing over which of them was better. It is thought to have been devised by Sir Thomas Chaloner, the statesman and poet. Sir Anthony Browne, Lord Fitzwater, Ambrose Dudley, Sir William Cobham and two other men fought on Youth’s side against Lord Fitzwarren, Sir Robert Stafford and four others on the side of Riches. “All these fought two to two at barriers in the hall. Then came in two apparelled like Almains [Germans]. The Earl of Ormonde and Jacques Granado, and two came in like friars, but the Almains would not suffer them to pass till they had fought. The friars were Mr Drury and Thomas Cobham.” It is not clear whether this contest between Germans (Protestants) and Catholic friars was, in fact, devised to ridicule the Catholic Church. This mock combat was followed by a mask of men and a mask of women, and then a banquet of 120 dishes. “This was the end of Christmas”, is how the account ends.

Two masked musicians perform for a noblewoman, by Jacob de Gheyn, circa 1595. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

The allusion to the Duke of Somerset’s scheduled execution was not the only controversial element of the Lord of Misrule’s programme of entertainment that year. Jehan Scheyfve, the imperial ambassador, recorded what he obviously saw as an anti-papist display. According to Scheyfve, a procession of mock priests and bishops “paraded through the Court, and carried, under an infamous tabernacle, a representation of the holy sacrament in its monstrance, which they wetted and perfumed in most strange fashion, with great ridicule of the ecclesiastical estate”. He wasn’t the only one upset about this affront to the Catholic Church; he wrote that “Not a few Englishmen were highly scandalised by this behaviour; and the French and Venetian ambassadors, who were at Court at the time, showed clearly enough that the spectacle was repugnant to them”. One can only assume, however, that the king was happy with this procession and the programme of festivities, for, as historian Jennifer Loach points out, the Revels Accounts show that the king took an active involvement in directing the entertainment and that changes were often made as “declared and commaunded by his highenes or his pryvie counsell” in order “to serve the kinge and his counsells pleasure and determinacion”. The King’s Printer, Richard Grafton, in writing about how well Ferrers was received at court as the Lord of Misrule, commented that he was “very well liked… But best of al by the yong king himselfe, as appered by his princely liberalitie in rewarding that service.” Ferrers was rewarded for his service with a payment of £50 from Northumberland and in September 1552 was appointed as Lord of Misrule for the 1552-1553 Christmas season.

The Christmas season of 1552-1553 began on with Ferrers sending his “solemn ambassador” to court, accompanied by a herald, trumpeter, “an orator speaking in a straunge language” and an interpreter. The ambassador’s mission was to speak to the king and ask for an audience for the Lord of Misrule. This audience was granted and the next day, Ferrers travelled to court along the Thames in the king’s brigantine, which was decorated in blue and white, escorted by other vessels and boys dressed as Turks and playing drums. At Greenwich, he was met by Sir George Howard, the Lord of Misrule’s Master of the Horse, who had come with a horse for Ferrers and who was accompanied by four pages of honour carrying Ferrers’ headpiece, shield, sword and axe. Ferrers writes of how he had taken Hydra, the serpent with seven heads, as his coat of arms, a holly bush as his crest and ‘Semper ferians’ (always keeping the holiday) as his motto.

Entertainments over Christmas and New Year included a pageant in which Ferrers emerged from “vastum vacuum” (a vast airy space), which must have been some kind of pageant car; a feat of arms; a mock midsummer show and joust of hobby horses, presumably like the previous year; a day of hunting and hawking, and masks of “covetus men with longe noses”, “women of Diana hunting”, “babions faces of tinsel black and tawny”, “pollenders”, “matrons” as well as soldiers.

University of Leicester Special Collections. ‘Lord of Misrule’ from: William Sandys, Christmastide: its History, Festivities and Carols, (London, [1852], SCM 12913.Ferrers ordered five different suits of apparel via Cawarden for the festive season: one to wear on both his entry to court and his entry into London, two for the next “hallowed daies”, another for New Year and a final one for Twelfth Night. He also ordered a fool’s coat and hood for John Smith, who was playing the Lord of Misrule’s “heir apparent”, a hunting costume consisting of a coat of cloth of gold decorated with red and green checkerwork, a cloth of gold hat decorated with green leaves, and six sets of outfits complete with horns for his attendants. Other items included “Irish apparel” for both a man and woman, costumes for members of his retinue, maces for his sergeant-at-arms, and hobby horses, one of which he ordered to be made with three heads.

Henry Machyn records the Lord of Misrule’s entry into London on 4 January 1553, writing that he was met at Tower Wharf by the Sheriff’s Lord of Misrule, who took a sword and bore it before Ferrers, who was dressed in royal purple velvet furred with ermine, his “robe braided with spangulls of selver full”. Ferrers was accompanied by a large retinue dressed in a livery of blue and white. As well as musicians, fools and morris dancers, there were once again gaolers armed with a pillory, stocks, an axe, shackles and bolts, and prisoners, presumably actors, who were “fast by the leges and sum by the nekes”. They processed through Gracechurch Street and Cornhill, and once again made their way to a scaffold. After a proclamation had been made, Ferrers gave the Sheriff’s Lord of Misrule a gown of gold and silver before knighting him. The two Lords of Misrule toasted each other and as they proceeded onwards, Ferrers’ cofferer distributed silver and gold. The day ended with a feast at the Lord Mayor’s home, a visit to the Sheriff’s house and a banquet course at the Lord Treasurer’s house.
Twelfth Night was celebrated with “The Triumph of Cupid, Venus and Mars”, which, according to Cawarden’s correspondence, was a play devised by Sir George Howard, who was also Master of the Henchmen. Enid Welsford believes that this play was an imitation of the Italian ‘trionfi’, a triumphal procession, and it appears that Venus did indeed enter in a triumphal chariot accompanied by a mask of ladies followed by the marshal and his band. Venus rescued Cupid from the marshal with some kind of mock combat, and at some point, Mars also made his triumphal entry. Thus ended the Twelve Days of Christmas. Once again, the King was pleased his Lord of Misrule and George Ferrers was granted an estate at Flamstead in Hertfordshire.

Although Sydney Anglo makes the point that few records survive detailing the Lord of Misrule’s entertainments in other years, we know from the accounts of Edward VI’s reign that £500 was spent on the revels of Christmas 1551-1552 and £400 on that of 1552-1553, compared to £150 in 1547-1548 and £11 in 1548-1549. The entertainment of George Ferrers’ time as Lord of Misrule was pageantry at its most lavish. Historian Ronald Hutton concludes that the spectacle of Ferrers’ entries into London, for example, “was one of the most elaborate in Tudor history”. It is a shame that the incomplete records only give us a tantalising glimpse into the revelry.

  • January 14 is “Feast of the Ass” Day

On January 14, medieval Christians celebrated Feast of the Ass Day, although perhaps not the type of “ass” you may be thinking of!  It actually celebrated the various accounts in the Bible where a donkey (or ass) is mentioned, especially the one that supposedly carried Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt.

Digging Deeper

Not surprisingly, like many or even most Christian holidays, the Feast of the Ass had its origins in Paganism, being derived from the religious feast called Cervulus.

Flight into Egypt by Gentile da Fabriano

During this bestial-based holy day, a ceremony often took place in which a girl with a baby (or a pregnant girl) was led through a village on a donkey, followed by churchgoers answering the priest with “hee-haws” during the related church service or Mass.  In some accounts, the priest himself would bray. 

Amazingly, this nifty holiday fell out of favor around 1500 along with its sister feast, the Feast of Fools.  Apparently some thought the titles and actions of these two celebrations were less than “Christian.” 

Perhaps they should bring this particular feast back and give people a valid excuse, at least one day a year, to make an “ass” / donkey of themselves and ourselves in church or everywhere else in life outside. 

  • Landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life :

Look at the donkey in The Rest on the Flight into Egypt of the “Holy Refugees” by Joachim Patinir…

..he is smiling in his heart…

It depends of the sturburness of our Ego, the Donkey.

In the Spiritual Land of Peace, the donkey, our ego is quiet, he submits totally to the “Holy Refugee” and eats the “Greenness” of the spiritual field of the Land watered by the Eternal Water of Life….

Corona or Covid- is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. The phenomenon follows the template of initiation: separation from normality, followed by a dilemma, breakdown, or ordeal, followed (if it is to be complete) by reintegration and celebration. Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”
A Choice or a possible migration to the Spiritual Land of Peace
t

To become a Refugee, a Holy Refugee through an emigration to Sincerity or uprightnees of Love

see:

We are not the first generation to know that we are destroying the world.  But  we could be the last that can do anything about it, not with the vanity of  earthly knowledge and so called democratic solidarity and wisdom here on earth  as the commercial of WWF wants to convince us, but with asking humbly the help of Divine Wisdom so realising in us the image of the man who painfully transcends his material ego: The birth of his soul. It is a test. It’s time to decide! 

  • Treatise on Unification by Ibn al Arabi
    In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Blessings
    upon our master, Mu¢ammad, and upon his family and companions. This is a noble treatise in which I have consigned a tremendous discourse.
    From my incompleteness to my completeness, and from my
    inclination to my equilibrium
    From my grandeur to my beauty, and from my splendour
    to my majesty
    From my scattering to my gathering, and from my exclusion
    to my reunion
    From my baseness to my preciousness, and from my stones to
    my pearls
    From my rising to my setting, and from my days to my
    nights
    From my luminosity to my darkness, and from my guidance
    to my straying
    From my perigee to my apogee, and from the base of my
    lance to its tip

From my waxing to my waning, and from the void of my
moon to its crescent
From my pursuit to my flight, and from my steed to my
gazelle
From my breeze to my boughs, and from my boughs to my
shade
From my shade to my bliss, and from my bliss to my wrath
From my wrath to my likeness, and from my likeness to my
impossibility
From my impossibility to my validity, and from my validity
to my deficiency.
I am no one in existence but myself, so –
Whom do I treat as foe and whom do I treat as friend?
Whom do I call to aid my heart, pierced by a penetrating
arrow,
When the archer is my eyelid,
striking my heart without an
arrow?
Why defend my station? It matters little to me; what do I
care?
For I am in love with none other than myself, and my very
separation is my union.
Do not blame me for my passion. I am inconsolable over the
one who has fled me.

In this book I never cease addressing myself about myself and returning in it to myself from myself.
From my heaven to my earth, from my exemplary practice to my religious duty,

From my pact to my perjury,

from my length to my breadth.


From my sense to my intellect and from my intellect to my sense,
– From whence derive two strange sciences, without doubt or
confusion.
From my soul to my spirit and from my spirit to my soul,
– By means of dissolution and coagulation, like the corpse in
the tomb.
From my intuition to my knowledge and from my knowledge
to my intuition,
– Continuous is the light of knowledge; ephemeral the light
of intuition.
From my sanctity to my impurity and from my impurity to
my sanctity,
– Sanctity is in my present and impurity is in yesterday.

From my human-nature to my jinn-nature, and from my
jinn-nature to my human-nature,
– For my jinn-nature seeks to disquiet me and my humannature seeks to set me at ease.
From the narrowness of my body to the vastness of my soul,
And from the vastness of my soul to the prison of my body,
– For my soul denies my intellect and my intellect my soul.
From my entity to my nonentity, and my nonentity to my
entity,
– Where I rejoice to find my composition and lament to find
my dispersion.
From my likeness to my opposite and from my opposite to
my likeness,
– Were it not for Båqil no light of excellence would shine in
Quss.
From my sun to my full moon and from my full moon to
my sun,
– So that I might bring to light what lies hidden in night’s core.
From Persian to Arab and from Arab to Persian,
– To explain the mysteries’ roots and express the realities’
enigmas.
From my root to my branch and from my branch to my root,

For the sake of a life that was buried in death, animate or
inanimate.
Pay no heed, my soul, to the words of that jealous spitemonger,
Or to the remarks of that ignorant presumer, O myrtle of
my soul!
How many ignoramuses have slandered us spiritual beings!
While my revelation descends from the Spirit of inspiration
and sanctity,
He is like a man possessed by a demon whose touch makes
him tremble.18
On the matter of spiritual realization mankind does not
cease to err,
For God’s secret is poised between the shout and the

whisper.
I have called this treatise “Cosmic unification in the presence of essential witnessing, through the assembling of the Human Tree and the Four Spiritual Birds.” I have dedicated it to Ab¬ al-Fawåris Íakhr ibn Sinån, master of the reins of generosity and eloquence. I seek help
from God. He is my support and my assistance, glory be to him!

From The Universal Tree and the Four Birds by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi,

Mystical Nativity for our Times

  • Sandro Botticelli’s  The Mystical Nativity


The Mystical Nativity is a painting of circa 1500-1501 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, in the National Gallery in London. Botticelli built up the image using oil paint on canvas. It is his only signed work, and has a very unusual iconography for a Nativity.

It has been suggested that this picture, the only surviving work signed by Botticelli, was painted for his own private devotions, or for someone close to him. It is certainly unconventional, and does not simply represent the traditional events of the birth of Jesus and the adoration of the shepherds and the Magi or Wise Men.

Rather it is a vision of these events inspired by the prophecies in the Revelation of Saint John. Botticelli has underlined the non-realism of the picture by including Latin and Greek texts, and by adopting the conventions of medieval art, such as discrepancies in scale, for symbolic ends. The Virgin Mary, adoring a gigantic infant Jesus, is so large that were she to stand she could not fit under the thatch roof of the stable. They are, of course, the holiest and the most important persons in the painting.

The angels carry olive branches, which two of them have presented to the men they embrace in the foreground. These men, as well as the presumed shepherds in their short hooded garments on the right and the long-gowned Magi on the left, are all crowned with olive, an emblem of peace. The scrolls wound about the branches in the foreground, combined with some of those held by the angels dancing in the sky, read: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men‘ (Luke 2:14).

As angels and men move ever closer, from right to left, to embrace, little devils scatter into holes in the ground. The scrolls held by the angels pointing to the crib once read: `Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world‘ the words of John the Baptist presenting Christ (John 1:29).

Above the stable roof the sky has opened to reveal the golden light of paradise. Golden crowns hang down from the dancing angels’ olive branches. Most of their scrolls celebrate Mary: ‘Mother of God’, ‘Bride of God’, ‘Sole Queen of the World’.

The puzzling Greek inscription at the top of the picture has been translated: ‘I Sandro made this picture at the conclusion of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of Saint John in the second woe of the Apocalypse during the loosing of the devil for three and a half years then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see […] as in this picture.

The missing words may have been ‘him burying himself’. The ‘half time after the time’ has been generally understood as a year and a half earlier, that is, in 1498, when the French invaded Italy, but it may mean a half millennium (500 years) after a millennium (1000 years): 1500, the date of the painting. Like the end of the millennium in the year 1000, the end of the half millennium in 1500 also seemed to many people to herald the Second Coming of Christ, prophesied in Revelation.

At a time when Florentine painters were recreating nature with their brush, Botticelli freely acknowledged the artificiality of art. In the pagan Venus and Mars he turned his back on naturalism in order to express ideal beauty. Read here La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

In the ‘Mystic Nativity’ he went further, beyond the old-fashioned to the archaic, to express spiritual truths – rather like the Victorians who were to rediscover him in the nineteenth century, and who associated the Gothic style with an ‘Age of Faith’.

The painting emerged from the city of Florence in a time when the fanatical preacher Savonarola held the city in its grip. There is no documentary evidence to prove whether or not Botticelli was one of Savonarola’s follower. But certain themes in his later works – like the Mystic Nativity – are certainly derived from the sermons of Savonarola, which means that the artist was definitely attracted by that personality so central to the cultural and political events of Florence during the last years of the fifteenth century.

The painting is on canvas – normally he would have used wood panel – perhaps for a painting with a dangerous message, canvas had the advantage that it could be rolled up and hidden. With his canvas prepared he would sketch a detailed design on paper, then he transferred this to canvas. He drew on many sources – the dancing angels echo his own three graces of Primavera, the scurrying devil was inspired by a German woodcut. X-rays show that very little of the original design changed – only an angel’s wing was adjusted and trees added over the roof of the stable. Botticelli was now ready to build up the image using oil paint – like canvas an experimental medium. To create the heavenly dome Botticelli called on the goldsmith’s craft he had learned as a boy. “The symbolism of the gold is to do with the unchanging, untarnished nature of heaven – gold doesn’t decay, it doesn’t darken like silver. Botticelli would have used an adhesive layer made of oil mixed with resin – not burnished , the gold just patted down on to the surface, following the surface irregularities of the canvas – a glitter, intricate, it would have helped the jewel like quality of the painting – it would have drawn the eye upwards from the Nativity into Heaven. Faith, hope and charity,[the angels clothed in] white, green and red – but the copper based green pigment has discoloured with time, to bronze. Originally it would have been vibrant.”

Botticelli died in 1510. The Mystic Nativity remained hidden for another three centuries. Rome at the end of the 18th century was very different to Renaissance Florence – except for the presence of French invaders. Many foreigners left, but not a young Englishman, William Young Ottley. He was an art lover, and wealthy with a slave plantation in the Caribbean. He bought up many paintings cheaply. At the Villa Aldobrandini he saw a small, unknown work, Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity. Botticelli was then in obscurity.

It arrived in London where Ottley’s house became in effect a private museum of Italian masterpieces. After Ottley’s death William Fuller-Maitland of Stansted picked up the painting at an auction for £80. When he loaned it to the Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester 1857, it was now on open display. The Exhibition’s newspaper the Art Treasures Examiner printed a new engraving of it.

  •  The ideas of Savonarola in Sandro Botticelli’s ‘The Mystical Nativity’.

Experts mean that the ideas of Savonarola are illustrated in the painting of Sandro Botticelli ‘The Mystical Nativity’, circa 1500-1501; tempera on canvas, 108,5 x 75 cm, preserved in the National Gallery, London. The board of the National Gallery wrote:
‘Sandro Botticelli painted the ‘Mystic Nativity’, dated 1500, at the turn of the half-millennium. At first glance the painting seems to show a conventional Nativity scene. Shepherds and wise men have come to visit the new-born king, while angels in the heavens dance and sing hymns of praise. However, the text at the top of the picture, veiled in scholarly Greek, provides a key to further layers of meaning.
The Greek inscription has been translated: ‘I Sandro made this picture at the conclusion of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of Saint John in the second woe of the Apocalypse during the loosing of the devil for three and a half years then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see […] as in this picture.’ ‘
The missing words may have been ‘him burying himself’. The ‘half time after the time’ has been generally understood as a year and a half earlier, that is, in 1498, when the French invaded Italy, but it may mean a half millennium (500 years) after a millennium (1000 years): 1500, the date of the painting.

Savonarola had arrived in Florence in 1490 but had been repelled by the artistic glory and enormous wealth that so impressed the world. He preached that this was a corrupt and vice-ridden place. A great scourge was approaching – and then his words had assumed a terrifying reality. In 1494 a huge French army invaded Italy and 10000 troops entered Florence so that the Florentines feared the King of France meant to sack the city. Savonarola stepped into the political vacuum, he met with the French king and persuaded him to leave Florence peacefully. In their gratitude and relief the Florentines increasingly saw the friar as a prophet and his preaching attracted huge crowds to Florence Cathedral. Savonarola claimed that Florence could become the new Jerusalem if the citizens would repent and abandon their sinful luxuries – and that included much of their art. His beliefs were made real as groups of evangelical youths went on to the streets to encourage people to part with their luxuries, their lewd pictures, and books, their vanities, combs, mirrors. Botticelli may well have seen his own paintings fed to the flames. Yet the artist might not have objected because, like much of the city, he too had come under the sway of Savonarola. It seems that a sermon preached by Savonarola bears directly upon the Mystical Nativity.
In one sermon Savonarola preached he set forth a vision that had come to him in which he saw an extraordinary heavenly crown. At its base were twelve hearts with twelve ribbons wrapped around them and written on these in Latin were the unique mystical qualities or privileges of the Virgin Mary – she is ‘mother of her father’, ‘daughter of her son’, ‘bride of God’ etc. Though much of the writing on the ribbons held by the dancing angels is now invisible to the naked eye, infra-red reflectography has shown that the original words on the angels ribbons correspond exactly to Savonarola’s 12 privileges of the Virgin. In his sermon, preached on Assumption Day, Savonarola went on to explore the 11th and 12th chapters of the Book of Revelation – the precise chapters mentioned in the painting’s inscription. He connected the glory of Mary with the imminent coming of the power of Christ on earth.

Years Savonarola held Florence in his hand but his hard line charismatic rule made him powerful political enemies. He was challenged to prove his holiness by walking through fire and when he refused the tide of opinion turned against him. He was arrested, and under torture confessed to being a false prophet. On 23 May 1498 he was hanged with two of his leading lieutenants, their bodies burnt and their ashes scattered in the River Arno. Some see the figures of the three men at the bottom of the painting as representatives of the three executed holy men, raised up and restored to grace – but persecution not peace awaited Savonarola’s followers and it was in an atmosphere of oppression that Botticelli set out to create the Mystic Nativity.

The painting has some dark symbolic premonitions, including:

  • the baby Jesus rests on a sheet that evokes his death shroud;
  • the cave echoes his tomb;
  • the Kings on the left bear no gifts;
  • at the bottom of the painting, three angels embrace three men, seeming to raise them from the ground;
  • at the very bottom of the canvas, seven devils flee to the underworld; and
  • some of the devils impaled on their weapons.

On the reassuring side, the painting includes the following:

  • at the top of the picture twelve angels dressed in the colors of faith, hope and charity dance in a circle;
  • the angels are holding olive branches;
  • above the angels, heaven opens in a great golden dome;
  • the symbolism of the gold is the unchanging, untarnished nature of heaven; and
  • the angels at the bottom are holding scrolls which proclaim in Latin, “Peace on earth to men of goodwill.”

The painting uses the medieval convention of showing the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus larger than other figures. This emphasis was certainly done deliberately for effect, as earlier Botticelli nativity paintings used the correct graphical perspective. The Greek inscription at the top translates as:

“This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh [chapter] of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three-and-a-half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth [chapter], and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture”.

Savonarola’s Impact

This painting may be connected with the influence of Savonarola, whose influence also appears in some late pictures by Botticelli. The painting emerged when the fanatical preacher Savonarola held the city of Florence in his grip. He had arrived in Florence in 1490 but had been repelled by its artistic glory and wealth. He preached that this art was corrupt, and a great scourge was approaching. His words became a terrifying reality during the Italian War of 1494–1498. In 1494 a vast French army invaded Italy, and 10,000 troops entered Florence, and the citizens feared the sack of their city. Savonarola stepped into the political vacuum; he met with the French king and persuaded him to leave Florence peacefully. In their gratitude, and relief, the Florentines increasingly saw the friar as a prophet, and his preaching attracted huge crowds.

Savonarola claimed that Florence could become the new Jerusalem if the citizens would repent and abandon their sinful luxuries, including their art. His beliefs were made real as groups of evangelical youths went on to the streets to encourage people to part with their luxuries, their pictures, and books, their vanities, combs, mirrors. Botticelli may well have seen his paintings thrown into the flames. The artist might not have objected because, as much of the city, he too was fearful of Savonarola. Savonarola’s fearful sermons must have affected the Mystical Nativity.

For years Savonarola held Florence in his grip, but his hard-line rule made him powerful enemies. He was challenged to prove his holiness by walking through fire, and when he refused, the tide of opinion turned against him. He was arrested, and under torture, confessed to being a false prophet. In 1498 he was hanged with two of his lieutenants. Their bodies were then burnt.

Bonfire of the Vanities

The ‘bonfire of the vanities’ usually refers to the fire of 1497, when supporters of Savonarola collected and burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence. The focus of this destruction was on objects that might tempt one to sin, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, elegant dresses, playing cards, and musical instruments. Other targets included books that were deemed to be immoral, manuscripts of secular songs, and artworks, including paintings and sculptures.

Great Tribulation

The Great Tribulation is a period mentioned by Jesus as a sign that would occur in the time of the end. In Revelation, “the Great Tribulation” is used to indicate the period spoken of by Jesus, however, in the context of those hard-pressed by siege and the calamities of war.  Christian eschatology is the study of ‘end things.’ The study includes the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world, and the nature of the Kingdom of God.

There are many passages in the Bible, which speak of a time of terrible tribulation, such as has never been known. Time of natural and human-made disasters on a grand scale. Jesus said that at the time of his coming, “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever will be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.” [Mt 24:21-22]

  • Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity, Savonarola and the Millennium

….Already by 1400 the theme of the reconciliation of the heavenly virtues was
being used for reform propaganda. According to the chronicler Luca Dominici,
notices relating to the Book of Revelation (so he says) were posted on the doors of
the main churches of Bologna, reading:
Through the world a multitude of the peoples dressed in white and shining stoles, shouting, ‘Lord, grant us peace and mercy’. And at last, when Righteousness and Peace had
descended from heaven, they kissed each other. And Truth and Peace arose upon the earth, and the true shepherd of all will become known, and the righteous king will arise on earth …

The purpose of such notices was to encourage the Bianchi, then converging in
great numbers upon Rome for the Jubilee.16 We encounter three of the heavenly
virtues in a song by Girolamo Benivieni, one of Savonarola’s closest followers, in
which he describes a visit by Christ to Florence in order to see and judge the newly
reformed city. Mercy and Righteousness come before him and embrace each other
and are then joined by Peace. The song, published in 1500, was probably written
during Savonarola’s lifetime, to be sung by groups of his most ardent followers.’
In a sermon given in December 1494 Savonarola himself used the image of the
heavenly virtues to illustrate how great God’s love was for Florence:
I have told you several times in the past, Florence, that even though God has everywhere  prepared a great scourge, nevertheless on the other hand he loves you and is fond of you.
And so it can be said that in you has been realised that saying, ‘Mercy and truth are met
together’, that is, Mercy and Righteousness [sic] have come together in the city of Florence.
From the one side came the scourge, and Mercy came towards it from the other side, and,  ‘righteousness and peace have kissed each other’, and have embraced together, and God has  wished to show you justice and on the other hand be merciful to you, and save you…

This passage appears to bear not only on the Mystic Nativity but on the Mystic Crucifixion as well.

Each of the twelve angels in the circle at the top of the Mystic Nativity has at least one ribbon bearing an inscription in Latin or sometimes Italian . Each of the seven surviving
inscriptions conforms exactly to one of what Savonarola, in his Compendio di revelatione, first published in 1495, calls the  twelve ‘privileges’ of the Virgin.

  • The  twelve ‘privileges’ of the Virgin

The  ‘privileges’ are part of an allegorical  crown offered to Mary by the Florentine people, and occur on banderoles surmounting the twelve hearts in the lowest  of its three tiers .

In the which banderoles were written twelve privileges of the Virgin with words of prayer,
which are these:

Two in relation to the Everlasting Father: The first: Sposa di Dio Padre vera, because God the Father and she have  one and the same son. The second: Sposa  di Dio Padre admiranda, because just as the  Father gave birth from eternity to his Son in  heaven without a mother, so she gave birth  on earth to that same Son without a father.

Two others in relation to the Son: First: Madre di Dio. Second: Madre del suo padre, because Jesus Christ was the Son and is God the Creator of the Universe, who created her.

Two in relation to the Holy Ghost: First: she is Sacrario dello Spirito Sancto singulare, because by it she was singularly full of all of the graces. Second: Sacrario ineffabile, because the Holy Ghost made her fit to be the mother of the Creator of the Universe.

Two in relation to her virginity: First: she is Vergine delle vergine, because no other virgin can be compared to this one, who was never spotted by any venial or mortal sin. Second: she is Vergine fecunda, because she alone is virgin and mother.

Two in relation to the Church Triumphant and the whole universe: First: that she is Regina sola del mondo, because she is the true Spouse and Mother and Shrine of the King of the World, who is God Threefold and One. Second: Regina sopra tutte le creature honoranda, because … she is honoured much more highly than all the saints, and with an honour that is called ‘hyperdulia’.

Two last ones in relation to the present Church Militant: First: she is Dolcezza di cuore delli giusti, because through her they beg for many favours from God, and her love is ‘sweeter than honey and the honeycomb’, which love amazingly makes their souls and bodies chaste. Second: that she is Speranza delli  peccatori et delle persone miserabili, because through her prayers and merits they hope to beg for  mercy from God. These twelve privileges, then, were written on those twelve banderoles in this form: Sponsa Dei Patris vera, ora pro nobis; Sponsa Dei Patris admiranda, intercede pro nobis. And thus also followed all the others.

There is good reason to believe that there is a tropological dimension to the
painting. The known Savonarolan sources on which the Mystic Nativity draws are all
moral in intent, and the painting exhorts us to worship the Child truly and become
reconciled with our brothers. Unlike most Italian pictures of the time, it is clearly
structured into groups of significant numbers and combinations of white, green,
and red. Significant numbers were the almost irresistable cue for late-medieval theologians to list a set of moral precepts, and Savonarola was no exception to this
rule. White, green, and red usually symbolise Faith, Hope, and Charity respectively.


That perhaps is what they do in Botticelli’s painting also. But caution is necessary.
For Savonarola Faith may be green and Hope sky blue,’ whereas white, green, and
red may stand for any number of other things.
To conclude, I shall propose three possible interpretations of the painting, taking them in ascending order of probability, before ending with an observation  about its theme.

Firstly, the Mystic Nativity might be, along with the Mystic Crucifixion in the Fogg
Art Museum , a picture intended for the boys in the group of Bernardino
dei Fanciulli or another Savonarolan association like it. This is suggested by the
highly ‘naive’ syntax of both paintings, the great stress on angels, and the fact that
in both paintings the symbols of evil-five small and apparently self-destructed
demons in the case of the Mystic Nativity and two small and seemingly unferocious
animals in that of the Mystic Crucifixion-do not appear to be intended as frightening. As a further slight but perhaps relevant indication, in the only volume of the ‘collected works’ of Bernardino dei Fanciulli, there are just two illustrations, one  showing the Nativity and the other the Crucifixion. Against the possibility that these two pictures were intended for children is of course the presence of the Greek inscription to the Mystic Nativity. But as we have seen, that inscription might have  been added later;  if so, perhaps it was added with the purpose of ‘redefining’ the painting. In this connection we should note that Bernardino and his group were  forced into exile in 1500-and according to the inscription it was ‘at the end of the  year 1500, in the troubles of Italy’ that the Mystic Nativity was painted.
Secondly, the painting might be a cryptic representation of the Millennium-or rather those features of it in which Botticelli believed and which he thought to be in harmony with the predictions that Savonarola had made. During such a Millennium those Florentines who truly believed would reign with Christ their king. As we have seen, the Millennium begins with the binding of Satan. Accepted Catholic doctrine holds that it therefore begins, figuratively, with the birth of Christ. It is even possible that the word ‘time’ in the painting’s Greek inscription means ‘millennium’, as in Francesco da Meleto’s interpretation.176 The mortals being embraced by angels and led by them to the manger would be the martyrs and saints who live again through the First Resurrection -or whomever else it was that Botticelli might have thought these Apocalyptic persons stood for. Their crowns of olive would be the crowns of martyrdom or righteousness. It at first strikes one as unlikely that Botticelli would have shown the Millennium in an age in which it was rarely mentioned. But of those persons who believed in the Millennium at the time, how many actually ventured to  say so in print? If the Mystic Nativity does represent the Millennium in any real sense, firstly, the painting is in this respect unique as far as we know; secondly, it is  thoroughly heretical. We recall that-if for the wrong reasons-Vasari believed  Botticelli to have been a heretic.

The third possible interpretation is that the painting is a figuration of an ‘Apocalyptic’ birth of Christ, in which allusions to the reconciliation of the heavenly virtues with one another and with mankind, the ‘crown’ of Mary, and the Millennium (or the casting out of Satan) are elements of a complex and yet ‘simple’ allegory of the future in which Botticelli believed.

That future would, through the intercession of Mary, see the ‘birth’ of Christ in the hearts of the Florentines. Through the mercy of divine Grace, the Florentines would be filled with charity and love towards one another and be reconciled with the angels and their God.

There would thus come to pass that peace and goodness which the devil cannot abide and which would cause his downfall: ‘Now is come the power of Christ on earth; the
dragon has lost’.
Whatever it is that the Mystic Nativity shows, the chances are that it took great
courage for Botticelli to paint it.

  • Where heaven shall touch earth

The overriding theme of the Mystic Nativity, because of the large number of olive branches in it, appears to be peace. But we should do well to remember that in
Botticelli’s time the olive was usually a symbol of mercy.

In Savonarola’s ‘1493’ Christmas sermon it is Mercy, not Peace, who holds a branch of olive. Moreover, wreaths of olive conveying thoughts of mercy and repentance had recently come into use in one of Florence’s most important public rituals, the offering of little torches by pardoned offenders at the city’s Baptistry. These persons had formerly
been led to the Baptistry in chains, but from 1493 at the latest each is described as
being led, ‘in the usual way, his head uncovered, with a crown [or garland] of olive,
with a little torch in his hands… preceded by trumpets’.

Now, one of the conditions for receiving pardon at the time was that an offender make ‘peace’ with the offended party. Perhaps onlookers remembered this as the olive-wreathed offenders were marched past them. But surely what was uppermost in their thoughts was that these transgressors had come to repent what they had done and were now receiving mercy. Indeed, what Botticelli and many others who lived during his age probably hoped for more than anything else but also in our times , was Mercy.

Here More About  Christmas Mythology: Myth, Our Self, and the Divine Child

Mythology, Legends and Fairy Tale of Friesland

Mythology, Legends and Fairy Tale of Friesland

On the Dutch Wadden Islands: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, many ancient customs can still be found, corresponding to those of the Scandinavian countries, belonging to the ancient cultural heritage of the North Sea peoples.

Texel is the island, where the tex (text) of the laws in Runes was written on the walls. These laws were given by the first folk mother: Frya (Freya), the primeval mother of the Frisians.

Afterwards, ideas and agreements that had been circulating for a century with the Kroder/ Krodo (the Time) and his Yule (wheel, rad) were allowed to be written on the walls of the castle by common agreement. Then they had to be honored.

Krodo:

wheel: Like the cycle of the sun and the infinity of the Universe in time and space
wind the breath or breath of this world, everything here keeps alive
Basket with red roses the symbol for fertility, nature and the environment worth
fish: The element of water, food and the later Christian values of our society

Wheel of the year :

Frya was white as snow in the dawn, and the blue of her eyes was fairer than that of the rainbow, Like the rays of the noonday sun, her hair, fine as cobwebs, shone. Her food was honey, and her drink was the dew of flowers.

The first thing she taught her children was self-discipline. The next was love to virtue – Once they were adults, she taught them the value of freedom. For, said she, without liberty all virtues are only good to enslave you, your descent to eternal shame.

When she had raised her children to the seventh generation, she called them all to Flyland (Vlieland). There she poured their hair tex. Then she ascended to heaven and became the evening and morning star. (venus) .

——————————————————-

Note:

The Goddess in Prehistory
“As far back as the Paleolithic Age,” writes Maarten J. Varmaseren, “one finds in the countries around the Mediterranean a goddess who is universally worshiped as the Mighty Mother” . From 30,000 to 10,000 BCE, adds Joseph Campbell, “the [Goddess] is represented in those now well-known little ‘Venus’ figurines” . A limestone relief found in southwestern France in the Pyrenees is illustrative in this regard. Dating to 25,000 BCE, an engraved Venus image is shown holding a bison horn inscribed with thirteen vertical strokes. This is the number of nights between the first crescent and the full moon .


The Goddess figure is holding her swollen belly with her other hand, suggesting that at this early date, the lunar and menstrual cycles were connected, and that the Goddess figure was symbolic of the whole archetypal complex of the feminine divine: life, birth, and death.


According to Joseph Campbell, the goddess has three functions:

“one, to give us life; two, to be the one who receives us in death; and three, to inspire our spiritual, poetic realization

All three of these functions can be seen in the prehistoric art of Çatal Hüyük.

On a green schist stone dating to about 6000 BCE, the goddess is portrayed “back-to-back with herself, on the left embracing an adult male, and on the right holding a child in her arms”.


The powers of the Mighty Mother are the transformations of life: “She is the transforming medium that transforms semen into life. She receives the seed of the past and, through the miracle of her body, transmutes it into the life of the future” . Her womb is the ultimate matrix of metamorphosis, a cosmic umbilicus whose power derives from the heavenly antipodes between which all material creation was forged: “The Goddess is the axis mundi, the world axis, the pillar of the universe. She represents the energy that supports the whole cycle of the universe” . Perhaps for this reason the Mother Goddess was most often worshiped in caves . The subterranean chamber was the anagogical medium that connected the wombs of heaven and earth.

This heaven-earth correspondence is a very important point to make. By the second millennium BCE the Mother Goddess was a nature deity represented as Mother Earth. Her womb was the land that produced the seed of bounty, and she was associated with the fertilization and growth of life from the dark soil. Her shrines were in groves and caves representative of this chthonic source of life. Yet the chthonic feature of the Goddess was only half of the symbolic heritage. The Goddess was, above all, the Heavenly Mother, the Queen of Heaven, and Cosmocrator of the World. Her chthonic womb was only the root of the heavenly tree.

In Sumerian, the glyph for heaven, An, also meant “crown of tree” . The female date palm grew numerous branches holding massive clusters of dates. This image was analogous to the whole of creation, where the tree was symbolic of the universe, both in form and function.
The roots, trunk, branches, and fruit were images of the underworld, material world, and heavenly world where life originated. The date laden branches of the palm tree were an image of the stars in the sky that produced light and life. The glyph An meant heaven and crown of tree because, analogically, they were the exact same thing.

In religions and myths throughout the Near East and Mediterranean, the Goddess was analogized with the Heavenly Tree. While the roots of this cosmic tree were the chthonic womb of the Mother Goddess, the “crown of tree” represented her seat of power. It was her heavenly womb that was the lapis occultus, the heavenly vault of the mysteries from which all life
descended. So it is that “the date palm represents the celestial mother goddess nurturing her abundant harvest of children in the high heavens” , and that “the seed of mankind is the light of the stars. This is the seed that the mother of humanity gestates in her heavenly womb” .

The Scythian diviners take also the leaf of the lime-tree (linden), which, dividing into three parts, they twine round their fingers; they then unbind it and exercise the art to which they pretend. Herodotus

In mythology, the linden tree is a symbol of peace, truth and justice. This connection is from Germanic mythology where the linden tree is associated with Freyja, the motherly goddess of truth and love.

According to German folklore, it was not possible to lie while standing under a linden tree. Consequently, Germans often met under linden trees not only to dance and celebrate, but also to hold their judicial proceedings. Christianity later replaced Freyja with the Madonna and rededicated the trees to Mary, the mother of God.

Freyja and the linden tree: Gerichtslinde


See symbolism of Linden tree

When she ascended to heaven and became the evening and morning star. (venus) With it came a great tidal wave, which overflowed Flyland, but Frya’s descendants had built a high wharf, on which they built the fortress, upon the walls of which they wrote the tex. They called that land Texland. It will remain as long as Irtha is Irtha! (Irtha is the name of the earth). Whenever a new castle could be built somewhere, its lamp had to be lit at Texland’s.

The Mother on Texland chooses her successor and may have twenty-one girls and seven spindle girls, so that seven always keep watch at the lamp . The supreme being Wralda (read ‘Uralda’, that is ‘Overoude’ after the Frisian wráld, ‘world’, and did, ‘old’) created three primeval mothers who in turn produced three races.

This WAS INSCRIBED UPON THE WALLS OF FRYASBURG IN TEXLAND, AS WELL AS AT
STAVIA AND MEDEASBLIK.
It was Frya’s day, and seven times seven years had lapsed since Festa was appointed Volksmoeder by the desire of Frya. The citadel of Medeasblik was ready, and a Burgtmaagd was chosen. Festa was about to light her new lamp, and when she had done so in the presence of all the people, Frya called from her watch-star, so that every one could hear it: “Festa, take your style and write the things, that I may not speak.” Festa did as she was bid, and thus we became Frya’s children, and our earliest history began.
This is our earliest history

Wr-alda, who alone is eternal and good, made the beginning. Then commenced time. Time wrought all things, even the earth. The earth bore grass, herbs, and trees, all useful and all noxious animals. All that is good and useful she brought forth by day, and all that is bad and
injurious by night.
After the twelfth Juulfeest she brought forth three maidens:—
Lyda out of fierce heat.
Finda out of strong heat.
Frya out of moderate heat
.
When the last came into existence, Wr-alda breathed his spirit upon her in order that men might be bound to him.
As soon as they were full grown they took pleasure and delight in the visions of Wr-alda.
Hatred found its way among them

They each bore twelve sons and twelve daughters—at ery Juul-time a couple. Thence come all mankind.

Lyda was black, with hair curled like a lamb’s; her eyes shone like stars, and shot out glances like those of a bird of prey.

Finda was yellow, and her hair was like the mane of a horse. She could not bend a tree, but where Lyda killed one lion she killed ten.

Frya was white like the snow at sunrise, and the blue of her eyes vied with the rainbow.
Beautiful Frya! Like the rays of the sun shone the locks of her hair, which were as fine as spiders’ webs.
Clever Frya! When she opened her lips the birds ceased to sing and the leaves to quiver.
Powerful Frya! At the glance of her eye the lion lay down at her feet and the adder withheld his poison.
Pure Frya! Her food was honey, and her beverage was dew gathered from the cups of the flowers.
Sensible Frya! The first lesson that she taught her children was self-control, and the second was the love of virtue; and when they were grown she taught them the value of iberty; for she said, “Without liberty all other virtues erve to make you slaves, and to disgrace your origin.”
Generous Frya! She never allowed metal to be dug from the earth for her own benefit, but when she did it it was for the general use.
Most happy Frya! Like the starry host in the firmament, her children clustered around her.

FRYA’S TEX.
Prosperity awaits the free. At last they shall see me again. Though him only can I recognise as free who is neither a slave to another nor to himself. This is my counsel:—

  1. When in dire distress, and when mental and physical energy avail nothing, then have recourse to the spirit of Wr-alda; but do not appeal to him before you have tried all other means, for I tell you beforehand, and time will prove its truth, that those who give way to discouragement
    sink under their burdens.
  2. To Wr-alda’s spirit only shall you bend the knee in gratitude—thricefold—for what you have received, for what you do receive, and for the hope of aid in time of need.
  3. You have seen how speedily I have come to your assistance. Do likewise to your neighbour, but wait not for his entreaties. The suffering would curse you, my maidens would erase your name from the book, and I would regard you as a stranger.
  4. Let not your neighbour express his thanks to you on bended knee, which is only due to Wr-alda’s spirit. Envy would assail you, Wisdom would ridicule you, and my maidens would accuse you of irreverence.
  5. Four things are given for your enjoyment —air, water, land, and fire—but Wr-alda is the sole possessor of them. Therefore my counsel to you is, choose upright men who w ll fairly divide the labour and the fruits, so that no man shall be exempt from work or from the duty of defence.
  6. ….Read more here The oera linda book


The supreme being Wralda (read ‘Uralda’, that is ‘Overoude’ after the Frisian wráld, ‘world’, and did, ‘old’) created three primeval mothers who in turn produced three races.

Lyda’s children lived in Africa and had neither reason nor morals.

Finda’s children lived in Asia and Aldland or Atland (‘Oudland’, Atlantis) and possessed intellect but no morals.

Frya’s children, after all, inhabited Europe and, you guessed it, had both good sense and high morals.

The Lydas and Findas waged endless wars and were ruled despotically. The devising and enforcing of religious doctrines and the appointment of priests effectively suppressed any desire for spiritual freedom.

How different it was with the Frya’s. These lived in peace and had a high civilization without priests and churches. The Fryas excelled in self-control and love of virtue and realized that life without freedom is meaningless. This good state of affairs was guarded by ‘mothers of the people’ who kept the lamp of wisdom burning in special fortresses.

The most important people’s mother, the ‘Mother of Honor’, resided in the main castle on Texland (Texel), named after ‘Frya’s ter’, a kind of constitution, which was chiseled onto the walls there. Frya controlled the whole of Friesland (Friesland, East and West) and as grandmother a large part of the mainland of Western Europe, including the Rhine banks, but beyond that the whole with dense forests of Twiskland (Germany) extended. By morning (the East) her empire bordered on the Baltic Sea, with settlements in Denmark, yielding tar, pitch, and copper. Britain yielded tin, but was otherwise the domain of the exiles, who had left with their folk-mother to preserve their lives, after being marked on the forehead with a red B, and of the criminals, who received a green B. To the south, Frya’s ships sailed as far as Libya to trade with the descendants of the black Lyda. At first there were no warriors, for peace and prosperity reigned throughout Frya’s realm when the remaining inhabitants of Aldland fled south. They were descendants of the yellow Finda, in which we recognize the Turanians, who also inhabited Siberia. They robbed and were regarded as unreliable, no Fryas (Frisian) was allowed to mix with them. To repel them, warriors were trained, and leaders, including a king, were chosen. This king was not allowed to reign for more than three consecutive years. At that time, solemn recruitments of warriors took place, with vows being made as the drinking horn was passed around.

There was once a monastery of near (grey) monks on Schiermonnikoog.

Perhaps on the foundations of a troja fortress of a popular mother. We are already close to the holy land: Heligoland. Every year on Pentecost, an ancient ritual is celebrated here: the Kallemooi.

A live rooster as a solar symbol is hoisted high in a basket on a maypole. It is the midsummer rite of a grateful veneration of the Sun Maiden. However bastardized and misunderstood, man acts out of his unconscious sympathetic to the Great Rhythm and thereby the customs maintain themselves through thick and thin, against ridicule and prohibition. See maypole Tradition en Green Man, May Day and May Pole

It is clear that the population of the Wadden Islands belongs, and already belonged during Atlantis, to the Northern or thinking pole of that empire, to the people group of white skin color and strong I-consciousness, that independence, helping oneself and letting each other go above all else. stated, The ‘Oera Linda Book’ tells how much they disliked the ‘Finda peoples’ from the East, who did not come into direct personal contact with god, but lived slavishly under the influence of sorcerers and priests. The primordial history of Dutch Atlantis, which was written in runes on the walls of the troja fortresses, begins thus:

Wralda is the most ancient, for it created all things. Wralda is all in all, eternal and infinite, present everywhere, but invisible. What we see. are the forms which come forth from his life and perish therein. From Wralda come beginning and end. Wralda is the One and Almighty being, from which all power comes and into which it vanishes. Wralda lays the eternal laws in all created things. Wralda not all things and for It all is open. Wralda created both men and women. Wralda alone is good and unchanging. Our stature, qualities and soul change, but within us is part of Wralda’s immutability. We, Fryar’s children, are apparitions through Wralda’s life, ever becoming and approaching perfection’.

UNIVERSAL LAW:

1. All free-born men are equal, wherefore they must all have equal rights on sea and land, and on all that Wr-alda has given. 2. Every man may seek the wife of his choice, and every woman may bestow her hand on him whom she loves. 3. When a man takes a wife, a house and yard must be given to him. If there is none, one must be built for him. 4. If he has taken a wife in another village, and wishes to remain, they must give him a house there, and likewise the free use of the common. 5. To every man must be given a piece of land behind his house. No man shall have land in front of his house, still less an enclosure, unless he has performed some public service. In such a case it may be given, and the youngest son may inherit it, but after him it returns to the community. 6. Every village shall possess a common for the general good, and the chief of the village shall take care that it is kept in good order, so that posterity shall find it uninjured. 7. Every village shall have a market-place. All the rest of the land shall be for tillage and forest. No one shall fell trees without the consent of the community, or without the knowledge of the forester; for the forests are general property, and no man can appropriate them. 8. The market charges shall not exceed one-twelfth of the value of the goods either to natives or strangers. The portion taken for the charges shall not be sold before the other goods. 9. All the market receipts must be divided yearly into a hundred parts three days before the Juul-day. 10. The Grevetman and his council shall take twenty parts; the keeper of the market ten, and his assistants five; the Volksmoeder one, the midwife four, the village ten, and the poor and infirm shall have fifty parts. 11. There shall be no usurers in the market. If any should come, it will be the duty of the maidens to make it known through the whole land, in order that such people may not be chosen for any office, because they are hard-hearted. For the sake of money they would betray everybody—the people, the mother, their nearest relations, and even their own selves. 12. If any man should attempt to sell diseased cattle or damaged goods for sound, the market-keeper shall expel him, and the maidens shall proclaim him through the country. In early times almost all the Finns lived together in their native land, which was called Aldland, and is now submerged. They were thus far away, and we had no wars. When they were driven hitherwards, and appeared as robbers, then arose the necessity of defending ourselves, and we had armies, kings, and wars. For all this there were established regulations, and out of the regulations came fixed laws.

This was the wisdom of the white part of the Atlantean nations, who remained faithful to it even in the time when the black sorcerers entangled the king in their doctrine, and by their perilous arts intervened in Wr-alda’s laws, by which at last Atlantis was submerged, In these survivors and their descendants now return the souls of those who experienced the time just before the great flood. They remember, They find outwardly their holy places and inwardly the holy law of Wr-alda, which nothing and no one can take from them.

Aerial image of Heligoland

Heligoland

In the current century, during deep-sea bottom research, remains of a fortress next to Heligoland have been found; a cobbled courtyard or square. and of a building, which may have been a temple. This agrees with the Greek messages, that on the older, greater Heligoland, the fairest temple in all of Atlantis, whose walls and pillars were clad in amber, through which the sunlight sparkled. It is remarkable that Hans Christiaan Andersen, familiar with Danish folk lore, tells in his fairy tale The Little Mermaid that the sea king lives in a palace of coral and amber at the bottom of the sea. Perhaps there are still remains of that temple.

Amber is a fossilized resin of pine and is only found on the Danish, East German and Polish coasts, where it washes ashore. The Greeks called it Oreichalkos, the Egyptians Ana. The Greek explorer Pytheas of Massilia (later Marseille) sailed in the year 350 BC. up the North Sea in search of the amber larids and found present-day Heligoland, which he named Basileia. It was located off the coast, at the mouth of the river Eridanos: today’s Elbe or Eider. Behind the protected rock of Basileia, which juts up ah cut straight with a knife, he remarked: “A stretch of sea, which seems to consist of air, earth, and water, and is impenetrable as well as unnavigable.” That is the Wadden Sea. Today’s mudflat walkers and those who sail from the mainland to the Eastern Wadden Islands at high tide may remember that they are crossing the Atlantic bottom and the sunken remains of a large sanctuary. In old stories in Northern Germany, there is also talk of the Glasburg, which is said to have sunk near Heligoland. Glass or glaesum was the old name for amber. Barn means to burn.

The amber was melted or dissolved in oil for use as a varnish. Plato relates (according to the information of Egyptian high priests) that the royal palace was situated in the center of the island, 5 furlongs from the coast, in each direction. the island must have been approximately 18.4 km long. The inhabitants extracted white, red and black minerals and copper from the soil and collected the oreichalkos. They made all kinds of copper objects, which were traded to the South. At that time: 2400 years before our era, there was a lively exchange of culture and commodities around the North Sea. At that time, according to the Egyptians, lived there. three tribes: the Pheres, the Saksar and the Danes, so: Frisians, Saxons and Danes. The clay was obtained from a quarry north of present-day Aalborg. the tiles of which were baked, which covered the square between temple and fortress at ancient Basileia and which have now been brought up by frogmen. They are dated to the Bronze Age. In the language of then and there Basileia was called neter-aa, that is, holy earth. Plato translated this as: hiera chora. The ten viceroys of Atlantis had to go to the king’s temple on Heligoland every five or six years for accountability and discussions. The kingdom consisted of ten settlements and many districts. Six districts had to supply a chariot and ten men for the army, four for the navy. This has remained so for a long time, because in the time of the Vikings the army still consisted of units of ten men, which had to be supplied from three, four or six districts. Approximately in 1200 B.E. – but about the time of the scholars disagree – there must have been a huge earthquake, which destroyed both in the north Basileia and in the Mediterranean by a volcanic eruption the island of Thera (Santorini). A huge meteor may have landed in the North Sea south of Atland, where there is a trough .59 m deep. In the Edda it is said that the mythical wolf

Fenrir crashed there. The ancient Greeks mentioned that, when Phaeton was allowed by his father Helios (the sun god) for one day to drive the sun chariot in the sky, deviating from the correct orbit (attracted by the stars of Scorpio, square to Leo, the Sun sign) “the car crashed. where the earth caught fire. His sisters’ tears turned to amber. Apparently this was the report of the natural disaster at the Wadden Islands.

The Nordic Sea Peoples then suffered a heat wave and great drought, which brought famine, after which they partly moved south. These Atlanteans, to which the Frisians, Saxons, and Danes belonged, settled partly in the Alps near the lakes, partly between the Danube and Theiss, and partly in Greece, where they were called Dorians. They occupied the Peloponnese (the Spartans), Crete, Cyprus and Rhodes. Other groups reached Libya, via Sicily and Sardinia, and approached Egypt. These Atlanteans threatened Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ratrises III (1200-1168 BC). They were defeated, but also heard about them. country of origin and what they said is recorded in an Egyptian temple (at 2vIedinet Habu).

Not long after the sea peoples had moved southward. the broken world sea flooded the islands of Atlantis, including the royal temple island of Basileia.

The Egyptian tradition records that the Frisians settled on the coast of Palestine (Phoenicians, Philistines), the Saxons on the west coast of Syria, the Danes on Cyprus and the Dori on the Peloponnese, Crete and Rhodes, The Umbrians, Kimbris and Teutons, those defeated in Libya settled in Italy.

All these North Sea peoples of the Ninth Curvature were tall and pale, with blond hair and blue eyes. Now this explains why ancient Greek civilization was actually spawned by Northerners in a Southern country, and has always attracted the Atlanteans who remained in the North so strongly that Greek is taught to this day in all the gymnasia of Europe “without any direct useful’. It also clarifies that Homer described the journey of Odysseus to his old homeland, including our province of Zeeland, and not a journey through the Mediterranean, which was later intended to be seen in it.

Source: The Solar Year – Mellie Uyidert.

Troja Castles

Troja castles can be found in many European countries and in India. These effigies are a form of mazes. These are formed by hedges or simply by stones that are placed on the ground next to each other. Images on rocks and stones as well as (Greek) coins also occur. These mazes can be classified by their sometimes minimal difference: In the real maze you have to make choices between corridors of which only one is the correct one and where one ends up in a dead end on the other.; circles surrounding each other, the so-called concentric circles.; two-dimensional spirals; three-dimensional spirals ending at the top of a hill.; spirals that lead to the center of the maze, but also a spiral in the opposite direction that leads to the exit; the labyrinth where one walks in ever-reversing smaller circles where one eventually reaches the center, the actual Troja fortress.

The Troja Castle was also the site of initiation rituals. One had to die a ritual death, following the Troja fortress to its core (the world of the dead), om. to come back again as an initiate., the return from the Troja fortress. If one considers a Troja fortress as a sun wheel and its center the underworld, then one can say that it represents the wheel of the year. The Sun that dies (Midwinter) to be born again (Midsummer).

In the middle of the Troja fortress one sometimes finds a tree or a large stone. Here you can recognize the veneration by the Germans on trees and stones. Usually it was a lime tree, dedicated to Freya. Freya was, among other things, goddess of death and rebirth. Here again the connection with the ritual death experience.

There were also Trojaburcht in the Netherlands, especially in West Friesland – in Medenblik and Frvasburcht on Texel – and in Friesland near Stavoren. These Troja fortresses were women’s fortresses or monasteries ¬the term monastery dates back to he term monastery dates back to the term monastery dates back to all Frisians.

King Friso, the mythical ancestor of the Frisians

Over the centuries, many stories have appeared about the mythical king Friso. He is considered the ancestor of the Frisian people. Both the country ‘Friesland’ and the people ‘the Frisians’ are said to have derived their names from this king. Around the year 320 BC he would have been crowned the first king of Friesland.

The Myth of King Friso

Exodus

In distant India, by the river Ganges, was once the realm of King Adel. He was a descendant of the Biblical character Shem (the eldest son of Noah). At one point, King Adel’s empire became overpopulated. Famine and conflict broke out. It was then decided that part of the population had to move elsewhere. A lottery was used to determine which families had to leave the kingdom. They left with a large group of boats, looking for a new country to live in. This fleet was led by three of the king’s sons, the princes Friso, Saxo and Bruno.

Alexander the Great

After various wanderings, they ended up in the kingdom of the Macedonian king Philip II. Prince Saxo became very interested in Greek philosophy. He was for some time a student of Plato and later of Aristotle. His brothers Friso and Bruno, along with many other exiles from the land of Adel, joined the army of the Macedonian king. Friso became friends with the crown prince, later Alexander the Great. When he succeeded his father, Friso became an important general in the army. Friso also played a major role in Alexander’s many great military successes. However, his success caused resentment from other generals. In the year 323 BC, Alexander the Great died. A group of generals took control of the empire, but major conflicts soon arose between them. A civil war broke out. Friso and the other exiles from the kingdom of Adel were designated as scapegoats by various agitators.

A new exodus

The brothers Friso, Saxo and Bruno decided it was time to evacuate their people and start looking for a new land. The fleet of Friso and his associates traveled west first. They pass between the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ on the far western side of the Mediterranean (this was the nickname of the strait in earlier times that later became the Strait of Gibraltar). On the Atlantic Ocean they sailed north for some time, before sailing along with a Gulf Stream a little more to the northeast, towards the North Sea. After many wanderings, they finally arrived in a wooded country on the coast, where no people lived.

The god Stavo

This landing of Friso and his associates in the low countries would have taken place in the year 320 BC. After exploring the area around that place, they decided to stay there. They built a temple there for a deity they knew from their Indian youth and whom they had fervently worshiped during all their wanderings: Stavo ( Thor). They believed it was thanks to that god that they had found this new land. They also named the settlement near the temple after him: Stavoren.

Friso became king of the new land. He built his palace near the temple of Stavo. In practice, Stavoren became the capital of the new empire. From his residence, Friso ruled his country for 68 years. The names of his people and his country are derived from the name Friso: Frisians and Friesland.

Saxony, Brunswijk and Groningen

Initially Saxo and Bruno also lived in Stavoren for some years and they also played an important role in the government of the early Friesland. Later, however, those brothers went their own way. Saxo set out east, with a large group of pioneers in tow, to found another new country. The people named after him ‘the Saxons’ arose from the followers of Saxo. Bruno also left east at one point. There he founded a city that was named after him: Brunswijk. In the 21st century, this place still exists: the German city of Braunschweig. According to various Frisian legends, a grandson of Friso also founded a famous city. Gruno was the grandson’s name and he is the alleged founder of Groningen.

King Friso stayed in the country that was named Friesland after him. He had a daughter who married the king of the Cauchen, and seven sons, each of whom he gave his own shire. Thus arose the seven Sealands, which stretched from Bruges in Flanders to Widau in Schleswig. As a weapon he chose seven floppy leaves, divided by three streams, on a blue field.

The pompeblêden on the Frisian flag

After the year 1900 the flag became more and more famous. To this day, however, many people do not know what ‘those red leaves’ actually do on the Frisian flag.

Why are there pompeblêden on the Frisian flag? An old Frisian legend tells the story of the brothers Friso, Saxo and Bruno. They sailed long ago from India to the Far North. The brothers set foot here and divided the land. Friso named his area Fryslân. At the time, according to legend, Friso carried a weapon with seven red leaves on it. These leaves came from the yellow clump, a plant that was common in Friesland. That’s where the pompeblêden come from!

Why are there seven pompeblêden on the Frisian flag? Friso had seven sons and each son was given a piece of land. The seven pompeblêden on the Frisian flag refer to those seven countries. Why do we speak of pompeblêden and not of plumeblêden? Today we speak of pompeblêden instead of plompeblêden, because the sounds ‘pl’ and ‘bl’ are more difficult to pronounce right after each other, The colors of the Frisian flag The mystery surrounding the Frisian flag and the pompeblêden has almost been unraveled. The question that remains is: what do the colors red, white and blue stand for? The flower petals are red, because they have that color when the plant shoots up from the water in the spring. The white on the flag refers to the reflective water surface and the blue refers to the sky!

Symbolism of Lotus

The lotus plant grows in water. lts leaves float on the surface of the water. The Lotus flowers open above the water. Though the lotus leaves float on the surface of the water, water does not star on them. The lotus cannot exist without water, yet its leaves will not retain water on them. The leaves suck the water through the stalks for their sustenance.

In the same manner, man lives in the sea of Illusion (Maya/ Dunya), i.e., the physica[ body full of craving composed of Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Ether.

This sea of illusion (Maya/ Dunya), i.e,, the body, shows itself in innumerable forms of varying degrees of beauty, conduct and action. This sea of Illusion smothers the growth of Divine Wisdom. It makes man boast that he will do the irnpossibler that he will make ropes out of sand, etc. The physical body is the sea of Illusion, the seat of sensual pleasures. This sea of ilIusion is full of water arising from the springs of egoism, attended evils and Illusion.

In this sea the light of Soul (Atma or Ruh) grows like the lotus. Like the lotus leaves, Divine Wisdom lies spread on the surface of this sea of Illusion

.

Just as the lotus leaves reject the water of the pond that may fall on them, Divine Wisdom will, without getting soaked in the sea of the fiere senses of Illusion, stand out showing the Truth, rejecting the false and the evanescent which thrive on the pover of Illusion. Like the lotus flower which raises its head out of the pond, opens and shows its beauty, the Flower of the Resplendence of Divine Luminous Wisdom comes out of the Truth in the body or the sea of Illusion and spreads its Rays.

The Resplendence of Divine Luminous Wisdom arising from Gods Grace, the Bliss par excellence, spreads its Rays and shows its real nature. If the Soul rejects the attractions of the body of Illusion and merges with Divine Wisdom and manifests its real form full of Resplendence, God will come to pluck that Lotus Flower of Divine Luminous Wisdom from within the Heart ( alb),

That Flower is His property, It does not belong to anyone else. If you understand these two aspects properly, you will get True Divine Luminous Wisdom,

Bawa Muhaiyaddeen —

Saint George, Islam, and Al khidr in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Su Fang Ng
Kenneth Hodges

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Before his tale, which begins with Islamic merchants carrying stories between Syria and Rome, Chaucer’s Man of Law offers this apostrophe to merchants: “Ye seken lond and see for yowre wynnynges; / As wise folk ye knowen al th’estaat / Of regnes; ye been fadres of tidynges / And tales . . .” Thus Chaucer notes that trading networks spread stories as well as merchandise, stories Chaucer himself appropriates and retells. If we take Chaucer’s remarks seriously, we need to expand the area of literary exchange beyond Western Europe. One work that may have been shaped, unexpectedly, by such exchanges is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Although European analogues and sources for it exist, there have been hints over the decades of possible non-European contexts for the poem. In 1916, George Lyman Kittredge noted that in a number of the analogues the supernatural challenger is black or Turkish. These analogues thus link the challenger of the beheading plot to racial otherness. In 1974, Alice Lasater, in her work on the influence of Spanish literature (Christian, Islamic, and hybrid) on Middle English literature, noted extensive parallels between a well-known popular Islamic folk figure, al-Khidr (the Green One), and the Green Knight.

Evidence for the Gawain-poet’s interest in the east has been detected in the other poems as well. The heavenly city of Pearl, as Mahmoud Manzalaoui has noted, has close parallels to the description in an Islamic text known to Europeans in Latin translation as the Liber Scalae or Book of the Ladder (a copy of fourteenth-century English provenance was found at Oxford). It recounts Mohammed’s ascent into the heavens (mi’rāj), and scholars now largely agree that this text was a source for Dante’s Commedia. Further suggesting interest in the east, Cleanness draws on Sir John Mandeville’s description of the Dead Sea. Since the poem is elusive in questions of authorship, date, and circumstances of composition, criticism has necessarily proceeded speculatively. Most critics have understandably focused on Northern European (especially Irish and French) sources and analogues.

Given recent scholarly interest in medieval romance’s engagement with the east and with Islam, however, the Green Knight’s non-European analogues and particularly Lasater’s intriguing suggestion of al-Khidr need to be reconsidered. While the poem’s many unknowns prevent any absolute identification of the Green Knight as al-Khidr, especially since the Green Knight is most probably a composite character with elements taken from several traditions as well as the poet’s imagination, the possibility that the Gawain-poet may have, in his typically allusive manner, borrowed from an Islamic figure nonetheless leads to a fruitful reexamination of the poem’s commitments and affiliations. The seminal works of Dorothee Metlitzki and María Rosa Menocal have demonstrated that Islamic literature must be taken seriously as an influence on and source for medieval Christian literature: intellectual engagement with Islam went far beyond the caricatured Muslims of bad romances.

Religious antipathy did not prevent medieval Christians from studying the sacred book of their enemies: Robert of Ketton’s twelfth-century translation of the Qu’ran circulated widely and continued to be read into the early modern period. As Thomas Burman shows in his study of Latin translations of the Qu’ran, Robert of Ketton and other translators incorporated Islamic commentary into their translations and their glosses in order to elucidate obscure Qu’ranic passages, and in so doing they strove to understand a difficult, alien text in its own terms: Christian response to the text was not simply polemical—though it certainly was that—it was also deeply philological. Since medieval engagements with Islam are starting to be understood as doing more than simply recycling old stereotypes or caricaturing Muslims, Lasater’s suggestion of al-Khidr as an analogue for the Green Knight must be more thoroughly considered. As medievalists also turn, increasingly, to questions of postcolonialism, a reconsideration of the literary markers of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’s possible engagement with the Islamic world in relation to the likely historical and political contexts of its composition may point us to a new, international reading of the poem. Read more here: Saint_George_Islam_and_Regional_Courts

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Acedia – Lack of Care: Disease of our times

In Praise of Folly, Erasmus

“The supreme madness is to see life as it is and not as it should be,

things are only what we want to believe they are ...”

Jacques Brel

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Sloth – Acedia makes man powerless and dries out the nerves until man is good for nothing.”

Acedia (/əˈsiːdiə/; also accidie or accedie /ˈæksɪdi/, from Latin acēdia, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, “negligence”, ἀ- “lack of” -κηδία “care”) has been variously defined as a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. In ancient Greece akidía literally meant an inert state without pain or care.

SLOTH (Laziness, Indolente, Desidia, Accidia, Pigritia, La Paresse, Trágheit,

The original drawing, in the Albertina, Vienna, is dated 1557.

Many a modern must find this not only the most passive and negative but in many ways the most haunting and shattering of Bruegel’s seven Sins.

It symbolizes the evils of the vice which was treated with more irony and folksy fantasy in “The Land of Cockaigne,” reproduced as Plate 32. In that print, Plenty has destroyed ambition, energy, activity.

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The arrangement of the clerk, peasant, and soldier underneath the tree suggests the men as the spokes of a wheel, where the tree is the hub. The roasted fowl lies in the place where a fourth spoke could be.

Ross Frank has argued that the painting is a political satire directed at the participants in the first stages of the Dutch Revolt (1568–1648), where the roasted fowl represents the humiliation and failure of the nobleman (who would otherwise form the fourth spoke of the wheel) in his leadership of the Netherlands, and the overall scene depicts the complacency of the Netherlandish people, too content with their abundance to take the risks that would bring about significant religious and political change.[3]

The painting has also been cited as illustrating the Freudian oral stage of psychosexual development,[4] showing a paradise of oral pleasure. It is used to demonstrate how human beings achieve oral pleasure and stimulation from eating and simply having things in the mouth.

see here more info: The land of Cocagne

Here, Sloth herself, older and uglier than the other allegories, sleeps open-mouthed in a landscape of delay, decay, and ultimate impotence

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She reposes on her beastly counterpart, a sleeping ass. A monster behind her adjusts her pillow. Around her crawl huge snails. Even the hill of Sloth is soft as shown by a winged demon sawing into it at left. One art historian sees the saw as a suggestion of Dame Sloth’s snoring as she sleeps. Another regards the sawman as a symbol for malicious gossip, his mouth ever open as he cuts away the ground from under others. ( To try to let the other come in problems).

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From the right, a stork-beaked monster in monk’s garb drags a sinner too indolent to leave his bed; he eats as he lies. The counterpart of this monk, Tolnay finds in Bosch’s ” Temptation of St. Anthony” painting (Lisbon). At the lower left, on a nearer hillock, trawls an all-head-and-feet monster, dragging a tail half fish, half branch. A hollow tree, farther left, contains a great pig’s head and provides a perch for a demon bird.

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The hollow-tree symbol is extended enormously to the right of Dame Sloth. In this shell-like structure mingling building and tree, naked sinners and monsters sleep around a table. A couple lie together in bed behind a curtain. The demon leers around it as he seeks to draw the sleeping girl inside. Sloth or excess leisure encourages lechery. An owl, again, looks down cryptically.

Dice on the table to the left of the owl refer perhaps to gambling by lazy time-wasters. A man, caught in a great clockwork above, strikes a bell with a hammer. Tolnay reads this as a kind of pun, for in the Flemish lui ( Luid)signified both the verb “to ring” (as a bell), and the adjective “lazy.”

The idea of clock and time a-wasting appears again at the upper left. Like some effect in a Jean Cocteau motion picture, a human arm points to 11 o’clock. The lazy leave things till the eleventh hour.

sin acedia 4

And catastrophe lies behind—a blaze is burning up the broken structure, filled with dead branches.

A little to the right, just below the top margin, a mountain top with human face spouts smoke. A little farther to the right an enormous slug raises its feelers into the sky as it trawls through a stone arch. On its neck rides an almost unreadable strange distortion: a monster with a shaft (candle ?) instead of a head.

Below, just above center, a squatting giant, built into a mill, enacts a proverb common to many a culture: “He’s too lazy to shit.” The faceless midgets in the boat behind him are inducing a bowel movement with poles and pressure. Another owl looks through a small square window in the roof above this operation.

On the bank, somewhat to the left, two demons drag into the water of sin a woman almost bidden inside a seething hollow egg, which looks also like a beet or turnip.

References to many other Flemish proverbs have been shown or suspected. Basic to the complicated spectacle as a whole is the thought in the Flemish rhyme below the print. It is roughly rendered in English thus : Translation of Latin caption: Sloth breaks strength, long idleness ruin the sinews

 The various examples of lazy or slothful behavior, in evidence in the surrounding landscape, colorfully demonstrate the message of the inscription below: “Sloth makes man powerless and dries out the nerves until man is good for nothing.”

In short, sloth, far from resting, recuperating and rejuvenating,waste a man away, renders him impotent and good for nothing. He becomes like a slug, a slave of the stupefied tyrant machine, DAME Desidia   or Acedia , ἀκηδία, “negligence”, ἀ- “lack of” -κηδία “care”) has been variously defined as a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world.

Mentally, acedia has a number of distinctive components of which the most important is affectlessness, a lack of any feeling about self or other, a mind-state that gives rise to boredom, rancor, apathy, and a passive inert or sluggish mentation. Physically, acedia is fundamentally associated with a cessation of motion and an indifference to work; it finds expression in laziness, idleness, and indolence.

Emotionally and cognitively, the evil of acedia finds expression in a lack of any feeling for the world, for the people in it, or for the self. Acedia takes form as an alienation of the sentient self first from the world and then from itself. Although the most profound versions of this condition are found in a withdrawal from all forms of participation in or care for others or oneself.

Sloth not only subverts the livelihood of the body, taking no care for its day-to-day provisions, but also slows down the mind, halting its attention to matters of great importance. Sloth hinders the man in his righteous undertakings and thus becomes a terrible source of human’s undoing

In his Purgatorio Dante portrayed the penance for acedia as running continuously at top speed. Dante describes acedia as the “failure to love God with all one’s heart, all one’s mind and all one’s soul”; to him it was the “middle sin”, the only one characterised by an absence or insufficiency of love, virtue and uprightness.

The antidote Industria  meaning Craftmanship , Diligence ,Persistence, effortfulness, ethics, Virtues and sincere uprightness.

  • The Tower of Babel by Breughel

The Tower of Babel was the subject of three paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The first, a miniature painted on ivory, was painted while Bruegel was in Rome and is now lost.[1][2] The two surviving paintings, often distinguished by the prefix “Great” and “Little”, are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam respectively. Both are oil paintings on wood panels.

The (Great) Tower of Babel

The (Little) Tower of Babel

The Rotterdam painting is about half the size of the Vienna one. In broad terms they have exactly the same composition, but at a detailed level everything is different, whether in the architecture of the tower or in the sky and the landscape around the tower. The Vienna version has a group in the foreground, with the main figure presumably Nimrod, who was believed to have ordered the construction of the tower,[although the Bible does not actually say this. In Vienna the tower rises at the edge of a large city, but the Rotterdam tower is in open countryside.

The paintings depict the construction of the Tower of Babel, which, according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, was built by a unified, monolingual humanity as a mark of their achievement and to prevent them from scattering: “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.‘” (Genesis 11:4).

The Viennese “Big” Tower, is almost twice as large as the Rotterdam “Little” Tower and is characterized by a more traditional treatment of the subject. Based on Genesis 11: 1-9, in which the Lord confounds the people who began to build “a tower whose top may reach unto Heaven”, it includes – as the other version does not – the scene of King Nimrod and his retinue appearing before the genuflecting crowd of workmen. This event is not mentioned in the Bible but was suggested in Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. It was important to Bruegel as underlining the sin of the King’s pride and overbearing which the picture is supposed to highlight. See more here

Dante purgatory:

Seven terraces of Purgatory

After passing through the gate of Purgatory proper, Virgil guides the pilgrim Dante through the mountain’s seven terraces. These correspond to the seven deadly sins or “seven roots of sinfulness”] Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice (and Prodigality), Gluttony, and Lust. The classification of sin here is more psychological than that of the Inferno, being based on motives, rather than actions.[22] It is also drawn primarily from Christian theology, rather than from classical sources The core of the classification is based on love: the first three terraces of Purgatory relate to perverted love directed towards actual harm of others, the fourth terrace relates to deficient love (i.e. sloth or acedia), and the last three terraces relate to excessive or disordered love of good things.[21] Each terrace purges a particular sin in an appropriate manner. Those in Purgatory can leave their circle voluntarily, but may only do so when they have corrected the flaw within themselves that led to committing that sin.

  • Essentially Dante devises in Purgatorio 10 a way of describing moving images in words: he is describing moving pictures/movies/film, though the medium does not yet exist. The same miraculous medium is used for the 13 examples of punished pride that are described in Purgatorio 12. While the carved examples of the virtue of humility are on the wall of the terrace, the examples of the vice of pride are on its pavement, like pavement tombs the pilgrim has seen on earth, but more lifelike due to the “artificio” (artifice [Purg. 12.23]) of their maker.

A spectacular acrostic displays the 13 examples of pride almost “visually”; see the attached chart for a list of all the examples. Note the interweaving of biblical and classical examples and how the exempla of pride reflect the three types of pride dramatized by the encounters with the three souls of Purgatorio 11. The examples are arranged in the following pattern: four sets of terzine begin with the word “Vedea”; four sets of terzine begin with the word “O”; four sets of terzine begin with the word ‘Mostrava”. Thus twelve examples of pride spell out VOM or UOM, “man” in Italian, signifying that pride is man’s besetting sin.

The thirteenth terzina offers the final example, which sums up all the others by referring to a city rather than to a person and by replicating in one terzina all three of the letters that spell the acrostic:

  Vedeva Troia in cenere e in caverne;
o Ilión, come te basso e vile
mostrava il segno che lì si discerne! (Purg. 12.61-63)
  I saw Troy turned to caverns and to ashes;
O Ilium, your effigy in stone—
it showed you there so squalid, so cast down!

The characters featured as examples of pride would repay lengthy discussion. Here we find Nembrot, he who built the tower of Babel and who spoke gibberish to Dante and Virgilio in Inferno 31:

  Vedea Nembròt a piè del gran lavoro
quasi smarrito, e riguardar le genti
che ’n Sennaàr con lui superbi fuoro. (Purg. 12.34-36)
  I saw bewildered Nimrod at the foot
of his great labor; watching him were those
of Shinar who had shared his arrogance.

Most important to my reading of the terrace of pride is the mythological figure of Arachne, marked by the Ulyssean adjective “folle”:

  O folle Aragne, sì vedea io te
già mezza ragna, trista in su li stracci
de l’opera che mal per te si fé. (Purg. 12.43-45)
  O mad Arachne, I saw you already
half spider, wretched on the ragged remnants
of work that you had wrought to your own hurt!

Arachne was famous for her weavings that were so lifelike that they seemed alive. The passage describing her work in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, discussed in Chapter 6 of The Undivine Comedy, nourished Dante in his conceptualizing of representational arrogance as the cornerstone of his terrace of pride (see the Introduction to Purgatorio 11). Again, as in Purgatorio 10’s depiction of the “visibile parlare” of the sculpted virtues, in Purgatorio 12 the point is hammered home that this art is not just “life-like”, it is “life” itself:

  Morti li morti e i vivi parean vivi:
non vide mei di me chi vide il vero,
quant’io calcai, fin che chinato givi. (Purg. 12.67-69)
  The dead seemed dead and the alive, alive:
I saw, head bent, treading those effigies,
as well as those who’d seen those scenes directly.

At the end of the canto we encounter another of the ritual components of the purgatorial experience, repeated on each terrace: Dante meets the angel and a “P” is removed from his brow, signifying his successful participation in the purgation of one “peccatum” or vice/sin. He climbs toward the next terrace, and as he climbs he hears a shortened form of the first Beatitude: “Beati pauperes spiritu” (Matthew 5:3). The eight Beatitudes are from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10) and will be featured on the purgatorial terraces. In full, this Beatitude, featured on the terrace of pride to celebrate the soul’s new acquisition of a pride-less “poverty of spirit”, is: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Educating Desire: Conversion and Ascent in Dante’s Purgatorio

by Paul A. Camacho

Paul A. Camacho in his paper asks our attention “Why the Purgatorio? As first-time readers discover with surprise in the closing cantos of Dante’s Inferno, Hell is defined primarily by stasis. Where there is motion in Hell, it is only the tormented self-circling of a will that cannot love anything beyond itself. Hell is the place that Dante scholar Peter Hawkins has memorably described as “repetition-compulsion, an endless replay of the sinner’s ‘song of myself.’” It is certainly true, as Dante saw, that conversion requires an underworld itinerary: we can no overcome the drive to get what we mistakenly think will bring us happiness through intellectual understanding or sheerwill-power alone. But to journey throug hHell as Dante would have us do,one must experience one’s sin and failure without getting trapped in it; and this means one must face all the darkness in oneself without becoming entombed by fear, despair, or gawking fascination. This is a heavy task for anyone, let alone for the average undergraduate. By contrast, Purgatory is, in Hawkins’ words, “dynamic, dedicated to change and transformation.It concerns the rebirth of a  self free a tlast to be interested in other souls and other things .” It is fruitful to dwell in Purgatorio with students because it is in Purgatory that we now reside. I mean this: in Hell there is no time, there is only infinite stasis; in Paradise there is no time, but rather the dynamic over-abundance of eternity; only in Purgatory is there time,because only here is there the possibility of change and growth. If we read the Commedia to learn how to love better here and now, in this world, it is the Purgatorio that will provide the blueprint.”
In Cantos 17 and 18 of the Purgatorio, Dante’s Virgil lays out a theory of sin, freedom, and moral motivation based on a philosophical anthropology of loving-desire. As the commentary tradition has long recognized, because Dante placed Virgil’s discourse on love at the heart of the Commedia, the poet invites his readers to use love as a hermeneutic key to the text as a whole. When we contextualize Virgil’s discourse within the broader intention of the poem—to move its readers from disordered love to an ordered love of ultimate things—then we find in these central cantos not just a key to the structure and movement of the poem ,but also a key to understanding Dante’s pedagogical aim. With his Commedia, Dante invites us to perform the interior transformation which the poem dramatizes in verse and symbol. He does so by awakening in his readers not only a desire for the beauty of his poetic creation, but also a desire for the beauty of the love described therein. In this way, the poem presents a pedagogy of love, in which the reader participates in the very experience of desire and delight enacted in the text. In this article, I offer an analysis of Virgil’s discourse on love in the Purgatorio, arguing for an explicit and necessary connection between loving-desire and true education. I demonstrate that what informs Dante’s pedagogy of love is the notion of love as ascent, a notion we find articulated especially in the Christian Platonism of Augustine. Finally, I conclude by offering a number of figures, passages, and themes from across the Commedia that provide fruitful material for teachers engaged in the task of educating desire. Read more here

A lifelong pilgrimage: The Mirror of Jheronimus bosch

  • This panel symbolizing the “all seeing eye” or “eye of salvation” structurally, it is like a circle of “Seven deadly sins

Four small circles, detailing the four last thingsDeath, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell — surround a larger circle in which the seven deadly sins are depicted: wrath at the bottom, then (proceeding clockwise) envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, extravagance (later replaced with lust), and pride, using scenes from life rather than allegorical representations of the sins.[4]

At the centre of the large circle, which is said to represent the eye of God, is a “pupil” in which Christ can be seen emerging from his tomb. Below this image is the Latin inscription Cave cave d[omi]n[u]s videt (“Beware, Beware, The Lord Sees”).

Above and below the central image are inscription in Latin of Deuteronomy 32:28–29, containing the lines “For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them”, above, and “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” below.

Each panel in the outer circle depicts a different sin. Clockwise from top (Latin names in brackets):

  1. Gluttony (gula): A drunkard swigs from a bottle while a fat man eats greedily, not heeding the plea of his equally obese young son.
  2. Sloth (acedia): A lazy man dozes in front of the fireplace while Faith appears to him in a dream, in the guise of a nun, to remind him to say his prayers.
  3. Lust (luxuria): Two couples enjoy a picnic in a pink tent, with two clowns (right) to entertain them.
  4. Pride (superbia): With her back to the viewer, a woman looks at her reflection in a mirror held up by a demon.
  5. Wrath (ira): A woman attempts to break up a fight between two drunken peasants.
  6. Envy (invidia): A couple standing in their doorway cast envious looks at a rich man with a hawk on his wrist and a servant to carry his heavy load for him, while their daughter flirts with a man standing outside her window, with her eye on the well-filled purse at his waist. The dogs illustrate the Flemish saying, “Two dogs and only one bone, no agreement”.
  7. Greed (avaricia): A crooked judge pretends to listen sympathetically to the case presented by one party to a lawsuit, while slyly accepting a bribe from the other party.

The four small circles also have details. In Death of the Sinner, death is shown at the doorstep along with an angel and a demon while the priest says the sinner’s last rites, In Glory, the saved are entering Heaven, with Jesus and the saints, at the gate of Heaven an Angel prevents a demon from ensnaring a woman. Saint Peter is shown as the gatekeeper. In Judgment, Christ is shown in glory while angels awake the dead, while in the Hell demons torment sinners according to their sins.

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Seven Deadly Sins

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Accidia)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Luxuria)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Superbia)

800px-Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Ira)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Invidia)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Avaricia)

Four Last Things

605px-Jheronimus_Bosch_4_last_things_(death)

  • “Death of a sinner”, angel and devil weigh a man’s soul

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  • Hell” and the punishment of the seven deadly sins.  

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Jheronimus_Bosch_4_last_things_(Last_Judgment)

  • THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS AND THE FOUR LAST THINGS THROUGH THE SEVEN DAY PRAYERS OF THE DEVOTIO MODERNA

Christ’s gaze in Bosch’s painting draws the viewer’s attention. When a member of the Devotio Moderna looked at the painting during his daily prayers, he underwent serious
self-examination which was possible because “visual images” served as a still more effective vehicle for compassionate meditation.

Devils and the Angel’s Mirrors.

Without the gaze of Christ, the painting would not have as great an impact on its viewer in a time of meditation. When the viewer meditates upon the seven day prayers of the Devotio Moderna, he/she sees the image of Christ as the Man of Sorrows looking at him or her. Through this interaction with Christ, the viewer examines his own morals and keeps his faith in God. The viewer’s world is not the physical environment where he lives but the one that is reflected in the Eye of God. As the viewer prays upon the seven day prayers, he will be guided to the Kingdom of Heaven where he will be greeted by the angels and face Christ without any shame or guilt upon the death of the redeemer. The righteous person will keep his faith in God as he sees the image of Christ in the Eye of God.
The eye creates an eternal exchange of the interaction between the viewer and Christ As the image reflects the ‘inner perception’ of the viewer, Bosch’s painting reflects the viewer’s own consciousness in choosing between right and wrong as he undergoes the daily meditations of the seven day prayers of the Devotio Moderna.

Read more here

Utopia and the Devotio Moderna:

The Brabantine mysticism of Jan van Ruusbroec and the Priory of Groenendaal,
the Modern Devotion of Geert Grote and the spiritual and religious thought of
Erasmus and More through Utopia and other key works of Christian humanism.

Maarten Vermeir -University College London

utopia-kleur

Two Renaissance work serve me well as interpretation keys for Thomas More’s
book of Utopia.

My first interpretation key will always remain Desiderius Erasmus’ Praise of Folly
or Moriae Encomium.
As you all know, Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly in the house of More and the
narrator of his Praise, Lady Stultitia or Moria, is ironically linked to the name of
Thomas More. Lady Moria orates a great amount of nonsense, but through
Erasmus’ fine irony at the same time a great deal of wise and rightful criticism
on aspects and figures of his contemporary society. At the end of her Praise,
Stultitia speaks also about a deeper mystical, Christian folly and considering
similar statements by Erasmus in other works like his Enchiridion Militis
Christiani, these statements of Lady Stultitia were seriously meant by Erasmus.
Also in Thomas More’s Utopia we can recognize a mixture of serious ideas
through the eyes of More and Erasmus (about the institution of the state and
church, international relations, the division between church and state,
spirituality, religion and tolerance, social care, culture/education? And
matrimonial policies) with also nonsensical ideas to their opinion (the economic
system, the travel restrictions inside the Utopian state). A search for their ideas
on these points through other works and their personal orientations makes the
recognition of such mixture unavoidable. In Utopia we can probably find more
serious concepts than nonsensical, and although this partition was reversed in
the earlier Praise of Folly, the family similarity on this point remains paramount
and crucial to a correct understanding.
The narrator of More’s Utopia, Raphael Hythlodaeus(in one of the two meanings
translated as ‘Merchant of Nonsense’, in the other as ‘Destroyer of Nonsense’)
is linked reciprocally to Erasmus through the figure of Saint Erasmus, as I learned
recently, the patron of all sailors. Also reciprocally, Thomas More started
probably writing the book of Utopia in one of the major residences of Erasmus
in the Low Countries: the Antwerp house of his friend Pieter Gillis.
My second preferred interpretation key for More’s Utopia consists in the 900
theses of Pico della Mirandola.
Thomas More translated ‘The Life of Pico della Mirandola’ and was undoubtedly
aware of della Mirandola’s philosophical program: in his famous 900 theses Pico
della Mirandola intended to combine into a higher synthesis the best elements
of classical traditions, especially from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, with
aspects of the Jewish-Christian traditions, especially mystical elements like he
found in the Jewish Kabbala. His great endeavor was to formulate a consistent
marriage between Jewish-Christian mysticism and the rich humanistic learning
by which he was surrounded in Renaissance Florence. His early death prevented
him regretfully from executing this great master plan. But the Christian
Humanists around Erasmus and Thomas More would become Pico’s true
inheritors and take Pico della Mirandola’s scheme as a blueprint for their
complete literary oeuvre and philosophical program. One of Utopia’s layers of
meaning is certainly a broad defense of the Christian humanistic ideals. The
serious parts of Utopia can be read as an honorary tribute to Pico della
Mirandola’s audacious plans, as a literary realization of Pico’s inspiring dreams.
These traces of della Mirandola’s program in Utopia will be subject of my later
research.

index u

Both works, Erasmus’ Praise of Folly and della Mirandola’s 900 theses have thus also a deeper Mystical meaning and importance.Also Thomas More’s Utopia has.
As a religious community Utopia knows only a few strict and unbreakable rules for the religious life of its citizens. Next to these respected rules, there is complete liberty for personal spirituality and thus room for many different colorings, orientations and institutions of the Utopians’ personal spiritual life. In this way each Utopian is also destined and commissioned to set out on a personal spiritual journey, encouraged by the daily contact between the elder and the
children or youngsters, sitting daily side by side with every meal.
This is also the foundation of Utopia’s religious tolerance and freedom: the
undeniable points of belief (the eternal soul, divine presence and activity in the
world, the punishment of vices and the rewarding of virtues – and thus the
rewarded or punished free will of men) have to be respected by all Utopians, and
all personal, by definition different additions in respect of these rules, are
tolerated in the Utopian state. These undeniable points were instituted by
Utopus himself and public challenges outside the closed company of priests and
officials, are punished severely to safeguard the common interest and public
order of the state. So the gap between the institution of Utopian tolerance and
later political actions of Thomas More, is therefore less deep and less broad as
often depicted. In his discussion with Luther on the Free Will, Erasmus stated
also that Luther shouldn’t discuss his ideas with or spread amongst the ordinary
people but discuss with qualified persons.Read more here

Utopia and the Devotio Moderna

2009_NYR_02237_0066_000()

The Brabantine mysticism of Jan van Ruusbroec and the Priory of Groenendaal,
the Modern Devotion of Geert Grote and the spiritual and religious thought of
Erasmus and More through Utopia and other key works of Christian humanism.

Maarten Vermeir -University College London

utopia-kleur

Two Renaissance work serve me well as interpretation keys for Thomas More’s
book of Utopia.

My first interpretation key will always remain Desiderius Erasmus’ Praise of Folly
or Moriae Encomium.
As you all know, Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly in the house of More and the
narrator of his Praise, Lady Stultitia or Moria, is ironically linked to the name of
Thomas More. Lady Moria orates a great amount of nonsense, but through
Erasmus’ fine irony at the same time a great deal of wise and rightful criticism
on aspects and figures of his contemporary society. At the end of her Praise,
Stultitia speaks also about a deeper mystical, Christian folly and considering
similar statements by Erasmus in other works like his Enchiridion Militis
Christiani, these statements of Lady Stultitia were seriously meant by Erasmus.
Also in Thomas More’s Utopia we can recognize a mixture of serious ideas
through the eyes of More and Erasmus (about the institution of the state and
church, international relations, the division between church and state,
spirituality, religion and tolerance, social care, culture/education? And
matrimonial policies) with also nonsensical ideas to their opinion (the economic
system, the travel restrictions inside the Utopian state). A search for their ideas
on these points through other works and their personal orientations makes the
recognition of such mixture unavoidable. In Utopia we can probably find more
serious concepts than nonsensical, and although this partition was reversed in
the earlier Praise of Folly, the family similarity on this point remains paramount
and crucial to a correct understanding.
The narrator of More’s Utopia, Raphael Hythlodaeus(in one of the two meanings
translated as ‘Merchant of Nonsense’, in the other as ‘Destroyer of Nonsense’)
is linked reciprocally to Erasmus through the figure of Saint Erasmus, as I learned
recently, the patron of all sailors. Also reciprocally, Thomas More started
probably writing the book of Utopia in one of the major residences of Erasmus
in the Low Countries: the Antwerp house of his friend Pieter Gillis.
My second preferred interpretation key for More’s Utopia consists in the 900
theses of Pico della Mirandola.
Thomas More translated ‘The Life of Pico della Mirandola’ and was undoubtedly
aware of della Mirandola’s philosophical program: in his famous 900 theses Pico
della Mirandola intended to combine into a higher synthesis the best elements
of classical traditions, especially from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, with
aspects of the Jewish-Christian traditions, especially mystical elements like he
found in the Jewish Kabbala. His great endeavor was to formulate a consistent
marriage between Jewish-Christian mysticism and the rich humanistic learning
by which he was surrounded in Renaissance Florence. His early death prevented
him regretfully from executing this great master plan. But the Christian
Humanists around Erasmus and Thomas More would become Pico’s true
inheritors and take Pico della Mirandola’s scheme as a blueprint for their
complete literary oeuvre and philosophical program. One of Utopia’s layers of
meaning is certainly a broad defense of the Christian humanistic ideals. The
serious parts of Utopia can be read as an honorary tribute to Pico della
Mirandola’s audacious plans, as a literary realization of Pico’s inspiring dreams.
These traces of della Mirandola’s program in Utopia will be subject of my later
research.

index u

Both works, Erasmus’ Praise of Folly and della Mirandola’s 900 theses have thus also a deeper Mystical meaning and importance.Also Thomas More’s Utopia has.
As a religious community Utopia knows only a few strict and unbreakable rules for the religious life of its citizens. Next to these respected rules, there is complete liberty for personal spirituality and thus room for many different colorings, orientations and institutions of the Utopians’ personal spiritual life. In this way each Utopian is also destined and commissioned to set out on a personal spiritual journey, encouraged by the daily contact between the elder and the
children or youngsters, sitting daily side by side with every meal.
This is also the foundation of Utopia’s religious tolerance and freedom: the
undeniable points of belief (the eternal soul, divine presence and activity in the
world, the punishment of vices and the rewarding of virtues – and thus the
rewarded or punished free will of men) have to be respected by all Utopians, and
all personal, by definition different additions in respect of these rules, are
tolerated in the Utopian state. These undeniable points were instituted by
Utopus himself and public challenges outside the closed company of priests and
officials, are punished severely to safeguard the common interest and public
order of the state. So the gap between the institution of Utopian tolerance and
later political actions of Thomas More, is therefore less deep and less broad as
often depicted. In his discussion with Luther on the Free Will, Erasmus stated
also that Luther shouldn’t discuss his ideas with or spread amongst the ordinary
people but discuss with qualified persons.
Seen the revolutionarily broad scale on which the Chrisitian humanists promoted
their cultural, political and spiritual/religious agenda for the entire Respublica
Christiana, the promotion of their religious and spiritual ideas is in se also
revolutionary in Utopia, as stated here already, even a key manifesto of the
Christian humanistic ideals and trough the force of fiction, a wide applicable
exemplum for all states and peoples inspired by Thomas More’s Magnum Opus.
This is why Sanford Kessler stated that ‘his reading of Utopia shows that modern
religious freedom has Catholic, Renaissance roots.’
The printing scale and literary-philosophical reach of this religious and spiritual
promotion was indeed unprecedented.
These ideas however were not original.
The roots of Utopia’s religious freedom and personal spirituality can be traced
back to the great Mystical tradition of the Low Countries and the neighboring
Rhineland.
One of the three books anyone should read according to Thomas More, was ‘The
imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis, a prominent representative of the
Modern Devotion. Also Jean-Claude Margolin found striking similarities between
‘The imitation of Christ’ and Erasmus’ Enchiridion Militis Christiani, stating at the
same time that a major cause of these similarities could be the shared
background and shared context of the Modern Devotion, in which also Erasmus
was raised and educated as a child and as a youngster – in my view decisively for
his later religious and spiritual views and writings. Although he has had indeed
also bad experiences with figures formally connected to the Modern Devotion,
this movement started by Geert Grote was really significant and inspiring for
Erasmus too. Geert Grote founded the first houses of the Brethren and Sisters of
the Common Life (in 1374 and 1383), echoed in Utopia in the two religious
schools and through the shared common property inside Geert Grote’s
households maybe even in the entire economic institution of the Utopian state.
To counter criticism on the Brehtren and Sisters of the Common Life, Geert Grote
requested on his deathbed – and his successor Florence Radewyns would execute
this – the foundation of the monastery of Windesheim with some Brethren taking
the form of an Augustinian order, heading later the congregation of
Windesheim. By doing so, they followed the example and living principles of the
Priory of Groenendaal, founded by Jan van Ruusbroec, two other canons, a good
cook and a layman some fourty years earlier (in 1343) in the Forêt de Soignes
outside the city of Brussels. Jan van Ruusbroec, the great master of Brabantine
mysticism or doctor admirabilis, constituted with his settlement in 1343 a new
religious community with a less strict structure and more room for personal
spiritual development in the Green tranquility of the forest around Groenendaal,
taking the form of an Augustinian canon’s monastery in 1349 to counter criticism
and avoid further suspicion. The reputation of Groenendaal priory and of
Ruusbroec’s teachings, through his oral explanations and beautiful writings in
Medieval Brabantine Dutch, would reach far inside the Low Countries and
outside. Geert Grote came to visit Jan van Ruusbroec even in Groenendaal as
many did (in 1378-1379). In 1413, the Windesheim congregation even absorbed
the monastery of Groenendaal, turning it into a priory. This specific tradition with
less stringent structures and more liberty for personal spirituality, would become
defining through the spreading force of its focus on education, its great success
in the Low Countries and beyond and its uniqueness inside the Catholic Church,
defining for the Brabantine and Netherlandish mystical tradition and its
pioneering role in Late Medieval Europe.
Different translations of Ruusbroec’s works in Latin and other languages were
even spread over Europe in different lines of subsequently copied manuscripts,
already from the second half of the 14th century. A Latin translation of
Ruusbroec’s main work ‘de geestelijke bruiloft’/ ‘the spiritual wedding’ about the
different phases and risks of the evolving process of a human seeking unity with
the Divine throughout his life, was printed for the first time in 1512 by Jacques
Lefèvre d’Etaples. Most intriguingly, Erasmus visited this friend in 1511 and had
with him ‘a number of intimate conversations’. At the end of the 15th century
already, Erasmus had visited the priory of Groenendaal, learned from the living
exemplum of Groenendaal’s institutions and organization and spent days there
studying in its library: with his zeal he surprised even the monks, taking books
with him at night to his dormitory. So it is certainly possible that around 1515,
both Erasmus and Thomas More knew the works of Ruusbroec very well from
first hand, not only through works of Devotio Moderna’s protagonists like
Thomas a Kempis, inspired by Geert Grote and Ruusbroec himself.
Also other key aspects of Utopian society can be linked to the Brabantine
Mysticism of Jan van Ruusbroec. As the political system of Utopia was inspired
by the Joyous Entries of Brabant from 1356, Jan van Ruusbroec received the
grounds for his firstly settled community in Groenendaal directly from Duke Jan
III, who would allow at the end of his life the composition of the first Joyous Entry
in 1356, arranging the succession of his daughter. Dux Utopus would institute
the religious freedom in Utopia immediately after his victory over the fighting
religious sects he found in Utopia upon his arrival. Ruusbroec would write also
his most influential book ‘de geestelijke bruiloft’ in the preceding decades. As
architect of the Tower and enlargement of the city hall of Brussels, one of the
four capitals of Brabant, was even chosen and appointed in the mid-15th century
a Jan van Ruisbroec, by name referring to the Mystical Master.
Also Pierre d’ Ailly and Jean Gerson, the fathers of conciliarism as found in the
institution of the Utopian church, were directly familiar with the Brabantine
mysticism of Ruusbroec: Jean Gerson had a keen interest in the teachings of the
Brabantine master, and even discussed eagerly about a detailed topic. Pierre
d’Ailly followed these engagements of his pupil from a first row seat, as the
bishop of Cambrai under whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the priory of
Groenendaal fell, integrating into the congregation of Windesheim under his
watch (till 1411).
The Civic humanism – both political and religious – in Utopia was in many aspects
closely related to and inspired by this Netherlandish civic humanism, and this
connection will be treated in my further research exhaustively.
Certain elements strengthen these bonds between ‘More’s Utopia and the Low
Countries’, paraphrasing the title of my RSA conference paper for Moreana, in
New York 2014.
In Jean Desmarez’ prefatory poem for Utopia, the different gifts and talents of
different European countries are attributed to the state of Utopia: only one
country is missing in this overview, the Low Countries, showing a collision and
combination into a higher synthesis of the different cultural traditions strongly
present there. For Pico della Mirandola and his program, the Low Countries
would have constituted a true dreamland in this perspective, a cultural
laboratory Erasmus and Thomas More could encounter directly.
And as Marisa Bass stated recently, the group around Gerard Geldenhouwer was
excited about the discovery that ‘Roman writers such as Julius Caesar, Pliny the
Elder, and Tacitus had long ago described the Netherlands as a body of land
surrounded on all sides by water.’
And in Anemolius’ prefatory poem for Utopia we find the statement that ‘Utopia
is a rival of Plato’s republic, perhaps even a victor over it. The reason is that what
he delineated in words Utopia alone has exhibited in men and resources and
laws of surpassing excellence.’
I recently counted all the places considered as real cities in the Duchy of Brabant
and connected territories, this calculation resulted in the number of 54 cities,
the same number as the number of cities in Utopia.
Together with the political protection offered by chancellor Jean le Sauvage, this
is why I believe the first edition of Utopia was printed in Leuven, also one of the
four capitals of Brabant, why Utopia’s opening scenery is situated in the city of
Antwerp, also a capital of Brabant and the main Brabantine port, and why
Thomas More requested Erasmus to provide him also with politicians – from the
Low Countries where Erasmus was staying at the moment of this request – as
writers of the prefatory letters for Utopia. These places have their interpretative
meaning and significance. Indeed, Thomas More’s embassy to the Low Countries
was truly an ‘Utopian embassy’

Intelligence of Trees

“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.

How trees talk to each other | Suzanne Simard

Forests aren’t simply collections of trees, they’re complex systems with hubs and networks that overlap and connect trees and allow them to communicate, and they provide avenues for feedbacks and adaptation, and this makes the forest resilient. That’s because there are many hub trees and many overlapping networks. But they’re also vulnerable, vulnerable not only to natural disturbances like bark beetles that preferentially attack big old trees but high-grade logging and clear-cut logging. You see, you can take out one or two hub trees, but there comes a tipping point, because hub trees are not unlike rivets in an airplane. You can take out one or two and the plane still flies, but you take out one too many, or maybe that one holding on the wings, and the whole system collapses

Intelligent Trees – The Documentary

intelligent tree

Featuring Suzanne Simard  & Peter Wohlleben 

Trees talk, know family ties and care for their young? Is this too fantastic to be true? Scientist Suzanne Simard (The University of British Columbia, Canada) and German forester and author Peter Wohlleben have been investigating and observing the communication between trees over decades. And their findings are most astounding.

 


Together, Wohlleben and Simard are a tree dream team (Melissa Breyer, “Trees can form bonds like an old couple and look after each other “, Treehugger.com).

tree

The Magic Of Mushrooms

Professor Richard Fortey delves into the fascinating and normally hidden kingdom of fungi. From their spectacular birth, through their secretive underground life to their final explosive death, Richard reveals a remarkable world that few of us understand or even realise exists – yet all life on Earth depends on it.

When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration and hope, Fantastic Fungi brings us together as interconnected creators of our world. Fantastic Fungi, directed by Louie Schwartzberg, is a consciousness-shifting film that takes us on an immersive journey through time and scale into the magical earth beneath our feet, an underground network that can heal and save our planet. Through the eyes of renowned scientists and mycologists like Paul Stamets, best-selling authors Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, Andrew Weil and others, we become aware of the beauty, intelligence and solutions the fungi kingdom offers us in response to some of our most pressing medical, therapeutic, and environmental challenges.

Maypole: The Principle of Verticality

Looking to the Spiritual vertical way, as the Maypole do, gives us an opportunity of discerning an understanding between Non-Virtues and Virtues,  developing Spiritual values needed in our times.

The Choice  – Y :

The Corona virus is taking a toll on all of us, especially those least able to retreat into their homes until the worst is over.

But, beyond the health and humanitarian measures urgently needed for those affected, it also offers a chance to right historical wrongs – the abuse of our earthly home and of marginalised societies, the very people who will suffer most from this pandemic. This viral outbreak is a sign that by going too far in exploiting the rest of nature, the dominant globalising culture has undone the planet’s capacity to sustain life and livelihoods. The unleashing of micro-organisms from their animal hosts means that they must latch on to other bodies for their own survival. Humans are a part of nature – and everything is connected to everything else.

The spiritual potential of quarantine

Being alone in quarantine, devoid of friends, family, co-workers and community, a person is truly lonely. Talking on the phone, messaging and even video chatting is no substitute for being in the physical presence of others. There is no replacement for the hug, kiss or even the handshake. Just having others around gives a person a sense of security and comfort. Quarantine forces a painful loneliness.

Yet the loneliness of companionship can also create an opportunity. The loneliness of others creates the solitude of the person with God. All alone, a person is able to commune with God as never before. God is eternally listening to our voices, and God awaits our prayers.

The silence of prayer/meditation provides a person the opportunity to connect to God on the deepest of levels. Without the pressures of work, a schedule or family chores, a person can turn to God, pour their heart out and deepen their relationship with the Creator. The gaping hole of spirituality left by the absence of ritual can be filled with a more unique connection to God.

Quarantine is a challenge previously unthought of by our Sages. It is lonely and depressing. Those feelings are natural and valid. All of us in quarantine are feeling them. But taken in the right way, it can provide time and opportunity to connect with God, rethink values and recommit to the priorities that are important to us.

The bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” Y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “Y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

We need to be sincere with our selves , to be “upright” strictly honourable and  honest, as the symbol of the Maypole is.it is the Axis Mundi,  also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, or world tree — was greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms.

Together we can initiate and erect a maypole as various European folk festivals do, in respect of the safely coming of Spring. But as many Folklores in Europe did, to keep it more permantly,  we can plant a Lime Tree in the center of the village of on squares in the city, to keep the remenbering of  “uprightness”,of sincerity in our mind, in our heart and in our allday lives. In this way,as  in many folklores of Europe, they recognize their dependance to Nature and their submission to something Higher than themselves. And happy they danced under the Lime Tree on important opportunities.  Man has always be in need of a symbol, but certainly a symbol for communality and fraternity: The Path to the Maypole of Wisdom – Forum for Ethics, Virtues and Uprightness.

Master of the Assumption of the Magdalene, Assumption of Mary Magdalene, ca. 1506-1507

The Choice for Spiritual Ethics,Virtues and Uprightness in our times

The bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” Y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “Y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

  • In his book Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man

Seyyed Hossein Nasr  explores the relationship between the human being and nature as found in many religious traditions, particularly its Sufi dimension. The author stresses the importance of a greater awareness of the origins of both the human being and nature as a means of righting the imbalance that exists in our deepest selves and in our environment. Read more

The letter “Y”, in antiquity, has often represented a “bivium” (a fork in the road); a point in life where we have to make a vital decision. According to Pythagoras, it represents the paths of virtue and vice.

The letter Y is also symbolic of looking within, Inner contemplation, Meditation and inner wisdom.

  • The Garden of Forking Paths

Our earliest source for the poem is an eleventh-century manuscript, although the version I quote is taken from a modern edition of the Anthologia Latina:

A prose translation of a prosaic verse: The Pythagorean letter, divided into two horns, seems to present an image of human life. For the steep way of virtue, to the right, offers the viewer a difficult approach up a mountainside, but at the top it provides the weary with rest. The left way shows a pleasant journey, but at the end it hurls down the trapped traveller among rough rocks. For whoever has conquered hardship from his love of virtue will be rewarded with praise and honour. But he who follows a life of idle decadence, thoughtlessly skiving, will spend eternity [or, ‘a lifetime’] poor, ugly and miserable.

This piece is about that very littera Pythagorae, the ‘Pythagorean letter’.

Classical ethics has as its foundation the concept of free will, liber arbitrium; the quintessence of free will is an individual’s choice between right and wrong. One of the key tasks of a moral teacher was to persuade his student that virtue, though difficult, was in the student’s best interest in the long term. One finds this in Plato, for instance, all the time. Thus the path of virtue was portrayed as harsh or steep, and the primrose path of vice as easy and gentle.The dualism of this choice, between vice and virtue, was traditionally symbolised by the left and right hands. The right hand, with which one fought and wrote, has always been positive in connotation; its counterpart the left, weak hand. If one surveys the words for ‘left’ and ‘right’ in European languages, one finds that the latter are groups of cognates—dexios, dexter, destra and diritto, dereche, direita, droit, rechte, right, deis—and the former mostly unrelated—laios, sinister, lasciato, izquierdo, linke, gauche, left, clé. This is because words for ‘left’, with their negative connotations, have undergone taboo-substitution from foreign sources; izquierdo, for instance, is Basque. To call someone gauche or sinister is to insult him—whereas to call him adroit or dextrous is high praise. It is no coincidence that right should have its two primary meanings, nor that left should come from a root meaning ‘lame’. The moral dualism of the hands is not left linguistically implicit among the Greeks, but explicitly formulated; a passage in Aristotle (Metaphysics, I.5.985) describes a Pythagorean table of opposites

A different party in this same school says that the first principles are ten, named according to the following table:

finite and infinite,
even and odd,
one and many,
right and left,
male and female,
rest and motion,
straight and crooked,
light and darkness,
good and bad,
square and oblong.

Read More here: The Choice for Spiritual Ethics,Virtues and Uprightness in our times

The City of Life, Visions of Paradise

Migration to the Spiritual Land of Peace

Part I: Introduction

  • The Coronation

For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?…

Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. The phenomenon follows the template of initiation: separation from normality, followed by a dilemma, breakdown, or ordeal, followed (if it is to be complete) by reintegration and celebration. Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”

Already we can feel the power of who we might become. A true sovereign does not run in fear from life or from death. A true sovereign does not dominate and conquer (that is a shadow archetype, the Tyrant). The true sovereign serves the people, serves life, and respects the sovereignty of all people. The coronation marks the emergence of the unconscious into consciousness, the crystallization of chaos into order, the transcendence of compulsion into choice. We become the rulers of that which had ruled us. The New World Order that the conspiracy theorists fear is a shadow of the glorious possibility available to sovereign beings. No longer the vassals of fear, we can bring order to the kingdom and build an intentional society on the love already shining through the cracks of the world of separation. Read more: The Coronation with Charles Eisenstein

  • Modern man is ignorant about his own ignorance

see also:“I can’t Breathe” is the expression of the Crisis of the modern world.

Text of TERRA PACIS and commentary relating to ideas of the Perennial Philosophy and to paintings by Peter Bruegel and Joachim Patinir .

N.B. The writer has kept the 17th century spelling.

  • The Spiritual Land of Peace of the “Holy Refugees”

It also considers the tradition of religious mysticism in Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders throughout the late Middle Ages that led up to the Reformation and points out that this movement is also an expression of the Perennial Philosophy, citing the works of Meister Eckhart, the Rhineland mystics and the schools that came out of the Devotio Moderna.

The work considers the esoteric, ‘heretical’ school called the Family of Love that claimed among its adherents a number of highly illustrious artists, thinkers and politicians. Such men as Christoffe Plantin, Abraham Ortelius and Justus Lipsius spurned the religious turmoil of the period and rejected Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists alike in favour of an inner mystical state they called the ‘invisible church’. They were close to Bruegel, bought his paintings and, it cannot be doubted, shared his thought.

It brings us to immediate and direct influences on Bruegel. These were free thinking humanists and mystics who occupied the no-man‟s-land between Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists; men like Sebastian Franck, Dirck Volckertz Coornhert and Abraham Ortelius were adherents of the „invisible church‟ where God was understood as „an event in the soul‟ which could be independent of external forms, rites and doctrines.  Many of them, such as Ortelius, Christophe Plantin and perhaps Justus Lipsius belonged to the sect known as the Family of Love whose leader, Hendrik Niclaes, was the author of the mystical allegory Terra Pacis that recounts the journey from the „Land of Ignorance‟ to the „Land of Spiritual Peace‟. Bruegel was closely associated with, if not a full member, of this group.

See : PETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER AND ESOTERIC TRADITION

The Spiritual Land of Peace:

  • Look and behold: there is in the world a very unpeaceable Land and it is the wildernessed land wherein the most part of all uncircumcised, impenitent and ignorant people do dwell and in which is, the first of all needful for the man; to the end that he may come to the Land of Peace and the City of Life and Rest.

The same unpeaceable land hath also a City, the name of which they that dwell therein do not know, but only those who are come out of it, and it is named Ignorance.

The people that dwell therein know not their original or first beginning; also they keep not any Genealogy or Pedigree; neither do they know from whence, or how, they came into the same. And moreover then, that they are altogether blinde, and blinde-born.

The forementioned city, named Ignorance, hath two Gates. The one standeth in the North, or Midnight, through the which men go into the city of darkness or ignorance.

This gate now, that standeth to the North, is very large and great, and hath also a great door, because there is much passage through the same; and it hath likewise his name, according to the nature of the same city.

Foreasmuch as that men do come into Ignorance through the same gate, therefore it is named Men Do Not Know How to Do. And the great door, wherethrough the multitude do run is named Unknown Error; and there is else no coming into the City named Ignorance.

The other gate standeth on the one side of the City, towards the East or Spring of the Day, and the same is the Narrow Gate, through the which, men travel out of the city and do enter into the Straight Way which leadeth to Righteousness.

Now when one travelleth out through the same Gate, then doth he immediately espie some Light, and that same reacheth to the Rising of the Sun.

Here the symbolism, taking up the theme of the ‘bread of life’, i.e. spiritual nourishment, employs the images of ‘corn’ and ‘seed’ whose esoteric meaning was discussed earlier and which will be met again in the paintings by Bruegel of the Harvest and the   Ploughman (Fall of Icarus).

The importance of spiritual nourishment – or rather the lack of it – is discussed in the section dealing with the Peasant Wedding Feast (Marriage at Cana) where the lack of wine is shown to correspond, by rhetorical imitation, with famine imagery in the Old Testament where the sense is that of ‘famine for the word of God’. look also :

Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx

  • In this land of Ignorance, for the food of men, there groweth neither corn nor grass. The people of this land live in confusion or disorder and are very diligent in their unprofitable work and labor. And although their work be vain or unprofitable yet hath everyone notwithstanding a delightful liking to the same.
  • Forasmuch as they all have such a delight to such unprofitable work, so forget they to prepare the Ground for Corn and Seed to live thereby. And so they live not on the manly food but by their own dung, for they have no other food to live by, for their stomach and nature is accustomed and naturally inclined thereto.
  • They make there diverse sorts of Puppet works for Babies for to bring up the children to vanity. There are made likewise many kinds of Balls, Tut-staves, or Kricket-staves, Rackets and Dice; for the foolish people should waste or spend their time therewith in foolishness.
  • There be made also Playing Tables, Draft-boards, Chess-boards, Cards and Mummery or Masks, for to delight the idle people with such foolish vanity. There are made likewise many Rings, Chains, and Gold and Silver Tablets and etc … all unprofitable and unneedful merchandise.
  • They build there likewise divers houses for common assembly, which they call Gods houses; and there use many manner of foolishness of taken on Services which they call religious or godservices whereby to wave or hold forth something in shew before the ignorant people.
  • In this manner are the vain people bewitched with these things, wherethrough they think or perswade themselves that their godservices, and knowledges, which they themselves do make, or take on in their hypocrisie, that must needs be some holy or singular thing, and so honor the works of their own hands.
  • They make there also many Swords, Halberds, Spears, Bows and Arrows, Ordinance or Guns, Pellets, Gunpouder, Armor or Harness, and Gorgets and etc., for that the tyrannical oppressors, and those that have a pleasure in destroying, should use war and battel, therewithal, one against the other.

This could be a description of part of Bruegel’s Adoration of the Kings (1564) or The Triumph of Death There the imagery of swords, halberds and etc., conveys the corrupt state of the world in contrast to the purity of the innocent naked Christ child.

  • The people of this strange land have strange names, according to their nature. As their nature is such are their names written upon them. Whosoever can read the writing let him consider thereon. They are gross letters; whoso hath but a little sight and understanding, he may read them, whose names are there. Highmindedness, Lust of the Eyes, Stoutness, Pride, Covetousness, Lust or Desire to Contrariness, Vanity or Unprofitableness, Unnaturalness, Undecentness, Masterfulness, Mocking, Scorning, Dallying, Adultery or Fornication, Contemning, Lying, Deceiving, Variance, Strife and Contention, Vexing, Self-seeking, Oppression, Indiscreetness, etc.

Identically named people are to be seen populating any of Bruegel’s ‘crowd scenes’, in particular the Numbering at Bethlehem (1566) in Brussels which has already been discussed and the Road to Calvary (1564) in Vienna.

  • Their dealings or manner of life is also variable; for now they take on something, then they leave somewhat else; now they be thus led, then they be so driven; now they praise this, then they dispraise that. So, to be short, they are always inconstant.
  • Their Religions or godservice is called the Pleasure of Men. Their doctrine and ministration is called Good Thinking. Their King is called the Scum of Ignorance.
  • Whosoever findeth himself in this dark land full of ignorance and desireth to go out of it, and forsake the same, and hath a good liking towards the good land of Rest and Peace; he must go through the other gate that lieth towards the East, that is named Fear of God.


“The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Joachim Patinir

  • But in travelling forward upon the Way for to come to the good land of Peace, so do the perils first make manifest themselves. Therefore must the Traveller keep a diligent watch in the said grace of the Lord; otherwise he becometh hindered and deceived upon the Way. So we will mark out both the perils of seduction, and also the means unto preservation for that no man should err upon the Way, nor be seduced or deceived by any false ends.

Here the text describes how the traveler has to pass the first three stages of his journey:

1. Fear of God;

2. Beginning of Wisdom;

3. Grace of the Lord in the Confession of Sins. But he is still ‘young’ and needs instruction form the wise Elders of the Family of Love. There are two instructors.

One is described as outwardly having a form that is…

  • not very amiable or pleasant (according to the minds of the flesh) to behold, nor yet his sayings and counsels to be obeyed, because that he is contrary to all minds and knowledge of the flesh (notwithstanding, if the traveller have no regard for him, neither daily receive any counsel of him unto obedience, nor yet follow his counsel, then shall he not come to the Rest). And he is named the Law or Ordinance of the Lord.
  • The other wise one cometh before him out of the thoughts of mans good thinking, to draw him away from the Way that directeth to the Land of the Living. And his form is sweet and friendly (according to the minds flesh) to behold, and his sayings and counsels delightful. And he is named the Wisdom of the Flesh.
  • These two wise ones do give the traveller several counsels.
  • The traveller who abjures the Wisdom of the Flesh and who accepts the discipline of the Law or Ordinance of the Lord receives ‘two instruments’: a compass called the Forsaking of Himself for the Good Lifes Sake. The other instrument overcomes temptation and hindrance and it is called Patience or Suffrance.

Now the text gives instructions about ‘meate and drink’ which are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The traveler accepts to find himself on the Cross from whence comes

  • the death and burial of all the lusts and desires of the sinful flesh and all the flesh’s wisdom or good thinking.

Again, this should not be understood literally but seen as the transition from the material to the spiritual, the soul’s liberation from its entanglement in the world.

Now the ‘traveller’, following the counsel of the Law of the Lord, finds himself

  • in an unpathed land where many manner of temptations and deceits do meet with him, and coming into the same there appeareth unto him immediately a star out of the East, named Belief and Hope. This great unpathed land is named Many manner of Wanderings. And there is not one plain paved way.

The names of the Travellers are:

Stricken in Heart, Cumbered in Minde, Wofulness, Sorrowfulness, Anguish, Fear, Dismaidness, Perplexitie, Uncomfortablness, Undelightfulness, Heavy-mindedness, Many Manner of Thoughts, Dead Courage.

This is reminiscent of the group consisting of Jesus’ mother and her entourage in the foreground of Bruegel’s Road to Calvary (1566) in Vienna. There we see the expressing just these emotions while the vast crowd constituting the main descriptive parts of the picture are oblivious and display all the characteristics, described by H. N., of those who live in the Land of Ignorance or, as he says elsewhere, the ‘Land of Abomination and Desolation’. But also the Flight or Refuge to Egypth:

  • This land is an open and weak, or unwalled land; and is like unto a barren wilderness, wherein there is little joy to be found; but it is full of perils and deceits, because of the sundry sorts of temptations that do come to Travellers through perplexitie.
  • For if they (according to the Law of the Lord) have not a sharp watch unto the compass, nor hold them fast on the Cross, and also do not still mark the leading star, then they may soon be led into a by-way. For the wisdom of the flesh doth also come forth there oftentimes very subtilly, with her self-seeking, to point the traveller aside. But the traveller that passeth through the land of Mortyfying and, abstaining from all things, in patience, and seeketh not his own selfness; but (under the obedience of the Love) hath a much more desire to do the Lords will, he obtaineth a good salvation of the peaceable life. He shall be saved and rejoyce in the Everlasting Life.
  • Moreover, in this land, there is no perfect satisfying of hunger and thirst to be found, nor come by. For the herb wherewith they be sustained, and the fountain wherewith they be refreshed, do make them still the longer and more hungry and thirsty: as long as they are travelling towards the good Land of Peace.

Here the writer openly reveals the meaning of the available food.

  • The Herb wherewith the travellers be sustained is named the Serviceable Word of the Lord, and the fountain waters wherewith they be refreshed are named the Promise of Salvation in the New Testament of the Blood of Jesus Christ.

***

  • In this land there lie also fair hills that seem to be somewhat delightful of which the traveller must beware, for it is nothing but deceit, vanity and seducing. These hills are garnished with divers trees which do likewise bring forth vain and deceitful fruits [causing] travellers to leave the forsaking of themselves, taking on their self-seeking (that is, they take on their own righteousness and made holiness, or their ease in the flesh.) They do likewise leave the Patience and become negligent towards the Law of Ordinance of the Lord, wherewith they be drawn away by the deceit of the wisdom of the flesh.
  • The hills are named Taken on wit, or Prudence, Riches of the Spirit, Learned knowledg, Taken on Freedom, Good-thinking Prophesy, Zeal after Chosen Holiness, Counterfeit Righteousness, New-invented Humility, Pride in Ones Own Spiritualness, Unmindful of any better, and etc.
  • The trees that grow on the hills are named Colored Love, Literall Wisdom, Greedy towards Ones Own, Flattering-Alluring, Reproving of Naturalness, Promises of Vanity, Exalting of his Own Private Invention, Pleasing in Chosen Holiness, Greatly Esteeming his own Working of Private Righteousness.
  • The name of their fruits is Vain-Comforts [and] the people, having left forsaking of themselves, and the Cross, with the Meate-offering and Drink-offering, make their dwelling among these deceitful hills [and] let themselves be fed. They get some satisfaction from the Vain-Comforts and are also at first somewhat glad therethrough, also singing and crying: We have it, We have it, We are illuminated, Born anew and Come to Rest.
  • But (alas) when the sun riseth somewhat higher, then do the fruits wither. And when the Winter cometh, then stand the trees barren, and all is deceit and seducing.

***

  • The whilst then that the traveller doth travel towards this good land by the leading star (named Belief and Hope) so cometh he clean through all the deceit by means of forsaking himself. For that is a good compass unto him which pointeth to the good land.
  • And, with Patience, he likewise overcometh all assaults.
  • For there are many molesters and destroyers to be found, which do grievously vex the travellers in this land. But they do fear and tremble before the Holy Cross. [They] are named Trying of the Belief, Doubt or Distrustfulness to Come to the Good Land, Tempting with a Chosen Appeasement to the Flesh, Proving of the Belief with a Shew of Comforting with the Worldly Beauties, Proffering of the Possession of all the Riches of the Earthly Corruptibleness.

Here the traveller is exhorted in various ways not to forsake the holy Cross. It may help him to understand the idea that on the spiritual journey he must not seek to escape from the impossible contradictions he experiences in himself. Indeed he should welcome the pain of seeing all his folly, weakness and inadequacy.

In respect of that which he longs for, only an unflinching confrontation with the impossibility of his situation will show him that, in order to understand this lesson, he has to abandon all judgment and opinion of himself.

The ‘travellers’ on the journey are told to ‘forsake [them]selves’ as Niclaes so often reminds them. The traditions have special exercises associated with the disciplines of meditation, contemplative prayer and various forms of inner and outer work to help us here. Such labour introduces us to our personal, psychological cross. It is an inner state that, if we wish to continue, we cannot forsake.

  • Therefore be not afraid of your enemies, for God hath made them all dismaid through the Holy Cross of Christ.
  • The Holy Cross shall be unto you an Altar of the true burnt offering, and the serviceable gracious word of the Lord a safe-keeping gift or offering of Christ upon the same altar in the holy of the true Tabernacle of God and Christ, upon which Altar your gift becometh sanctified. [It is] kindled or set on fire for a burnt offering to the consuming of all the enemies of the good life, wherethrough then, likewise, your willing Dept-offering, Sin-offering and Death offering shall be acceptable to the Lord.

***

  • In this same throughfaring land, men also find a crafty murderer, that both high and low, wide and far, runneth all over this same land and he is named Unbelief. Of this wicked villain it behoveth us to be very wary, for by him there are many murdered. Forsake not the Holy Cross, nor the serviceable gracious word of the Lord.
  • [Also in this land there runs] a dangerous river where many travellers be drowned and choaked. It is named Desire and Pleasure in the Flesh.

The traveller is warned not to catch or eat the fishes that swim in the river whose names are:

  • Meate of the Temporal Delights instead of the Everlasting Good, Ease in the Flesh instead of Zeal to the Righteous, Honor of the World instead of Rest in the Spirit and Honor of God.
  • It seemeth indeed to be a very pleasant water for one to refresh and recreate himself in, but it is all meer deceit: vain and nothing.
  • [Also there are] thistles and thorns named Uncertain Consciences. Likewise divers natures of beasts named Envy, Wrath, Churlishness or Unfriendliness, Cruelty, Offensiveness, Resistance of Disobedience, Craftyness, Greedy Desire of Honor, Subtilty of Deceit, and Violence. And also one of the most detestable beasts (that will worst of all give way) is named Hypocrisie or Dissimulation, where under all manner of naughtiness is covered up with a colored vertue, or made holiness, and he is indeed the subtillest beast who provoketh the other beasts to devour travellers. Of which wild beasts the travellers must take heed with great foresightfulness, that they run not into the mouth of them and be swallowed up.

The story of the Tower of Babel (like that in The Suicide of Saul, Bruegel’s only other painting with an Old Testament subject) was interpreted as an example of pride punished, and that is no doubt what Bruegel intended his painting to illustrate. Moreover, the hectic activity of the engineers, masons and workmen points to a second moral: the futility of much human endeavour. Nimrod’s doomed building was used to illustrate this meaning in Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools. Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babel , originally displayed in the suburban villa of Antwerp entrepreneur Niclaes Jonghelinck as an image that fostered learned dinner conversation (convivium) about the well-being of the city. Looking at various sources, the author analyzes how the theme of the painting, a story of miscommunication and disorder, resonated with the challenges faced by the metropolis. Antwerp’s rapid growth resulted in the creation of a society characterized by extraordinary pluralism but with weakened social bonds. Convivium was one of the strategies developed to overcome differences among the citizens and avoid dystrophy of the community. Read more Here

  • [There are] three castles [upon which] are subtile watchers which are very crafty and wily.

The traveler is advised not to fear the castles though their powers are apparently very terrible. It is necessary to negotiate carefully, but once passed them he will see that they are

  • Nothing at all but deceit, vanity and bewitching. [They are named] The Power of Devils Assaulting, The Forsaking of Hope, Fear of Death.

The watchers, who try to capture people, are named ‘according to their natures’:

  • Appearing like Angels of Light, Indeavoring to Stealing of the Heart, Appearance of Vertue, Subtil Invention, Confidence in Knowledg, Made Laws and Imagined Rights, Disguised or Unknown Holiness, Self-framed Righteousness, and etc.
  • Now one cometh by the Good Land and approacheth neer unto the understanding of God. But many do run past the entrance thereof. For the neerer one cometh the more subtilly the deceits assault him; for beside the entrance there lieth [joyned to it] also a way that leadeth to an abominable or horrible land and the same way is a pleasant way to behold and pleasant likewise to enter into, wherewith many be deceived.
  • This pleasant way is named Knowledg of Good and Evil.
  • [Having] come into the pleasant way of the Knowledg of Good and Evil, and which in itself is ful of contention, ful of great and grievous incumbrances, then do appear in them an inward or spiritual pride, and they suppose they are somewhat singular and above other people because they have so much knowledg to talk of the truth, perswading themselves that the riches of knowledg is the very light of salvation.
  • Therefore this land is called the Abomination of Desolation. Howbeit it is all false and meer deceit.
  • In this land there is also a false light. The people do not know the true light, therefore they be all deceived and corrupted in this wilderness by the same false light, besides the which they know no other perfect good. [And so they have] nothing else but destruction and disturbance or dispensing of mindes and thoughts.
  • This same land of Desolation is like unto the intangled Babylon, because the knowledges do there run one against the other and cannot understand each other.

Here the author gives extended lists of psychological and moral disorders. We are given to understand that all these result from too much attachment to ‘knowledg’ i.e. ‘made knowledg’ (man-made knowledge) as opposed to revealed knowledge. There follows this insight

  • Many do chuse a way unto themselves, according to the knowledg of theirown minde, to the intent to live to themselves therein: and thus doth everyone walk there according as his knowledg imagineth him.
  • Everyone is resistant against each other with the knowledg. And the false light shineth upon them all, quite over the whole land. Therefore everyone supposeth that he must needs have the right, or cannot err, in his knowledg, and that he is illuminated by the Lord. But it is all dust, which dust scattereth abroad all over the whole land, like unto a drift-sand and is named Self-Wils Chusing.

***

The following is one of many passages whose psychological, moral and spiritual meaning has universal application. The description of the human condition, where things go ‘wonderfully absurdly’ seems close to Bruegel’s vision of the ‘upside down’ world. See also Rene Guenon “inversion of symbols” and “carnivals

  • Behold in this land, the Abomination of Desolation, it goeth very strange and wonderfully absurdly. For every man seeth that another mans foundation is vain and meer foolishness, but there is no man there, or very few, that can marke their own vanity or foolishness. Everyone doth very gladly thrust off another from his foundation to the end to advance his own. Yet are all their foundations, notwithstanding, Self-Wils Chusing; and are everyone uncertain and unstable and all their work is very feeble or weak. They strive and contend, and with high knowledg they caste down anothers work and turn up the foundations of it.
  • For whoever hath the highest mounting knowledge, or is the richest in spirit, or hath the most eloquent utterance of speech, he can there bear the sway, or get the chief praise, and can overthrow many other firm foundations and works which are also vain. And when any mans foundation or work is overthrown through any manner of knowledg, then is the same a great delight and glory unto the other that getteth the victory and an advancement of himself. So (contending or taking part, one against the other) do they likewise divide themselves into many several religions or God-services.
  • But although they be partially affected, as also have severall religions, and many manner of God-services, yet do they, notwithstanding, give their Religions and God-services one manner of name. Everyones Religion or God-service is named Assured Knowledg that is Right and Good. And everyone liveth in his own God-service, thinking and perswading himself assuredly that his religion or God-service is the best or the holiest above all other.

***

The Four Elements by Joachim Beuckelaer

***

  • They have a fair-spoken tongue; but commonly they are not loving, nor friendly of heart, but ful of envy and bitterness, soon stumbling and taking offence by reason that they stand captive under the knowledg and not submitted under the Love, nor under the obedience of his service.
  • They are also generally covetous of the earthly riches.
  • Their inclination is to speak false against others, also to blaspheme, oppress, persecute, betray and kill, and yet do know how to excuse all the same with the knowledg that they do right and well therein.
  • They use not any common brotherhood.

***

Note: Yet there is one story more, which shows some connexion with our subject, sounding worth being reported.

It concerns the Netherlandish artist Pieter Aertsen, a religious painter. When the sacred figurative art began to be contested and destroyed by an extreme Protestant iconoclasm, he changed his residence town and converted his works into genre scene. Very strange ones, indeed, since a scrupulous spectator can discern small holy scenes dissimulated in the background.

His Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt or A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, which we have in two copies (1551; Uppsala University Art Collection and North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh) is the most ever disconcerting “Flight into Egypt”.

Here Niclaes expands this theme, pointing out how the absence of brotherhood and love extends to their various different religious sects and especially how they are ‘unmerciful’ to anyone who offers them the truth.

***

The next chapter further analyses man’s spiritual or psychological condition with the imagery of the inner ruler or king and his constitution.

  • [They] have also a king who reigneth very cruelly over them named Wormwood or Bitterness. His sceptre is named Great Esteeming of the Vain and Unprofitable Things. His crown is named Honor and Glory in Evil Doings. His horses and chariots are named Treaders Down or Oppressors of the Simple People. His council is named Subtil Invention. His kingdom is Unfaithfulness, All his nobility, horsemen, soldiers and guards are named Disorderly Life. His decrees or commandments are Self-Wil. His dominion or Lordship is Violence.
  • The kings subjects are called Craftiness, Arrogant Stoutness,
  • Stubbornness, Violence, Harmfulness, Spight, Sudden Anger, Greedy of Revenge, Gluttony, Cruelty, Bloodthirstyness, Resistance against the Love and her Service, Despising of Naturalness, Disobedience to Equity, Accusation over the Righteousness, Betrayers of Innocency, Oppressors of Humility, Killers of Meekness, Enviers of the Lovers of Unity, Exalters of Chosen Holiness, Usage of Falsehood, Own-selfness, Self-Wils Desire, Self-seeking etc.
  • And when one presenteth or profereth any better thing unto them, then rises up, by and by in them, their king of Bitterness, for to defend their causes, and judg him to be naught that loveth them to the best good.

***

  • A false prophet bewitches them with many longings and so he leadeth their hearts, mindes and thoughts into captivity of the knowledg and not into the truth. This false prophet is named Presumption whereof cometh Nothing.
  • Forasmuch as he hath allured the people unto him with such a presumption of boasting that they likewise in their unregenerate state, do boast them of the Light and the Word of Life; so perceive they not that they are bewitched by him.
  • It seemeth sometimes indeed, as though it would be somewhat, but it is all vain and presumption and nothing else but knowledg whereof cometh nothing.
  • The false prophet has a horrible beast with him named Unfaithfulness [who] maketh all the people utterly divided.

Niclaes’ psychological insights are the observations of a specialist. Here, for example, developing themes he has introduced, he describes how ‘the people’ cover their inner nakedness with ‘Garments named Fear of Being Despised’. His analysis of the spiritual condition of humanity – perhaps as relevant today as ever – brings light to the subconscious and shadowy parts of our inner landscape with the sure hand of a master.

  • This horrible beast, Unfaithfulness; this false prophet, Presumption; and the cruel king, Wormwood, have a great dominion in this same desolate abominable land.

***

Note: POWAQQATSI

POWAQQATSI’s overall focus is on natives of the Third World — the emerging, land-based cultures of Asia, India, Africa, the Middle East and South America — and how they express themselves through work and traditions. What it has to say about these cultures is an eyeful and then some, sculpted to allow for varied interpretations.

Where KOYAANISQATSI dealt with the imbalance between nature and modern society, POWAQQATSI is a celebration of the human-scale endeavor the craftsmanship, spiritual worship, labor and creativity that defines a particular culture. It’s also a celebration of rareness — the delicate beauty in the eyes of an Indian child, the richness of a tapestry woven in Kathmandu — and yet an observation of how these societies move to a universal drumbeat.

POWAQQATSI is also about contrasting ways of life, and in part how the lure of mechanization and technology and the growth of mega-cities are having a negative effect on small-scale cultures. https://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xthzhl

The title POWAQQATSI is a Hopi Indian conjunctive — the word Powaqa, I ( Ego),which refers to a negative sorcerer who lives at the expense of others, and Qatsi –i.e., life.

Several of “POWAQQATSI’s” images point to a certain lethargy affecting its city dwellers. They could be the same faces we saw in the smaller villages but they seem numbed; their eyes reflect caution, uncertainty. https://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xti3jt

And yet POWAQQATSI, says Reggio, is not a film about what should or shouldn’t be. “It’s an impression, an examination of how life is changing”, he explains. “That’s all it is. There is good and there is bad. What we sought to capture is our unanimity as a global culture. Most of us tend to forget about this, caught up as we are in our separate trajectories. It was fascinating to blend these different existences together in one film.”

To be certain, POWAQQATSI is a record of diversity and transformation, of cultures dying and prospering, of industry for its own sake and the fruits of individual labor, presented as an integrated human symphony — and with Philip Glass’ score providing the counterpart, performed with native, classical and electronic instruments, its tribal rhythms fused by a single majesterial theme.

  • NAQOYQATSI –

More important than empires, more powerful than world religions, more decisive than great battles, more impactful than cataclysmic earth changes, NAQOYQATSI chronicles the most significant event of the last five thousand years: the transition from the natural milieu, old nature, to the “new” nature, the technological milieu. https://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xtmtai

Nature has held earthly unity through the mystery of diversity. New nature achieves this unity through the awesome power of technological homogenization. NAQOYQATSI is a reflection on this singular event, where our subject is the medium itself, the wonderland of technology. The medium is our story. In this scenario human beings do not use technology as a tool (the popular point-of-view), but rather we live technology as a way of life. Technology is the big force and like oxygen it is always there, a necessity that we cannot live without. Because its appetite is seemly infinite, it is consuming the finite world of nature. It is in this sense that technology is NAQOYQATSI, a sanctioned aggression against the force of life itself – war life, a total – war beyond the wars of the battlefield. https://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xtnedl

NAQOYQATSI takes us on an epical journey into a land that is nowhere, yet everywhere; the land where the image itself is our location, where the real gives way to the virtual. As the gods of old become dethroned, a new pantheon of light appears in the integrated circuit of the computer. Its truth, becomes the truth.

Extremes of promise and spectacle, tragedy and startling hope fuse in a digital tidal wave of image and music. In a poetic nanosecond, NAQOYQATSI give utterance to a new world coming, a new world here.

***

  • [The traveller] perceiving that these abominations of desolation do stand in the place where Gods Holy Beeing ought to stand [must] immediately flie out of the same and submit himself under the obedience of Love, and not have any regard any more to the Knowledg of Good and Evil, nor to Boasting of the Knowledge, nor to Assured Knowledg, nor to Presumption, nor yet to Unfaithfulness. [And thus he frees himself from] bondage to Bitterness, the king of that detestable land.
  • [The traveller] must at the end of his journey find himself altogether turned about.

Hendrik Niclaes is making it quite clear that there can be no half measures for seekers on the spiritual path. To be ‘altogether turned about’ is nothing less than the ‘dying to oneself’ in order to be ‘reborn from above’ that is taught in all traditions. He refers here to the necessarily arduous methods of spiritual work, symbolized in the text as ‘the Compass’, ‘the Cross’ and ‘Patience’. As “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” , the “rest” place is a place where  the dead people are buried. The word cemetery (from Greek κοιμητήριον, “sleeping place”. It is the place of Transformation where the “old man” is left behind and the “new man” is born.

Note: Similarity between The Family of Love and Sufism

In our daily life we come up against situations that we cannot overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. We need a strength and a wisdom that comes from Above, that comes from Beyond, that comes from Another outside of us and yet rises up from within us.“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” This transformation – sometimes called rebirth – is maybe difficult to achieve and costs a man dearly because it takes place in opposition to everything he values in material life;but that is an illusory life which he mistakes for the other.The seeker of truth begins to see the contradiction between what he is at present and what he is called to become and, seeing this, he cannot avoid suffering. If he has the courage to continue and if, in spite of suffering and other difficulties, he remains on the true path, he will eventually come to what tradition refers to as ‘dying to oneself’ in Sufism, ‘die before you dieWe find the same principle in Islam and Sufism :  “la ilaha illallah ” : “there is no God but God” , it is part of theShahada.The Shahada has been traditionally recited in the Sufi ceremony of dhikr (Arabic: ذِکْر‎, “remembrance“), a ritual that resembles mantras found in many other religious traditions.

  • But we have forgotten the Traditional concept of who Man is:

Adam, Muḥammad, and the View of Man
The Islamic view of man may best be defined and exemplified in relation to these two poles, Adam and Muḥammad, the first prophet and the last, the beginning of the story and the end of it. To lay stress upon the “closing of the circle” represented by Muḥammad’s mission is to stress also the primordial nature of this mission. History had unfolded and humanity had pursued its predestined course.
There had to be—and there was—a return to the origin,insofar as such a return might be possible at so late a stage in the cycle. Islam justifies itself as the dīn al-fiṭrah, which
might be translated as “the religion of primordiality” or even as “the original religion.”The perfect Muslim is not a man of his time or indeed of any other specific historic time. He is man as he issued from the hand of God. “You are all the
children of Adam” (or “the tribe of Adam”) as Muḥammad told his people.
In relation to man as such, the word fiṭrah may be taken to refer to the human norm from which, according to the Quran, humanity has fallen away.But the word is derived from a verb meaning “he created” or “he cleft asunder” (the act of creation being described as a cleaving asunder of the heavens and the earth)—hence, its reference back to the origins. It follows that the image of human perfection (or, quite simply, of human normality) lies in the past, not in the future, and theway to its attainment lies not in an aspiration focused on a distant goal or in any miraculous redemption from inherent sinfulness but rather through the removal of accretions and distortions that have both corroded and twisted a perfection that is, in essence, natural to mankind.It is a question not of leaping over the world or of being rescued from it but of retracing, in an upward direction, the downward slope of time.
We have here a sharp contrast to the Christian view, which posits a primordial corruption of the innermost core of the human creature. But not with the view of Bruegel, the Family of Love and Hiel. Their message is : ” In our daily life we come up against situations that we cannot overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. We need a strength and a wisdom that comes from Above, that comes from Beyond, that comes from Another outside of us and yet rises up from within us”.For Islam this core remains sound and cannot be otherwise. Neither time nor  circumstance can totally destroy what God has made, but time and circumstance can cover it with layer upon layer of darkness.This offers a clue to the deeper meaning of the term kāfir, usually translated as “infidel,” “unbeliever,” or “denier of the truth.” The word kafara means “he covered,” in the way that the farmer covers seed he has sown.In fallen man—man at the bottom of the slope—there has taken place a covering of the Divine “spark” within and, as a direct result of this, he himself covers (and so ignores or denies) the Truth,which has been revealed with dazzling clarity and which is, at the same time, inherent in the hidden “spark.”Islam envisages this man as imprisoned in a cell the walls of which he reinforces by his own misguided efforts, the cell of the ego, which sets itself up as a little god and isolates itself from the stream of Divine Mercy which flows at its doorstep.The guidance provided by the Messenger of God offers him the opportunity, if he will take
it, to come out into the open, the sunlight, which is his natural environment.The command inherent in this message is: Be what in truth you are! From this point of view it may be said—and has often been said although seldom with full understanding—that the Islamic concept of man is “static.” All is here and now, neither distant nor in another time. His way is upwards, vertically with “Uprightness”, not downwards or horizontally, predending we can overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. Read more here

  • Blessed Virgin Mary – Mystical Commentary

by Sheik Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi

To advance along the ascending way, one enters solitude and seclusion – not necessarily in a literal sense, but even while remaining within the context of family and social responsibility. These communal responsibilities are the sacred temple of human existence. However, solitude alone will not be sufficiënt.

One must remain oriented toward the mystic east, the direction of prayer. One must learn to gaze at the perpetual dawn of Divine Wisdom. This implies full participation in the science of prayer, as expressed within an authentic sacred tradition.

After entering that “solitary room facing east”, which is inwardness and simplicity of mind and heart, one can contemplate Divine Beauty manifest through the transparent creation – the universe in its pristine nature, untouched by conventional conceptuality but illumined instead by prophetic revelation.

Gradually, one’s being becomes more peaceful, harmonious, integrated. Divine Light begins to manifest directly.

Within this ineffable brightness, the conventional structures of society and our own habitual forms of perception are no longer visible. Within this dimension of sheer radiance, both waking visions and mystical dreams occur.

These subtle experiences are indications of progress along the evolutionary way, the steep path spoken of by Allah Most High in His Holy Quran. They can be accurately interpreted by a sheikh, or spiritual guide, who has received empowerment from a previous guide in the unbroken lineage of the Prophet Muhammad to carry on this sacred task of dream interpretation.

The combined inspiration and intention of disciple and guide, murid and murshid, sparks the alchemical process which is called inward.  Read more here

  • The birth of Jesus in man

Faouzi Skali in his book Jesus and the Sufi Traditon explains in the 10 chapter,The birth of Jesus in man:

The soul of the mystic, Rûmi teaches us, is similar to Mary: “If your soul is pure enough and full of love enough, it becomes like Mary: it begets the Messiah”.

And al-Halláj also evokes this idea: “Our consciences are one Virgin where only the Spirit of Truth can penetrate

In this context, Jesus then symbolizes the cutting edge of the Spirit present in the human soul: “Our body is like Mary: each of us has a Jesus in him, but as long as the pains of childbirth do not appear in us, our Jesus is not born” ( Rumi, The Book of the Inside, V).

This essential quest is comparable to suffering of Mary who led her under the palm tree (Koran XIX, 22-26): “ I said:” 0 my heart, seek the universal Mirror, go towards the Sea, because you will not reach your goal by the only river! ”

In this quest, Your servant finally arrived at the place of Your home as the pains of childbirth led Mary towards the palm tree “(RÛMi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

Just as the Breath of the Holy Spirit, breathed into Mary, made him conceive the Holy Spirit, as so when the Word of God (kalám al-haqq) enters someone’s heart and the divine Inspiration purifies and fills his heart (see Matthew V, 8 or Jesus in the Sermon of the Mountain exclaims: “Blessed are pure hearts, for they will see God! “) and his soul, his nature becomes such that then is produced in him a spiritual child (walad ma’nawî) having the breath of Jesus who raises the dead.

Human beings,” it says in Walad-Nama ( French translation, Master and disciple, of Sultan Valad and Kitab al-Ma’ârif  the Skills of Soul Rapture), must be born twice: once from their mother, another from their own body and their own existence. The body is like an egg: the essence of man must become in this egg a bird, thanks to the warmth of Love; then it will escape its body and fly into the eternal world of the soul, beyond space.

And Sultan Walad adds: “If the bird of faith (imán) is not born in Man during its existence, this earthly life is then comparable to a miscarriage.

The soul, in the prison of the body, is ankylosed like the embryo in the maternal womb, and it awaits its deliverance. This will happen when the “germ” has matured, thanks to a descent into oneself, to a painful awareness: “The pain will arise from this look thrown inside oneself, and this suffering makes pass to beyond the veil. As long as the mothers do not take birth pains, the child does not have the possibility of being born (. Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 2516 sq.) (…) My mother, that is to say my nature [my body], by his agony pains, gives birth to the Spirit … If the pains during the coming of the child are painful for the pregnant woman, on the other hand, for the embryo, it is the opening of his prison ”(Ibid., 3555 sq)

Union with God, explains Rûmi, manifests itself when the divine Qualities come to cover the attributes of His servant:

God’s call, whether veiled or not, grants what he gave to Maryam. 0 you who are corrupted by death inside your body, return from nonexistence to the Voice of the Friend! In truth, this Voice comes from God, although it comes from the servant of God! God said to the saint: “I am your tongue and your eyes, I am your senses, I am your contentment and your wrath. Go, for you are the one of whom God said: ‘By Me he hears and by Me he sees!’ You are the divine Consciousness, how should it be said that you have this divine Consciousness? Since you have become, by your wondering, ‘He who belongs to God’.

I am yours because ‘God will belong to him. Sometimes, I tell you: ‘It’s you!’, Sometimes, ‘It’s me!’ Whatever I say, I am the Sun illuminating all things. “(Mathnawî, I, 1934 sq).

Once the illusion of duality has been transcended, all that remains in the soul is the divine Presence: the soul then finds in the depths of its being the divine effigy.

It has become the place of theophany. This is what Rumi calls the spiritual resurrection: “The universal Soul came into contact with the partial soul and the latter received from her a pearl and put it in her womb. Thanks to this touch of her breast, the individual soul became pregnant, like Mary, with a Messiah ravishing the heart. Not the Messiah who travels on land and at sea, but the Messiah who is beyond the limitations of space! Also, when the soul has been fertilized by the Soul of the soul, then the world is fertilized by such a soul “( Ibid., II, 1184 sq.).

This birth of the spiritual Child occurs out of time, and therefore it occurs in each man who receives him with all his being through this “Be!” that Marie receives during the Annunciation: “From your body, like Maryam, give birth to an Issa without a father! You have to be born twice, once from your mother, another time from yourself. So beget yourself again! If the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dispenses again his help, others will in turn do what Christ himself did: the Father pronounces the Word in the universal Soul, and when the Son is born, each soul becomes Mary (Ibid., III, 3773.)

So Jesus can declare: “O son of Israel, I tell you the truth, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and earth unless he is born twice! By the Will of God, I am of those who were born twice: my first birth was according to nature, and the second according to the Spirit in the Sky of Knowledge!  » (Sha’ranî, Tabaqat, II, 26; Sohrawardî, ‘Awarif, I, 1)

The second birth corresponds to what we also gain in Sufism as the “opening (fath) of the eye of the heart“: “When Your Eye became an eye for my heart, my blind heart drowned in vision ; I saw that You were the universal Mirror for all eternity and I saw in Your Eyes my own image. I said, “Finally, I found myself in His Eyes, I found the Way of Light!” (Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

This opening is the promise made by God to all those who conclude a pact with the spiritual master, pole of his time, like the apostles with Jesus or the Companions when they pledged allegiance to Muhammad:God was satisfied with believers when they swore an oath to you under the Tree, He knew perfectly the content of their hearts, He brought down on them deep peace (sakina), He rewarded them with a prompt opening ( fath) and by an abundant booty  which they seized ”(Coran XLVIII, 18-19).(The abundant loot indicates Divine Knowledge (mari’fa)

***

With the help of these, having come thus far he now

  • cometh before the city gate of the Holy Land and stands in submission like unto a good willing one to the Lords will. [This] is called the Burying of the Affections and Desires. He findeth, through the same submission, the key for to enter therewithal through the gate into the City where the Everlasting Life, Peace and Rest is. This key is called Equity.

In the City of Peace he is lovingly received:

  • Even thus one becometh as they, incorporated to the body of the same true king, Gods True Beeing, with all the people of the same good land.
  • The names of the saints [there] are Meekness, Courtesie, Friendliness, Longsuffrance, Mercifulness, etc.

The city, we are told, has strong fortress-like walls and a watchman who ‘keeps a diligent watch’, who never sleeps and who

  • Overlooketh all things, namely, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. His trumpet, wherethrough he playeth his song is named After this Time no More.

There follow several chapters consisting almost entirely of quotations from both Old and New Testaments in the celebratory style reserved for praising God, his creation and all his works. The author then returns to describing details of the city’s layout and structure. We learn, for example, that situated on the walls is an ordinance called Power of God.., and from the city

  • floweth an unsearchable or infinitely deep river with also a very tempestuous winde [that] devours all the enemies of the same good City. [The river and the winde] are called Righteous Judgment of God and the Spirit of the Almighty God. [Protected by these] the children of the City learn Understanding and Knowledg, which wisdom (that they learn thereout) is also an holy wisdom and that Understanding is Godly knowledg.

***

In the painting of Joachim patinir Rest on the Flight into Egypt 

see:

Note: We are not the first generation to know that we are destroying the world.  But  we could be the last that can do anything about it, not with the vanity of  earthly knowledge and so called democratic solidarity and wisdom here on earth  as this commercial of WWF wants to convince us, but with asking humbly the help of Divine Wisdom so realising in us the image of the man who painfully transcends his material ego: The birth of his soul. It is a test. It’s time to decide! 

***

  • For without this City there is no understanding, wisdom or knowledg of God, or of Godly things; no not at all. All else is foolishness and hypocrisie.

Niclaes emphasizes the absolute newness of everything in this place. He tells us that we have to be ‘new-born in the spirit’ and that this new birth takes place only through ‘Love and the service of Love’. For Niclaes and the Familists the definition of love is that given in the New Testament: ‘God is Love’.

– ‘steady manifestation of love…nobody has ever expressed in equal perfection and beauty the fervor and enthusiasm of the initiated mystic, inspired by union with God, as Paul has expressed them in his two hymns of love ― the hymn on the love of God (Rom. viii. 31 ff), and the hymn on the love of men (1 Cor. xiii. 13- 15. Love is the Kingdom of God.

His remarks here remind us that what he describes in an entirely inner experience.

  • The City is a spiritual City of Life
  • The nature and minde [of the inhabitants] is nothing else but love, like those that are risen from the death with the Resurrection of the Righteousness in the Everlasting Life.
  • The God whom we serve is a secret God. He is the substance of all substances, the true life of all lives, the true light of all lights, the true mind of all minds.
  • Whosoever now forsaketh all the desolate lands and people [and] also hath his respect diligently bent upon the leading star in the East, and walketh on rightly according to the compasse, as likewise, forsaketh not the Crosse, and so cometh to the Submission, by him shall be found the equity, with the which he entereth into Gods nature. And so he cometh into the good Citie, full of riches and joy.

The traveler, having reached his goal, is free to go anywhere he wants. He may even wish to return to his previous abode in order to help those still there to make their escape.

  • He now therefore, that is, in this manner come thereunto, may, as then, in the love and in the unity of peace, go out and in without any harme, and may walk through all Lands, Places and Cities; bring unto all lovers of the good land, that are seeking the same, good tydings, give them good incouragement, as to respect all enemies like chaffe, and as nothing, show them the next way into the life, and so lead them with him into the good land.
  • Whosoever now is under the obedience of the love doth flow out of and into the same secret kingdome, even like unto a living breath of God. And [he] can very well walk in freedome, among all people, and also remaine still free.
  • For the knowledg separateth nor hurteth not him

The serpents deceit nor her poison cannot kill him

The foolishness allureth not him

The chosen righteousness snareth not him

The deceitfull hills seduceth not him

The ignorance blindeth not him

Nor the leaders of the blind doe not lead him

And even thus is God with him and he with God

  • We praise thee O Father for thou hast hidden these things from the proud-boasting wise, and the prudent understanding ones, and revealed them to the little humble ones. The rich in spirit, nor the great, wise or industrious scripture-learned ones, have not understood the same; but to the poor in spirit, and to the simple of understanding, has thou given it.

There follow here several chapters in the form of hymns of praise and rejoicing, very much in the style of – if not actually quoting from – the Psalms and the Old Testament prophets.

Hendrik Niclaes.now lays out his justification for speaking so openly ‘because of the great need of the times’. Yet he regrets that he is so little heard. Again and again he emphasizes the fact that a man cannot come to God through his ordinary mind, however well educated and well developed.

  • But oh, Alas! We have now in this rebellious time, very speciall cause to sigh and mourn grievously, over the blindness of many people and to bewaile the same with great dolour of our hearts. And that chiefly, because there is now in the same day of love and of the mercy of God, so little knowledg of the good life of peace and of Love to be found among them. And also, for that the same knowledg is desired of so few, and yet much lesse loved. But they do almost everyone delight to walk in strange waies that stretch to contention and destruction, by which occasion they live in molestations and deadly afflictions everywhere.
  • Therefore may we, with wofulness and sighing hearts, very justly say, that it is now a perilous time to be saved, and to escape or to remain over to preservation. Oh, what venomous windes do there blow to the desolation and destruction of men! Yea, it seemeth almost unpossible for the man to come to his salvation, or preservation in Christ, or the lovely life of peace.
  • Yet have some, notwithstanding, according to the imagination of their knowledg, run on, or labored for the spiritual things, for that they would understand them; also many have, according to their understanding of the flesh, testified of them.
  • But seeing they have not sought their knowledg of spiritual things in the obedience of the Christian doctrine of the service of love, but in their knowledg of the flesh, and so have taken on their understanding of the knowledg of spiritual things out of the imagination of their own knowledge; therefore they have likewise understood those same spiritual things according to the mind of their flesh, and witnessed of them in the same manner also. For that cause likewise the right knowledge of spiritual things and heavenly understanding hath not in the cleernesse of the true light shined unto them.
  • Wherefore it is in like manner found true, that the fleshly-minded ones, which sow upon the flesh or which build upon the foreskin of their uncircumcised hearts, doe mow the corruption and inherit the destruction. But those that are circumcised in their hearts, in the laying away of the fore-skin of the sinfull flesh, and in the obeying of the requiring of our most holy service of Love, are become spiritually minded and so then do sow upon the spirit, or build upon the spirituall, which is the true being itselfe.
  • For all flesh, although it does speak of spirituall and heavenly things, through knowledg, yet it is doubtlesse nothing else but like the grasse of the field, and all his garnishing of beauty and holiness is like the unto the flowers of the field; behold the grasse drieth away, and the beauty of the field withereth and decayeth.
  • But the spirituall good, the power of God and his living being (whereof all what is good standeth firm, and floweth thereout) remaineth stedfast, unchangeable for ever and in the same, or through, the manifestation of the same being, the Kingdome of God of heavens, cometh inwardly in us, and that is the true light of everlasting life.
  • Whose naked cleernesse, although the same be nothing else but light and life, is hidden, shut and covered from all understandings and wisdomes of the flesh, or that build thereon.
  • But it is manifest and shineth bright to the circumcised heart, and to the upright spirituall minded ones, in a spirituall heavenly understanding. And the same cleerness is the beeing of God from heaven, the upright righteousness and holinesse, and the life of God in eternity.
  • Wherefore the doore of life is now opened unto us, the Kingdome of the God of heavens and the Heavenly Jerusalem, or the City of Peace, descended downe to us and come neerby.
  • But not according to the thinking-good, or imagination, of our own hearts, nor according to the mind of the earthly wisdome, wherethrough many have estranged them from the truth of life.
  • Therefore can no man see the kingdom of God except that he becometh born anew in the spirit and is become plain, and just, and simple like unto a new-born babe.

***

  • We have signified or shewed in writing all of what the lover of the kingdom must forsake; if he will come to the good land of Peace, or enter into the rest of all the holy ones of God.
  • But not that the lover of the good land shall therefore think that he must first come to everyone of the forementioned horrible places, or that must pass through them all, before he can come to the good city of Peace. O no, ye dearly beloved, but the cause why we have marked out all the abominations and desolation is, for to make knowne every place of deceit and all the seducing or leading away from the good land of life.

The choice of the “Refugee”:

  • Meaning of Jesus Infancy

Note: COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE by Hildegard of Bingen

In the beginning was the Word( Logos) , and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1-1

“For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors.”

Few of us have been blinded by the reverberating light of Christ or seen the shimmering form of Lady Wisdom spinning her cosmic wheel. But then, we do not need to: For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors. “God willed that his Word should create all things, as he had foreordained before the ages. And why is it called a Word? Because with a resounding voice it awakened all creatures and called them to itself.” In the same way, human beings, formed in the Creator’s likeness, are inescapably creative, for we work with our hands and command with our voices. “What was made in the Word was life”: Like our Creator, we too live by the works that we create. By our making, we reveal ourselves to ourselves, and, what is more, we reveal God to one another. God’s rational word echoes in our speech, his praise resounds in our songs, and his creativity is declared in our creations.

The living Light that made us is the singing Word that took our flesh; he made us because we were eternally his and he wished to be revealed as ours. We are his mirrors, his marvels, his fellow workers, and the work of his hands.Read HILDEGARD’S COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE

  • Jesus – The Paradigm of a Pilgrim in God

Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Breath

For Ibn ʿArabī, Jesus is an exceptional being. As the Andalusian author relates, Jesus was his first master and was decisive in his entry into the way of Sufism. This personal relationship, similar to a first love, encouraged him to hope that he would be a witness to the day of Jesus’s coming, and perhaps this motivated him to live his final years in Damascus, the place of his descent.

Jesus follows a path from God, and returns to God, without ever having been away from God; his descent into this world is followed by his ascent to the second Heaven (the one of Mercury), waiting to descend again to the great mosque of Damascus, before making the final ascent to Paradise. His vertical movement combines with a horizontal movement – that is, he travels ceaselessly [his ceaseless travelling] across the world as a wanderer with no place to rest his head. This constant travel is a manifestation of the constant activity of God and reveals the nature of all reality. Every creature is a word that comes from God and is destined to return to Him. In addition, Jesus, by means of his preaching centred on asceticism and the reminder of death, and through his alchemical spiritual and health-giving activity, he helps human beings on their path of return to the Creator.Read more…

  • Viriditas: the greening power of the Divine (or Divine Healing Power of Green)

Viriditas is one of the most recognizable contributions of Hildegard of Bingen.

For Hildegard, viriditas encapsulated the divine force of nature, the depth and breadth of which is reflected in the various translations. These words within the word are laden with meaning; with lively, powerful connotations that capture the essence Hildegard had conceptualized so long ago.

The origin of Viriditas,” Viridity” may be the union of two Latin words: Green and Truth. (Latin viridis (source of Spanish, Italian verde), related to virere “be green, and Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant,” from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith,” from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,

But like most Latin words, Viriditas does not easily translate into convenient, straightforward English. While being difficult to translate may be frustrating to some, there is beauty in this complexity.

The Basic Definition and Origin

The definition is both literal, as in “green”, “greenness”, and “growth”, yet also metaphorical, as in “vigor”, “verdure”, “freshness” and “vitality.” For Hildegard, the spiritual aspects were just as essential as the physical meaning. In much of her work, viriditas was “the greening power of God.” It was in everything, including humans.

This “greenness” was an expression of heaven, the creative power of life, which can be witnessed in the gardens, forests, and farmland all around us. And like those lands, she saw viriditas as something to be cultivated in both our bodies and our souls.

What is it? Hildegard says it is God’s   freshness that we receive as spiritual and physical life‐forces. This is vivid imagery  that probably came to her simply as she looked around the countryside. The  Rhine valley is lush and green and as we know today, a wonderful place,  flourishing in fruit and vineyards. This greening power mysteriously is inherent in  animals and fishes and birds, in all plants and flowers and trees, in all the  beautiful things of this world.

Human flesh is green she says and our blood  possesses this special greening power. The “life force of the body” (the soul) was  green. Whenever sex was involved—she said there was a particular brightness in  the green. This greening power was at the heart of salvation and the reality of the  Word was verdant life.    This greenness connects us all together as humanity  and shines forth giving us common purpose. It is the  strength within us that manifests as a strong and  healthy life. This greenness originates in the four  elements: earth and fire, water and air. It is sustained  by the four qualities: by dry and moist, by cold and hot;  not only the body—but greenness of soul as well.

Hildegard contrasts greening power or wetness with  the sin of drying up (one of her visions.) A dried‐up  person or a dried‐up culture loses the ability to create.  Hildegard saw this as a grave sin and a tragedy. It also  describes how she felt about herself during those years  when she was refusing to write down her visions and  voices. Her awakening did not occur until she embraced  her own viriditas. From then on Hildegard was  constantly creating.

This is in contrast to greening— dry straw, hay or chaff  representing dried up Christians  who are scattered and cut  down by the just Divinity of the  Trinity. 

‘O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”
–  Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae

Hildegard gives an interesting image about greenness  stating that it drenches all things in this world and then  gives the tree as an example. The function of the tree’s sap [its life blood that we know as its essential oil] falls to the soul in the human  body. Its powers or abilities enable us to unfold or develop form just as it does in  the tree. In other words, the tree’s essential oil gives life and nourishment— moistness to humans. She goes on to make comparisons between the tree’s  branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruit with  various stages within human life.    For Hildegard, viriditas is that natural driving   force, the life force that is always directed  toward healing and wholeness. Love, too, is the  breath of the same vital green power that  sustains all life’s greenness. She sees the Holy  Spirit as that power that gives human beings  the green and open space where they are  capable of responding to the Word and joining  in all of creation. The Spirit purifies the world,  scours away all guilt, and heals all wounds and  sadness.    So, green is not a mere color for Hildegard—it is  an attitude and purposeful intent. It is the  permanent inflowing and outflowing of  viriditas. Ultimately—we are talking about  physical health from the inexhaustible fountain  of life’s living light. It is the very joy of being  alive.

  • Mythology of May Day:

First we talk  about the Goddess who lies behind May Day; second will be about the bonfires of May Day Eve and third  the mythology and rituals behind the Maypole.

Since May 1 lies about halfway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice, it was considered a good time to mark the transition into summer. Indeed, in most of medieval northern Europe (meaning the Celtic calendar), May 1 was the beginning of summer. By then the seeds for crops had just been sown (so farmers and their laborers could take a short break), and it was time to drive cattle and sheep out to their summer pastures. Both the sprouting crops and the soon-to-be pastured cattle needed divine protection from the dangers of the natural and supernatural worlds, which is why May Day developed as a holiday and took on the associated rituals and mythology that it did. And a goddess was a good figure to deal with such human concerns.

The Goddess of what is now May Day goes back to ancient times, in Anatolia, Greece, and Rome. Spring goddesses came to be venerated at two Roman holiday festivals that led to our May Day. The Roman Empire is important here because it took over much of Europe and the British Isles. Its mythology, associated rituals, and holidays spread there and merged with local conditions, mythologies, holidays, and customs.

The first of these goddesses of spring holidays was the Hilaria festival (from Greek hilareia/hilaria (“rejoicing”) and Latin hilaris (“cheerful”), held between the vernal equinox and April 1. It goes back to when the Phrygian goddess Cybele was introduced to Rome, at the end of the 3rd century BCE. In her myth, she had a son-lover, Attis, a dying-and-rising god who was mortally gored by a boar. Cybele knew that he had not died for eternity but that his spirit simply had taken refuge in a tree for the winter, and that he would be reborn from the tree in the spring, on the vernal equinox. When Cybele was introduced in Rome, she was given her temple of Magna Mater on the Palatine hill and a also a holiday with corresponding rituals. In her festival, a pine tree (that of Attis) was cut and stripped of its branches, wrapped in linen like a mummy, and decorated with violets (Cybele’s flower, because in the myth violets were said to have sprung from the blood of Attis).

It was then brought before Cybele’s temple on wagons in what resembled a funeral cortege, since Attis was “dead” inside the tree. This was followed by days of frenzied grief and mourning (including scourging) known as the “blood days,” when the tree was symbolically buried in a “tomb.” Attis then resurrected (rose out of the tree) on the day of Hilaria and was reunited with Cybele, symbolizing the beginning of spring. The tree was then erected before Cybele’s temple, and the people celebrated around it. The celebrations ended on April 1, which may be the origin of our April Fool’s day (the people were having a “hilarious” celebration). This has obvious parallels with the Maypole and May Day celebrations.

The second of these holidays was the Floralia, named after Flora, goddess of flowers and spring. Originally she may have been a Sabine goddess, about whom we know nothing other than that she had a spring month named after her on the Sabine calendar (Flusalis, linguistically related to Floralia) and that supposedly an altar to her in Rome was established by the Sabine king Tatius during the legendary period of his joint rule of Rome with Romulus. But none of her Sabine mythology has survived. In Rome Flora acquired her entire surviving mythology from the Greek spring goddess Chloris (from chloros – “pale green”),

who, as Ovid tells us, was originally a beautiful nymph in the Elysian Fields catering to the pleasures of the fortunate dead. There she also attracted the attention of Zephryos, the god of the West Wind and of spring, who quickly had his way with her. But then he married her, in what turned out to be a happy, loving marriage. As a wedding gift he filled her fields (her dowry in the marriage) with a flower garden, the flowers in which were said to spring from the wounds of Attis and Adonis. Zephyros, as the West Wind, brings the spring rains that grow the flowers. Thus, Virgil wrote that “the meadows ungirdle to Zephyros’s balmy breeze; the tender moisture avails for all.” Chloris also bore from Zephryos a son, Karpos, in Greek meaning “fruit” or “crop.” Through Zephyros’s wedding gift she became the goddess having jurisdiction over flowers, which she spread (by spreading their seeds) all over the earth, which until then was monochrome. She became goddess of spring. As Flora in Rome, in the late 3rd century BCE a festival was instituted in her honor that lasted from April 28 to May 2. It included theater, a sacrifice to Flora, a procession in which a statue of Flora was carried, as well as competitive events and other spectacles at the Circus Maximus. One of these involved releasing captured hares and goats (both noted for their fertility) into the Circus, and scattering beans, vetches, and lupins (all fertility symbols) into the crowd. The celebrants wore multi-colored clothing symbolizing flowers and spring, as later was customary on May Day in Europe. It was a time of generally licentious behavior. Flora also had a rose festival on May 23.

Read here more: Green Man, May Day and May Pole

The Principle of Verticality  by M. Ali Lakhani

The spiritual man is one who transcends himself and loves to transcend himself;the worldly man remains horizontal and detests the vertical dimension.

Frithjof Schuon

The  principle  of  verticality,  which  is  a  fundamental  principle  of traditional wisdom, is based on the affirmation of transcendence as an aspect of a comprehensive and integrated reality that is Absolute.

According to this understanding, reality has both a transcendent Origin and an immanent Center, which are one, rather than being reduced to the merely horizontal dimension of its existential or quantitative elements.

Verticality implies both Heaven and Earth, a worldview in which meaning and purpose are defined principally by both height and depth,and secondarily by breadth – that is, principally by man’s relationship to God, who is simultaneously ‘above’ and ‘within’ creation, and who there-fore governs all creaturely relationships – rather than by breadth alone –that is, solely in terms of the relationship between the subject and the world.

It also implies that the horizontal is subordinate to the vertical,that is to say, the relationship between man and the world is premised on the primary relationship between God and man: to restate this in Christian terms, the love of one’s neighbor is premised on one’s love for God. According to the traditional worldview, existence is transcended by a supreme reality, which, whether expressed in theistic or non-theisticterms, is Absolute, and which, without derogating from its unity, is si-multaneously (at the level of the primary hypostasis) expressed by the horizontal ternary, Truth or the Solely Subsistent Reality, Goodness or the Perfection and Font of all Qualities, and Beauty or Abiding Serenity and the Source of its Radiant Effulgence: in Platonic terms, the True, the Good and the Beautiful.

All creation is prefigured in this supreme reality,which projects existence out of its own Substance into a world of form (hence etymologically, ex-stare, to stand out of, or to subsist from, as the formal world of existence stands out of, and subsists from, the Divine Substance) through a vertical ternary comprising, first, the Essential or Principial Absolute (which is Beyond-Being), second, the Relative-Absolute Source of Archetypes (which is the primary hypostasis of Being), and third, the realm of Manifestation (which is Existence).

Tree of Life and Death Flanked by Eve and Mary-Ecclesia

  • Description: This image precedes the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi in a missal created for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The central roundel depicts a tree that bears both fruit and sacramental hosts. It thus combines the paradisaical Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge from Eden. On the right is Eve, who hands a forbidden fruit to a man kneeling at her feet. A death’s head appears among the fruits on her side of the tree. The tempting serpent winds around the trunk, and offers Eve another piece of fruit from its mouth. On the left side is Mary-Ecclesia. Rather than a death’s head, a crucifix hangs on this side. Instead of fruit, Mary-Ecclesia administers one of the hosts to a kneeling man who opens his mouth to accept it, and she is in the process of plucking yet another wafer. She is presented as a mirror image of Eve and thus the salvific antidote to the Fall. An angel accompanies Mary-Ecclesia on the left and Death accompanies Eve on the right. Both hold banderoles bearing text. Adam reclines in a gesture of sorrow at the base of the tree and also holds a banderole. In the upper two roundels are princely figures who hold banderoles bearing the text of Psalm 77:25 on the left    ( Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance”).and Psalm 36:16 on the right ( “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked”). Three shepherds depicted below illustrate Thomas Aquinas’s Corpus Christi sequence “Lauda ducem et pastorum,” but they also embody the virtues expected of a good ruler. The one on the left is the personification of “Prudentia,” the one in the center is “Regalitas,” and the one on the right is “Verus Pastor.” All are accompanied by banderoles.
  • Inscription: Angel: ecce panis angelorum factus cibus viatorum [behold the bread of angels made food for pilgrims]; Death: mors est malus vita bonis inde [death is evil, life therefore is goodness]; Upper left prince: Panem angelorum manducavit homo

The world itself,and its creatures, including man, as such, are therefore of derivative significance and are accidental in relation to the supreme reality, which alone is substantial. The world is transient, ephemeral and illusory.

 

Dream of the Virgin:

This small panel painting shows the Virgin lying asleep while a companion reads to her at the foot of her bed. Above her, Christ is crucified not on the cross, but on a golden Tree of Life that rises from the Virgin’s womb, while below her, a hand reaching down from the bed opens the gates of Limbo to release Adam and Eve.

The subject makes explicit the idea of the redemption of mankind through the intercession of the Virgin.

The Blessed Virgin Mary fell asleep on Mt. Rahel, Jesus came to her and asked; Mother are you asleep? I did sleep but you my Son awakened me, said the Blessed Virgin Mary.

She continued telling him this; I saw you in the Garden, stripped of your clothes, you were led to Caiphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herode. There your Holy face was spat on (upon) and they crowned you with thorns.

Then they tied you to a pillar of stone and beat you with the chain of iron until your Holy Flesh fell away and then they nailed you on the cross and with a spear they pierced your side from which came your Holy Blood and Water. For more info Read the The Way of the Seeded Earth, Part 1: The Sacrifice (Historical Atlas of World Mythology) 

Sacrifice : the hidden meaning of easter and the ressurection of Nature in the month of May

“Death is not the opposite of life. The opposite of death is birth. Life has no opposite.” — Eckhart Tolle

What if the story of Jesus isn’t about Jesus at all?

To re-cast a famous Joseph Campbell saying, what if each of us is the dying god of our own lives? What riches are uncovered if we read the dying god stories not as literal, historical events but as metaphors for our own evolution from material, biological beings bound by instinctual conditioning into spiritual beings of awakened consciousness? Is it any wonder then that the dying god is so often born of a virgin or through some other non-biological process? Horus was conceived as his mother Isis hovered in the form of a hawk over the dead body of her husband Osiris. Mithra was born spontaneously from a rock. Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Jesus, Quetzalcoatl and many others were born of virgins. The hero, the gift-giver and the dying god live and have their being in higher consciousness, not in the lower realms of ego, competition and conflict. In the Gospel of John, when Nicodemus asks for Jesus’ advice, Jesus simply says, “you must be born from above.” In other words, each of us must shift from lower consciousness to the higher plane of God-consciousness within. The virgin birth signifies that each of us, at the level of our divine essence, was not born from the union of sperm and egg but are identical and unified with the eternally Real, what Krishna called “the unborn” and what Jesus called “everlasting life”. Shifting out of body and ego identification is the work of every spiritual tradition.

If the purpose of myth is to teach us how to live our own lives, then what have we learned?

In Buddhism the central metaphor is that of awakening from the sleep of ignorance, suffering and conditioning. In Christianity the central metaphor is death and rebirth, coming out of our animal nature with its instinctual drives of acquisition and conflict and rising into the unitive experience of God-consciousness, transcending all boundaries and limitations. Resurrection is transformation. Rebirth signifies death to the ego, to limitation, to space and time. Rising from the “grave” of our lower nature embodies the realization of awakening.

Beneath the crests and troughs of the ocean’s waves lies an immense stillness, a stillness that is both the source of the waves and their destination. Is it not true that we “die” every night? Were it not for sleep, this cyclical, recurring “death”, this immersion into the sea of unconsciousness, our life would cease. Just as the silence between notes makes music possible, so too the empty formlessness of the Void makes possible the vibrant fullness of our conscious, waking life. In the end, the inner and the outer are the same. The surface mirrors the depth. The tomb is a womb. Nirvana is samsara, and the kingdom of heaven is lying all around us, only we do not see it. Not only is there a correspondence, there is an identity. Life, in essence, is synonymous with the eternal Ground of Being, the Real, what we in the west call God, and as such it is ultimately untouched by death. “Death is not the opposite of life,” Eckhart Tolle writes in Stillness Speaks. “The opposite of death is birth. Life has no opposite.” Despite centuries of theological calcification it is still possible for us to exhume the universal spiritual wisdom of the Christian story, that each of us is the presence of God-consciousness in the field of forms. Only, as Buddha pointed out, we don’t know it. Like the sun breaking over the horizon at countless sunrise services throughout Christendom this Easter, we too are gradually dawning to the truth of our divine nature. Dare to say it out loud. Let your sun rise. Let the wisdom within you shape your thoughts and words and actions. Become, finally, who you really are. This is the hidden meaning of Easter and the Maypole

Pakal’s sarcophagus lid ( maya mythology)

Carved lid of the tomb of Kʼinich Janaab Pakal I in the Temple of the Inscriptions.

The large carved stone sarcophagus lid in the Temple of Inscriptions is a unique piece of Classic Maya art. Iconographically, however, it is closely related to the large wall panels of the temples of the Cross and the Foliated Cross centered on world trees. Around the edges of the lid is a band with cosmological signs, including those for sun, moon, and star, as well as the heads of six named noblemen of varying rank.[18] The central image is that of a cruciform world tree. Beneath Pakal is one of the heads of a celestial two-headed serpent viewed frontally. Both the king and the serpent head on which he seems to rest are framed by the open jaws of a funerary serpent, a common iconographic device for signalling entrance into, or residence in, the realm(s) of the dead. The king himself wears the attributes of the Tonsured maize god – in particular a turtle ornament on the breast – and is shown in a peculiar posture that may denote rebirth.[19] Interpretation of the lid has raised controversy. Linda Schele saw Pakal falling down the Milky Way into the southern horizon.

Germinate osiris:

 Beginning in Dynasty 18, beds were made on which soil was molded into the shape of the god of regeneration and ruler of the dead, Osiris. Thickly sown with grain and kept moist until the grain sprouted and grew, then left to dry again, these figures were created as part of a ritual carried out in association with the Osirian Festival of Khoiak. They magically expressed the concept of life springing from death, symbolizing the resurrection of Osiris. Some examples are also seen in tomb contexts, as the deceased was identified with this god.

In later periods, pottery Osiris bricks were most likely used during the Khoiak Festival as planters; this example was empty, but others contained soil mixed with cereal grains and linen. Here Osiris is shown in his typical form as a mummy, wearing the tall crown of Upper Egypt flanked by ostrich plumes. In his hands he holds the crook and flail of kingship. See : The Corn Osiris of Isis Oasis

Read also: OSIRIS & HUN HUNAHPU:  Corresponding Grain Gods of  Egypt and Mesoamerica

Many scholars suggest that Quetzalcoatl of Mesoamerica (also known as the Feathered Serpent), the Maya Maize God, and Jesus Christ could all be the same being. By looking at ancient Mayan writings such as the Popol Vuh, this theory is further explored and developed. These ancient writings include several stories that coincide with the stories of Jesus Christ in the Bible, such as the creation and the resurrection.

The symbol of the serpent has long been associated with deities of Mexico and Guatemala. In the Aztec language, the word “coatl” means serpent. By placing the Aztec word “quetzal” in front of the word “coatl” we have the word, “Quetzalcoatl”.  The word “quetzal” means feathers. A beautiful bird, native to Guatemala, carries the name quetzal. Quetzalcoatl, therefore, means, “feathered serpent,” or serpent with precious feathers. (See our web site for illustration} The word quetzal is the name of the coin in Guatemala and also is the national symbol of the country.

Throughout pre-Columbian Mexican history, scores of individuals, both mythological and real, were given the name or title of Quetzalcoatl. Attempts also have been made to attribute the name Quetzalcoatl to only one person. The following quotations are indicative of what is said about Quetzalcoatl

The role that both Quetzalcoatl and the Maize God played in bringing maize to humankind is comparable to Christ’s role in bringing the bread of life to humankind. Furthermore, Quetzalcoatl is said to have descended to the Underworld to perform a sacrifice strikingly similar to the atonement of Jesus Christ. These congruencies and others like them suggest that these three gods are, in fact, three representations of the same being. Read more here: Quetzalcoatl the Maya Maize God and Jesus Christ

In the sacred history of Meso-America, a Christ-like figure dominates the spiritual horizon. His name is Quetzalcoatl, which means the Plumed Serpent. Quetzalcoatl is one of the most ancient concepts of God in this region. He reconciles in himself heaven and earth. He is the creator of humankind and the giver of agriculture and the fine arts.

In the tenth century, a Toltec priest named Quetzalcoatl acquired a large following in the Valley of Mexico. He opposed both human sacrifice and warfare, promoting instead the arts and self-discipline as a means for coming closer to God. This made him many enemies among the ruling classes. They brought about his downfall, but he confounded them by rising from the dead, after being consumed in a sacred fire. His heart became the morning star, and he himself became young once again. He promised to return one day to his people.

The stories of Quetzalcoatl and Christ are so similar that it is easy to see one in the other. In this icon, both Quetzalcoatl and Christ are depicted in the same guise. It is a resurrection icon, with their heart ascending from the flames of death and rebirth. Around the edge, in gold leaf, is an ancient Aztec depiction of the Plumed Serpent. Red and black are the colors the Aztecs associated with the morning star.

Quetzalcoatl and Christ bring us the same timeless message: God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. In both their lives, our human condition has been joined inseparably to the divine. Each proclaims to us a simple gospel of compassion, and invites us to dance with God in the divine fire burning in each of our hearts.

TheDivine Substance alone is permanent and real. This view of the transcendent, supreme and substantial reality of the Absolute (which, according to the principle of verticality, is described in terms of its elevation orperfection in relation to creation) finds its expression in all religious traditions:

O Arjuna! There is nothing higher than Me; all is strung uponMe like pearls on a string.” (Bhagavad Gita, vii. 7);

8th-century illustration of Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family: Shiva and Parvati, cradling Skanda with Ganesha by Shiva’s side.

It may be considered the mother of the universe./I do not know its name; I call it Tao./If forced to give it a name, I shall call it Great.” (Tao-te-Ching xxv);

His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm cxlv. 3);

In the world, inclusive of its gods, substance is seen in what is insubstantial. They are tied to their psychophysial beings and so they think that there is some substance, some reality in them. But whatever be the phenomenon through which they think of seeking their self-identity, it turns out to be transitory. It becomes false,for what lasts for a moment is deceptive. The state that is not deceptiveis Nirvana: that is what the men of worth know as being real. With this insight into reality their hunger ends: cessation, total calm.” (Sutta Nipata756-58);

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blowsupon it…The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our Godwill stand forever.” (Isaiah xl. 6-8);

Therefore you must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew, v. 48);

“Glory to God, the Lord of the Throne; high is He above what they attribute to Him!” (Qur’an,xxi. 22)

Thoughts on Traditional Art

This video features the beautiful and inspiring work and words of Mats Abdelkarim Cederberg: Archer/ bowmaker, woodcarver, geometer and calligrapher, amongst other things… This edited interview, recorded in Kutubia in Orgiva with Abdal Malik Wheeler in december 2020, covers a wide range of topics including: -Methods of traditional craft in community. -Pratical aspects of bowmaking and the esoteric dimensions of archery. -Culture, heritage and spiritual traditions. -Creative arabic calligraphy -Architecture, intention and prayer. -The universal principles of Islam.

See more of Abdelkarim´s work here: https://islamiskkonst.myportfolio.com…

Who sits on the empty throne?

On the day of Ascencion and between the 10 days till Pentecost some thoughts

Part 3:

As a contribution for Forum for Ethics, Virtues and Uprightness, we present this new paper of Paul Kingsnorth from the Abbey of Misrule

The Dream of the Rood

Who sits on the empty throne?

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Let me tell you a story.

This story begins in a garden, at the very beginning of all things. All life can be found in this garden: every living being, every bird and animal, every tree and plant. Humans live here too, and so does the creator of all of it, the source of everything, and he is so close that he can be seen and heard and spoken to. Everything walks in the garden together. Everything is in communion. It is a picture of integration. 

At the centre of this garden grows a tree, the fruit of which imparts hidden knowledge. The humans – the last creature to be formed by the creator – will be ready to eat this fruit one day, and when they do they will gain this knowledge and be able to use it wisely for the benefit of themselves and of all other things that live in the garden. But they are not ready yet. The humans are still young, and unlike the rest of creation they are only partially formed. If they ate from the tree now, the consequences would be terrible. 

Do not eat that fruit, the creator tells them. Eat anything else you like, but not that.

We know the next part of the story because it is still happening to us all the time. Why should you not eat the fruit? says the voice of the tempting serpent, the voice from the undergrowth of our minds. Why should you not have the power that you are worthy of? Why should this creator keep it all for himself? Why should you listen to him? He just wants to keep you down. Eat the fruit. It’s your right. You’re worth it!

So we eat the fruit, and we see that we are naked and we become ashamed. Our mind is filled with questions, the gears inside it begin to whir and turn and suddenly now here is us and them, here is humanity and nature, here is people and God. A portcullis of words descends between us and the other creatures in the garden, and we can never go home again. We fall into dis-integration and we fall out of the garden forever. Armed angels are set at the gates; even if we find our way back to the garden again we cannot re-enter. The state of questless ease that was our birthright is gone. We chose knowledge over communion; we chose power over humility. 

The Earth is our home now. 

This Earth is a broken version of the garden; of our original integration with creator and creation. On Earth we must toil to break the soil, to plant seeds, to fight off predators. We will sicken and die. Everything is eating everything else. There is war and dominion and misery. There is beauty and love and friendship too, but all of it ends in death. These are the consequences of our pursuit of knowledge and power, but we keep pursuing them because we know no other way out. We keep building towers and cities and forgetting where we came from. Outside of the garden, we are homeless and can never be still. We forget the creator and worship ourselves. All of this happens inside us every day. 

There comes a time when the creator takes pity. After so many centuries of this, after so many years of humans missing the mark, of wandering from the path, of rising and falling and warring and dying, of eating the fruit again and again, the creator stages an intervention. He comes to Earth in human form to show us the way back home. Most people don’t listen, naturally, and we all know how the story ends. God himself walks on Earth and what does humanity do? We torture and kill him. 

But the joke is on us, because it turns out that this was the point all along. The way of this creator is not the way of power but of humility, not of conquest but of sacrifice. When he comes to Earth he comes not as warlord, king or high priest, but as a barefoot artisan in an obscure desert province. He walks with the downtrodden and the rejected, he scorns wealth and power and through his death he conquers death itself, and releases us from our bondage. He gives us a way out; a way back home. But we have to work at it. The path back to the garden can only be found by giving up the vainglory, the search for power and the unearned knowledge which got us exiled in the first place. The path is the path of renunciation, of love and of sacrifice. To get back to the garden, we have to go through the cross.

Now imagine that a whole culture is built around this story. Imagine that this culture survives for over a thousand years, building layer upon layer of meaning, tradition, innovation and creation, however imperfectly, on these foundations.

Then imagine that this culture dies, leaving only ruins.

If you live in the West, you do not have to imagine any of this. You are living among those ruins, and you have been all your life. Many of them are still beautiful – intact cathedrals, Bach concertos – but they are ruins nonetheless. They are the remains of something called ‘Christendom’, a 1500-year civilisation in which this particular sacred story seeped into and formed every aspect of life, bending and changing and transforming everything in this story’s image. 

And it really was everything. No aspect of daily life was unaffected by the story: the organisation of the working week; the cycle of annual feast and rest days; the payment of taxes; the moral duties of individuals; the very notion of individuals, with ‘God-given’ rights and duties; the attitude to neighbours and strangers; the obligations of charity; the structure of families; and most of all, the wide picture of the universe – its structure and meaning, and our human place within it. 

In my last essay I wrote about the decline of the West. What I didn’t write about was what the ‘West’ actually was. A lot of people are arguing about this at the moment, and the answer tends to differ according to the tribe posing the question. For a liberal, the West is the ‘Enlightenment’ and everything that followed – elective democracy, human rights, individualism, freedom of speech. For a conservative, it might signal a set of cultural values, such as traditional attitudes to family life and national identity, and probably broad support for free-market capitalism. And for the kind of post-modern leftist who currently dominates the culture, the West – assuming they will concede that it even exists – is largely a front for colonisation, empire, racism and all the other horrors we hear about daily through the official channels.

All of these things could be true at the same time, but each is also a fairly recent development. The West is a lot older than liberalism, leftism, conservatism or empire; by the time Hume, Marx and Baudrillardarrived at the party, it was already winding down. The West, in fact, is at the same time a simpler, more ancient and immensely more complex concoction than any of these could offer. It is the result of the binding together of people and peoples across a continent, over centuries of time, by a sacred order constructed around an interpretation of that Christian story.

In his book Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, written shortly after World War Two, the medieval historian Christopher Dawson explained it like this:

There has never been any unitary organisation of Western culture apart from that of the Christian Church, which provided an effective principle of social unity … Behind the ever-changing pattern of Western culture there was a living faith which gave Europe a certain sense of spiritual community, in spite of all the conflicts and divisions and social schisms that marked its history.

Your personal attitude to that ‘living faith’ is beside the point here. In one sense, whether the faith is even true is beside the point as well. The point is that when a culture built around such a sacred order dies then there will be upheaval at every level of society, from the level of politics right down to the level of the soul. The very meaning of an individual life – if there is one – will shift dramatically. The family structure, the meaning of work, moral attitudes, the very existence of morals at all, notions of good and evil, sexual mores, perspectives on everything from money to rest to work to nature to kin to responsibility to duty: everything will be up for grabs. 

Or as Dostoevsky has one of the Brothers Karamazov put it more pithily: ‘Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted.’

The West, in short, was Christendom. But Christendom died. What does that make us, its descendants, living amongst its beautiful ruins? It makes ours a culture with no sacred order. And this is a dangerous place to be.

The philosopher Alasdair Macintyre argued in his classic work of philosophy After Virtue that the very notion of virtue itself would eventually become inconceivable once the source it sprung from was removed. If human life is regarded as having no telos or higher meaning, he said, it will ultimately be impossible to agree on what ‘virtue’ means, or why it should mean anything. Macintyre’s favoured teacher was Aristotle, not Jesus, but his critique of the Enlightenment and prediction of its ultimate failure was based on a clearsighted understanding of the mythic vision of medieval Christendom, and of the partial, empty and over-rational humanism with which Enlightenment philosophers attempted to replace it.

Macintyre, writing four decades ago, believed that this failure was already clearly evident but that society did not see it, because the monuments to the old sacred order were still standing, like Roman statues after the Empire’s fall. To illustrate his thesis, Macintyre used the example of the taboo. This word was first recorded by Europeans in the journals of Captain Cook, in which he recorded his visits to Polynesia. Macintyre explains:

The English seamen had been astonished at what they took to be the lax sexual habits of the Polynesians and were even more astonished to discover the sharp contrast with the rigorous prohibition placed on such conduct as men and women eating together. When they enquired why men and women were prohibited from eating together, they were told that the practice was taboo. But when they enquired further what taboo meant, they could get little further information.

Further research suggested that the Polynesian islanders themselves were not really sure why these prohibitions existed either; indeed, when taboos were abolished entirely in parts of Polynesia a few decades later there were few immediately obvious consequences. So were such prohibitions meaningless all along? Macintyre suggested instead that taboo rules have a history which develops in two stages:

In the first stage they are embedded in a context which confers intelligibility upon them … Deprive the taboo rules of their original context and they at once are apt to appear as a set of arbitrary prohibitions, as indeed they characteristically do appear when the original context is lost, when those background beliefs in the light of which the taboo rules had originally been understood have not only been abandoned but forgotten.

Once a society reaches the stage where the reason for its taboos has been forgotten, one shove is all it takes to start a domino effect that will knock them all down. Macintyre believed that this stage had already been reached in the West:

A key part of my thesis has been that modern moral utterance and practice can only be understood as a series of fragmented survivals from an older past and that the insoluble problems which they have generated for modern moral theorists will remain insoluable until this is well understood.

These ‘fragmented survivals’ were a remnant of the Western sacred order; the story of Christendom. Macintyre was keen to remind his readers that this story also incorporated elements from previous ‘pagan’ value systems, as well as aspects of Greek philosophy, especially that of his lodestone, Aristotle. But whatever its precise genesis, the resulting story had built the shape of the Western mind.

The ‘original context’ of that story, especially to the millennial and post-millennial generations, is now long gone. Many of them don’t even know it in outline (even in my generation, schooled in England in the eighties, it was barely clinging on) and many more are viscerally opposed to what they imagine it represents. Now, as Macintyre predicted, the final taboos are falling like ninepins, and from all across the cultural spectrum the effects are being felt. 

If you’re broadly socially conservative, for example – which in practice means that you hold views which were entirely mainstream until about about five years ago – the questions are currently coming at you in a rolling barrage. Why should a man not marry a man? Why should a man not become a woman? Why should a child not have three fathers, or be born from a female womb transplanted into a man’s body? Since the source of our old understanding of marriage, family, sexuality and perhaps even biological dimorphism was the now-problematic Christian story, these are the kinds of questions to which there is now only one officially legitimate answer.

Things are not much better, though, for those on the left who are concerned about the destructive inequalities created by the modern economy. ‘Woe to you who are rich’, said Jesus, in one of many blasts against wealth and power that we can read in the Gospels. ‘Greed is a sin against God’, wrote Thomas Aquinas, one of the giants of Western Christian theology. Not any more. Now the Machine runs on greed, and it laughs in the face of any foolish and unrealistic Romantic who rejects it. The shaky binding straps with which medieval Christendom kept the traders, the merchants and the urban bourgeoisie tied down have long since broken, leaving us with no better argument against rampant greed and inequality than against total sexual licence or the remaking of the human body itself. 

This is what Nietszche knew, and what today’s liberal humanists will too often deny: if you knock out the pillars of a sacred order, the universe itself will change shape. At the primal level, such a change is experienced by people as a deep and lasting trauma – whether they know it or not. Whether you’re a Christian, a Muslim, a Heathen or an atheist, it should be obvious that no culture can just shrug off, or rationalise away, the metaphysics which underpin it and expect to remain a culture in anything but name – if that.

When such an order is broken, what replaces it? It depends on how the breakage happens. When the taboos were abolished in Polynesia, reported Macintyre, an unexpected ‘moral vacuum’ was created, which came to be filled by ‘the banalities of the New England Protestant missionaries.’ In this case, a certain colour of Christianity had stepped into the breach created by the death of a previous sacred story. The end of the taboos had not brought about some abstract ‘freedom’; rather, it had stripped the culture of its heart. That heart had, in reality, stopped beating some time before, but now that the formal architecture was gone too, there was an empty space waiting to be filled – and nature abhors a vacuum.

It seems to me that we are now at this point in the West. Since at least the 1960s our empty taboos have been crumbling away, and in just the last few years the last remaining monuments have been – often literally – torn down. Christendom expired over centuries for a complex set of reasons, but it was not killed off by an external enemy. No hostile army swept into Europe and forcibly converted us to a rival faith. Instead we dismantled our story from within. What replaced it was not a new sacred order, but a denial that such a thing existed at all.

In After Virtue, Macintyre explains what happened next. The Enlightenment project of the 18th century was an attempt to build a ‘morality’ (a word that had not existed in this sense before that time) loosed from theology. It was the project of constructing a wholly new human being After God, in which a new, personal moral sense – no longer eternal in nature, or accountable to any higher force – would form the basis of the culture and the individual. 

Did it work? In a word: no. Post-Enlightenment ‘morality’, said Macintyre, was no subsitute for a higher purpose or meta-human sense of meaning. If the correct path for society or the individual was based on nothing more than that individual’s personal judgement, then who or what was to be the final arbiter? Ultimately, without that higher purpose to bind it – without, in other words, a sacred order – society would fall into ‘emotivism’, relativism and ultimately disintegration.

In some ways, I am a roundhead at heart. Maybe we all are. The Enlightenment may have failed, but it taught modern Western people something useful: how to interrogate power, and identify illegitimate authority. But while I learned this early, it was much later that I learned something else, dimly and slowly, through my study of history, mythology and, well, people: that every culture, whether it knows it or not, is built around a sacred order. It does not, of course, need to be a Christian order. It could be Islamic, Hindu or Daoist. It could be based around the veneration of ancestors or the worship of Odin. But there is a throne at the heart of every culture, and whoever sits on it will be the force you take your instruction from.

The modern experiment has been the act of dethroning both literal human sovereigns and the representative of the sacred order, and replacing them with purely human, and purely abstract, notions – ‘the people’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘democracy’ or ‘progress.’ I’m all for liberty, and for democracy too (the real thing, not the corporate simulacra that currently squats in its place), but the dethroning of the sovereign – Christ – who sat at the heart of the Western sacred order has not led to universal equality and justice. It has led – via a bloody shortcut through Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler – to the complete triumph of the power of money, which has splintered our culture and our souls into a million angry shards.

This has been the terrible irony of the age of reason, and of the liberal and leftist theories and revolutions which resulted from it. From 1789 to 1968, every one of them ultimately failed, but in destroying the old world and its sacred order they cleared a space for capitalism to move in and commodify the ruins. Spengler, who I wrote about last time, saw this clearly. ‘The Jacobins’, he wrote of the French revolutionaries, ‘had destroyed the old obligations of blood and so had emancipated money; now it stepped forward as lord of the land.’ Revolution, he claimed, will always play the role of handmaiden to the Machine:

There is no proletarian, not even a Communist, movement that has not operated in the interest of money, in the directions indicated by money and for the time permitted by money – and without the idealist amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.

The vacuum created by the collapse of our old taboos was filled by the poison gas of consumer capitalism. It has now infiltrated every aspect of our lives in the way that the Christian story once did, so much so that we barely even notice as it colonises everything from the way we eat to the values we teach our children. Cut loose in a post-modern present, with no centre, no truth and no direction, we have not become independent-minded, responsible, democratic citizens in a human republic. We have become slaves to the power of money, and worshippers before the monstrous idol of the Machine.

The old taboos are not coming back, and Christendom will not be returning to Europe any time soon. Neither do we need to desire it. The point is not to make an idol of an obviously imperfect past – one which regularly betrayed the teachings it was supposedly built around – but to recognise that when a culture kills its sovereign, the throne will not remain empty for long. Dethrone Christ if you like – dethrone any representative of any sacred order on Earth. But when you do, you will understand that the sovereign, however imperfect his rule, may have been the only thing standing between you and the barbarians massing outside – and inside – your gates.

What is the way out of this? Here Macintyre elides with Spengler, and also with the French philosopher René Guénon, who believed that what he called ‘the Western deviation’ away from the sacred order had unleashed materialist demons which ‘now threaten to invade the whole world.’ Writing in 1927 in his short book The Crisis of the Modern World, Guénon could presciently see that the power of materialist science, allied with the values of commerce, would cause the West to ‘disappear completely’ if it did not change course:

Those who unchain the brute forces of matter will perish, crushed by those same forces, of which they will no longer be masters; once having imprudently set them in motion, they cannot hope to hold their fatal course indefinitely in check. It is of little consequence whether it be the forces of nature or the forces of the human mob, or both together; in any case it is the laws of matter that are called into play and that inexorably destroy him who has aspired to dominate them …

After Virtue famously ends with its author declaring that the task we face today is similar to that set for those living through the collapse of Rome: not to ‘shore up the imperium’ but to start building anew. Guénon similarly believed that the work was not political but spiritual: to rediscover the eternal truths which must be at the base of any functional culture. ‘Truth is not a product of the human mind’, he wrote; a notion which the Enlightenment philosophers rejected, but which we are now perhaps beginning to understand the truth of all over again.

Spengler predicted that the failure of the Enlightenment would lead to a new search for that beyond-human truth. All of the theoretical edifices constructed by modern Western intellectuals to replace their old sacred order – liberalism, leftism in its myriad forms, conservatism, nationalism – had failed. Beginning in the 21st century, the grandchildren of the revolutionaries and the rationalists, adrift in a failing materialist culture, would enter what he called a ‘second religiousness’:

The age of theory is drawing to its end. The great systems of Liberalism and Socialism all arose between about 1750 and 1850. That of Marx is already half a century old, and it has had no successor. Inwardly it means, with its materialist view of history, that Nationalism has reached its extreme logical conclusion: it is therefore an end-term … In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new hither-side that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts.

When a sacred order collapses, despair can ensue, even amongst those who would not want its return, or who are not even aware what is missing. Day by day, more people are realising that our new sovereign, the Machine, is a false god, and we have no idea how to dethrone him. But the cycle of rise and fall is an inevitable part of the human historical pattern; and a necessary one. ‘The passage from one cycle to another’, wrote Guénon, ‘can take place only in darkness.’

We are in that passage now; we live in a darkness between worlds. Macintyre concluded that the West was waiting for ‘a new – and doubtless very different – St Benedict.’ That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Modernity is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, strategems, conflicts, world-saving machines or clever TED talks. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the roaring of the Machine. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of it ourselves

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