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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The Faustian Fire

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

Part 2

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

The Faustian Fire

Reading Spengler in the springtime

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Spring is here in the west of Ireland. This year, this means the nights are still frosty, the fire is on in the evenings, and the birds are still hungry. Last weekend I ploughed and raked a section of my field, and then sowed it with native wildflowers. This week, the birds all got up earlier than me and ate the lot. There was barely a seed left this morning; only a lot of telltale little patches of blue and white bird shit where my seedbed had been.

Working on the land is like that: an endless battle to protect your little space from every other creature that also wants its bounty. And while I didn’t start this essay intending to compare the battle between bluetits and humans for control over seed with the battle between all of us for control of our cultural story – well, it looks like I just have.

Sometimes, when I am working on the land, I can clear my head of thoughts and questions. Other times – more often – the questions won’t leave; they swill around, they compost in my mind, they develop and grow tendrils and shoots. Sometimes they are even partially answered. At the weekend, as so often recently, the thought that wouldn’t leave me was a question that I have been mulling maybe for years: Why does the West hate itself?

Yes, I know: it’s a silly generalisation. Most people in the West feel nothing of the sort, and ‘the West’ in any case is a capacious notion; one I’m going to dig into next time. The question, if I am being sharper, ought to read something like: ‘Why do the cultural, institutional and intellectual elites of many Western countries, especially in the Anglosphere, appear to be consumed by cultural self-loathing?’

The culture war has not yet come to Ireland, praise be (though the sharp Irish writer Angela Nagle suspects it is on its way.) But it has consumed the public conversation, and much of the reality, in my homeland, Britain, and it is hard to watch, even from a distance. Hard to watch the factions at each others throats; hard to watch the endless, performative identity wars consume the brains of the cultural elite like a dose of CJD; hard to watch bizarre terminologies cooked up in California being parroted unquestioningly in London; hard to watch those who are supposed to be the guardians and protectors of your country turn around and knife it between the shoulders. 

Why is this happening and what is going on? Looked at through a wide lens, it is a deeply weird (not to mention WEIRD) phenomena. What sort of country is ashamed of itself? What people wants to be governed by a ruling class that holds it in contempt? What historical precedent is there for a lasting culture whose story-makers are embarrassed by their own ancestors? How can any culture continue into the future if it is teaching its children a deeply disturbing form of racialised self-loathing?

Defenders of the current moment will usually respond that such accusations are hysterical. What is happening in the West, they say, is a long-overdue ‘reckoning’ with our culture’s past: the empires, the colonies, the imposition of our ways of life on the rest of the world. They’re not wrong about much of that history, however partially they tell the story. We know, or we should, that there were plenty of dark chapters in the Western past. If any culture takes to the high seas with cannons blazing and proceeds to paint half the world red (on the map and often on the ground), then at some point a reckoning will arrive. Actions have consequences. God is not mocked.

But this is not a good enough explanation for what is now clearly a process of accelerating cultural disintegration. After all, plenty of other parts of the world – pretty much all of them in fact, humans being what they are – have dark pasts too, but you don’t see Russia’s cultural elites collapsing into spirals of performative shame over how Lenin and Stalin brutalised eastern Europe or killed millions of their own people (on the contrary, Uncle Joe is very popular there these days.) Japan’s murderous history in southeast Asia doesn’t seem to have led to a desire to dismantle its historic identity, and China is certainly not about to start apologising for the last four thousand years – count them – that it has been engaging in imperial expansion.

No, something else is surely going on in the West, and especially in the Anglosphere, which can’t be explained purely by historical karma. Over the last few years, a new and still-coalescing ideology, which has been gathering steam in the post-modern catacombs of America for decades, has burst out onto the streets and into the studios, and is now coursing through the culture, overturning what was until recently uncontroversial or unquestioned. The energy around it is not that of the self-declared love and justice. It tastes of deconstruction, division, intolerance, hatred and rage.

This thing attracts a lot of labels – critical social justice, left purity culture, victimhood culture, dictatorship of the minority, the Great Awokening and plenty more – but nobody can quite pin down what is happening. It is not really politics, for politics is about achieving practical results. It is not any kind of serious programme for change: the pieces of the newly dominant ideology don’t even fit together on their own terms. It is not debate, for real debate is suppressed, with threats and intimidation. It is not revolution, for which nobody has the cojones, let alone a plan, and it is not war, thankfully, though I’m not sure I’d place a bet on it staying that way (and neither apparently would the CIA.) 

Some – including me – see it best as a kind of pseudo-religion: the Sermon on the Mount minus forgiveness, love and God; a puritan eruption, brimming with sin but stripped of the possibility of redemption. English philosopher John Gray brusquely refers to it as an irrational cult, while the American writer Wesley Yang has suggested that it is the ‘successor ideology’ to liberalism, just as liberalism was the successor ideology to Christianity. (Yang describes the emerging value system as ‘authoritarian Utopianism that masquerades as liberal humanism while usurping it from within.’) Rod Dreher, among others, is tracking the emergence of a new totalitarianism; one which has no need of secret police and gulags, but operates via Big Tech and mob culture instead.

Perhaps they are all right. But why is it happening at all?

Further down the road, I’m going to dig a bit further into what might be going on under the surface of the so-called culture war. But for now I want to state the position I’ll be coming from: that this is a symptom, not a cause.

However deranged much of the newly dominant narrative may be, those pushing it are not the reason for the West’s ongoing fragmentation, any more than Donald Trump or the ‘alt right’ are. Something had to be wrong in the first place for any of this to take hold. A virus has a much higher chance of being devastating if the body’s immune system is already weakened. A healthy culture would not countenance the increasingly absurd claims of the cultural left, from ‘white fragility’ to biological sex being ‘assigned at birth.’ That in turn would not open a space for an equally determined, and equally disturbing, radical right, whose anger is rising in proportion to their opponents’ cultural power.

The resulting cultural tension, the violent language, the polarising stances, the hot-button issues, the radical intolerance, the deepening anger, the cancellations and impositions, the online battles that are distressing so many people – these are the waters we are all forced to swim in now. But the question that haunts me daily is a bigger one: what polluted the spring?

Which brings us, by a circuitous route, to Oswald Spengler.

Spengler’s book The Decline of the West has been sitting on my shelf for years, and I’ve been putting off reading it. Like its author, it has an intimidating aura. But as spring came I finally sat down with it. Published in 1918, the book – or rather the first of its two volumes – catapulted its author, a previously obscure private scholar, to fame. The combination of date and title might have been reason enough: Germany was emerging shattered from the First World War and beginning its spiral into two decades of catastrophe which would climax with the Second. Decline was very much in the air.

But it wasn’t just in Germany that the book took off. Across the West, after the horrors of the Great War, there was a sense that something was terribly wrong. A society that could create and pull much of the world into a hell like the Somme, or Passchendaele (where my own great-grandfather was a sniper) seemed to be suffering from some sickness. All of the pompous, self-regarding imperial tales the European elites had been telling themselves for so long: were they, after all, lies?

Spengler’s book The Decline of the West has been sitting on my shelf for years, and I’ve been putting off reading it. Like its author, it has an intimidating aura. But as spring came I finally sat down with it. Published in 1918, the book – or rather the first of its two volumes – catapulted its author, a previously obscure private scholar, to fame. The combination of date and title might have been reason enough: Germany was emerging shattered from the First World War and beginning its spiral into two decades of catastrophe which would climax with the Second. Decline was very much in the air.

But it wasn’t just in Germany that the book took off. Across the West, after the horrors of the Great War, there was a sense that something was terribly wrong. A society that could create and pull much of the world into a hell like the Somme, or Passchendaele (where my own great-grandfather was a sniper) seemed to be suffering from some sickness. All of the pompous, self-regarding imperial tales the European elites had been telling themselves for so long: were they, after all, lies?

Spengler took the long view. The Decline of the West is a comparitive history of civilisations, in which its author claims to have discovered a pattern of birth, growth and decline which can be applied to all major human cultures, from that of Ancient Egypt to that of the modern West. What sounds like a mathematical formula is then rendered in prose which is sometimes closer to poetry (Spengler preferred to call himself a poet, rather than a historian), employing overarching metaphors, sweeping historical claims, layers of polemic and an often-overlooked spiritual undergirding (a culture, to Spengler, was at root a spiritual, rather than a political, creation). All of this resulted in both the instant scorn of professional historians, and an entirely original piece of work. Those two things often go together.

Spengler’s model first divided the world up into discrete cultures, which each had a distinct form. He then explained, through comparative examples, what he believed the standard cultural cycle was. First, a ‘culture’ is born, in a specific part of the Earth. The place itself is the primary influence on the feel and form of the culture, which cannot function properly outside its birthplace. A young culture is ‘organic’; that is to say it grows from the bottom up. The peasant, said Spengler – the ‘eternal man’ – is the base upon which a culture is built. A culture is at root a product of the countryside and the small town. 

As the culture grows, it coalesces around a distinct ‘Idea’. Each culture exists to fulfill this Idea, though it may not know it. The culture rises and grows, reaches its full potential and then flowers. The Idea floats off into the world like pollen on the wind. This is the golden age. Having fulfilled itself, then, the culture ‘suddenly hardens, its blood congeals, its force breaks down and it becomes civilisation.’

At this point, it may create great monuments, build empires, erect glorious buildings, produce great art – yet its life force is already seizing up. Its peasantry is gone, sucked into the urban slums, the small towns have become sprawling cities, its spiritual life has ossified, and its arts have become self-referential. Civilisation has triumphed, and civilisation ultimately only has one final arbiter of value: money. 

Eventually, after a century or two of vainglory, such a civilisation becomes a globalised ‘cosmopolis’. Great ‘world-cities’, made up of people uprooted from landscapes far and near, are its heart, but despite their energy these cities – ‘the monstrous symbol and vessel of the completely emancipated intellect’, where ‘money and intellect celebrate their greatest and their last triumphs’ – are unable to create or maintain real culture. What was once animal has become machine.

At this point, claimed Spengler, the decline begins in earnest. The uprooting of everything and everyone, the quest for glory, the construction of empires and monuments, the accumulation of wealth and the subsequent dependency upon it: all of it creates an exploited, unhappy mass population in the ‘barrack-cities’ which are easy prey for corporations, media manipulators and demagogues. Here the arch traditionalist Spengler comes into strange alignment with the communist Karl Marx, with his theory of ‘alienation’, and with the uncategorisable Simone Weil, with her reflections on the consequences of rootlessness. All are in agreement that the creation of vast populations in industrial megacities are the precursor to turmoil. What kind – and whether the turmoil is to be welcomed or feared – is another question.

Spengler’s prediction on this front was clear: the age of cosmopolis was the beginning of the end of all civilisations, from the Chinese Warring States to Ancient Rome. The resulting decline in each case paved the way for ‘Caesarism’: the rise of demagogues promising to bring order to increasingly formless chaos. After several hundred years of such centralised tyranny, the civilisation would finally succumb to the weight of history and be replaced by another. This, he said, would be the fate of the West; and soon. 

So what did Spengler make of this thing we call ‘Western culture’: what did he mean by it, and what did he predict? What seems to set him apart from other comparative historians, aside from the poetry and the purple passages (always a plus for me) is the way he categorised cultures. This is the part of the book that academic historians really hate, which of course means that it’s the most interesting bit. Spengler bunched up great chunks of historical time in entirely unique ways. Rejecting the then-common division of past eras into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ – a schema which he said was too parochial, and flattered the West by placing it at the centre of the world – he invented his own pattern instead. 

First came ‘Appolonian culture’ – Spengler’s term for the Classical world. Appolonian culture, like all others, had its own distinctive forms – arts, architecture, literature and the like, all accreting around key symbols. The symbol of the Appollonian world was the column. Growing out of the ruins of the Appolinian world came a culture invented especially for the occasion by Spengler: the ‘Magian’, which took in Judaism, Byzantium and early Islam. Magian culture, too, had its own forms and poetry: primarily, as the name suggests, it was a time of mysteries, of questions without answers, of trust in the higher will. Its symbol was the cavern.

Then came the culture in whose dying days we are now all living: the splendidly-named ‘Faustian’ age. As the name suggests, the Faustian Idea – the soul, the essence which has driven the rise and fall of ‘the West’ – is expansion, curiosity and an endless forward-drive. An endless need for conquest, invention and exploration define the Faustian soul, which believes to its core that the whole world should follow its example, and that its values are universal.

Faustian culture, said Spengler, was born around the year 1000. Its summer was the high middle ages, its symbol the great Gothic cathedral, its golden age represented by the music of Bach. By the time of the sixteenth century Reformation the decay was setting in, and by 1800 Faustian culture had begun to atrophy into civilisation: Classicism and Romanticism were signs of an increasingly rigid civilisation already looking fondly back to its cultural or natural origins. 

With industrial revolution, Enlightenment and empire, the Faustian fire was carried to all corners of the globe, and its core Idea – the onward-push of economic growth, material expansion, ‘development’, ‘progress’ and all the other modern mythologies – was seeded across the world by the ‘expansion power of the Western soul.’ Organic lifeways were replaced by abstract systems, and modern science (‘no other culture possesses anything like it’) became the ‘servant of the technical will-to-power’. Religion declined, to be replaced first by liberalism (‘freedom from the restriction of soil-bound life’) and then socialism, which in Spengler’s broad usage meant the urge to politically reshape the whole world according to egalitarian lights. The Western left, in Spengler’s telling, as the Marxist revolution in Russia had so recently demonstrated, were Faustian too in their totalising universalism and their ruthless destruction of opposition.

But even as the West was conquering the world, its own soul was seizing up. By the twentieth century, the direction was clear, and for Spengler the Great War only confirmed it. Only disintegration, followed by Caesarism, a ‘return to formlessness’, awaited us now. The twenty-first century, predicted Spengler, would be the period in which this would begin. The only realistic response was to adopt some version of stoicism, and hope for the coming of a cultured and suitably strong Caesar to steady the ship as she sank.

It’s probably not necessary to labour the point that one of Spengler’s readers did indeed become leader of Germany fifteen years later, and tried to fill the role he believed the author had allotted for him. Spengler was not impressed: the parvenu Hitler was not the Caesar he was looking for, and he had no time for his racial theories about ‘Aryans’. But all Spengler’s talk about ‘blood’ and the ‘vigour’ of nations, not to mention his fear of ‘coloured races’ usurping ‘Prussians’, and the need for a strongman to respond, had fed the tiger which would come to eat his country. He had discovered that we don’t get to choose the shape of our Caesars, or their designs. All we can do is try to make sure we do not prepare the ground for them to spring from.

I expect that those academic historians could still kick a hundred holes in the details of The Decline of the West. What else are academics for? But it is hard to argue that the broad trajectory which Spengler offered was wrong. Now, as we watch a new period in our decline unfurl, with fear and trembling, I find it useful to keep his model in mind. I find it useful to remember that we are the men and women of the Faustian age; that we were formed by it, that its values are in us even if we think we reject them, and that, like any people formed by any culture, we find it hard to see beyond the horizon to what might come next. 

What is a culture? It is a story that a people tells itself. Whether or not that story emerges from the Earth and then creates a people to tell it – as Spengler believed and I am tempted to believe too – we build and rebuild our cultures every day, in the stories we tell to our children and ourselves. Stories about who we are, where we came from and where we’re going. Stories about the deeper meaning of human life, about what matters, about what we stand for and will not. Stories, ultimately, about Truth. When the story stops being told, the people will disappear; and vice versa. And when the story is turned in on itself, when its tellers lose faith in it, when it is mocked or abused from within, or when it simply burns itself out – then the people begins to dissolve: to come apart, to slough away from the centre, to stumble and eventually to fall.

Anyone who is familiar with my writing will know that I can’t seem to escape the influence of the Californian poet Robinson Jeffers. The simple reason is that Jeffers was a prophet of our times: like Spengler, though even more gloomily, he saw what they would bring us. From the 1920s until the 1940s – the same time Spengler was publishing – Jeffers wrote blistering, alienating verse about the rot at the heart of America and the West. After the US entered World War Two, the Cassandra of the clifftops could foresee the endgame: America would become the greatest empire the world had yet seen, and its very success – the bounty of greed and pride – would drive it and the West to their Ozymandian fate:

We shall have to hold half the earth: we shall be sick with self-disgust,
And hated by friend and foe, and hold half the earth—or let it go, and go down with it …

… but we have to bear it. Who has kissed Fate on the mouth, and blown out the lamp—must lie with her.

Spengler’s answer to the crumbling of the West was to await the coming of his new Caesar. Jeffers’ answer was to live in deep time – to try and observe life in his ‘perishing republic’ from the perspective of rock and ocean, from which all human deeds were ultimately small and ridiculous. But there is another way. Joseph Campbell writes about it in his book about mythic traditions, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Quoting the British equivalent of Spengler, the historian Arnold Toynbee, Campbell concludes that:

Schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to weld together again the disintegrating elements. Only birth can conquer death – the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. 

Only birth can conquer death. At the end of a culture, the real work is not lamentation or desperate defence – both instinctive but futile reactions – but the creation of something new:

Peace then is a snare; war is a snare; change is a snare; permanence a snare. When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified – and resurrected; dismembered totally and then reborn.

What, then, is the real significance of the orgy of cultural self-immolation sweeping through the nations of the West? Is it the clearing of the ground for a new way of seeing, a new ideology, a new culture? Maybe. But there is another possibility: that the culture war marks not the birth of a new value system but a last desperate gasp of the old one. It could be that the incoherent semi-ideology of ‘social justice’ will turn out not to be a successor culture at all, but the instrument of our final dismemberment: the flickering of the last thin flames of the Faustian fire.

This new ‘religion’, after all, is almost exclusively confined to Western elites: to the upper middle classes, the intellectuals, the wealthy and the comfortable. To the very people, in other words, who have benefited generationally from the Faustian impulse to conquer, remake and extract wealth from the wider world. Perhaps the drastic loss of cultural self-belief that the ‘woke’ moment represents is an ironic and fitting end for a culture whose pride drove it to conquer the world. ‘Sick with self-disgust’, as Jeffers put it, the West is turning on itself. After all, as Faust learned, if you make a deal with the devil, he’s going to turn up and collect on it in the end.

Whether or not that is true, the useful work now seems to me to be that outlined by Campbell: to conquer death by birth. As Simone Weil explained in the book I wrote about last timethe correct response to a rootless, lost or broken society is ‘the growing of roots’ – the name she gave to the final section of her work. Pull up the exhausted old plants if you need to – carefully, now – but if you don’t have some new seed to grow in the bare soil, if you don’t tend it and weed it with love, if you don’t fertilise it and water it and help it grow: well, then your ground will not produce anything good for you. It will choke up with a chaos of thistles and weeds. 

This, in practical terms is, the slow, necessary, sometimes boring work to which I suspect people in our place and time are being called: to build new things, out on the margins. Not to exhaust our souls engaging in a daily war for or against a civilisation that is already gone, but to prepare the seedbed for what might, one day long after us, become the basis of a new culture. To go looking for truth. To light particular little fires – fires fuelled by the eternal things, the great and unchanging truths – and tend their sparks as best we can. To prepare the ground with love for a resurrection of the small, the real and the true.

But first, we are going to have to be crucified. 

The Ineffable Light

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

Part 1

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

The Ineffable Light

On rising above the ground

In my last essay, I wrote about the ongoing ‘culture war’ as a symptom, rather than a cause, of the cultural disintegration that I see rolling out now across the West, and especially across the Anglosphere. I wrote about Oswald Spengler’s theory of Western decline, and how his notion that we are now entering an age of ‘formlessness’ seems to me to be correct. Next week I’m going to write more about the form.

But I have a thought in the meantime about how to talk about this – or rather, about what it is that we are really talking about. As the terminology suggests, a ‘culture war’ does pretty much what it says on the tin: it’s an argument, shading increasingly into a more serious conflict, about the deep values of a culture – and even, in these confused, post-postmodern times, about what and whether a ‘culture’ even exists. But rarely does this stay on the level of cultural analysis. In the social media age, where every opinion can become a grenade in seconds, and armies can form before anyone has worked out what they’re fighting for, the whole thing has become politics. And there are big forces at play – corporations, cultural institutions, private actors, well-heeled lobby groups – turning wheels behind the scenes. This is one reason why the whole experience of even talking about it is so traumatic. It is tied up with a power struggle. Dip your toes into the water, and the chances are that some shark or other will drag you in.

But is there another way to talk about this – or another level to talk about it on? That’s what I am clumsily pursuing here, and as I thought about this question, I remembered something I had been introduced to a while back by my wife, who is an enthusiastic student of sacred geometry; the search for hidden patterns in the universe. It’s from a book by the late Keith Critchlow, one of the founders of the Temenos Academy, called The Hidden Geometry of Flowers, and you can see it at the top of this post.

This is Critchlow’s rendition of a Socratic concept apparently laid out in Plato’s Timaeus (which I am not going to pretend to have read.) Critchlow uses the image of a flower to explain the different levels of knowing we can operate at. Like a flower, our knowing – or understanding – will begin in the soil, and reach its way up towards the light. This, says Socrates and Critchlow and just about every spiritual teacher in human history, is the journey we are all on: to shift our level of understanding always upwards towards the divine light.

I like the way Critchlow does this here, because it offers us all a good aspiration. Look at where it starts, down at the roots: estimation. Trying to work things out. This is where we all start out. But immediately above this comes the bulb of opinion. This is where our culture mostly operates, and where most of us do too, most of the time (I plead guilty.) What is social media, what is the ‘public debate’, what is the ‘culture war’ but the constant manifestation of the bulb of opinion? But this is the lowest level of knowing: it is not even out of the soil. Nothing has broken through yet. There is no truth to be found here.

We need to aim higher. The leaves that grow from that bulb are fed by knowledge: real knowledge. That means reading, experience, open conversation, exploration and paying attention, especially to people we don’t like. Our insta-culture militates entirely against this. Opinion sells. Opinion generates clicks. Thoughtful exploration is not easily commercialised, and it doesn’t get the blood up either. But I think we have to spend our time here, because this is where we build up towards what any plant is working towards: flowering. This is the birth of true wisdom, the move into the ‘ineffable light’. If we are stuck in the bulb of opinion, we will get nowhere. Knowledge is necessary, but not the end goal. Wisdom – Truth – is where we must be headed.

I’m not going to suggest that you will find that here, but as we think and talk and explore, we should keep our eyes on this prize. We should keep our feet on the ground and stand that ground: say what we know to be true, and refuse to be intimidated, but remind ourselves always that ‘mere opinion’, as the poet Rumi once called it, is mired in darkness and we have to grow beyond it. The more I think about this, the more I think that ‘opinions’ are brittle. We defend them so angrily because at some level we are not sure about them at all.

It’s just a thought – and an image – that I wanted to share. To end, here is another one, taken from my favourite – and probably only – Orthodox punk ‘zine Death to the World. When you find yourself dispirited about the shattering we are all living through, you might find it helpful. For me, the perspective it provides is a pointer towards the flower:

We take it as our great privilege to enter an age wherein no stone remains on another. There is much to be gained amidst the dark ruins of a shattered word: Brokenness and desolation, so hopeless in the eyes of some, are invisibly pregnant with promise in the eyes of others. As we kick the opiate of material comforts, exit the temple of broken idols, and come to acknowledge that our culture is one of loud and benumbing noise, we finally stand on the threshold of encountering Truth. If one is not seduced back to numbness by the influence of contemporary life, this threshold positions one to apprehend truly (and even transcend almost completely) our dying world’s scaffolding – its logic, appearances, gross phenomena – and come to know by experience the spiritual, otherworldly life. Thus, when one loses all that is of apparent worth and modern society’s ugly face is unmasked, a search for the new, authentic life begins.

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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.

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

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)

The Passion of St George – 23 April

Proclaiming St George’Day ( 23rd of April): A Day of “uprightness”, and a day of remembering, sharing and of coming together, organizing “Convivium” or Forum for Ethics, Honesty and “Uprightness”
Asking St George his Intercession, protection and patronage for the project:

The saint was then beheaded on April 23, 303. And his feast day is still celebrated all over the world! 1717 years later, in the Year 2020 we asked you to pray .


One year later on 23 April 2021, no celebrations outside due to lokckdown but we can still pray in our Heart and Remember Him

The Prayer to Saint George directly refers to the courage it took for the saint to confess his Belief before opposing authority:

Prayers of Intercession to Saint George:

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit.

Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.

O God! You are the Bestower of favours. No one has favour over You. O Possessor of Majesty and Nobility, You are the One Who constantly bestows His bounties. There is no deity other thanYou. You are the One who grants safety and refuge to those that seek it and to those in fear.  We ask You to remove all tribulations, those that we know and those that we do not know and those about which You know more, for truly You are the Most Mighty, the Most Generous. ( From the Prayer on  Bara’a Night )

The Passio of St george:

The legend of St George is extant in the medieval manuscripts in a variety of forms, as with most major saints’ “lives”. This is a translation into English of the oldest form of the St George legend, most likely 5th century in date, and condemned as foolish and heretical by the church in the 6 th century Decretum Gelasianum. In his study of the various forms of the text, Matzke chose to give this original form the slightly confusing label of “the apocryphal text”. A later revised form, purged of the worst excesses of the original, he called “the canonical text”.
The Greek text of this original form is mostly lost, but a palimpsest in Vienna contains some 5th
century leaves.

April 23 – The passion of the Martyr George

  1. The emperor Datianus orders everyone to sacrifice to the gods on pain of torture
    At this time the devil took hold of Datianus, king of the Persians and king over the four corners
    of the world, which are above all the kings of the earth; and he sent out an edict that all the kings should gather together. And when the kings were assembled, to the number of seventy-two, and seated before his tribunal, with the senators in a circle and innumerable soldiers, the emperor Datianus ordered that every kind of torture, which he had prepared, should be gathered together in the sight of all the people. Among these were brass boxes , in which were twice-sharpened swords, frying-pans, cooking pots, very sharp saws, bronze bulls, fiery hooks fixed into boots, iron wheels and many other types of torments, without number. And he began to say, “If I find anyone who speaks against the gods and does not sacrifice to them, I shall cut out their tongue, I shall pluck out their eyes, I shall make their ears deaf, I shall split their jaws, I shall pluck out their teeth, I shall tear their brain from their head, cut off their arms, bruise their neck, sever their upper arms and shins , cut the nerves of their feet, rake out their bowels, and whatever is left I will hand over to the worms!” On seeing these torments displayed, many who were thought to believe in God recoiled in fear, and no-one was heard to say that he was a Christian.
  1. An army officer from Cappadocia named George appears, and tells them not to.
    And while innumerable people were assembled, behold the saint of God, George, bright as the
    middle of heaven and earth, a native of Cappadocia, and an officer over many soldiers, a recipient of the gold many times, came to the emperor Datianus; so that he might serve him while the sun was visible. George saw the many kings assembled around the emperor Datianus with his army, blaspheming Christ and worshipping demons. Then all the gold which the servant of God carried with him, he gave it to the poor, he took off the cloak that he was wearing, and threw himself on the ground, and he began to say to himself, “The devil has closed their eyes so that they might not recognize the Lord.” Then he in a loud voice he said, “Throw down your coins, O kings, which are worthless, and do not call on the gods, who are not gods but the work of men. For let the gods, who did not create heaven and earth, be destroyed.”
  2. The emperor questions St George
    On hearing this, the emperor was silent and looking to him, said, “Man, you have not only offended us, but you lessen all the gods. They are gods who give favour to everyone. Therefore, advance and give sacrifice to Apollo who preserves the whole earth and governs the whole world. Now tell me from what city are you? What is your name, or for what reason have you come here?

St. George replied to him, “I am a servant of God. The name which I have from men is George and in Christ I am a Christian, a Cappadocian. I was over a large number of soldiers, and well have I laboured in the service of Christ. I was also in the province of Palestine. Tell me, O emperor, to which of the gods do you advise me to sacrifice?”
The emperor said, “To Apollo, who oversees the sky, or at least to Neptune, whom we say
established the earth.” St. George replied, “I do not worship those of whom you speak, the old serpent. But to the people who are ever awaiting the mercy of God I speak, in the names of saints. I send away many and a few by name, so that I may describe the works of your gods.
Which of these do you make me similar to: Eve, or Jezebel, the murderess of the prophets? or instead Mary, who gave birth to the Lord? Be ashamed, O emperor. Those in whom you believe are not gods, but idols, deaf and blind, the works of the hands of men.

  1. St George is tortured, without effect.
    Then the angry emperor ordered that he should be suspended on the rack and scraped with
    [metal] claws so that his intestines came out and his whole body was wounded; and he endured this punishment in Christ. He then ordered him to be taken down and taken outside the city, and stretched out with four windlasses and the parts of his body which remained to be bloodied with clubs, and salt scattered into his wounds, and his stripes rubbed down with coarse goat-hair cloths. And then he ordered iron military boots to be brought, and once they were put on, his [bare] foot began to press on the spikes and the blood flowed from his feet like water from a spring. Read more here

Look also St George and Al kidhr

Mythology of Easter: Resurrection

Passover is the Passing By Feast

On the Origin of Easter

The undeniable truth is that  for Christianity Jesus is the personification of the central sun of our solar system. Perceived from the northern hemisphere, and particularly from between the latitudes of the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle, the celestial arc-shape path of our Light Bringer becomes in the fall each day a little smaller. But on (about) December 21, this daily shrinkage comes to stand still. In other words, the daily changing in the size of the Risen Savior’s arc has then stopped, or “died”. However, after three natural days, in which the nights lasted the longest of the year, this heavenly motion comes back to life again, starting with the sunrise on December 25. We celebrate this annual rebirth of Jesus with the Light Feast as a continuation of the Germanic Midwinter Festival.

As the Roman deceivers want this to be hidden from the uninitiated, they moved Jesus’ day of death from December 21st to “Good Friday”, that is, the Friday before Easter, which is today. Furthermore, they changed the meaning of this Passover to the resurrection of the Savior, which in reality occurs every year on December 25th.

Just like Christmas, also the Passover is originally a Germanic feast. As we celebrate during the Midwinter Feast our survival of the year’s darkest part, we celebrate during the Eostre Festival the fact that within a natural day the day time period has again become longer than the night time period. In other words, the light of the day has again overtaken or passed by the darkness of the night. The official version of the origin of the name “Passover” tries to fool us by pointing to the Hebrew word “Pesach”, but that is like putting the world upside down. In reality, the name “Passover” originates from the old Germanic verb for ‘passing by’. Somehow ‘passing by’ and ‘taking over’ merged into “Passover”. Another myth is that the name “Easter” is referring to the East. This is nonsense, as it is derived from the Old English “Eostre”. Actually, it is all quite straightforward, only by examining these names.

This (long) weekend, we celebrate the fact that the daily lighter period has taken over or passed by the nightly darker period. In other words, the entire period of natural day is again ruled by Light, and no longer by Darkness. We can also examine the way we still use the verb ‘pass’ in our contemporary language. For instance, we pass a deed. After this deed is passed, the previous owner passed it on to the following one. Similarly, we also pass a ball from the previous player to the next in various ball sports.

When we imagine a full year as a circle, then the straight lines that connect the starting points of opposing seasons form a cross within that circle. This is the true Cross of Jesus, as shown in the figure on the right-hand side. Opposite to the beginning of winter on (about) December 21st lies on this circle the beginning of summer on (about) June 21st. These two points are called ‘solstices’ from solstitium in Latin, literally meaning ‘solar standstill’. However, it is not the standing still of the Light Bringer, but the standstill of the daily growing (or shrinking) of its arc-like path. Likewise, opposite to the beginning of spring on (about) March 21st lies on this circle the beginning of autumn on (about) September 23rd. These two points are called equinoxes from aequinoctium in Latin, literally meaning ‘night getting even’ (with day). On these two days a year, the nocturnal darker period and the diurnal lighter period indeed get even.

Furthermore, in case you want to learn more about the original Germanic holidays, then study the Germanic Moon Calendar.

Resurrection and the Feminine Divine
The Christian holiday of Easter is the archetypal summit of the year, where rebirth and
resurrection are venerated in the mystery of Jesus Christ’s awakening from the tomb. In Christian orthodoxy, Easter is known as pascha, the Greek and Latin term referring to the Jewish Passover.
The Apostle Paul uses this word as a title for Christ, “For Christ our Passover lamb [pascha], has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5.7). By the end of the first century CE early Christians had reinterpreted the Exodus story and the Passover ritual as a prototype for the sacrifice of Christ.

The word “Easter” itself, however, is Old English, from Eastre or Eostre, a title derived from an old English month now known as April. Christian Easter is celebrated on the first Sabbath after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This holy-specific day most often occurs in April and is representative of the most fertile time of the year, when sun, moon, and earth are all in their phases of rebirth and awakening. Easter is therefore the day of resurrection, in heaven and on earth. And this heaven-earth relationship is only an archetypal symbol for the heaven-earth awakening that occurs in the soul of God, or in the spirit and breath of each mortal man and woman. In Christian rite and belief, every soul will arise like the sun, moon, and earth, to a new immortal dwelling.
Despite this traditional context, historically, Easter had feminine roots.  Significantly, the old English month of Eostre was itself named after a goddess whose rites of rebirth were celebrated at the same time among the early inhabitants of Britain and Northern Europe. Eostre was a Germanic goddess whose name is cognate with the Proto-Germanic austrôn, meaning dawn or to shine. This deity belongs to a long line of female divinities who are goddesses of the dawn, and are found in various forms throughout Indo-European cultures as beings who bring light and life to the world. For thousands of years before Christianity the divine being who brought forth resurrection was represented as a goddess. Inanna, Isis, Rhea, Cybele, and Demeter are beings with the divine stewardship over rebirth.

The Japanese Amaterasu is a goddess of the dawn who also brings light and life to the world. While these deities were seen as the powers behind the fertility of all things on earth, they also held stewardship over the mysterious cosmic principle of heavenly life. In the Greco-Roman mystery religions, the revitalization of the initiate was promised via the gifts and boons of the goddess. This should make sense as in fact it is only woman who can bring forth life from her womb. In many respects, the rites of rebirth analogized the tomb with the womb, so that those going into the beyond could be reborn by a Heavenly Mother whose womb was the cosmic precinct of immortality.

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 Read more here

 

Spring Pilgrimage

The Shikoku pilgrimage

The presence of the land, for the landscape in Shikoku is not only beautiful, it is prayerful. The pilgrimage route is not an imposed or fleeting human path; it is an enduring one that the land invites us to travel. Mountains, trees, water—the natural world is inseparable from the human feet that touch the ground. With each step, the pilgrim arrives into an unfolding song.

To be a pilgrim is to set aside, for a while, worldly concerns. To do the daring thing in these days of media and in this age of clocks: taking your time in getting somewhere, or leaving time behind altogether. To travel to a place for the sake of the place and for the sake of the travel. To allow point A and point B to give way to possibility, to mystery. You are meant to allow the journey to do its work on you.

 

Shikoku Pilgrimage

Following the route of 88 Buddhist temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, this rich multimedia story brings you into an ancient landscape.

Enter  Here

Chapter Title Temple
I Heart Sutra

II No Beginning

01
III To Worship a Mountain

12
IV The Temple and the Field

34
V I Am Called Sky

36
VI The Legend of the Cave

45
VII Crossings

VIII Stone Steps

IX Cherry Blossoms

X The Circular Journey

65
XI The Loss of the Unexpected

66
XII Two Trees

75
XIII The Legend of Emon Saburō

88

Eternity:Time for a Perpetual Spring

We change Reality by changing our Perception of it

There is much to be learn about Eternity by living in Time

There is much to be learn about Time by living in Eternity

Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani

“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

 

 “Ideas create idols. Only wonder leads to knowing.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

“Use Everyday as a Gift to sharpen the sword that is  your Soul”

Miquel

Real, profound and lasting change for the better […] can no longer be the result of the victory […] of a particular political view. After all, that is ultimately only an external solution; a structural or systematic concept from the outside.

More than ever before, a profound change will have to be derived from human existence itself, from a fundamental reassessment of people’s position in the world, of their relationships to each other and to the universe. If a better economic and political model is to be made, then […] it must be derived from profound existential and moral changes in society. It’s not something that can be designed and introduced as if you were talking about a new car.

If it is about more than just a new variation on old degeneration, it must above all be an expression of life itself, which takes place in the natural process of transformation. A better system will not automatically lead to a better life. In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.

Václav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1985

History is a mirror of the past and a lesson for the present.

A Persian proverb

  • Taking History as A Mirror to Be Future-ready

Yesterday is a history; tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift; that is why we call it the present.

The instructive line advocates a positive attitude towards life — living in the present. And people today also tend to focus on the present and plan for the future. History, however, is the record of the past. Some people may ask, “Given all the demands from the present and the future that people have to worry about, why bother with what has been? Why not just leave the past in the past? Does history have any value for people living in the present? ” However, we cannot isolate the present from the past. The past causes the present and influences the future. It’s undeniable to admit the value of history. We can take history as a mirror, learning something useful from it to prosper our country and cultivate ourselves to be a better person.
Tang Taizong, an emperor in Tang Dynasty, once said, “One can know the alteration of the society by viewing its history.” That is to say, the history can reflect the reasons for a country’s prosperity or depression. And history is never short of stories to demonstrate this point.

With post-industrialism in the latter part of the 20th century the world moved toward a
constant change gradient and as a result we entered a state of continuous transition. Now we are entering what I believe to be another state, one in which the gradient of change, largely due to information technology, is shifting from horizontal / linear to one that is exponential. The changes we are now facing and will continue to face much more ferociously are of such  magnitude that survival will depend on the ability of people to work through the effects at the deepest levels of their personalities.
Whether we have the resilience to cope with these changes is, itself, a source of anxiety.
There is certainly ample evidence for concern about the degree of social fragmentation.
There is abundant evidence that our reliable containers, which have been vital to human development, are dissolving: familiar family structures, community, social institutions, stable groups and organizations, accepted norms, etc.

Without transformative containers, the cycle of projection and introjection that allows us to stay in contact with the reality of others can no longer do its integrative work. Psychotic anxieties and primitive rages and yearnings are unmediated and unmodified by containers that can no longer help to transform them into tolerable experience or reparative impulse.  Deterioration in their containing functions releases frightening aggression and disorientation which, in turn, elicits primitive defenses that  foster hostile projection or alienated withdrawal.

Perhaps we are not resilient enough, psychologically and sociologically, to cope with the enormous ambivalence and anxiety accompanying these changes, dooming us to live in the polarized, rigid world of fundamentalism, moralism, political correctness and denigration that seems to increasingly define our public spaces. Such dynamics can readily evoke an “apocalyptic-trajectory-in-the-mind”: the idea that unleashed hostility and aggression mixed with dissassociative technological advances will lead us toward massive destruction.

Does a technology that creates the illusion of actual, immediate proximity in time and space distort how we relate to others and to ourselves? Could it impact upon our ability to tolerate the necessary  frustrations of reality? Does being able to “know” things instantaneously, instead of having to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing, impair the development of thinking? Does this perhaps constitute a breakdown of the authority of reality, resulting in less repression, diminished ability to cope with reality and reduced sublimation?

Are we moving towards a world without truth?

Due to the rise of social media, information bubbles and the possibilities of Deepfakes, we no longer live in a shared reality. How further? We live in an “infocalypse,” says British disinformation expert Nina Schick. In her book Deepfakes and the Infocalypse – What You Urgently Need to Know, she sketches a society that is overrun by too much information, whereby no distinction can be made between ‘information’ and ‘disinformation’.

Modern man is ignorant about his own ignorance

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

The shifting from horizontal/linear information/knowledge to one that is exponential push us far away of the tradional knowledge or Wisdom which has a vertical principle.

  • Folly ’s ‘keep your mouth shut’, Anno 2020

Based on economic growth, financial hegemony of the “happy few”” and abuse or rape of cheapest labor workers in Low-cost country or homeland, the democracy of Modern man shall never succeed  to recover his soul with fake “sincere political change” or  with fake “concern”.

Folly ’s ‘keep your mouth shut’ about all the abuses of the systems and is silent about Ethics, Virtues and uprightness… Silence about spiritual grow, honesty and respect of differents communities…

Prophets of doom now abound and “green parties” have mushroomed everywhere. The moving force for those movements remains, however, by and large purely external. For a humanity turned towards outwardness by the very processes of modernization, it is not so easy to see that the blight wrought upon the environment is in reality an externalization of the destitution of the inner state of the soul of that humanity whose actions are responsible for the ecological crisis.

Many claim, for example, that if we could only change our means of transportation and diminish the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy, the problem would be solved or at least ameliorated. Few ask, however, why it is that modern man feels the need to travel so much?

The wisdom of the 21th  century or the Foffy of our times say: ‘keep your mouth shut’,

But can we ask Why?

                                                          Ship of Fools

-Why is the domicile of much of humanity so ugly and life so boring that the type of man most responsible for the environmental crisis has to escape the areas he has helped to vilify and take his pollution with him to the few still well-preserved areas of the earth in order to continue to function?

-Why must modern man consume so much and satiate his so-called needs only outwardly? Read Praise of Folly by Erasmus – Anno 2020

  • The principle of verticality

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).

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.

The Divine 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

The sufi master Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani says: We change Reality by changing our Perception of it.There is much to be learn about Eternity by living in Time and There is much to be learn about Time by living in Eternity

So it is time to look at Eternity:

  • A perpetual Spring

The meaning of spring is deduced from its characteristics: after the “sour face” of winter,  before the burning of summer and the opposite of autumnal nostalgia, it is a renovation and a transfiguration. More than the cyclical return of a bloom, it is the miracle of the existence arisen from the “winter nothingness”, just as the oasis is the drunkenness of a desert touched by a gift of God. His explosions of colors and scents embody the movement of joy, the expansiveness of Love, the expressive sap of God and the alchemy of a revelation.

Spring is also the fulfillment of a promise: that of paradise after the “winter” ordeals of earthly life or after the autumnal sadness of the separation between the soul and God. See Time of Spring in Sufism, Traditions and Folklores

Spiritual “Greenness”or “Viridity” for our times

“Isn’t it time that, loving,

we freed ourselves from the beloved, and, trembling, endured

as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be, in its flight,

something more than itself? For staying is nowhere”. –

-Rainer Maria Rilke ( Duino Elegies)

 Just as it would harm the stomach if it were always full or empty, it does the soul harm when the body lives in constant pleasure.” – Hildegard of Bingen

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” Quran (4:59)

  • Between two Nothingness

Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani

  • Divine Healing Power of Green

During her lifetime, Hildegard of Bingen was famous for her visions that she had published in her mystical & theological works, Liber Scivias, Liber Vitae Meritorum and Liber Divinorum Operum. – Known as the German Prophetess (Prophetissa Teutonica), she perceived herself as the Trumpet of God called to denounce the social and political state of her time. Thus, she did not merely admonish nun and monks but also pope and emperor. – Hildegard was a seeing listener and a listening seeress. Her visions were at once auditions in which she perceived the voice of God, heard the music of the angels and gained insight into the secret of God (Vision of Trinity), the position of the human being in the cosmos and the history / herstory of God with humankind – from creation to incarnation up to the Last Judgement. ( Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179)

  • 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. 

https://sufipathoflove.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/hildegard-of-bingen-viriditas.jpg

‘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.

Hildegard’s Psychotherapy 

Hildegard’s philosophy of healing centered  around her view of the body‐soul relationship.  She identified 35 vices and 35 virtues to offset the vices (see Appendix for a complete list  ). The vices  are like risk factors that can destroy humanity and  life on earth while the virtues are healing forces  counteracting this possible catastrophe. A virtue  like love, compassion, trust, or hope positively affects wound healing, lowers blood pressure by decreasing the adrenaline blood  level, calms the heart rate, and decreases life‐ hreatening abnormalities like poor  digestion and migraine.

According to Hildegard’s writings, these Christian/ traditional virtues  are the greatest healing powers when negative forces—depression, madness,  anxiety, fear, rage, bitterness, arrogance, desperation—are blocking the healing  light (energy). Negative thoughts, emotions, and feeling are health destroying.

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.

The Divine 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.

  • Corona-tion 21 March 2020 – 21 March 2021 : One  year of opportunity

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

  • Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life

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

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a subject in Christian art showing Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt. The Holy Family is normally shown in a landscape.

The subject did not develop until the second half of the fourteenth century, though it was an “obvious step” from depictions of the “legend of the palm tree” where they pause to eat dates and rest; palm trees are often included.[2] It was a further elaboration of the long-standing traditions of incidents that embellished the story of the Flight into Egypt, which the New Testament merely says happened, without giving any details.

Joachim Patinir is generally recognized as the founder of the Flemish school of landscape painting that flourished in the sixteenth century.

Reindert Falkenburg’s important new book, a translation of his doctoral dissertation landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life completed in 1985 for the University of Amsterdam. Falkenburg decisively rejects the prevailing view of Patinir’s landscapes; it is, he says, an anachronism, a projection of essentially modern secular attitudes onto the past.  Falkenburg claims that these paintings were not only deeply rooted in the religious thought of Patinir’s day, but in fact ‘are directly related to late medieval devotional art‘ .

Rest on the Flight into Egypt  ‘can be regarded as visual aids for meditation on the pilgrimage of life’

There are no immediate precedents for this subject in fifteenth-century art. Rather it developed out of earlier ,Andachtshilder, or devotional im­ages, such as the Madonna of Humility, or the Madonna and Child in a hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden whose many plants svmbolize the virtues of the Madonna and the future Passion of Christ.

lt is the tradition of the hortus conclusus, furthermore. that accounts for the complex program of botanical symbols  as the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.

Patinir, however, enriches the original iconic image of the Madonna and Child with subsidiarv scenes of the Massacre of the Innocents, the Miracle of the Wheatfields, and the Fall of the Idols near Heliopolis.  see Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life  and  Migration to the Spiritual Land of Peace

  • To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love

To Become a “Refugee” means to make a migration to Sincerity or to the“uprightness” of Love.

What the Emigration to Sincerity demands of us

  • Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra

When one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar;  but one is  also speaking of a new start for humanity. And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe make his Hijra, his emigration and take refuge in Islam. He became a “Refugee”.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. Read more here: Goethe, the “refugee” and his Message for our times

  • Emigration: Historical Hijra

Starting from a narrow family-tribal environment Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) underwent 13 years of hardship and torment in Meccan society; with the immigration (Hijra) to Medina, a new stage began. This stage, if one takes into consideration the time that it took all religions to spread, is the starting point of one of the fastest religious developments in recorded history. In this sense, when one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; one is speaking of a new start for humanity.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.

The Hijra, as is expressed in a variety of verses, was extrication from a difficult and stressful situation with the aim to widen the belief and the ideals, and a search for new possibilities and new places. From this aspect, the Hijra is not something that was realized as part of a certain process or a completed historical event in the life of Muslims. The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. Thus, the Hijra, which includes certain preconditions, is a moral duty and responsibility for every individual.

Prophet Muhammad placed the Hijra in the minds and hearts of the Islamic community with a hadith (Prophetic tradition) that expresses two basic interconnected matters.

The first is a general principle which, in particular, is considered to be one of the reference points in the evaluation of laws for Islamic jurists. This principle is connected to intentions in behavioral values, as it is the intention that gives behavior direction. As we know the Hijrawas the first and most important social movement of the young Islamic society.

Migration

As is to be expected with all social movements, it is only natural that there were people who had different intentions when participating in the emigration led by Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad drew attention to this situation and stated that those who performed the same action received different responses, each according to their intention. The matter expressed in the hadiths is concerned with a Meccan Muslim who had joined the emigration and come to Medina to marry the woman he loved. The ruling that Prophet Muhammad gave concerning this person can be considered to be a universal principle compulsory for all Muslims to take into account when performing an action. Read more here

  • La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

In their search for a basis for reconciliation of the major religions with the religions of the ancients, the Medici Platonic Academy explored Gnosticism and Hermeticism, which they believed had passed down from this fertile epoch. Outwardly, reconciliation would appear impossible; however, it was argued that, if the nature of the gods were understood in the Orphic Platonist’s sense, and the Mosaic law in the sense of the Hebrew Kaballah, and the Christian grace in its interpretation by Paul to Dionysius, then they differed not in substance, only in name.*

From Egypt had emerged the concept of the Logos or Light, the sun as agent of the Way and the Truth, the spirtual nature which could rise out of and separate itself from the sensual, instinctual animal nature. Man encapsulates within his higher nature a profound reality, the answer to his own quest, closing the circle by both posing and answering the perennial question.

Realising this god within through contemplation is a rebirth, a resurrection through discovery of the spiritual treasure in the profound depths of the mind.

Experiencing this was seen as a paradise by Lorenzo and as a garden of perpetual spring by Poliziano. This was the ‘pure gold’ of early religious belief sought by the Academy.

The Egyptian sage Hermes-Mercurius’s recovered works were seen as validating the doctrines of Plato which they were translating from the Greek at the time.

For the Medici-Ficino circle, the idea of ‘oneness’ was supported by the capacity of all to achieve a deep inner tranquility (ataraxia) and fulfilment.

 The idea that, by mastering the ego and the senses, one discovers who one is, was shared by many cultures, suggesting a single primal source.

 Many such concepts, perceived as Christian (such as the virgin birth, father and son as deity, resurrection and the last judgment) had earlier pagan manifestations. This supported the belief in a common unity and therefore the need for a single harmonised religion. ( The Mysteries or `Mystery religions’ from the Orient, based on the Hermetic Perermial Philosophy, met a need which the established state religions, more concerned with celebrations and the state, did not satisfy. These cults employed allegorical drama to explain rebirth and reach their objective, a transcendant state or palingenesia. Down the ages, access to the higher Mysteries and their brotherhoods was restricted to initiates. They eschewed the deception of the senses and demands of the ego associated with the body and the unenlightened mind.

Read more: La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

From Purgatory to the Primavera: Some Observations on Botticelli and Dante

Quelli ch’anticamente poetaro
I’eta de I’oro e suo stato felice,
forse in Parnaso esto loco sognaro.
Qui fu innocente I’umana radice;
qui primavera sempre e ogne frutto;
nettare e questa di che ciascun dice.
(They who in olden times sang of the Age of Gold and its
happy state perhaps in Parnassus dreamed of this place. Here
the root of mankind was innocent; here is always spring, and
every fruit; this is the nectar of which each tells) (Purg. xxviii,
1 39-1 44).

Botticelli’s “Primavera” has been studied by more eminent art historians than perhaps any other work of Renaissance art. The chronicle of these readings would make for a representative anthology of 20th-century art historical methodologies, and yet no consensus about the painting’s “meaning” has emerged. In this article, the “Primavera” is discussed in the context of what we know and what we can surmise about the artist’s own literary and intellectual culture and especially his lifelong engagement with Dante’s “Divina Commedia”. The painting is studied as an attempt on the artist’s part to translate into his own medium the thematics surrounding Dante’s Earthly Paradise episode at the end of the Purgatorio. These thematics are explored in the context of Cristoforo Landino’s 1481 commentary on Dante, with which Botticelli, who devoted many years to illustrating Landino’s edition, was intimately familiar. Landino saw in Dante’s Earthy Paradise episode an allegory of the soul’s moral and spiritual pilgrimage from the vita voluptuosa through the vita activa to the vita contemplativa, a passage occurring, like Dante’s pilgrimage as a whole, under the influence of Celestial Venus. The “Primavera” is discussed as a visual variation on the same theme, presented all’antica in a manner that resonates with Dante’s classical allusions, especially as interpreted by Landino. In addition to reflecting Botticelli’s own artistic and intellectual interests and aspirations, as well as those of his presumed patron, the “Primavera” echoes still with a rivalry that brought Botticelli into competition with such other close students of Dante as Leonardo and Michelangelo. This paragone awaits further study. Read more here

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

by Paul A. Camacho

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

  • “I Felt My Heart Awaken” – Vita Nova – The new Life

In chapter XXIV Of the Vita Nova , “I Felt My Heart Awaken” (“Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core”, also translated as “I Felt a Loving Spirit Suddenly”), Dante recounts a meeting with Love, who asks the poet to do his best to honour her.

Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
Un spirito amoroso che dormia:
E poi vidi venir da lungi Amore
Allegro sì, che appena il conoscia,

Dicendo: “Or pensa pur di farmi onore”;
E ’n ciascuna parola sua ridia.
E poco stando meco il mio segnore,
Guardando in quella parte onde venia,

Io vidi monna Vanna e monna Bice
Venire inver lo loco là ‘v’io era,
L’una appresso de l’altra miriviglia;

E sì come la mente mi ridice,
Amor mi disse: “Quell’è Primavera,
E quell’ha nome Amor, sì mi somiglia.”

I felt awoken in my heart
a loving spirit that was sleeping;
and then I saw Love coming from far away
so glad, I could just recognize.

saying “you think you can honor me”,
and with each word laughing.
And little being with me my lord,
watching the way it came from,

I saw lady Joan and lady Bice
coming towards the spot I was at,
one wonder past another wonder.

And as my mind keeps telling me,
                               Love said to meShe is Spring who springs first,                            and that bears the name Love, who resembles me.”

The Vita nova’s basic storyline is actually quite simple. The narrator tells us that he fell in love when he was nine years old with a girl who was about a year younger than he and who was named Beatrice. His falling in love with her is so powerful that it leaves an indelible mark on his soul, a perception that is reinforced when she greets him in passing nine years later. Because of her, the personification of love—that same “Lord Love” all the love poets of the time wrote about—comes to dwell in his heart. It is not a peaceful residence. The protagonist’s feelings of love are so intense and private that he (following the conventions of his time) pretends to others that his love, which he cannot hide, is actually directed toward another woman besides Beatrice. When this woman moves out of the city, leaving the protagonist without his cover, he invents another “screen-woman.” Beatrice catches wind of malicious gossip regarding her admirer’s alleged unsavory comportment in relation to this second screen-woman, and consequently shuns him. She has no awareness of the effect this has on him. Eventually he finds peace for his unrequited love by resolving to praise her in his poetry independently of her responses to him. Read here

  • EARTHLY PARADISE : Dante’s Initiatory Rite of Passage by Daniela Boccassini

Thanks to the experiential work he had done on himself in the years spanning the First World War, Jung had come to understand that the way to wholeness, to individuation – if any – demands at the outset a grueling descensus ad inferos, which entails «the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness» (CW13: §335). I do not need to dwell on how graphically Dante describes this very process in the Commedia: from his descent through Hell, where the souls engulfed in darkness are the unconscious manifestations of their own and humanity’s gigantic shadow, to his ascent of Purgatory, where Dante as a living being retains his shadow, while the souls, who have lost theirs, are engaged in the process of uncovering the hidden identity of their translucent celestial nature, which fully manifests as spirit in Paradise…

….The procession accompanying Beatrice captures Dante’s attention for the whole of canto 29, and the figurative events involving the chariot and the Tree unfold in canto 32. In between, through cantos 30 and 31, all of Dante’s reasonable expectations of a happy reunion with his Beloved are not merely challenged but ruthlessly thwarted. Instead of praising him for successfully carrying out his unparalleled journey into the Garden of Eden, Beatrice sternly forces Dante to confront the unacknowledged gloom that the shadow of his human persona still casts into the paradisal «chiaro fonte» (Pg 30.76). In this way and through interrogation, Dante is skillfully challenged to disown that side of himself which had failed to follow Beatrice beyond Persephone’s threshold, causing him to remain ensnared in the alluring, yet deadly, web of «imagini di ben false» that enwraps mortal life.

Only by dying to that fallacious, ego-centered and ego-driven worldview will Dante gain access to the paradoxical Apollonian dualitude of the griffin, thus entering into a true hieros gamos with his immortal Beloved, as Beatrice intimates by intently gazing at «la fiera | ch’è sola una persona in due nature» (Pg 31.80-81). It is this kind of radical ‘ri-conoscenza’, this endured apprehension of his mortal shadow as beguilement, that finally allows Dante to die-before-dying, so that the purifying ritual of immersion in the waters of the river Lethe, presided over by Matelda, can effectively take place. Yet this is not enough for Dante to move on, as the events outlined in the last two cantos openly show: if in Christianity the ritual of baptism symbolizes death and rebirth at once, here we are told beyond the shade of a doubt that Dante’s immersion in the waters of Lethe seals his death to what might be called his ego-consciousness, but leaves his rebirth into higher consciousness, literally, hanging. For that rebirth to occur, Dante needs to tap the potentialities offered by a different state of being, and only once this has occurred, will a second baptismal ritual be performed, in the waters of another river….. Read the complete paper EARTHLY PARADISE : Dante’s Initiatory Rite of Passage by Daniela Boccassini

  • Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity

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. 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 peace and 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  Peace and Mercy.

  • 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

  • “‘Peace’: is the word from a Merciful Lord (for them).”

سَلَـٰمٌۭ قَوْلًۭا مِّن رَّبٍّۢ رَّحِيمٍۢ  Salaamun qawlam mir Rabbir Raheem –  Surah yasin 36-58

This enlivening and pleasant call, which is full of His love and affection, attracts the man’s attention to itself so deeply, and gives him joy, happiness and spirituality, that does not match any other bounty.
Yes hearing the call of the beloved one, is a call filled with love and mixed with grace which causes the people of Paradise to be thoroughly rejoicing, a moment of which is superior to the whole world and whatever  exists in it.
A tradition narrated from the Prophet of Islam (S) indicates that he said:
While the people of Paradise are busy enjoying the bounties of
Heaven there will appear a light above them”.
This is the light of Allah which is cast upon them and at the same time a
call will be heard saying: ‘Peace and greeting on you, O’ the people of Paradise!’
And this is the same thing which has been mentioned in the Qur’an. It is here that the view of Allah attracts them so strongly that they neglect His all other things and, in that state, they forget the whole bounties of Paradise.
It is here that the angels come out from every door and say: ‘Peace upon you’.”
Yes, the ecstasy of the intuition and presence of the Beloved and the visit of the Lord’s Grace are so delightful and gratifying that a moment of which is not equal with any blessing, even with the whole world.
The lovers of visiting Him are so that if this spiritual gift might be ceased from them, they would die. Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (as) in a tradition said: “If I remain walled from the visit of the Lord for a moment, I will die.”

It is interesting that the apparent of the verse is that this greeting of Allah unto the believers in Paradise is a direct greeting without any intermediator.
It is a greeting from the Lord, Allah, the greeting which originates from His special Mercy, i.e., the rank of His specific Mercy, and all grace and favours are gathered in it. Oh, what a blessing it is!
In principle, Paradise is ‘the Abode of Peace’, as Surah Yunus, No. 10,
verse 25 says: “And Allah does call mankind to the Abode of Peace…
And the people of Paradise, who are the dwellers of this abode, will sometimes face with the angel’s greeting.
At the time of arrival into Paradise, the angels arrive to them from every door and say:
Peace (be) upon you (saying) that you persevered in patience! (And
now) how excellent is the Ultimate Abode.”
And sometimes the dwellers of ’A‘raf call them and say:
…Peace be upon you!…
And sometimes they will be faced with the angels’ greeting after entering
into Paradise: “…and the warders thereof say unto them: ‘Peace be unto you…”
Sometimes, at the time of taking their souls, this greeting is delivered to them from the side of the angels of death. They say: “…Peace be upon you! Enter the Paradise because of what you used to do.”

And sometimes they themselves greet each other. And, in principle, in their greeting there is ‘Peace’, the Qur’an says: “…their greetings therein is: ‘Peace!’.”
And, finally, the superior and above all of these is the greeting of Allah:
“‘Peace’: is the word from a Merciful Lord (for them).”
Briefly speaking, there will be heard there neither a vain word nor a sinful thing. There will be only ‘peace’ and ‘peace’. The Qur’an says: “They shall not hear therein vain or sinful discourse,”
Of course, it is not a greeting in mere pronunciation, but it is a greeting the effect of which penetrates in the depth of man’s soul and makes it thoroughly full of tranquillity, peace, and health. See comment Surah 36 Yasin

Shaykh Nazim (ق) — Peace and Tranquility Loop. 1. Surah Yaseen 2. Verse 36:58 (111x) 3. Beautiful Dua (+Salawat Fatih)

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).

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.

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 City of Life, Visions of Paradise

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.