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

Su Fang Ng
Kenneth Hodges

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

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

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

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

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Acedia – Lack of Care: Disease of our times

In Praise of Folly, Erasmus

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

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

Jacques Brel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

see here more info: The land of Cocagne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Tower of Babel by Breughel

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

The (Great) Tower of Babel

The (Little) Tower of Babel

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

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

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

Dante purgatory:

Seven terraces of Purgatory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Paul A. Camacho

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

A lifelong pilgrimage: The Mirror of Jheronimus bosch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seven Deadly Sins

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Accidia)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Luxuria)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Superbia)

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Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Invidia)

Jheronimus_Bosch_Table_of_the_Mortal_Sins_(Avaricia)

Four Last Things

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

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

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Jheronimus_Bosch_4_last_things_(Last_Judgment)

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

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

Devils and the Angel’s Mirrors.

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

Read more here

Utopia and the Devotio Moderna:

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

Maarten Vermeir -University College London

utopia-kleur

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

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

index u

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

Utopia and the Devotio Moderna

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

Maarten Vermeir -University College London

utopia-kleur

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

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

index u

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

Intelligence of Trees

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

How trees talk to each other | Suzanne Simard

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

Intelligent Trees – The Documentary

intelligent tree

Featuring Suzanne Simard  & Peter Wohlleben 

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

 


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

tree

The Magic Of Mushrooms

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

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

Maypole: The Principle of Verticality

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

The Choice  – Y :

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

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

The spiritual potential of quarantine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Garden of Forking Paths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The City of Life, Visions of Paradise

Migration to the Spiritual Land of Peace

Part I: Introduction

  • The Coronation

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

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

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

  • Modern man is ignorant about his own ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See : PETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER AND ESOTERIC TRADITION

The Spiritual Land of Peace:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

1. Fear of God;

2. Beginning of Wisdom;

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

One is described as outwardly having a form that is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The names of the Travellers are:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

The Four Elements by Joachim Beuckelaer

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

Note: POWAQQATSI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • NAQOYQATSI –

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Note: Similarity between The Family of Love and Sufism

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

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

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

  • Blessed Virgin Mary – Mystical Commentary

by Sheik Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The birth of Jesus in man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

In the City of Peace he is lovingly received:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

see:

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The serpents deceit nor her poison cannot kill him

The foolishness allureth not him

The chosen righteousness snareth not him

The deceitfull hills seduceth not him

The ignorance blindeth not him

Nor the leaders of the blind doe not lead him

And even thus is God with him and he with God

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

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

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

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

***

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

The choice of the “Refugee”:

  • Meaning of Jesus Infancy

Note: COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE by Hildegard of Bingen

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

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

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

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

  • Jesus – The Paradigm of a Pilgrim in God

Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basic Definition and Origin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

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

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

  • Mythology of May Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Principle of Verticality  by M. Ali Lakhani

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

Frithjof Schuon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dream of the Virgin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakal’s sarcophagus lid ( maya mythology)

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

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

Germinate osiris:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Traditional Art

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

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

Who sits on the empty throne?

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

Part 3:

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

The Dream of the Rood

Who sits on the empty throne?

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Let me tell you a story.

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

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

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

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

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

The Earth is our home now. 

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

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

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

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

Then imagine that this culture dies, leaving only ruins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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