Free yourselves from mental slavery part 1

  • Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: The origin and meaning behind Bob Marley’s Redemption song.

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Those words are widely associated with the lyrics in “Redemption Song” by Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds.

The Work That Has Been Done, Marcus Garvey, October 31, 1937, Sydney Nova Scotia

Few know those sentences and thereby the song’s true meaning. Those words can be traced to Marcus Garvey. In fact though Garvey’s movement was disparaged as being a “Back to Africa” movement, Garvey and his supporters refer to it as a movement for “African Redemption,” which has a reference in the song’s title. The earliest known reference to the concept of “African Redemption” can be found in a letter written by Benjamin Lundy on May 28th, 1833. The letter was addressed to the Annual Convention of Free People of Color Convention due to meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lundy’s words to that effect are as follows:

A new era has opened upon the world! The “dark age” of African oppression is drawing to its close; and the happy “millennium” of African redemption is near at hand! Let the inhabitants of that ill-fated continent rejoice, and her children wherever scattered, sing praises to the Most High, on the “banks of deliverance.”

In Garvey’s only work that can be considered an actual book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” Volume 1 is “Dedicated to the true and loyal members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the cause of African redemption.”

Thereby it can be claimed Bob Marley paraphrased Marcus Garvey’s speech “The Work That Has Been Done” for not only that key lyric, but the song’s title as well. The speech is presented in its entirety below.

Marcus Garvey with quote on emancipation from mental slavery, the next stage of human development.

Emancipation from mental slavery

Scientists said once that the Negro was the missing link, but now they realize that the Negro is the oldest man in creation. He is so old that he is black, and everything darkens by age, therefore he could not be the missing link. Something must be missing from his link. That the Negro is old and that accounts for his colour there is a lot behind it. Because once upon a time we were a great people. We built the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When history is written in truth you will find that the first civilization was projected from the Nile on the Congo Basin. In the earliest dawn of civilization you found the Negro in Benin, in Timbuktoo, in Alexandria. Anthropologists will tell you that the Pharoahs were black men. When they dug up the mummy of Tutankamen and saw he was a black man they would not tell you the truth. Civilization went across the north to Europe to India, to China, all the way down and proved that the black man had circumnavigated the world. The North American Indian, the Australian Aboriginal, the Aztecs of South America were all people who became what they were through the contact of Africans who had travelled across the continents when they were carrying their civilization, just as how the great white man is travelling around the world to-day and planting the evidence of his race, but before modern history was written and produced in the different continents there were different shades of colour, each had their original civilization. Like all great people we fell. The present civilization is not the only one that existed, but before this we had Roman civilization, Greek Civilization, Persian civilization, Babylonian civilization, and even medieval Egyptian civilization, but the Negro civilization anti-dated that.

The African went down with his blundering civilization, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman all went down and we do not know how long this civilization will stand with its Mussolinis and its Hitlers. Civilization is a cycle. It changes. I should like to see black and white get on so well toghether that the black man will remember how kind he was. It is the only way we are going to get along because man is man for that.

The white man is no missing link, nor the black man, nor the yellow man either. Surely no animal could achieve what Marconi did, what Edison did, what the great engineers did, what the great scientists did. Surely no man could do what the Japanese are doing, no missing link could do what Carver is doing at Tuskegee. He is the greatest chemist to-day, who can bring out of one product so many chemicals.

No monkey could do what the brown bomber did to the Welshman. If man will let a monkey beat him then he is lower than a monkey. We are men whether we are white, yellow or black, because we have one origin. We came from the same place and we are going back to the same place. The Negro went to sleep for a long while, resting from his labours, but he slept too long, so everybody stole a march on him and therefore he is the only man without a country; and so the U.N.I.A. seeks to restore the Negro to his own vine and fig tree. Economically, for his own interest, the white man will not like it, but deep down in his heart he will say that the Negro is right.

I would like to see Canada for the Canadians, England for the English, America for the Americans and in the same way I want to see Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad, so that when we are sick and tired and weary we may lay our heads in the lap of our mother and ask her to comfort us, bless us before we die. Every people should have a flag, a land of their own, and the U.N.I.A. points you to achieve something. A large number of you were and are members and I bring you the greetings of those in the other parts of the world.

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign.

The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind, because man is related to man under all circumstances for good or for ill. If man is not able to protect himself from the other man he should use his mind to good advantage.

The fool will always carry the heavy burden. The fool will always be crushed without a tear from God or man because God Almight never made a fool.

God is all wise. When God Almight made man in His own image and likeness, it wasn’t the physical, it was the mind that was like God. Every man represents God in his unitary intelligence.

When man abuses that intelligence he lowers himself. God has given you intelligence to take care of you. He hasn’t repeated Himself yet. God was so thoughtful of man and his progeny that he made a variety of things so as to pander to the taste of the Adams that would come after the first.

When God made you He made you the masters of the world, not serfs and slaves, but your mind must be developed intelligently. It is your mind that rules the body. You cannot go further than that mind to seek truth and to know truth and to re-act to truth.

That is the only way you will be able to protect your group. The white man is still doing research work with his mind. It has taken him to the bowels of the earth to extract what nature placed there for him. On that same intelligence he has gone into Heaven. What you see in Sydney, in Nova Scotia is only the fringe of the white man’s intelligence. Everything that you see that is methodical is the product of the white man’s mind. He visualizes nations and kingdoms and he has them. There is nothing spiritual around his materialism.

They are all objective things realized, dreamt and thought out. Sydney is only what men have visualized to a greater extent. The British Empire was the visualization of men like Raleigh, and Drake, who seeing things of value, attached them to the mother country. If places are not well protected then men take them and add them to their Empires.

The U.N.I.A. is dreaming of a day when the Negro will possess himself of a homeland, when he will build for himself. The man who cannot build for himself is not only a poor fish in the sea, but ultimately will be a dead fish, plodding for himself.

Nobody wants to die except the fool, because life is a worth-while thing. It is only people who are together can survive now-a-days. It is only by organising that we can get anywhere, as the Mayor told you. We are looking for the redemption and the freedom of our homeland. (We hope, sir, to invite you to Sydney, in Africa, because there we shall have different things than you have in Canada.)

Our obsession is like that of the Jews. They are working for Palestine. We are working for Africa, like the Irishman, he is working for Ireland, and the Canadian is working for a grand and noble Canada. We are helping to send on the great force of power of Canadian industry when the Canadians will realize that they too can help us to do some good as we have been helping them to do some good. We have been helping to build and up to now we are not dead, we have not fallen. The Negro has the power of resistance. He can do the job. I feel sure, as you have done in the past, you will continue in the future, whether I come here or not. Remember the primary purpose that has brought me here — goodwill, co-operation, unity from the rest of your fellows in the United States, Africa and the West Indies. We have celebrated the happiness, the glory of our Organization’s accomplishments. We have had our ups and downs and failures, but that was only a drop in the bucket. If the Mayor were to tell you of the failures of his race, you would wonder at their patience. When the Liberals fail they go out of office and let the Conservatives go in, and the Government goes on. If you Negroes have a penny bank and it fails, you swear that you will never put another penny in it again. You should kick out the first dishonest man and put in an honest one. That is why you will have to it swim to Barbados, Trinidad and Demerara. You know how many times the Canadian Pacific failed until they now have their wonderful system? The only way you can be happy is to lay the foundation in one generation for the succeeding generation. If you do not build ships for the next generation you will always be walking.

Take the white race, sometimes you see an old man president of the bank, knowing well that their grandchildren are coming after them and they are storing up for their generations to come after. Our disposition is to eat everything and let the boy work for his. We cannot treat our children as our fathers treated us, so do not eat up everything you get, for God’s sake. Remember that the boy who is coming up is to carry on until God comes. Do not be here as serfs and slaves because God never made you anything else but men.

Whatever that has happened to the man it is his own mind that puts him there. He has abused the force of power of that mind. Men can create the environment to suit himself. When you do not use your intelligence you fall and will be submerged. It is because we do not live up to the state of our intelligence why we suffer so much.

Before I close, I want to appeal to you to use your intelligence to work out the real things of life. You have to apply that intelligence to the management of your own individual and collective racial affairs. Every race has to lok after its own affairs. You have formulated no legal or moral claim. That is why people are taking away Africa today, just how Mussolini took away Ethiopia because he thought the Ethiopians had no use for it. One man used his intelligence and knocked out while the other tried to pray.

The time you waste in levity, in non-essentials, if you use it properly you will be able to guarantee to your posterity a condition better than you inherited from your forefathers. The U.N.I.A. is carrying throughout the world the message of goodwill. The message is going on. It has reached you. It will go to others, so that we may have one outlook, one purpose in life. I do hope the friendship will continue, sir, economically, politically and that you will never have cause to believe that we are not what we seem. (Cheers.)

The Chairman, Rev. Ford: Speaking on behalf of the peoples of this community permit me to say that hey have enjoyed this message of goodwill immensely. Please take back for us the message that we, in Cape Breton, shall stretch out the curtains of our habitation with this in view — one God, one aim, one destiny. I have spent over six years in college learning the various ologies, but to-night you have taught me one ology and that is Negro ology. The hon. Marcus Garvey told you to-night that the man who doesn’t love his people cannot love his God. This is an epoch-making event. Let us bind ourselves together, not only when he is here, but when he is gone, so that we may be lifted up with wings as he goes.

  • I can’t Breathe” is the expression of the Crisis of the modern world.

I can’t breathe is  sure the slogan associated with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The phrase is derived from the words of Eric Garner and George Floyd, two African-American men who died of asphyxiation during their arrests in 2014 and 2020, respectively, as a result of excessive force by primarily white police officers. The phrase is used in protest against police brutality in the United States.

But this protest, this Cry show us the real problem of the Modern man:

Modern man is a human without Soul, without the “Living Breath”.

The protest is the expression of  his deep spiritual Crisis in the times of deep ignorance.. Read more here

Free yourselves from mental slavery – part 2

“The crisis in sense, meaning, and identity doesn’t just push people into cults and conspiracy theories, it also makes mainstream belief systems more cult-like.”

      • From QAnon’s Dark Mirror, Hope

By Charles Eisenstein

A dark mirror shows features one would rather not see. You gaze at the repulsive visage in the picture frame, the caricature of everything despicable, only to realize with dawning horror that you are looking not at a portrait but at a mirror.

The political defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 election is a crossroads for the quasi-political movement grouped loosely around the QAnon conspiracy myth and, more broadly, around Trump himself. Because the man and the movement were a dark mirror for the whole of society, it is also a crossroads for society.

For those unfamiliar with it, the QAnon movement started early in the Trump administration when a mysterious person, calling himself Q and claiming to be an administration insider, began posting cryptic messages on internet message boards, particularly 8Chan. These consisted of hints and promises that Donald Trump was executing a masterly plan to vanquish his enemies, uproot the Deep State, and restore America to greatness. Their mantra, by which followers (call QAnons) kept the faith, was “Trust the plan.” However bad it looked for Trump, victory was just around the corner.

At the present writing (late November, 2020) it would seem that the QAnons would have no choice but to abandon the faith. Not so. In various corners of the right wing alternative media, one may still read desperate theories about how Trump’s apparent defeat is a ploy to set up his master stroke. Even after he is deposed, even if he goes to prison, the myth will only change shape, since it is merely an outcropping of a much larger, long-established mythos, driven by repressed social and psychological forces. The same holds for Trumpism generally. It is thus important to gaze into this dark mirror and see what has been hidden; otherwise we will face one of two grim possibilities, each worse than the other. (1) In a few years a new and more formidable demagogue will arise to channel the repressed forces toward a fascist coup. (2) A neoliberal corporatocracy, costumed in the garb of progressive values, will consolidate its already well-developed powers of surveillance, censorship, and control to establish a techno-totalitarian state that will attempt to repress those forces forever.

I would like to offer another alternative that becomes possible when we look into the mirror and meet the aforementioned repressed forces at their source. Healing, rather than victory, is its formative ideal. I call it the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

A Comforting Mythology

It is understandable why so many people have celebrated the defeat of Trump, a man who presided over the deliberate separation of immigrant children from their parents, who needlessly provoked Russia and China, who gave free pass to some of the worst of American’s racist tendencies, who green-lighted new levels of environmental destruction, who pushed regime-change operations in Venezuela and Bolivia, and so on. Yet it is also true that the incoming Biden administration is rife with Wall Street insiders, neocon war hawks, intelligence agency officials, prison-industrial complex cheerleaders, and representatives of Big Pharma, Big Data, and pretty much Big Everything. Neither Joe Biden nor the Democratic Party has been a particularly effective champion of racial equity, environmental protection, economic fairness, or world peace for a very long time. Biden himself cavorted with overt racists in his early career, was a key architect of mass incarceration, has been a consistent supporter of America’s foreign wars, and has done numerous favors for Wall Street. An unpleasant surprise awaits anyone who thinks that much will improve now that the bad guys are out and the good guys are in.

It would be convenient if the problem with America were Donald Trump, bad people who worked with him, and ignoramuses and dupes who supported him. If so, we could breathe a sigh of relief that with the election a victory over evil has been won.

Ironically, the ideology of QAnon is an exaggerated version of this same basic thoughtform. It says that a group of diabolical people are responsible for the evil in the world, and that if they could be expunged, the world could be healed. In QAnon’s mythology, the locus of evil is the Deep State, an elite cabal interpenetrating government, corporations, banks, and other elite institutions, and the champion of Good is Donald Trump who, with superhuman subtlety, foresight, and skill, wages a 4D chess struggle against them.

The QAnon mythology offers three degrees of comfort. First, at a time of social and economic breakdown, it assuages the discomfort of uncertainty by making the world understandable. Second, it absolves its followers of complicity in the problem (in contrast to blaming reigning systems, which implicate pretty much everyone to some extent and admits no ready solution). Third, it offers a hero, a savior, a Good Father who will set things aright, and upon whom one might project one’s own unfulfilled expression of greatness.

It is so tempting to personify good and evil, to locate each in the person of whomever appears most conspicuously in the dramas offered for our consumption. One side holds Donald Trump in exactly the same way that the other holds George Soros and Bill Gates. Personifying evil offers the comfort of knowing at least in principle how to solve the world’s problems. There is someone to destroy, to expunge, to defeat, to cancel, or to silence. Problem solved. The standard Hollywood movie script is also the script for war and also, it seems, the script for a lot of today’s political discourse.

I have been counseled to issue a public denunciation of QAnon, to which I reply that I am not in the business of denouncing anyone. In clarifying who is friend and who is foe, denunciation reduces the target to the status of enemy. I won’t take sides in the culture war, not because I think both sides are equal or that all viewpoints are equally true, but because (1) I believe that the blind spots both sides share are more significant, and more dangerous, than their disagreements, and (2) Beneath the conflict is a hidden unity that will emerge when all parties humbly try to understand the other.

QAnon has done considerable damage to people’s lives and to the body politic in the context of Trumpian neofascism and persistent systemic racism. Yet to reduce it and its followers entirely to those terms is to commit the same error – and derive much the same comfort – that QAnon itself does in its reduction of a complex situation to a drama of good versus evil. In doing that we sacrifice real understanding in favor of a narrative that divides the world into good guys and bad guys.

Daniel Schmactenberger puts it well when he says, “If you feel a combination of outraged, scared, emotional, and very certain with a strong enemy hypothesis, you have been captured by somebody’s narrative warfare, and you think it’s your own thinking.” Visit the enemy territory, he counsels, and see what the world looks like from there.

Who among their critics asks, “What hidden truth seeks expression in the QAnon phenomenon? What truth rides upon its myths?” In an essay last spring, I catalogued some truths that ride the New World Order conspiracy myth (of which QAnon is a variant); for example, that an inhuman power rules the world; that those we call leaders are its puppets; that established authority has betrayed our trust. In it I wrote:

The conspiracy myth embodies the realization of a profound disconnect between the public postures of our leaders and their true motivations and plans. It bespeaks a political culture that is opaque to the ordinary citizen, a world of secrecy, image, PR, spin, optics, talking points, perception management, narrative management, and information warfare. No wonder people suspect that there is another reality operating behind the curtains.

That QAnon is rife with Islamophobia, racism, and other flavors of bigotry does not erase the validity of these basic intuitions. It does, though, illustrate the tragic nature of the QAnon phenomenon, which diverts an authentic populist revolt onto vain dreams and ready divisions. This is also, in part, the tragedy of Donald Trump. Much of what I will say about QAnon applies to Trumpism in general.

The simplifying explanation for why so many people voted for Donald Trump is that he gives vent to their covert racism, hate, and fear. Certainly, the United States is home to many inveterate racists, and racism to this day exerts a baleful influence on American society. However, the caricature of the racist Trump voter resentful of his declining status relative to people of color and hoping to uphold his dominance and privilege against progressive social trends leaves out a lot. It does not explain why millions of Obama voters voted for Trump in 2016 and presumably 2020. It does not explain why Trump won a greater percentage of minority votes than any Republican candidate since 1960, while his support among white men declined from 2016 to 2020. Invoking racism to explain away the Trump phenomenon prevents us from looking at an anti-establishment sentiment so intense that 74 million people would vote for a man who so often gives the appearance of being coarse, boastful, ignorant, phony, vain, corrupt, and incompetent.

If we continue to leave out all these things, I fear that sooner or later we will be confronted with an aspiring fascist who is younger, smoother, more charismatic, and more competent than Donald Trump. If we don’t accurately understand and address the root cause of Trumpism, that is what will happen in 2024. If Trump could almost win in 2020, imagine what such a man or woman could accomplish if the repressed forces that elevated Trump intensify.

Addictions and Cults

Hungry for what? Obviously something much more nourishing than what Q’s stories provided. That is why QAnon and the mythology from which it draws is so addictive (anything can be addictive that temporarily quells the pain of an unmet need without actually meeting it). Thus, QAnons went down the proverbial rabbit hole, eagerly awaiting their next fix of a Q post, shedding friends, alienating family, losing sleep, squandering countless unproductive hours to get one hit after another of indignation, feelings of superiority, assurance that they are right, and the above-mentioned comfort. Friends and family speak of losing loved ones to QAnon just as they speak of losing them to an addiction or a cult.

QAnon indeed displays many features of a cult. It draws people into an alternate reality, estranges them from friends and family, and exploits their need to belong. It attaches them to an in-group of believers, membership in which is completely dependent on what one says and believes (rather than acceptance for who one is). However, to understand QAnon and cults in general as parasites on the social body risks ignoring the conditions that invite those parasites in to begin with. Do we want merely to suppress the current outbreak? What will it take to heal the social body on a deeper level?

Cults prey upon the vulnerable. What makes someone vulnerable? First, a disintegration of a belief system that told a person who she is, how the world works, and what is real. Second, an unmet need to belong. The perfect candidate for cult recruitment is someone whose world has fallen apart, leaving them lonely and confused. It isn’t weak and stupid people who fall into cults. Anyone who holds a sanctimonious attitude toward QAnons and “conspiracy theorists” is deluding themselves.

I say this to remedy any sense of superiority one might obtain from reading my description of the false comforts of the QAnon mythology. Does it feel good to diagnose others’ spiritual pathologies? If so, it could be because we ourselves suffer a version of the same hunger we see in the dark mirror of QAnon. But really, who among us today has not suffered a breakdown in meaning or an unmet need to belong?

Today, a majority of society are prime candidates for cult recruitment. Our societal meaning-generating stories are in disarray. Fifty years ago, a broad mainstream of Western society believed in the march of progress. The world was getting better year by year and generation by generation. Soon, technological progress, liberal democracy, free market capitalism, and the social sciences would eliminate the age-old scourges of humankind: poverty, oppression, disease, crime, and hunger. Within that story, we knew who we were and how to make sense of the world. Life made sense within a linear narrative of progress that told us where we came from and where we were going.

The mythology of progress, of which the United States of America was the foremost paragon, told us life was supposed to get better with each generation. Instead, the opposite has happened. The mythology of progress told us of an age of plenty, yet today we have extreme income inequality and persistent or growing poverty in the West. It told us we would be healthier with each passing generation; again, the opposite has happened, as chronic diseases now afflict all age groups at unprecedented levels. It told us that the onward march of reason and rule of law would bring an end to war, crime, and tyranny, but levels of hate and violence have not dropped in the 21st century. It told us of an age of leisure, yet the workweek and vacation time has stagnated since the mid-20th century. It promised us happiness, yet today rates of divorce, depression, suicide, and addiction rise with each passing year.

Adding to all of this an undeniable ecological crisis, it is hard now to fully embrace the mythology of progress as a source of meaning and identity. With its failure to deliver on its promises, the wellspring of meaning for modern society now runs dry.

The resulting crisis in sense, meaning, and identity doesn’t just push people into cults and conspiracy theories, it also makes mainstream belief systems more cult-like. To some degree, major news outlets and social media provide exactly what the QAnon addiction did (indignation, feelings of superiority, assurance that they are right…) They also tend to “draw people into an alternate reality, estrange them from friends and family, and exploit their need to belong.” How many family gatherings are ruined, how many family members are no longer on speaking terms, having dissociated into separate realities?

Indulge me for a moment in a little rhetorical exaggeration. In the United States, two dominant cults apply the tools of information warfare to vie for public loyalty: (1) the Democratic Party, New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, CNN cult, and (2) the Republican Party, Fox News, Breitbart cult. Each offers its followers the same comforts as Q: they offer a narrative that makes sense of the world in the midst of change; they offer a diagnosis of social problems that exculpates themselves, and they offer people to cheer for, champions for the cause of victory over evil. They also offer a sense of belonging. Have you ever felt a sense of homecoming when you tune into your favorite pundit or website?

Note: The Battle about Money (1570): Money and Excrement

The Psychology of Capital and the Marketplace in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s `Dulle Griet’

The Antwerp stock exchange, the Bourse, controlled the wealth of Europe, and in mid-century it was at the height of a boom. This boom was founded on new forms of credit, necessary to finance the high risks of sea-trading. The shift to credit allowed merchants to defer and interweave the consequences of their ventures, and citizens became used to the psychology of gambling on future profits. Like modern trading-floors, the Bourse was no sober club. Incidents of violence were not unknown and the building it-self (new in 1531) was plagued by vandalism and graffiti. It was a centre for gossip and scandal of all kinds. Read more here…

The unprecedented, and somewhat enigmatic, iconography of this image derives from the fertile imagination of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who executed the original drawing after which this was engraved. Strongboxes, piggy banks, money bags, barrels of coins, and treasure chests—most of them heavily armed with swords, knives, and lances—attack each other in a ferocious display of chaotic, all-out warfare. The Dutch verses inscribed in the lower margin inform us that “It’s all for money and goods, this fighting and quarreling.” According to the Latin portion of the inscription, the banner with the “savage grappling hook” in the right background exemplifies greed, the vice at the root of all this trouble. The image seems to suggest that humanity’s lust for money is responsible for armed conflict.  The concerns for the dangers of acquisitiveness and avarice expressed here had deep resonance in Antwerp, the bustling mercantile capital of Northern Europe where Bruegel was active for most of his career. Though inscribed “P. Bruegel” in the lower right corner, the engraving was probably not published until several years after the artist’s death in 1569.

Cults, armies, and police states depend on the control of information. As warring parties weaponize facts, we learn to discount all sources of information. We wonder what agenda lies behind a given “fact.” Knowing that narrative warriors select, distort, or invent facts, the canny citizen tends to ask “Who said it?” before asking “What did they say?” and then to disbelieve what they said if it serves a disagreeable party or purpose. In such circumstances, how is any conversation possible?

The routine mendacity of politicians over the last few decades has desolated the civic commons, once a rich domain of broad agreements about what is real, what is important, and what is legitimate. We can’t blame only the politicians of course. From corporate PR campaigns to intelligence agency psy-ops, from internet censorship to government secret programs, we are awash in lies, deception, secrets, half-truths, spin, fraud, and manipulation. No wonder we are so prone to believe in conspiracies. Their building blocks are everywhere.

Here is the dark mirror. The rise in conspiracy theories reflects a power establishment shrouded in lies and secrets, which viciously persecutes anyone who, like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, pulls aside the veil.

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

Although fairly subtle, the composition of the Festival of Fools stages a
procession similar to a wagon play. (Wagon plays were processional dramas that took place during Ommegangen (devotional processions) in the 1550s and 1560s. Rhetoricians conceived of wagon plays as didactic episodes that could morally
edify and educate their audience. The plays utilized overt metaphors and personifications to create allegorical productions that focused on collective civic identity.

This crisis in communication and sense-making has been long in the making. The attempt to bend truth to serve other ends has harmed the soul of language, diverting the creative power of word toward the maintenance of illusions. Consequently, our society as a whole is helpless to change its course. That would require agreement, the building blocks of which have turned to sand. I have watched this paralysis intensify for 20 years now. In 2007 I wrote an essay called The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies, in which I said, “As we acclimate to a ubiquitous matrix of lies, words mean less and less to us, and we don’t believe anything any more. As well we shouldn’t! We are facing a crisis of language that underlies and mirrors all the other converging crises of the modern age.”

Our main engines of knowledge production – science, journalism, and the arts – once enjoyed robust, near-universal social legitimacy. Now each cult gleans through the stubble of the knowledge commons for grains of still-agreed upon fact to add to its army’s granary. The warring parties swiftly requisition any new crops the independent scientist, journalist, or philosopher might sow. If they resist, their crop is burned to the ground. Thus it is that the best journalists today are all independent or contribute to marginal publications: Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Diana Johnstone, Seymour Hersch…. They defy both cults’ narrative (Right and Left) and therefore, because they disabuse us of the caricature taped over the mirror, give us a chance to see some dark truths.

When Hate Hijacks Anger

The crisis in meaning has direct economic causes. It is hard to believe in the social project when one is economically insecure, politically disenfranchised, stripped of dignity, and cut off from participation in society as a full member. This has long been the condition of African-American and other brown people in America, along with women and those who deviated from social norms. Today, the same economic forces that required their oppression and profited from it have turned toward the white middle class. The Machine that once depended on white racism to maintain a brown underclass now devours its own, chewing up vasts swaths of middle America and spitting the gristle and bones onto the trash heap of disenfranchised irrelevancy.

Note: Big fish eating small fish:A broadside criticising the exploitation of political power by alluding to the proverb of big fish eating small fish; with an engraving with motives after Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel showing in the centre a table with a large dish of small fish, around the table are sitting five large fish with human arms, dressed in clothes and devouring the small fish, the table scene surrounded by various scenes of larger fish being cut open, revealing smaller fish, in the background small fish hanging on the gallows; with engraved title and text.

Do I hear the reader protest at my drawing an equivalency between oppressed minorities, who have only external circumstances to blame for their poverty and despair, and the mostly white QAnons who, despite having so much more privilege, wallow in their white fragility, blaming everyone but themselves for their dead end lives, their involuntary celibacy, and their video game addictions? This kind of sanctimonious assessment, which is common in left-leaning social media comment threads, mirrors exactly standard racist canards about lazy, irresponsible black people who blame the system and refuse to take personal responsibility. Both refuse to look at the conditions that generate the choices they condemn.

The relevant question here is not who has suffered more, who is the biggest victim, who is the most oppressed and therefore the most deserving of compassion. The question is rather, What are the conditions that gave rise to Trumpism, and how do we change those? We must ask this question, unless our strategy is to be endless war against those we deem irremediably evil.

Watching an interview with the extremely penitent founder of 8chan (QAnon’s main forum), Frederick Brennan, I was moved by his description of typical 8chan users, particularly the “Incels” and those who’ve swallowed the “black pill.” The former term refers to men who are involuntarily celibate; the latter refers to nihilism. These by no means define the entire QAnon movement, but they offer a window to some of the social traumas driving it.

Displaying varying degrees of misogyny, the Incels draw a lot of condemnation. They are denounced for believing themselves “entitled to sex,” and reviled for displacing blame for their own failings onto women. We can denounce them and fight them online, call them out and cancel them, but can we see them as human? Can we see their frustrated yearning to love a woman, to raise a family, to contribute meaningfully to life? Frustrated desire naturally turns to violence, directed at others or oneself or both.

Again I hear a protest, “Fine for you as a straight white male to call for compassion for these perpetrators and their avatar, the perpetrator-in-chief Donald Trump, but what about compassion for the victims? They need it even more.” To that I say: as a matter of sheer practicality, it is precisely compassion for the victims that requires compassion for the perpetrators. Compassion enables us to quell the violence at its source. Compassion isn’t the same as giving someone a free pass or allowing them to continue harming others. Compassion is the understanding of another being’s inner and outer condition. With this understanding, one can effectively change the conditions that generate harm. It is precisely the same logic that leftists use when talking about crime. Instead of waging an endless war on criminals, let’s look at the conditions that breed crime. What makes someone a drug dealer, a robber, a gang member? What conditions of trauma and poverty? Following the trail of these questions, one may arrive at root-level responses.

Whether we are talking about the inner city youth growing up in extreme trauma and deprivation, or the white Incel living in his parents’ basement with only his despair, his student debt, and his video games for company, we must be careful not to impute helplessness onto these victims of circumstance. There is no circumstance too oppressive for the human being to transcend. There is a place for messages like “Stop being a victim. Take ownership of your life. Stop asking for charity.” Crucially though, these messages will be useless, counterproductive even, if they come from a place of superiority or disgust. It cannot be, for example, the privileged white person telling the ghetto dweller to get his act together. Such messages have to come from a full appreciation of the anguish and misery of the oppressed condition, and a genuine vision of the greatness of those in it. Yes, greatness. It is hypocritical and pointless to call someone to greatness without believing in their greatness. And this belief cannot be a mere spiritual ideology. For these reasons, usually it is only other black people who can effectively exhort African-Americans to take responsibility for raising themselves up, and it is usually other men who can do the same for the Incels. I know people who say their lives were saved from addiction and despair by this kind of “tough love.” We just have to keep in mind both words of that phrase: the love as well as the toughness. If you secretly despise those you are trying to help with your tough love, you will hinder not help. To transcend one’s conditions requires courage. It is a lot easier to be brave when someone knows you are brave.

One of my favorite quotes, by Viktor Frankl, will help illustrate these points: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” One can feel truth ringing through these words. Yet obviously, their application would not be to visit a concentration camp, quote it to the prisoners, and then walk away. The right application is to one’s own circumstances. The words ring the bell of bravery; having acted from it, one may then ring it for others who may be in similar circumstances.

Let’s be clear that compassion is not the absence of anger. I am not asking the abused or the oppressed not to be angry. Quite the contrary – anger is a sacred force. It arises in response to confinement, violation, or threat (to oneself or in witness to another). It is key to social change, because it supplies the energy and courage to break free of familiar holding patterns.

Note: Tulip mania

Tulip mania(Dutch: tulpenmanie) was a period during the Dutch Golden Age when contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels, and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637.[2] It is generally considered to have been the first recorded speculative bubble (or asset bubble) in history.[3] In many ways, the tulip mania was more of a hitherto unknown socio-economic phenomenon than a significant economic crisis. It had no critical influence on the prosperity of the Dutch Republic, which was the world’s leading economic and financial power in the 17th century, with the highest per capita income in the world from about 1600 to 1720.[4][5][6] The term “tulip mania” is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values.

Hate is the result of a narrative hijacking anger and channeling it onto convenient enemies. Hate preserves the status quo. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

Once anger becomes hate, one no longer has an accurate understanding of the situation. Hate interposes a projection in front of an adversary, making them appear both more terrible and more contemptible than they actually are. Therefore, hate is an obstacle to victory in a fight. To win, one must be in reality, accurately understanding the opponent. With that understanding, the fight may no longer be necessary – another response may present itself.

Or not. Sometimes forceful intervention is necessary to prevent harm. Sometimes the abused, the persecuted, the oppressed need to fight back, go to court, run away, or enforce a boundary. Sometimes they need allies in doing that. Sometimes abusers need to be physically restrained so that they do no further harm. But when it comes from hate rather than anger, the goal of force undergoes a subtle shift. It becomes no longer to stop harm, but to inflict harm – to avenge, to punish, to dominate – in the name of stopping harm. To quote Dr. King once again, “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.” Please meditate on these words. It looks to me like such a cancer is spreading in America, with precisely the effects on its national “personality” that King predicted.

In the end, the formula for “saving the world” cannot be victory in an epic battle of Good versus Evil. (That in fact is QAnon’s formula.) Since the two sides appear, from the close election, to be nearly equal, if it comes to war then Good, in order to overcome Evil, must become better at war than Evil – better at violence, better at manipulation, better at propaganda, better at deception. In other words, it must cease to be Good. How many times have we seen this play out in history, when the people’s liberation movement becomes the new tyranny?

`hij wil altijd het onderste uit de kan halen‘ (he always wants to get the most out of it)

Already it is happening. In my youth it was the conservatives who were the main instigators of censorship, burning Beatles albums, removing evolution from science textbooks, suppressing sexuality in literature. They were also the main manufacturers of consent, manipulating the media to maintain a state of constant war. Now it is the “left” who has most enthusiastically taken up the weapons of information warfare, with its deplatforming campaigns, cancel culture, and suppression of dissent. I put “left” in quotation marks because the actual left was the first victim of the new censorship, which began with the demotion of socialist and anti-war websites in Google search and social media. Facebook and Google still suppress this type of website by giving weight in their algorithms to “authoritative sources”; that is, the voice of the authorities. Now the ranks of the censored expand to include alternative medicine sites, vaccine skeptics, critics of 5G technology, and dissenters from Covid-19 public health policy.

Bry Moneybag Flatterers-

Surely, some of those censored are purveying false information; just as surely, not all of it is false. True or false, the suppressed viewpoints have one thing in common – they clash with the narratives and interests of established corporate and political powers. Properly speaking, opposition to those powers defines the left, not the right. It is as if we are approaching a political pole reversal. As with reversal of earth’s magnetic poles, considerable chaos precedes such a realignment. It hasn’t happened yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years the Republican Party becomes the party of the poor and working class, while the Democratic Party becomes the chief representative of the elites, Wall Street, large corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Judging by Joe Biden’s cabinet picks, this process is well underway. That would be a welcome change from the situation of the past 30 years, in which both parties give lip service to the people while serving the interests of the corporate-financial-military elite.

Note: In The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King Lloyd D. Graham explains the source of Carnaval and the period of change  from winter to Spring.

The “ insurrection “of januari 6th 2021 in USA Capitol  is an expression of the deep rooted origins of the folklores Carnaval and Krampus,

6 januari is the feast of Epiphany

HERE FOLLOWETH THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD AND OF THE THREE KINGS from Golden Legends

On this day we are making King cakes . They come with cardboard “crowns” to be worn by whoever gets the slice with the token and becomes monarch of the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King  by Lloyd D. Graham
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the seduction of the wild man Enkidu by Shamhat the
harlot symbolically causes his death as an unreflective animal and his rebirth as a
human – an Eden-like fall into self-awareness. Created as a match for king
Gilgamesh of Uruk, Enkidu goes on to become the king’s beloved friend. In
European folk traditions, the Wild Man is interchangeable with the bear, and
parallels can be drawn between Enkidu and the Candlemas Bear associated with
Carnival. Since Enkidu symbolises our pre-human nature, one can perceive a
figurative truth to the pan-European folk belief that people are descended from bears.
Thematic overlaps exist between some Gilgamesh narratives and European folk-tales
about a Wild Man whose father was a bear (the Bear’s Son / Jean de l’Ours motif) or
about twin boys, one of whom was raised in the wild by a female bear (Valentine and
Orson). Perhaps surprisingly, the roots of Santa Claus lie in the Wild Man. So too do
the origins of Merlin, the wizard of medieval Arthurian romance. Merlin has
elements in common with Enkidu, while King Arthur can be seen as a metaphorical
“Bear’s son.” Over time, the status of the Wild Man has changed from a wholly
inhuman monster to a “noble savage” who today might even be cast as a salvific ecowarrior.  Read here


The Wild Man or the Masquerade of Orson and Valentine – Brueghel

Redeeming the Black Pill

Earlier I used the term the “Black Pill.” Nihilism, of course, is no mere philosophical position, but the intellectual window-dressing on a psychological state of despair. In fact, this despair is always latent in modern society, because (1) Its reigning reductionism renders the universe into a meaningless scribble of atoms and void; (2) Its reigning theory of life tells us we are here to survive and reproduce; (3) Its reigning economics directs our creative energies toward unfulfilling work and mindless consumption, and (4) Its dominant social patterns cut us off from nature, community, place, and the experience of belonging. For a while, rapid increases in wealth and dazzling technical achievements kept the despair at bay. But it was there all long, a gnawing void at the heart of the ideology of progress. It was there all along, an inner poverty mirroring the destitution progress had wreaked upon other cultures and non-human beings. It was there all along, our own shadow that followed us as we raced toward a Utopia ever just at the horizon. Now as the glamour of progress dissolves, as our exhaustion mounts, and as we face the sobering realization that the horizon grows no closer no matter how fast we run, despair overtakes us at last.

Nihilism is a natural response to the shoddy and tired myths offered to us as sources of meaning. How many of us have had experiences directly contradicting what our main epistemic authority (science) tells us is possible? How many of us sequester narrative-busting data points in a separate mental compartment, living more or less in official reality but unable to wholeheartedly believe in it?

One reason that cults and conspiracy theories are so compelling is that they gather threads snipped away from official reality and weave them into another fabric. Some of those threads may have been snipped because they are simply untrue, and have no place in anyone’s reality. Others may have been snipped because they clash with the color scheme of the main fabric; that is, they disturb reigning institutions and paradigms. These are the threads we must weave into any tapestry of meaning that could be a satisfying successor to today’s dominant political narratives.

What I am saying is that some of the claims that weave through the conspiracy narrative merit attention. The delusional nature of the narrative does not invalidate all of its threads, and we should not dismiss everything conspiracy theorists say just because they said it – especially when our information gatekeepers malign and suppress genuine dissent as conspiracy theories, disinformation, and Russian propaganda.

Starting in 2017, the US government issued a series of disclosures of numerous UFO sightings by trained military observers, sometimes accompanied by video. Basically, it confirmed a theory that it and the mainstream media had for decades vigorously ridiculed as the province of cranks, crackpots, and conspiracy theorists. This revelation joins numerous other publicly acknowledged government and corporate conspiracies: COINTELPRO, Operation Paperclip, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Iran-Contra, the CIA’s running of drugs into American inner cities, the FBI’s sabotage of civil rights groups, and many more. Despite this record, the media and government pretend all this is in the past and they are not today deceiving the public in service to their own power. Come on, people. Can we exercise a bit of skepticism when it comes to the narratives of established power?

The Alchemist; alchemist working at stove at left, robed figure reading instructions from manual at r; a fool with bellows and the alchemist’s wife with an empty purse in centre; in right background, alchemist and his wife taking their three children to the hospital, identified with inscription over the door. The scene – a message of timeless value – illustrates man´s folly chasing after the illusion of transforming worthless objects into gold with such vigour that he ruins his family. Dressed in shreds, he places a coin into a bowl while a scoundrel stirs the fire at his side. He remains unmoved by his wife who opens her empty purse, his children in their desperation hide in an empty wardrobe. A scholar sitting on a bench writes his report in a manuscript whose outcome is seen in the background as a painting within a painting where the family is being led to the poor house.

When the meaning offered us excludes obvious facts, direct experience, and our hearts’ recognition of truth, no wonder so many of us lapse into nihilism, thinking that life and the universe itself is meaningless. That nihilism and the latent despair that drives it was QAnon’s spawning ground. The same ground spawns mindless consumerism, technology fetishism, the hypnotic myth of progress, and the spectacular psuedo-dramas of politics, sports, and entertainment. These are the spawn and also the ground, comprised within what Guy Debord named “The Society of the Spectacle.” Any edifice of meaning collapses around the hollow core of its fundamental inauthenticity.

The hunger for the real that gnaws at the Spectacle’s subjects cannot be met from within the Spectacle itself. Online experiences may assuage the nihilism and despair, but they cannot fully meet it. Only direct, sensory, multi-dimensional relationship can. Ultimately this, and not intellect, is the source of meaning.

The Poor Kitchen; a group of gaunt men gather around a table at left and reach for a pot of mussels, while behind them a fat man attempts to escape the grasp of a thin man through the door at the back of the room; other thin men at fireplace at right and softening dried fish at right foreground; in centre a thin woman feeds a child while another child upturns an empty pot over his head;

The Rich Kitchen. several large men sit around a table laden with meats and pies; behind them to the left several pots of food and a pig roast over a large fire; in the foreground a rotund woman nurses a pudgy baby and two children eat bread soaked in milk from a full trough; in the background a large man shoos a thin man with a bagpipe from the door; reversed copy within a double trait carré

The Black Pill is the distillation of cultural despair. It spreads from one dispossessed person to another, leaching its poison into the body politic. The frustrated desire of the Incels morphs easily into racial hatred and sexual violence. The nihilism of the Black Pills finds relief in grandiose fascist stories of past and future greatness.

Elck (Everyman). A bearded, near-sighted man searches with a lantern through barrels, baskets and sacks in the centre foreground; the same figure appears again in the left foreground in a barrel, twice in the right middleground, and in the left middleground where he is engaged in a match of tug-of-war with another man; various sacks and parcels are inscribed with owners’ marks; dice and cards are strewn in foreground

The situation is closely analogous, as Chris Hedges describes it, to 1930s Germany, where just as today “…the spiritually and politically alienated, those cast aside by the society, [were] prime recruits for a politics centered around violence, cultural hatreds and personal resentments.” Their rage, he observes, then as now, was directed in particular at the liberal political intellectuals who had abdicated their proper role within capitalism, which is to soften its rough edges, mitigate its worst tendencies, and wrest a fair share of its wealth for the working class. American liberals performed that role admirably from the 1930s through the 1960s and even into the 1980s, before, as Hedges puts it, they “retreated into the universities to preach the moral absolutism of identity politics and multiculturalism while turning their backs on the economic warfare being waged on the working class and the unrelenting assault on civil liberties.” In the 1990s the Democratic Party (like Labour in the UK and various social democratic parties in Europe) began to romance Wall Street and the transnational corporations. They consummated their marriage in the Obama era and bore a child called totalitarian corporatism, which vies with its rival, Trumpian neofascism, for our future.

The closeness of the election shows that these two futures hang in near perfect balance. Is there a third option? There is, but it depends on building bridges across the most forbidding fault lines of our fragmenting social landscape.

The Incels, Black Pills, and QAnons show us in magnified form the dispossession of a vast swath of middle America (dispossessed of hope, meaning, and belonging, and increasingly economically dispossessed as well). They join the traditionally dispossessed racial and ethnic minorities, but not, tragically, as their allies. Instead they turn their rage on each other, leaving little energy to resist the continued plunder of the commons. The two main cults each offer their followers a proxy target – a caricature of the other side – for their rage.

In light of this tacit collusion, one wonders if both are not two arms of the same monster.

The Tide of our Times

For any of this to change, we must be willing to see past the caricatures. Caricatures are not without truth, but they tend to exaggerate what is superficial and unflattering while ignoring what is beautiful and subtle. Social media, as described in Netflix’s documentary The Social Dilemma, tends to do the same, chiefly by herding users into reality-proof echo chambers and keeping them on-platform by hijacking their limbic systems. They are part of the apparatus that channels popular rage – a precious resource – into populist hate. QAnons and Black Lives Matter protesters actually have a lot in common, starting with a profound alienation from mainstream politics and loss of faith in the system, but having been maneuvered into false opposition they cancel each other out. That is why compassion – seeing the human beneath the judgments, categories, and projections – is the only way out of the social dilemma.

Compassion is the tide of our times. Perhaps that is why increasingly furious attempts to sow hatred are required to maintain the psychic conditions for a control-based society. It takes more and more propaganda to keep us divided. A person in the online community I host described her stint going door to door in Iowa as an Andrew Yang campaign worker. Her strongest impression was of an intense desire among these common folks for unity, an end to the strife. Maybe we are closer to social healing than online behavior, with its vitriol and venom, would indicate. Hate is usually louder than love – in society and within ourselves. What will happen if we listen to the quieter voices?

Underneath the distorted and betrayed hopes of the QAnons lies the authentic hope that had to be there in order to be betrayed and distorted in the first place. It is the same hope that came out with Obama’s election: change, a new beginning. It is the same hope that Trump invoked: Make America great again. Today the same perennial hopefulness rises again among Biden voters.

How can the same hope animate forces that seem diametrically opposed? It is because the distorting lens of us-them thinking diffracts it into two, making us think that change will come through defeat of the enemy presented us. Dehumanization is a primary weapon of war (making the enemy despicable), just as it is the template of racism, sexism, and the reduction of all that is sacred. It is precisely the opposite of what is needed if we are ever to pull together.

For cliches about solidarity, unity, coherence, and reconciliation to become real, we have to look into the dark mirror of all we judge. We have to learn to draw meaning from a new story that isn’t about triumph over the Other. We have to put down the lenses of judgment and ideology, to see with new eyes the people and information our stories had banished. That is how we will forge an unstoppable populism. Let the unlearning begin.

Note:Pieter Bruegel the Elder Drawings and Prints

see friends man has known this for many years”

One of the greatest Netherlandish artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30-1569) is best known today for his paintings of peasant life. Yet it was above all through his exceptional graphic work that he achieved widespread fame during the sixteenth century. His drawings and the prints made after his designs, while based on traditional sources, are innovative and independent, and they are wide ranging in their subject matter. Read here

 

Free yourselves of mental slavery – part 3

The scenario is bleak: Consumerism and materialism dominate all aspects of social life. Older people look with alarm at the crumbling of civic and religious institutions. Young people view the future with a sense of foreboding. Politicians appear self-interested, religious leaders hypocritical, business people ever more corrupt. Violence is escalating at home and abroad, with no ready solution in sight. Alienation and disorientation are pervasive.

Whatever similarities we may find in our contemporary predicament, the society I’m describing is 14th-century Germany. As in 21st-century America or the world, many people of the time, feeling battered by the world around them, sought spiritual wisdom and a more profound connection to the divine. In the early 1300s, this meant that a large number of practicing Christians, laypeople and clerics alike, were searching for a more direct and satisfying experience of God’s presence than what they found in familiar institutional practices.

The potential chaos embodied in these grassroots, subjective movements alarmed some Church leaders. From his seat in Avignon, Pope John XXII, while mostly concerned with matters of state, sought to rein in both the “radical” Franciscans, who preached the importance of apostolic poverty, and the women known as beguines, who formed what we would today call intentional religious communities — groups of spiritually likeminded laypeople, rather than members of a formal religious order, who lived and prayed together.

  • Meister Eckhart, a Mystic for Our Time

In the midst of this tumult, many Christian seekers in the Rhineland of what is today western Germany found life-altering wisdom in the preaching of a Dominican friar, Eckhart von Hochheim, better known as Meister (“Master”) Eckhart. An acclaimed scholar trained at the University of Paris, Meister Eckhart sought to bring the fruits of his many years of theological and philosophical study and contemplation to lay audiences — an unusual aspiration among priest-scholars, who typically considered such matters beyond the comprehension of average people.

Even more revolutionary was Eckhart’s message. Unlike most preachers of the day, who focused on sin and eternal punishment, he described a process he called “the divine birth,” in which true believers could experience God directly within them.

The key lay in letting go of all worldly things, all desires and preconceptions — even one’s image of God himself: “The more completely you are able to draw in your powers to a unity and forget all those things and their images which you have absorbed, and the further you can get from creatures and their images, the nearer you are to this [divine birth] and the readier to receive it.

Then, he said — “in the midst of silence” — God would come within the soul.

Meister Eckhart’s way to “know” God directly was shaped by two central insights, the products of many years of study and contemplation. The first was that the seeker must “unknow” everything he or she thinks about God. Human language and images are essentially metaphorical, comparing things to one another. But God is completely other.

Obviously he is not an old man with a flowing white beard (or even a “he”), but he is also not a being in the sense that we normally mean. It is more accurate, according to Eckhart, to say that God is Being itself, since all existence derives from him.

We should learn not to give God any name . . . for God is above names and ineffable.” In fact, Eckhart warns, “if you think of anything he might be, he is not that.” This deconstruction of images of God, in which we come closer to knowing the ineffable divine by negative attributions — God does not exist in time or space, for instance — than by positive attributions, is known as negative theology, a tradition dating back to St. Augustine.

God’s “unknowability” in word and image was a hard concession for a professional scholar who had invested himself in coming to know God through a rigorous probing of Scripture and Catholic tradition. But the more that Eckhart had tried to approach God rationally, the more frustrated he had become. Instead he came upon a second key insight: One could “know” God through direct experience. Later scholars would call such an approach “mystical,” but a more accurate and less loaded term for what Eckhart meant would be “intuitive”: Rather than trying to know God from the outside, through our senses and intellect, we should try to know him from the inside, from that divine presence already within each of us.

Eckhart called this presence “the divine spark.” He preached that, through a contemplative process of self-emptying, or “letting-go-ness,” the seeker will directly encounter the God within. Only with the death of the old and false self, in theological terms, could the new and true self be born.

The concept traces to St. Paul, who directed Christians to “put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

In Eckhart’s interpretation, the resulting “divine birth” represented no mere metaphor but a direct encounter of the individual soul with the divine. The best news was that God was eager to fully embrace the seeker: “You need not seek him here or there,” he wrote. “He is no further than the door of your heart; there he stands patiently awaiting whoever is ready to open up and let him in. No need to call him from afar: He can hardly wait for you to open up. He longs for you a thousand times more than you long for him.”

Eckhart’s message both excited and unnerved the Christians of his day. Although he never denigrated the external forms of piety around him — he was an active priest — his focus on the internal, on contemplation, was highly unusual, even unsettling to many lay listeners. The Church they knew preached that each person’s salvation depended on the performance of good works and acts of contrition, yet these were absent from Eckhart’s teaching. The Church they knew revolved around the veneration of saints and the celebration of sacraments, yet these played no apparent role in the internal self-transcendence Eckhart described. The Church they knew esteemed monks, nuns and other contemplatives as closer to God than the layperson, yet Eckhart preached that direct experience of God was accessible to any true seeker, regardless of social or religious status.

It is a testament to the truly “catholic”(καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “universal” meaning “all embrasing)  nature of medieval Christianity that what Eckhart called  “a wayless way” to divine union — and subsequent commentators would call apophatic or imageless mysticism — coexisted peacefully with Eucharistic devotions, pilgrimages and penitential self-flagellation. Not until late in his life did Eckhart become caught up in an inquisitorial procedure, based largely on local politics, that culminated in several of his statements being condemned in a papal bull as “evil-sounding.” After eliminating these more controversial statements, his disciples Johannes Tauler and Blessed Heinrich Suso continued to attract followers after the master’s death in the late 1320s. Still, after several decades the master himself faded into obscurity.

Fast forward seven centuries and the medieval Dominican friar has emerged as something of a modern spiritual celebrity. Millions of Roman Catholics and other Christians now claim Meister Eckhart as one of their own, not to mention many Zen Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Advaita Vedanta Hindus, Jewish Cabalists and a variety of other seekers who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” In the United States, interest in Eckhart owes much to the popularity of his namesake, Eckhart (born Ulrich) Tolle, a spiritual teacher and author whose beliefs weave together the medieval master’s teachings with an eclectic blend of contemporary Eastern and New Age concepts. Thanks in part to the massively influential endorsement of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Oprah’s Book Club, the modern Eckhart’s books have together been translated into more than 30 languages and sold some 10 million copies worldwide.

What is it that all these people see in the words of this sage from a distant era? The most common denominator appears to be an attraction to Eckhart’s revolutionary method of direct access to God (or, for some, to ultimate reality) — a profoundly subjective approach that is at once intuitive and pragmatic, philosophical yet non-rational, and above all, universally accessible. Many modern Christian authors, such as the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr — who calls Eckhart a “mystic’s mystic” — view his teachings as part of a long Christian contemplative tradition.

Despite that noble pedigree, Meister Eckhart was late to gain notice among modern Christians. His attractiveness to many contemporary Catholics ironically owes much to the post-Vatican II Church’s intensified engagement with other world religions. The Council’s 1965 declaration Nostra aetate (“In Our Time”) is best known for its repudiation of Catholicism’s long tradition of anti-Semitic statements, but it also represented the Church’s first genuine outreach to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-Christian religious traditions. By a vote of 2,221 to 88, the Council affirmed that the Holy Spirit can indeed be at work in these faiths as well, although obviously not to the same degree as in Christ’s ordained Church.

Already by that time, several Catholic thinkers had begun to explore affinities with non-Christian religions, particularly those of Asia. One of the most famous of those spiritual explorers, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, engaged extensively with Zen Buddhist teachings before discovering a strikingly similar approach already present within his own tradition: Meister Eckhart. Merton agreed with his frequent correspondent, the Japanese scholar D. T. Suzuki, who called Eckhart “the one Zen thinker of the West.”

At the same time that medieval Japanese monks were formulating the core of Zen teaching, Eckhart drew deeply on centuries of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and pagan thought to develop a remarkably similar approach to experience of the divine. “Letting-go-ness” lines up with the Zen “no-mind” (wuxin) as well as the Taoist “no action” (wu wei). Buddhists also appreciate the master’s distinction between the constructed individual identity of each person — what we would call the ego and Eckhart calls the “false self” — and the common nature we all share, the authentic self, which the master identified as divine.

Like his Zen counterparts, Eckhart was wary of God-talk, which he thought more often obscured than revealed the divine, and he aspired to a unity with the ultimate. He called this a “second” or “divine” birth, which is in many ways similar to the Buddhist notion of satori, or enlightenment. The resulting “Christ nature” that he described, echoing St. Paul in Galatians 2:20 (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”) looks remarkably similar to the internal “Buddha nature” of the Mahayana tradition.

At the same time, Eckhart’s embrace of meditation anticipates by seven centuries its popularity, along with the practice of “mindfulness,” among people of faith as well as among the ever-growing number of New Age seekers, agnostics and avowed atheists and others who list their religious affiliation as “none.”

Obviously many important differences remain between the Catholic Eckhart and other faith traditions, most notably on the role and identity of Christ. But the significant convergences have attracted increasing attention since the 1960s. In that sense, Eckhart, whom Merton called “my life-raft,” has brought the contemplative tradition to non-Catholics while deepening the modern Church’s ecumenical dialogue with other spiritual traditions.

Note: Meister Eckhart’s Sermons

Meister Eckhart’s Sermons contains some of his short sermons.The sermons themselves are in relatively plain English. In them, Eckhart flirts with some controversial topics. He describes the soul as “laying hold” of God in a mystical manner, so that there is “no distinction” between God and the soul. Indeed, some of his more radical teachings were eventually condemned by a papal council as heretical. But Eckhart does illustrate a way to synthesize one’s religious belief with one’s philosophy. Interesting and demanding, Meister Eckhart’s Sermons will challenge a person’s conception of God and religion. Read here

Of course, not all Catholics would view the similarity of Eckhart’s teachings to Zen Buddhist practices as a recommendation. While more ecumenical Catholic writers such as the priests Aelred Graham, OSB, Robert E. Kennedy, S.J., and Richard Rohr celebrate the affinity, other more conservative thinkers, such as James Hitchcock, have remained cautious about a full embrace of the medieval friar (particularly given Eckhart’s sermons on the Godhead, in which detractors detect hints of pantheism).

“Mysticism” also remains a suspicious concept for many modern people, given its popular association with visions and other supernatural experiences. But Meister Eckhart never claimed any special powers or called himself a mystic — or anything other than a Catholic preacher of the gospel. If he was a mystic, he was a profoundly anti-obscurant, egalitarian and down-to-earth one, rooted in centuries of Catholic contemplative tradition. In that sense he may be the perfect mystic for our own troubled times.

Here THE COMPLETE MYSTICAL WORKS OF MEISTER ECKHART 

 

Persian sufi miniatures : Angels submission to Adam ( In front Satan refusing)

  • Interreligious Dialogue: Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart

Finding a Single Essence for Religions

As the last major world religion, Islam has continually compared itself with other religions and, more than any other, it seeks opportunities for dialogue and addresses in particular the followers of other Abrahamic religions, i.e. the people of the Scripture. As the basis for this dialogue, Islam refers to the same thing that we consider to be the essence of religion. And that essence has to do with faith, belief and content and not with the act and the form:

Say: O people of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah and that we shall ascribe no partner to Him, and that none of us shall take others for Lords beside Allah. (The Holy Quran, 3:64)

And argue not with the people of the Scripture unless it be in [a way] that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. (Q. 29:46)

The one idea that religions have in common, and on the basis of which they can enter into dialogue, is “God” – and a belief in Him, which lies at the heart of the religion, and is behind all the apparently different forms of Divine Law. As Jelaluddin Rumi suggests, it is this very essence which is hidden behind the apparent world.

This single essence not only paves the way for dialogue but satisfies the contemporary human as well. It is this very essence which permeates human nature and is at the root of the human soul. It can be reached through Friendship (wilaya), which is personified in Christianity as Jesus Christ, and it occupies an important place in Islamic mysticism. Consequently, in the dialogue between religions, we should start from the perspective of religious mysticism. For, according to some scholars, “of all kinds of human thought, mysticism is almost always and everywhere the same. And this is why others have also regarded mysticism as a solution to today’s problems, claiming: “Never before in history was it more urgent for all of us to learn the language of the mystics than in our time, when division threatens to destroy us. The mystics of every tradition speak a language that unites. Equally it is claimed that: “Mysticism is the same in all ages and in all places; timeless and independent of history it has always been identical. East and West and other differences vanish here… For one and the same experience speaks here, only by chance in varying dialects East is west and West is east.

Absolute Truth and Believed Truth

Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart’s tolerance for different ideas originated, as mentioned above, from their knowledge of God, for God is too great to be contained in a view that is the product of limited human thought.

Presence of Sovereignty is indifferent
Transcendent from imaginary syllogisms.

According to Ibn ‘Arabi, everyone worships a god who is a product of his own imagination; in other words, he determines what God is in his own beliefs:

God is created in the belief of His bondsmen. For, when a person rationally considers God, he creates what he believes in himself through his consideration. Hence he worships only a god which he has created through his consideration. He has said to it “Be!”, and it has come into existence. That is why God commanded us to worship the God brought by the Messenger and spoken of in the Book. For if you worship this God, you will be worshiping your creator, and you will have fully given worship its due.

Evidently, the God of whom the prophets speak is not more than a single God. Meister Eckhart expresses himself in ways that are in perfect agreement with Ibn ‘Arabi:

A man ought not to have a God who is just a product of his thought, nor should he be satisfied with that, because if the thought vanished, God too would vanish. But one ought to have a God who is present, a God who is far above the notions of man and of all created things.

However, it should be noted that the gods who appear in human ideas and in whom human beings believe, and whom Ibn ‘Arabi calls “believed gods”, are the manifestations of the same One God in various thoughts and constitutions. It is not wrong to believe in such a god: the mistake is committed when this “believed Truth” is regarded as the absolute Truth, and anything else is denied. The perfect mystic is aware of this very point and believes in God in all His manifestations.

The fact that human beings determine who and what God is by their beliefs, and deny other manifestations of God in other beliefs, is the content of hadiths in which it has been said that on the Day of Resurrection, God will appear to His servants and these servants will accept only that form of God which is in harmony with their constitutions, natures and reasons, and they will deny other forms. In Ibn ‘Arabi’s words:

At the Resurrection, the Real (God) will disclose Himself and say, “I am your Lord”. They will see Him, but nevertheless they will deny Him and not acknowledge Him as their Lord, despite the existence of vision because of the lifting of the veil. When He transmutes Himself for them into the mark through which they recognize Him, they will say to Him, “Thou art our Lord”. Yet He is the one in whom they were seeking refuge, and He is the one they confessed to and recognized.

Read more Interreligious Dialogue: Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart

The Choice of our Times

  • 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. “

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.

 

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’.

  • 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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

*********

  • St. Augustine: The Two Cities The City of God, XIV, 1

St. Augustine is remembered for bringing into philosophy from the Judeo-Christian tradition a sense of history and novelty which the Greeks and their philosophers had never had. This comes out particularly as he reflects on the fall of Rome all around him. His philosophical/theological doctrine is couched in terms of the “two cities:” Rome (or the new Babylon), which symbolizes all that is worldly, and Jerusalem (the city of heaven), which symbolizes the Christian community. Our world was created in the beginning, fell away from God, and then was redeemed by Christ; thus Augustine sees the world in which he lives as a mixture of the two cities. But the temporal city of this world will eventually perish, giving way to the eternal city. As he introduces this idea, he draws on Paul’s notion of “original sin” derived from the rebellion of Adam and Eve to explain how the lesser, flawed “city” came into being.

What does he say God’s purpose was in creating all of humanity out of one single original being? Greed (and perhaps price), envy, and power characterize the “second city” (or the second way of life). What are their positive counterparts in the “first city”?


Two loves make two cities

Literal Commentary on Genesis, XI, 15,20

These are the two loves: the first is holy, the second foul; the first is social, the second selfish; the first consults the common welfare for the sake of a celestial society, the second grasps at a selfish control of social affairs for the sake of arrogant domination; the first is submissive to God, the second tries to rival God; the first is quiet, the second restless; the first is peaceful, the second trouble-making; the first prefers truth to the praises of those who are in error, the second is greedy for praise, however it may be obtained; the first is friendly, the second envious; the first desires for its neighbor what it wishes for itself, the second desires to subjugate its neighbor; the first rules its neighbor for the good of its neighbor, the second for its own advantage; and these two loves produce a distinction among the angels: the first love belongs to the good angels, the second to the bad angels; and they also separate the two cities founded among the race of men, under the wonderful and ineffable Providence of God, administering and ordering all things that have been created: the first city is that of the just, the second is that of the wicked. Although they are now, during the course of time, intermingled, they shall be divided at the last judgment; the first, being joined by the good angels under its King, shall attain eternal life; the second, in union with the bad angels under its king, shall be sent into eternal fire. Perhaps, we shall treat, God willing, of these two cities more fully in another place.

Translated by Marcus Dod (1876)


How the Two Cities Differ

We have already stated in the preceding books that God, desiring not only that the human race might be able by their similarity of nature to associate with one another, but also that they might be bound together in harmony and peace by the ties of relationship, was pleased to derive all men from one individual, and created man with such a nature that the members of the race should not have died, had not the two first (of whom the one was created out of nothing, and the other out of him) merited this by their disobedience; for by them so great a sin was committed that by it human nature was altered for the worse, and was transmitted also to their posterity, liable to sin and subject to death. And the kingdom of death so reigned over men, that the deserved penalty of sin would have hurled all headlong even into the second death, of which there is no end, had not the undeserved grace of God saved some therefrom. And thus it has come to pass that, though there are very many and great nations all over the earth, whose rites and customs, speech, arms, and dress, are distinguished by marked differences, yet there are no more than two kinds of human society, which we may justly call two cities, according to the language of our Scriptures. The one consists of those who wish to live after the flesh, the other of those who wish to live after the spirit; and when they severally achieve what they wish, they live in peace, each after its kind.

Translated by Marcus Dods (1876)

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Chap. III.—Of the Ways, and of Vices and Virtues; And of the Rewards of Heaven and the Punishments of Hell.

There are two ways,[1] O Emperor Constantine, by which human life must proceed—the one which leads to heaven, the other which sinks to hell; and these ways poets have introduced in their poems, and philosophers in their disputations. And indeed philosophers have represented the one as belonging to virtues, the other to vices; and they have represented that which belongs to virtues as steep and rugged at the first entrance, in which if any one, having overcome the difficulty, has climbed to the summit, they say that he afterwards has a level path, a bright and pleasant plain, and that he enjoys abundant and delightful fruits of his labours; but that those whom the difficulty of the first approach has deterred, glide and turn aside into the way of vices, which at its first entrance appears to be pleasant and much more beaten, but afterwards, when they have advanced in it a little further, that the appearance of its pleasantness is withdrawn, and that there arises a steep way, now rough with stones, now overspread with thorns, now interrupted by deep waters or violent with torrents, so that they must be in difficulty, hesitate, slip about, and fall. And all these things are brought forward that it may appear that there are very great labours in undertaking virtues, but that when they are gained there are the greatest advantages, and firm and incorruptible pleasures; but that vices ensnare the minds of men with certain natural blandishments, and lead them captivated by the appearance of empty pleasures to bitter griefs and miseries,—an altogether wise discussion, if they knew the forms and limits of the virtues themselves. For they had not learned either what they are, or what reward awaits them from God: but this we will show in these two books.

But these men, because they were ignorant or in doubt that the souls of men are immortal, estimated both virtues and vices by earthly honours or punishments. Therefore all this discussion respecting the two ways[2] has reference to frugality and luxury. For they say that the course of human life resembles the letter Y, because every one of men, when he has reached the threshold of early youth, and has arrived at the place “where the way divides itself into two parts,”[3] is in doubt, and hesitates, and does not know to which side he should rather turn himself. If he shall meet with a guide who may direct him wavering to better things—that is, if he shall learn philosophy or eloquence, or some honourable arts by which he may turn to good conduct,[4] which cannot take place without great labour—they say that he will lead a life of honour and abundance; but if he shall not meet with a teacher of temperance,[5] that he falls into the way on the left hand, which assumes the appearance of the better,—that is, he gives himself up to idleness, sloth, and luxury, which seem pleasant for a time to one who is ignorant of true goods, but that afterwards, having lost all his dignity and property, he will live in all wretchedness and ignominy. Therefore they referred the end of those ways[6] to the body, and to this life which we lead on earth. The poets perhaps did better, who would have it that this twofold way was in the lower regions; but they are deceived in this, that they proposed these ways to the dead. Both therefore spoke with truth, but yet both incorrectly; for the ways themselves ought to have been referred to life, their ends to death. We therefore speak better and more truly, who say that the two ways[7] belong to heaven and hell, because immortality is promised to the righteous, and everlasting punishment is threatened to the unrighteous.

But I will explain how these ways either exalt to heaven or thrust down to hell, and I will set forth what these virtues are of which the philosophers were ignorant; then I will show what are their rewards, and also what are vices, and what their punishments. For perhaps some one may expect that I shall speak separately of vices and virtues; whereas, when we discuss the subject of good or evil, that which is contrary may also be understood. For, whether you introduce virtues, vices will spontaneously depart; or if you take away vices, virtues will of their own accord succeed. The nature of good and evil things is so fixed, that they always oppose and drive out one another: and thus it comes to pass that vices cannot be removed without virtues, nor can virtues be introduced without the removal of vices. Therefore we bring forward these ways in a very different manner from that in which the philosophers are accustomed to present them: first of all, because we say that a guide is proposed to each, and in each case an immortal: but that the one is honoured who presides over virtues and good qualities, the other condemned who presides over vices and evils. But they place a guide only on the right side, and that not one only, nor a lasting one; inasmuch as they introduce any teacher of a good art, who may recall men from sloth, and teach them to be temperate. But they do not represent any as entering upon that way except boys and young men; for this reason, that the arts are learned at these ages. We, on the other hand, lead those of each sex, every age and race, into this heavenly path, because God, who is the guide of that way, denies immortality to no human being.[8] The shape also of the ways themselves is not as they supposed. For what need is there of the letter Y in matters which are different and opposed to one another? But the one which is better is turned towards the rising of the sun, the other which is worse towards its setting: since he who follows truth and righteousness, having received the reward of immortality, will enjoy perpetual light; but he who, enticed by that evil guide, shall prefer vices to virtues, falsehood to truth, must be borne to the setting of the sun, and to darkness.[9] I will therefore describe each, and will point out their properties and habits.

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 Paradise : Eternity (out of time)                              Hell: infinite stasis (time frozen)

                Purgatory: Here and Now, in time and space, a dynamic time, dedicated to change and transformation

When Joachim Patinir (d. 1524) painted his vast cosmic panorama Charon , he
situated the decisive moment of choice in a sailing vessel on a great river (the classical Styx) but poised it midway between the realms of Heaven and Hell. The small figure in the boat, dwarfed by the giant ferryman, is a solitary human soul, who already glances nervously over toward the mouthlike dark gateway of Hades, guarded by the triple-headed dog, Cerberus. Even the boat itself inclines slightly in the same direction, the unfavorable sinisterside of the viewer’s right, long familiar from medieval Last Judgment scenes (and more recently in Judgment scenes by Rogier van der Weyden and Dieric Bouts in the south Netherlands) as the side of Hell and damnation.

  • Tabula Cebetis:

The Tablet of Cebes is probably by a pseudonymous author of the 1st or 2nd century. The work professes to be an interpretation of an allegorical picture of a tablet on which the whole of human life with its dangers and temptations was symbolically represented, and which is said to have been dedicated by someone in the temple of Cronus at Athens or Thebes.[5] The author introduces some youths contemplating the tablet, and an old man who steps among them undertakes to explain its meaning.[5] It is intended to show that only the proper development of our mind and the possession of real virtues can make us truly happy.[5] The author develops the Platonic theory of pre-existence, and shows that true education consists not in mere erudition, but rather in the formation of character.[2] Parallels are often drawn between this work and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.[2]

The Tabula has been widely translated both into European languages and into Arabic (the latter version published with the Greek text and Latin translation by Claudius Salmasius in 1640). It has often been printed together with the Enchiridion of Epictetus. Separate editions have been issued by CS Jerram (with introduction and notes, 1878), Karl Praechter (1893), and many others.[2][6]

The Tablet is a dialogue, reporting an encounter and a conversation that took place in
a temple of Cronus. The anonymous narrator tells how he and a group of his friends
(it is never said exactly how many) were strolling in the temple precinct, admiring the
votive offerings displayed there, when they were brought up short by one that they
could not make sense of. It was a painting, but its subject-matter was obscurely
elusive. Figures were distributed singly and in groups about a series of enclosures
(perivboloi) that collectively looked something like a city and something like a
military camp, but not exactly like either. Something intriguing was clearly going on,
but what? As the young men pondered, they were approached by an older man, who
professed himself unsurprised by their bafflement: many of the local population were
equally ignorant. He, however, had had the painting’s significance explained to him
long ago by its dedicator, and was willing to enlighten them too, if they wished. But
they should be aware that the explanation carried an unexpectedly serious risk: their
very happiness in life depended on their ability to understand it. This warning,
predictably, only intensified the young men’s desire to know. So the old man picked
up a staff and, detail by detail, began to unfold what the mysterious painting signified
(1-4).
The place depicted by the whole, he explained, is Life, which is delimited by the
outermost of the enclosures; the smaller enclosures within it designate the various
existential conditions that different choices in life bring about: Hedonistic Indulgence,
Retribution, False Culture, True Culture, and Happiness. The figures to be seen
standing and moving about in and between these locations represent two different
classes of entity. One set stands for individual human beings, making their different
ways through life, via the various staging-posts and to the different destinations
represented by the enclosures. The other, and larger set of (almost exclusively
female) figures stand for the external conditions and inner psychological states in
which these travellers find themselves at different points in their lives. This second
set of female figures comprises both the conditions that give their names to the
enclosures, and others that either cluster with them in or at the entrance to their
respective enclosures, or inhabit the spaces in between. They are named successively
as Opinions, Desires, and Pleasures; Fortune; Indulgence, Profligacy, Insatiability, and Flattery; Retribution, Grief, Sorrow, Lamentation, and Despondency; Repentance; False Culture; Self-mastery and Perseverence; True Culture, Truth and Persuasion; Knowledge, Courage, Justice, Goodness, Moderation, Propriety, Freedom of Spirit, Self-mastery, and Gentleness; and Happiness. The only figures that stand slightly apart from this array are the very first two that the old man’s staff points to, who are to be found at the gate of Life itself: first the Divinity (Daimon), who instructs all humans, on the threshold of birth, what road to walk in life if they hope for Salvation; then Deceit, who the next moment forces them to drink her draught of Error and Ignorance, which effaces Divinity’s commands to a greater or lesser degree, and thus sends them into the world in a state in which they are easy prey for false opinions and deluded ideas of the right path to fulfilment.

As the old exegete unfolds his explanation, he also constructs a narrative – or rather, a
whole series of narratives: a series of abstract, emblematic accounts of lives lived
well or badly, as depicted by the different routes followed by the figures within the
picture. So much is already implicit in a bare list of the female figures encountered
on the way, which even on its own sketches the outline of a recognizible story. The
main focus, in paragraphs 6 to 26, is on the life that achieves ultimate happiness only
after a false start, represented by the individual whose rise to material prosperity (by
the gift of capricious fortune) leads him first into a life of sensual indulgence, thence
into crime, punishment and repentance, and only then, via a brief acquaintance with
conventional culture, to the laborious cultivation of moral virtue and the attainment of happiness. Since, however, each stage through which this traveller passes can be for others a finishing-place in itself, other possible courses in life are also envisaged: the
life that ends with unrepented crime and its consequences (6-10);5 the life that ends in
false (conventional) culture, unaware that there is anything higher to aspire to (13);
and the life that aspires to true virtue, but fails to achieve it, either through faintness
of heart, or through some ineradicable moral flaw (27). Furthermore, when the old
man subsequently turns to explain just what the instructions are that the Divinity
imparts to all humans before birth, and that they then forget under the baleful
influence of Deceit, yet another possible course emerges: that of the individual who,
accepting the goods of fortune in a proper spirit of indifference, spurns the
blandishments of hedonism, and makes instead directly for culture, without the
pernicious detour through dissolution and crime (31-2).

The exegesis of the picture comes to an end at the beginning of paragraph 33. The
remainder of the dialogue is devoted to further discussion of two points which still
puzzled the young interlocutors: the value of conventional education, and the
rationale of the Divinity’s instruction to exploit it without becoming engrossed in it
(33-35, harking back to 12-14); and, secondly, the denial, made briefly in 8 and explicitly reserved for further discussion later, that the gifts of fortune are truly good
(36-43). The dialogue ends with a final exhortation from the old exegete to take his
teaching to heart, and a promise that he will always be ready to offer any more
explanations that this young listeners may require (43)

Read here The Table of Cebes, or, The Picture of Human Life.  Here info On the Tablet of Cebes

Read here old translation:The Greek Pelgrim progress Generally known as the Picture by  Cebes, a disciple of Socrates


Of course, that anxious inclination toward the dark means that the soul figure fails to turn to the dexter side, that of Heaven, opposite, where angels are visible below the trees
and unearthly crystalline structures tower above at the horizon level. Closer inspection of the entire painting shows that the very skies echo this antithetical structure: reading from
left to right, the cloudless blue sky gradually gives way to dark storm clouds above the fire and brimstone of Hell.

For we see divine retribution revealed from heaven and falling upon all the godless wickedness of men. In their wickedness they are stifling the truth. For all that may be known of God by men lies plain before their eyes; indeed God himself has disclosed it to
them. His invisible attributes, that is to say his everlasting power and deity, have been visible, ever since the world began, to the eye of reason, in the things he has made. There is therefore no possible defense for their conduct…. For this reason God has
given them up to the vileness of their own desires, and the consequent degradation of their bodies, because they have bartered away the true God for a false one…. Thus, because they have not seen fit to acknowledge God, he has given them up to
their own depraved reason. This leads them to break all rules of conduct.

-Romans 1:18-28

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

-I Corinthians 13:12

“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”.

  • At the the cross road  of Y , Migration is a form of Purgatory

Paul A. Camacho in his paper ” Educating Desire: Conversion and Ascent in Dante’s Purgatorioasks 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 at last 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

  • With the help of Al Khidr, St George, St Christopher and the Holy Refugees

Al Khidr : The Spiritual “greenness”:

Khidr is not an abstract mystical figure, but an archetype of something essential within us.The Green One’ images a natural aspect of our divinity, something so ordinary that we overlook it. To follow the way of Khidr is to awaken to our own natural state of being with God and with life. In this natural state of being we know how to respond to the real need of the moment. Read more

 

 

 

St George and Al kidhr;

At first sight there seems to be little connection between Elijah, George and Khidr, apart from the fact that in the Middle East they are frequently associated with the same place by different religious traditions. Is it then a simple case of overlapping traditions, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, all of whom focus on the Holy Land as part of their own heritage and take Abraham as their forefather?

Certainly there is a view which suggests that Khidr is to Muslims what Elijah is to Jews, in respect of them both acting as initiator to the true believer, and which in itself is testimony to attempts to find common ground between the three traditions. Read more here

Prayer 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.

 

St Christopher:

With the help of St Christopher we make the Migration, Crossing from the Land of Ignorance to the Spirittual Land of Peace

St. Christopher prayer:

O Glorious St. Christopher you have inherited a beautiful name, Christ-bearer, as a result of the wonderful legend that while carrying people across a raging stream you also carried the Child Jesus. Teach us to be true Christ-bearers to those who do not know Him. Protect all of us that travel both near and far and petition Jesus to be with us always. Amen.

Read more here about the great martyr St Christopher

  • The Refuge: Pilgrimage

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

 

Brueghel used the personnage of “Dulle Griet’ to express this kind of stubbornness . It shows the intellectual rebellion of our Ego. Progress came with a price. The new world had not yet made a Faustian pact with the Devil to gain its brilliant advances in science, exploration and industry but it had swept away some of the traditional cures for the depression that those achievements brought in tow.

Modern Man with all his “economical grow- energy” knowledge and scientifical research based on rebellion against his Soul, wants to find (without his soul) the solutions to all the problems he created and  is landed in an apocalyptic “theater” prophesying the complete destruction of the world.

 

To take refuge asThe Holy Refugees: “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Joachim Patinir: to make the Pelgrimage to become The Twice Born Man

Man as stubbornness of the intellectual rebellion of our Ego  / The Twice Born Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Refuge: Pilgrimage to Reconciliation with his Soul

The Choice:

Man as  Man as stubbornness of the intellectual rebellion of our Ego                                                                                                        The  Twice Born Man

The Refuge: Pilgrimage

The Freedom of  choice of the “Refugee”:

Read more on: Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life

We are not the first generation to know that we are destroying the world, many communities and civilisations collapsed before us.  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! 

  • The Soul That Does not Live in God is not Alive

Spring makes red and white flowers appear on the trees,

But the spring that is the origin of colors is colorless.

Understand what I have said, and give up all talk;

Run to the Origin without color and unite yourself to it.

Annihilate yourself before the One Existence

So that thousands of worlds leap out of you

And your pure existence flames out of itself

And goes on and on birthing different forms.

Of course, none of these forms will last.

Happy is the one who knows this mystery!

Happy is he who gives his life to know this!

He leaves this house for another far more radiant.

You cannot understand this mystery through reason;

The Way to Knowledge winds through suffering and torment.

If you do not feel pain, you do not look for healing.

The soul that does not live in God is not alive.

She seems like a soul, but does not deserve the name:

She has not been made alive by the Beloved.

The soul is given life by the four-elements

Like a lamp that burns through the night:

The light is from oil and wick, it is not eternal.

While the oil exists, the lamp burns, but then goes out.

The one made alive by God will never die.

He lives through God and not through gold or bread.

God is the Light, the Eternal Source of Lights.

The Light is causeless, as is His fiery radiance.

Like gold, God’s value comes from His pure, perfect essence.

Sultan Valad

Geometry of Life

The Geometry of Plants

From Cosmic Core

“Plants are not ‘things’ but ‘energy events’,” Michael Schneider tells us.  “They spiral into existence, resembling whirlpools.”

“The directed, asymmetric, ‘pulsating’ forces manifested in growing living organisms act, or can act, quite differently from the physico-chemical reactions obeying the ‘Principle of Least Action,’ so that the ‘Geometry of Life’ will introduce shapes and volumes not met with in rigorously inorganic systems.”1

“Plants are not objects, and there is no absolute.  They are transient and their form exists within a constant state of flux.  In truth we cannot summarize the design of a plant within a single session of measurement and recording, since even within the space of time between the measuring and the recording enough about the plant may have changed to render the measurement obsolete. Read more here

  • Geometry of Plants – II

 

 

Geometry of Plants – Part 2 –

 

 

 

  • Geometry of Zoology

Geometry of Zoology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Geometry of Human Life

Human A&P – Part 1 – The Geometry of Human Life – Mitosis, Meiosis & Fertilization

 

 

Human A&P – Part 2 – The Geometry of Human Life – Phi & Body Proportions

 

Human A&P – Part 3 – The Geometry of Human Life – More Body Geometry

 

 

 

 

Human A&P – Part 4 – The Geometry of Human Life – The Heart

 

 

 

Human Life – Mind/Body – Part 1 – Cells & Cellular Memory

 

 

Mind/Body Health – Part 2 – Mind-Body Connection

 

 

 

Read more here

Prayer for our Times


  • Forty rules of love  Persian Sufi – Shams of Tabriz 1185-1248

Rule 1
How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.

Rule 2
The path to the Truth is a labour of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs (self, psyche, soul) with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

Rule 3
You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.

Rule 4
Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy’, whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.

Rule 5
Most of problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstanding. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language, as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.

Rule 6
Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is the best to find a person who will be your mirror. Remember only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.

Rule 7
Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighbourhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.

Rule 8
Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to look at the end of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

Rule 9
East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.

Rule 10
The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.

….. read more here

  •  Prayer for our times

The Prayer is an excellent act, but its spirit and meaning are more excellent than its form, even as the human spirit is more excellent and more enduring than the form. For the human form does not abide forever, but the spirit does. In the same way, the form of The Prayer does not remain,but its meaning and spirit do.

 

From the book Illuminated Prayer Coleman Barks/Michael Green

You are a Christian because you believe in Jesus, and you are a Jew because you believe in all the prophets including Moses. You are a Muslim because you believe in Muhammad as a prophet, and you are a Sufi because you believe in the universal teaching of God’s love. You are really none of those, but you are all of those because you believe in God. And once you believe in God, there is no religion. Once you divide yourself off with religions, you are separated from your fellowman.

 

What is it that we really love? What is the stronger pull? Behavioral scientists believe that immediately after birth, we enjoy a happy blurring of the distinction between “self” and “non-self,” but that before too long in our life-trajectory, we pull our-selves free of such oceanic unity and we individuate.

It’s a fascinating new experience: Me! Years go by, life experience accumulates. We slowly discover that our self-entity exists within an atmosphere of aloneness and separation. Our first instinct is to break out of the isolation with a lot of grasping and pos-sessing—friends, lovers, food, cars, money, land, whatever. We try to dull the ache with entertainment, understand it with philosophy, or accept it in therapy. No matter. Nothing quite delivers the abiding wholeness we sense is really the way we ought to be.

 

The human shape is a ghost made of distraction and pain. Sometimes pure light, sometimes cruel, trying wildly to open,this image tightly held within itself.

“The mystics are gathering in the street. Come out!”

“Leave me alone. I’m sick.”

“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”

An intuition is awakened within us of the original human experience, of a deep, effortless unity, not with things, but with the ocean of pure love-being within which they exist. A longing and a thirst…

The thirst in our souls is the attraction put out by water itself:

We belong to it, and it to us.

…and a new attraction is felt, a tidal pull toward something deep and unknown. Something shifts inside. Rumi says:

be like a fish on a beach moving toward wave-sound.

The Prayer and the teachings here are tools to nourish and strengthen this pull, this longing to return to the source…

We can’t help being thirsty  moving toward the voice of water.

Milk-drinkers draw close to the mother, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, shamans, everyone hears the intelligent sound and moves, with thirst, to meet it.

These teachings are part of an ancient Way of returning. They go far back before recorded history. The Way is not “religion,” it is the root from which all religions grow.

Signs of this Way can be found everywhere, among all peoples. The Way exists to serve, and chameleon-like, it takes much of its external coloration from whatever culture or religion it finds itself in.

In the world of mystic Islam, the ones who embrace and transmit this way of returning, of knowing themselves, are often called Sufis.

Their “I” is not what most think of as “I.”

I am cloud and rain being released, and then the meadow as it soaks it in.

I wash the grains of mortality from the cloth around a dervish.

                       I am the rose of eternity, not made of water or fire                                                               or the wandering wind, or even earth. I play with those.

I am

a light within his light. If you see me, be careful.

Tell no one what you’ve seen.

The “I” that so many have defended to their dying breath might be likened to a slightly unstable computer operating system. It’s got wonderful features, but it still crashes and needs regular upgrades. Ultimately it is nothing more than a swarm of charged particles, or rather, it’s only the pattern of charges, completely ephemeral, subject at any moment to error messages, erasure, viruses, random power surges . . . even unfixable crashes. The Sufi’s response to such a marginal exitence is simple: abandon the assumption that this pro­gram is who we really are. Marvelous things can now happen. We might identify with wider horizons—like the hard drive, or the processor. Or the network, the World Wide Web, the wide world, or finally, the great sea of being supporting everything.

This opening up of identity is the great work, and no effort in it is ever wasted. Those who find their way to the shore of this sea are ennobled and transformed. Those diving in discover they are no different from the sea. They were God’s secret. Now God is their secret

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me, if this is the time.

Do it gently with a touch of hand, or a look. Every morning I wait at dawn. That’s when it happened before.

Or do it suddenly like an execution. How else can I get ready for death?

You breathe without a body like a spark. You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter. You keep me away with your arm, but the keeping away is pulling me in.

Where do we begin? The arts of starting out, of soul-turning, of returning to the vast bright waters of universal consciousness are all found in the realm of prayer.

A wicker basket sank in the Ocean,  saw itself full of seawater,

decided it could live independently. Left the ocean, not a drop stayed in it.

But the ocean took it back

For God’s sake, stay near the sea! Walk the beach.

Your face is pale.

I am sinking in the ocean of this subject.

A man in prison receives a prayer rug from a friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crow-bar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing the Five-Times Prayer before dawn, at noon, midafternoon, after sun-set, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug at the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discover­ing that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him to his cell and how it works. He’s able to escape.

Anything you do every day
can open
into the deepest spiritual place,
which is freedom.

What nine months does for the embryo

Forty early mornings will do for your growing awareness.

There is no single word in English that conveys the scope of the Arabic word Salat. “Prayer,” “blessings,” “supplication,” and “grace” are implied, but all fail to convey the Salat’s marvelous integration of devotional heart-surrender ‘with physical motion.

In Salat, our entire being is engaged in a single luminous event.

The Salat that we practice begins with the Miraj, the mystic Night Journey of . the noble prophet Muhammad. Called. from his meditation into superconsciousness, he ascends through the heavens and beyond to mingle and merge with the Lord and Creator, light upon Light.

Returning, he brings back the earthly forms of these celestials adorations.

The prayer is gifted not to one tribe or to one race or one religion but to all humanity, and we present it here as such, a treasure for everyone.

Moving with the Prayer as response to inner need draws one into the precious community of mystic lovers everywhere.

At the Call says the Book of Revelation,

leave your trading and hasten unto remembrance.

The Prayer lends a new life to the day, binding it into the rhythm of a sacred circle. Like a waterwheel that ceaselessly catches water out of a stream and spills it into a garden, The Prayer lifts us up again and again out of our preoccupations and sets us into a sacred time. The Prayer empowers us to put aside the ten thousand cares and realign to the unity and blessedness intrinsic to all things.

Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

 

 

The Prayer is a deep psycho-logical  force field to help us over-come our mole-like resistances to the light. The Prayer is an unfolding series of archetypal motions and gestures that appear in endless variation throughout all the devotional practices of the human family.

Salat is a remarkably compact and focused exercise. It gently returns our lives to “that which we really love” five times every day, and grounds that returning in the movements and knowledge of body-wisdom.

The body itself is a screen to shield and partially reveal the light that’s blazing inside your presence.

 

-The Times
Following celestial law, the earth each day performs a complete turning. The light moves through five stages as the sun dawns, climbs to its zenith, descends downward in the slanting rays of aftemoon, sets in glowing colors, and disappears into darkness. For the Sufi, this cycle is a mirror of the human life span: our dawing into the world, our growth, maturation, decline, and death. In these five stages, the soul makes its journey around another sun that never rises or sets.

The Prayer invites us to awaken from the superficial self at these moments of the day. By aligning our devotional work with these natural times of power we start to move with the rhythms of God’s creation in a new way, attuned to the mystical correspondences between outer and inner and to the seasons of life.

see: Hildegard of Bingen: Viriditas – the Greening power of the Divine –

Think of how PHENOMENA come trooping

out of the Desert of Non-existence

into this materiality.

Morning and night,

they arrive in a long line and take over

from each other, “It’s my turn now. Get out!”

A son comes of age, and the father packs up. This place of phenomena is a wide exchange of highways, with everything going all sorts of different ways.

We seem to be sitting still, but we’re actually moving, and the Fantasies of Phenomena are sliding through us like ideas through curtains.

Read more here

A History of the Utopian Tradition: A guide for our times

  • A History of the Utopian Tradition

By Carlijn kingma  CARTOGRAPHY OF SOCIETY

Chinese Ink and dip pen on paper Size original drawing: 1189mm x 841mm
April 2016 -For more information about the prints, please send an email to: carlijnkingma@gmail.com.

Below you can read the introduction of the story:

The urge to transcend and push life ‘as it is’ in order to move towards life ‘as it should be’, is a defining feature of humanity. Utopia is a way of articulating of this urge – a project or vision which provides us with a clear view on an alternative present or future world, through which, although sometimes just for one little moment, we can believe in something extraordinary. Utopia has long been the name for the unreal and the impossible. We have set utopia over against the world as the world of dreams, fantasies and ideas. Thus, sometimes, we seem to forget, that, like Lewis Mumford used to say, the choice we have is not between reasonable proposals and an unreasonable utopianism. Utopian thinking does not under- mine or discount real reforms. Indeed, it is almost the opposite: practical reforms depend on utopian dreaming. It encourages us in our efforts, and sets a beacon in the uncharted seas of the distant future, and in doing so drives to incremental improvements. The world needs utopia, as the cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.

For as long as we exist, we have imagined the things that ought to be. The Greeks knew such wise men as philosophers, they allowed them great freedom and rejoiced in the mathematical precision with which their intellectual leaders mapped out those theoretical roads which were to lead mankind from chaos to an ordered state of society. The Old Tes tament used to call such people prophets, insisting with narrow persistence upon the King dom of Heaven as the only possible standard for a decent Christian Utopia. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fought many bitter wars to decide the exact nature of a white- washed Paradise, erected upon the crumbling ruins of the medieval church. The eighteenth century saw the Promised Land lying just across the terrible bulwark of stupidity and super stition, which a thousand years of clerical selfishness had erected for its own protection and safety. There followed a mighty battle to crush the infamy of ignorance and bring about an era of well-balanced reason. Unfortunately, a few enthusiasts carried the matter a trifle too far. Napoleon, realist-in-chief of all time, brought the world back to the common ground of solid facts. In response, the twentieth century grew a counter-culture of everything fixed and finite, and presented utopia with its twin brother, the anti-utopia, which by opposing utopia also made her stronger. But in recent decades something has changed. Many observe utopia and their sympathizers as foolhardy dreamers at best and murderous totalitarians at worst. If the utopian spirit has proved to be a tool to trigger progress and improvements, then the recent growing suspicion towards utopia and the growing anti-utopian library is worrisome. Over the last century Utopia has gained a historic record of “anti-utopian” novels and instead of worrying how we can get to the good place we now think about how we can prevent the ‘utopian project’ from being realized. How did this happen? And as the will-to- transcend will always remain, how can we make the utopian project, our beacon leading us to conscious progress and change, legitimate and valuable again?

Understanding where utopia stands today is to understand its past, where it comes from and what ideas it carried. The first part of this thesis is an attempt to set out, mainly in drawing, supported by text, the general pattern of utopian writing in the West. Setting out the history of utopian writing is not meant principally as an historiographical exercise, but is necessary for understanding and thinking about the fate of utopia in our own times, and its possibilities for the future. Through history we learn how utopia always emerges and exists under specific circumstances. At the same time, the content and articulation of utopia has always been bonded to a set of attributes such as the organization of knowledge; power; the interpretation of territory; and time, resulting in the question of finality. Understanding the changing utopian tradition as a result of the changing attributes of the material world in the past, can help us understand the recently emerged suspicion of the utopia today, and hand us the tools to resonate on the possibility of a post-modern utopia tomorrow.

An inevitable part of the utopian tradition is the art of storytelling, and therefor, this elab- oration on the changing tradition of the utopia of the west is done mainly through image and illustrated with words. Image 1. History of the Utopian tradition, shows an overview of the whole story. Our journey begins in ancient Greece, with the Republic of Plato, as we work ourselves up to the utopian visions of the 20th century. A sequence of fragments, taken from the main image, will guide us through the story, handing us the possibility to not only understand each utopia as a separate entity or a product of its time, but also to understand each story as a part of a changing utopian tradition.

[…] Ch. 1 – Ch. 7 are left out but are available in print.

  • Al-Farabi’s Humanistic Principles and “Virtuous City”

by Anar Tanabayeva

In our time of globalization humanistic principles should be fundamental to the people around the world, otherwise we can not solve the global problems of mankind. At the present time, when the world globalization processes put before mankind new issues and identified the main problem, the study of the works of such thinker as Al-Farabi becomes extremely important. To study Al-Farabi’s philosophy is becoming more relevant in today’s context of increasing democratic reforms, creation of a legal, secular state and approval of harmony in society. In this respect, the study of political philosophy of Al-Farabi, especially his teachings on politics, freedom, happiness, and the need to mutual assistance between people, his appeal to science, intellectual and moral perfection of man and society, over-actualized. Particularly relevant today a thinker’s concept on political leadership, his ideas about the virtuous society, justice, equality, preserving peace, preventing war, condemnation of wars. In this regard, political philosophy and ideas of the thinker can be a valuable source for the education of the younger generation. Read more here

  • Utopian Literature of the Ideal Society:  A Study in Al-Farabi’s Virtuous City & More’s Utopia

Utopian literature in its broadest meaning deals with the idealistic conceptions and themes that are not applicative in real human life. This type of literature and thinking,
though we regard it as imaginative and may be fanciful, yet it embodies great themes, and aiming at noble human goals and purposes.
Al-Farabi in his work the Virtuous City and More in his Utopia present to the humanity through these two magnificent works, under discussion in this research, an example of the virtuous and idealistic community they aspire, as philosophers, to be achieved in real human life, if virtue and goodness guide mankind to its perfection and happiness.
This research discusses these two works as Utopian literature, irrespective to the profound philosophical thoughts they comprise. Read more here

  • AL-FARABI ON THE DEMOCRATIC CITY

This essay will explore some of al-Farabı’s paradoxical remarks on the nature and status of the democratic city (al-madı¯nah al-jamaıyyah). In describing this type of non-virtuous city, Farabı departs significantly from Plato, according the democratic city a superior standing and casting it in a more positive light. Even though at one point Farabı¯ follows Plato in considering the timocratic city to be the best of the imperfect cities, at
another point he implies that the democratic city occupies this position.
Since Farabı’s discussion of imperfect cities is derived from Plato’s Republic and follows it in many important respects, I will argue that his departure from Plato in this context is significant and points to some revealing differences between the two philosophers. In order to demonstrate this, I will first set up a comparison between Plato’s conception of the democratic city and Farabı’s. Then I will propose three explanations for the greater appreciation that Farabı seems to have for democracy, as well as for the apparent contradiction in Farabı’s verdict concerning the second best city. Read more here

  • Al-Farabi’s doctrin: virtuous people and a model of the «perfect man»

On the basis of reasonable activity of a man as his natural prop- erties Al-Farabi made a
number of conclusions about the humanistic equality of all people as a result of the overall reasonable nature of the autonomy of the human being, the creative activity of the person, freedom of the human will, independent of the value of human life. This issue Al-Farabi considered in his «Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city».
Perfect society of Al-Farabi divides into three types: the great, medium and small. Great Society – a collection of companies of all people living in the land, the average – an association of people in some parts of the land, small-a small association of residents.
The greatest good and the highest perfection can be achieved, according to al-Farabi,
primarily the city, but not society, standing on the lower level of perfection. The latter AlFarabi considers the village, district, street and house. This system is a perfect society, drawn by Al-Farabi with strict logical sequence is the result of logical thinking scientist coming from the relationship between the concepts of general and private.
So, the most perfect form of society, by Al-Farabi, is the city. He uses the term city not only represents the city in the modern sense, as a unit of administrative-territorial division, but also to refer to the state and social groups.
An important place in the social and ethical teachings of Al- Farabi is the idea of a
virtuous city. Virtue, according to Al-Farabi, – this is the best moral qualities.  Read More here

  • THE ISLAMIC CONCEPT OF HUMAN PERFECTION*

William C. Chittick

The name `Islam’ refers to the religion and civilization based upon the Qur’án, a Scripture revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the years AD 610-32. About one billion human beings are at least nominally Muslim, or followers of the religion of Islam. The modern West, for a wide variety of historical and cultural reasons, has usually been far less interested in the religious dimension of Islamic civilization than in, for example, that of Buddhistn or Hinduism. Recent political events have brought Islam into contemporary consciousness, but more as a demon to be feared than a religion to be respected for its sophisticated understanding of the human predicament.

Those few Westerners who have looked beyond the political situation of the countries where Islam is dominant have usually devoted most of their attention to Islamic legai and social teachings. They quickly discover that Islam, like Judaism, is based upon a Revealed Law, called in Arabic the Shari’a or wide road. Observance of this Law — which covers such domains as ritual practices, marriage relationships, inheritance, diet and commerce —is incumbent upon every Muslirn. But western scholars have shown far less interest in two other, more inward and hidden dimensions of the Islamic religion, mainly because these have had few repercussions on the contem-porary scene. Even in past centuries, when Islam was a healthy and flourishing civilization, only a relatively smalt number of Muslims made these dimensions their tentral concern.

The more hidden dimensions of Islam can be called `intellectuality’ and `spirituality’. The first deals mainly with the conceptual understanding of the human situation and the second with the practical means whereby a full flowering of human potentialities can be achieved. They are important in the present context because they provide clear descriptions of human perfection and set down detailed guidelines for reaching it. If we want to discover how Islam has understood the concept of perfection without reading our own theories into the Queán or imposing alien categories on the beliefs and practices of traditional Muslims, we have to pose our question to the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Islam itself. Read more Here

  • An Analysis of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Insan al-Kamil, the Perfect Individual,

with a Brief Comparison to the Thought of Sir Muhammad Iqbal by Rebekah Zwanzig,

This thesis analyzes four philosophical questions surrounding Ibn al-‘Arabi’s concept of the al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Individual. The Introduction provides a definition of Sufism, and it situates Ibn al-‘Arabi’s thought within the broader context of the philosophy of perfection. Chapter One discusses the transformative knowledge of the Perfect Individual. It analyzes the relationship between reason, revelation, and intuition, and the different roles they play within Islam, Islamic philosophy, and Sufism. Chapter Two discusses the ontological and metaphysical importance of the Perfect Individual, exploring the importance of perfection within existence by looking at the relationship the Perfect Individual has with God and the world, the eternal and non-eternal. In Chapter Three the physical manifestations of the Perfect Individual and their relationship to the Prophet Muhammad are analyzed. It explores the Perfect Individual’s roles as Prophet, Saint, and Seal. The final chapter compares Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Perfect Individual to Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s in order to analyze the different ways perfect action can be conceptualized. It analyzes the relationship between freedom and action.

1) what type/s of knowledge are necessary to gain a complete understanding of the eternal and non-eternal, and how this transformative knowledge leads to perfection;

2) The Perfect Individual as a level of existence, and how the individual fits into the dichotomy of eternal and non-eternal;

3) The Perfect Individual as a reflection of the Divine in the cosmos, or what the transformation and embodiment of perfection entails;

4) the Perfect Individual as an active agent in the world, and how this individual, after reaching perfection, interacts with the world. Some of the problems that will arise in the proceeding chapters and the proposed solutions are outlined below. Read more here

  • On the Relation of City and Soul in Plato and Alfarabi

Abu Nasr Muhammad Alfarabi, the medieval Muslim philosopher and the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism, is best known for his political treatise, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila (Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City), in which he proposes a theory of utopian virtuous city. Prominent scholars argue for the Platonic nature of Alfarabi’s political philosophy and relate the political treatise to Plato’s Republic. One of the most striking similarities between Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila and Plato’s Republic is that in both works the theory of virtuous city is accompanied by a theory of soul. It is true that Alfarabi’s theory of soul differ considerably from that of Plato’s Republic. However, we propose that notwithstanding the differences, the two theories of soul do play an identically important role in the respective theory of virtuous city. The present article explores the relationship between the soul and the city in Plato’s Republic and Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila, and intends to show that in both works the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city is neither coincidental nor a casual concurrence of two themes. Rather, the
concept of soul serves as a foundation on which Plato and Alfarabi erect their respective theory of perfect association. Thus, Alfarabi’s treatise resembles Plato’s Republic not only in the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city, but also in the important role of the concept of soul in the theory of virtuous city. Read more here

  • SEVEN LEVELS OF BEING

The secularity of the society in which we live must share considerable blame in the erosion of spiritual powers of all traditions, since our society has become a parody of social interaction lacking even an aspect of civility. Believing in nothing, we have preempted the role of the higher spiritual forces by acknowledging no greater good than what we can feel and touch.” Vine Deloria Jr

The perspective of modernity where Western Man as the egolatrous being is placed at the top of existence for all others to look towards for recognition.

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The pyramidal construction of Man from an Islamic perspective shifts our understanding of the seriousness of placing the egolatrous Man above God in constructing reality, while simultaneously allowing us to imagine what would be necessary in creating a transmodern critique in constructing the Human.

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THE ISLAMIC CONCEPT OF HUMAN PERFECTION:

Those dimensions of Islam dedicated to providing the guidelines for the development of the full possibilities of human nature came to be institutionalized in various forms. Many of these can be grouped under the name `Sufism’, while others can better be designated by names such as `philosophy’ or `Shiite gnosis’. In general, these schools of thought and practice share certain teachings about human perfection, though they also differ on many points. Here we can suggest a few of the ideas that can be found in most of these approaches.

Look also: Polishing your heart, Virtues Ethic for a modern Devotion in our times

Current decadence, greed, evil, falsehood, corruption, violence, injustice, exploitation, thus have a Cosmic undertone. It is a “Cosmic Law” that civilizations which have become megalomaniacal will inevitably collapse. Because all levels of existence are corroded – including the religious realm – only a Dimension that is beyond  can redeem us.

One of the many disastrous consequences of an ongoing repression of this trans-personal Ground of Being – and the mistaken assumption of the Absolute by a relative entity or self – is epitomized in our techno-industrial pursuit to convert the earth into one large global factory – reinforced by multinational monopoly. Herein, nature is viewed simply as exploitable “raw material” for a “manufacturing” process aimed at churning out “products” for the “consumer.” This apparent narrowing of human perspective is the logical result of paradigmatic trends linking back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.

  • SEVEN LEVELS OF BEING(NAFS)

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The first verses regarding Jihad were revealed in Makkah before the Hijra to Medina. These verses reference “Jihad al-Nafs” or the struggle against the self (ego/ base desires)

 

  • Al GHAZALI ON JIHAD AL-NAFS [FIGHTING THE EGO] )

Meaning of nafs: It has two meanings.

First, it means the powers of anger and sexual appetite in a human being… and this is the usage mostly found among the people of tasawwuf [sufis], who take “nafs” as the comprehensive word for all the evil attributes of a person. That is why they say: one must certainly do battle with the ego and break it (la budda min mujahadat al-nafs wa kasriha), as is referred to in the hadith: A`da `aduwwuka nafsuka al-lati bayna janibayk [Your worst enemy is your nafs which lies between your flanks. Al-`Iraqi says it is in Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and its chain of transmission contains Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghazwan, one of the forgers].

The second meaning of nafs is the soul, the human being in reality, his self and his person. However, it is described differently according to its different states. If it assumes calmness under command and has removed from itself the disturbance caused by the onslaught of passion, it is called “the satisfied soul” (al-nafs al-mutma’inna)… In its first meaning the nafs does not envisage its return to God because it has kept itself far from Him: such a nafs is from the party of shaytan. However, when it does not achieve calmness, yet sets itself against the love of passions and objects to it, it is called “the self-accusing soul” (al-nafs al-lawwama), because it rebukes its owner for his neglect in the worship of his master… If it gives up all protest and surrenders itself in total obedience to the call of passions and shaytan, it is named “the soul that enjoins evil” (al-nafs al-ammara bi al-su’)… which could be taken to refer to the ego in its first meaning.

7-fereydun

From the beginning of our entrance into the school of Sufism, we have been taught about the seven levels of being. These seven levels are like grades in any educational system which one must pass through in order to graduate. In our system, however, evaluations are made by a Higher Authority than the teacher.

Passing and failing grades are made known through real dreams, through the interpretation of which the teacher gives new responsibilities and duties to the seeker. But what is most important is that the seeker himself should be able to realize his own states so that he can live up to the next level to which he aspires. Obviously, first it is necessary that he be conscious, aware of his character and actions, and be sincere in looking at himself. But it is also necessary to thoroughly know the characteristics of each level, especially the level in which he is presumed to be, and the next level, in which he hopes to be. Read more here

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

by Todd Marlin Richardson

Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

The topics of blindness and self-awareness I discussed in relation to the
Peasant and Nest Robber bring me to the focus of my fourth and final chapter,
Bruegel’s Festival of Fools . In addition, the practices of making and viewing
works of art I have described for all of Bruegel’s later peasant paintings are also
helpful in thinking about this particular design. Nadine Orenstein argues for a late
dating of the print, after the now lost drawing by Bruegel, based on the words Aux
quatre Vents inscribed at the bottom center. This is the form of the publisher’s address
used by the widow of the print’s publisher, Hieronymus Cock, following his death in
1570. Orenstein speculates the drawing was completed in the last years of Bruegel’s
life, during the same time he painted the peasant panels, and the print produced after
his death.

Although fairly subtle, the composition of the Festival of Fools stages a
procession similar to a wagon play. (Wagon plays were processional dramas that took place during Ommegangen (devotional processions) in the 1550s and 1560s. Rhetoricians conceived of wagon plays as didactic episodes that could morally
edify and educate their audience. The plays utilized overt metaphors and personifications to create allegorical productions that focused on collective civic identity. Read more here

  • 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. “

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.

Read more here

 

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

What the Emigration to Sincerity demands of us

Emigration: Historical Hijra

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

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

…The most important principle to learn from the Hijra is the constant observation of intention. In particular, Sufis consider the constant observation and control of intent to be a basic principle for attaining ikhlas (sincerity). From this aspect, Sufism can be considered to be a total investigation and interrogation of intention.

Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra

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

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

In this caravan poem, Goethe gives us a picture of the restless nomad existence which early Arabian poetry had enabled him to envision.

The whole “West-East Divan” is shot through with something of this nomadic restlessness. Already in the first great poem entitled “Hegir” the poet alludes to Arabian life and traditions. He is a True Pelgrim. He turns to the wisdom of the Sufis as Hafiz.

His own “Hedschra” is an inteliectual emigration to a simpler state of existence which seems to him to be purer and righter than his own immediate world. Thus he calls out to himself:

“Hegira”

North and South and West are quaking,

Thrones are cracking, empires shaking;

Let us free toward the East

Where as patriarchs we’ll feast:

There in loving, drinking, singing

Youth from Khidr’s well is springing.

His goal: to discover and reconcile in himself in a new, higher unity the multiplicity of monotheism’s divine expressions.  Such unity was always Goethe’s goal, for he well understood the alchemical truth that unity only divides in order to find itself again in a higher sense. As he wrote:

Anything that enters the world of phenomena must divide in order to appear at all. The separated parts seek one another again, and may find each other and be reunited: in the lower sense by each mixing with its opposite, that is, by simply coming together with it, in which case the phenomenon is nullified or at least becomes indifferent. But the union can also occur in the higher sense, whereby the separated parts are first developed and heightened, so that the combination of the two sides produces a third, higher being, of a new and unexpected kind. Read more here

The Babylonian Tower of Modernity

  • The Babylonian Tower of Modernity

By Carlijn kingma  CARTOGRAPHY OF SOCIETY

How our religion of capitalism and central believe in mechanical progress has led again to confusion of speech, and how society, accordingly, ends up divided in multiple romantic reactions. Or, a map to find our way home within the modern dream of progress.

In collaboration with Piet Vollaard and Edwin Gardner
Rotterdam 2017

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
— Genesis 11:4

Why does a man build a tower? To fight off enemies? To transmit TV programs? To house more inhabitants and to economize high costly earth? No, no and no! That’s a lie, and the masking of the real and the only true function of a Tower – to shout as loud as possible “Here I am! Look how strong and mighty I am!

This time we are building a tower to reach for the heavens of progress. Organized around an oil engine, we deploy, we produce and continue to grow. But somehow along the way, dissonance emerged on the exact direction we are heading. And while trying to reach for these heavens of progress, we forgot why we actually wanted to go there in the first place. And once we finally reach the skies, our sight is clouded with smog.

Almost everyone inside the tower – or maybe even everyone – secretly dreams of being better. To be smarter, richer, more liked or more powerful. And in order to become this better person, and move up inside the hierarchy of our society, a man will face competition. Most of us get stuck somewhere in some layer of accomplishments/success, but for the lucky little few, who can make it to the top, the world beneath is a playground.

But first of all, down in the center of the drawing, to be able to enter the tower at all, a man has to have the right papers. Like the lottery you can win a ticket for access, if born in the right country at the right time. If not, we are very sorry to tell you, but I’m afraid today we are full. But if you happen to win and you have made it inside, you can walk the ramps, that circle up, and eventually aim for the skies. But again, like everything else in this world, not without resistance.

Inside the tower, at the bottom of it all, we find the working class. We call them the lower educated, and they perform practical tasks, such as taking the oil from the earth. To transcend and move up inside the tower of success, perhaps to the service based practices, you need first to pass through an educational gate, to prove you are worthy of the task. But to reach for the skies, it doesn’t stay there, there are multiple thresholds and gates. Although the gates of global borders now seem permanently open, you will soon walk upon some more, judging your ethnical background, your gender and family name. And finally, for the engineers and programmers who work inside the building for bigger trade, to become a god in our own little world, to become director of the the political muppet show and to rule, point and divide, there is a gate to pass only with money.

view here ( in Dutch)

It all might seem unbelievable maybe, but don’t think for a moment we are non-believing men. For all I know there is much and more to say about our central believe in mechanical progress. We have gods of progress to turn to and to worship. Zeus, with his pointy arrow in arm, ripped right of the growth chart. Or Hermes, playing an arithmetic song about how we can reach for the innumerable/uncountable.

Imprisoned within the eternity of our daily routines, in fear of losing our spot in the line to another person or to a robot perhaps, we solemnly move from one task to the next. In blind procession, trying to keep the engine of capitalism running and do what is expected of us, we have all become creatures of habit and convention.

We work eight hours, we sleep eight hours, and in the eight hours left we work a little more. While night we secretly dream of descending, up to nobody knows where. Inside our man made dream of housing, we happily decorate the concrete cells like cabinets of homely attributes. But somehow, everywhere within the tower, from the exiled migrant to the footloose networker, people have lost their notion of home. Our bedrooms become a product on the market, while work has been move to the kitchen table. Home has been displaced by an idea that’s both elusive and contested. And we feel lost and displaced inside this rational concrete dream.

Note: The Tower of Babel by Breughel

Building the Tower of Babel was, for Dante, an example of pride., Canto 12.

 Purgatory in the poem of Dante Divine Comedy  is depicted as a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top. Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the penitent Christian life In describing the climb Dante discusses the nature of sin, examples of vice and virtue, as well as moral issues in politics and in the Church. The poem outlines a theory that all sins arise from love – either perverted love directed towards others’ harm, or deficient love, or the disordered or excessive love of good things.

The gate of Purgatory, Peter’s Gate, is guarded by an angel bearing a naked sword, his countenance too bright for Dante’s sight to sustain. In reply to the angel’s challenge, Virgil declares that a lady from heaven brought them there and directed them to the gate. On Virgil’s advice, Dante mounts the steps and pleads humbly for admission by the angel, who uses the point of his sword to draw the letter “P” (signifying peccatum, sin) seven times on Dante’s forehead, bidding him “take heed that thou wash / These wounds, when thou shalt be within.”

With the passage of each terrace and the corresponding purgation of his soul that the pilgrim receives, one of the “P”s will be erased by the angel granting passage to the next terrace. The angel at Peter’s Gate uses two keys, silver (remorse) and gold (reconciliation) to open the gate – both are necessary for redemption and salvation. As the poets are about to enter, they are warned not to look back. Read more here

World on Fire

In his essay “World on Fire” Charles Eisenstein describe the situation as follow:

I can’t easily draw a causal connection here, but it seems significant that uncontainable wildfires are contemporaneous with inflammatory rhetoric, heated debates, flaring tempers, burning hatred, seething distrust, and smoldering resentment. Just as dried out, fuel-laden forests burned out of control with a mere spark, so also have our cities burned as the spark of police murders touched the ready fuel of generations of racism; decades of economic decay, and months of Covid confinement. Our social ecosystem is as damaged and depleted as the forests that are so prone to fire“.

  • Reverence and Relationship

While engineers, ecologists, and especially indigenous people can offer techniques to properly steward forests and restore them to resiliency, the transition to a healed world requires something much deeper than better techniques. More important is to learn to inhabit the source from which indigenous land stewardship practices arise. That source is a way of seeing, conceiving, and relating to nature. It is also a way of understanding ourselves: who we are and why we are here.

Fundamentally, the source of wise forest management is to see and know nature as a being, not a thing. That’s the best I can put it, but it isn’t good enough. The words themselves entrap me in error. Nature is not something separate from ourselves, and not even “things” are just things. Let me say then that traditional and indigenous cultures live in a world where being is everywhere and in everything, and humans are no more or less sacred than trees, mountains, water, or ants.

On the most obvious level, the view of nature-as-thing greatly facilitates the clearcutting, mining, stripping, and profiteering, just as dehumanization of other people allows their exploitation and enslavement. It’s the same basic mindset. But there is another problem too: the mindset of nature-as-thing prevents us from coming into the intimacy of relationship that is necessary to tend, heal, and cocreate with it to mutual benefit. It is like the difference between a doctor who treats you impersonally, as a “case,” and one who sees you as a full human being.

Last month, the state of California committed to a 20-year program of forest thinning which seeks to reduce fires through brush clearing, logging, and prescribed burns. This program is fraught with possible unintended consequences. When we understand a forest as an organism, a being, rather than an engineering object, we recognize engineering concepts like reducing fuel load as, at best, a first step. After all, a healthy forest requires rotting vegetable matter to nourish fungi, invertebrates, etc. that are crucial elements of forest ecology. How do we know how much brush to clear and how many logs to remove? We can only learn that through attentive observation and long relationship. Here, the experience of local first peoples can be invaluable, as they have built up that knowledge over countless generations. To learn from the inevitable mistakes that will occur in the forest thinning program will require humility, the kind that comes when one knows one is relating to a complex living being. Otherwise, we stumble from one error to the next, as when, in an effort to increase carbon sequestration, we plant ecologically and culturally unsuitable trees that end up dying a few decades later, leaving conditions even worse than before.

Another word for the attitude that I named as the source from which indigenous land stewardship practices arise is “reverence.” To revere something is the opposite of reducing it to a thing. Modern, educated people have long lived in an ideological matrix that says nature, at bottom, is merely a whirl of generic particles bumping around according to mathematical forces. What is there to revere? It says that purpose, intelligence, and consciousness subsist in human beings alone. The burning of the world calls us to awaken from this delusion.

From the attitude of reverence, we see things invisible to the engineer’s eye. We ask questions the utilitarian never asks. Paradoxically, in the end, the knowledge thus gained we be more useful – not just to the forest, but to ourselves – than anything we could accomplish from the exploitative mindset.

In truth, we are not separate from nature. What we do to the other, we ultimately do to ourselves. When the forests are sick, we are sick. When they burn, even if we escape the flames, something burns within us too. The social climate mirrors the geological climate. We may not recognize this truth as indigenous people do, but we are the land. Is it not obvious, looking at today’s political landscape, that a fire rages out of control?

I can’t easily draw a causal connection here, but it seems significant that uncontainable wildfires are contemporaneous with inflammatory rhetoric, heated debates, flaring tempers, burning hatred, seething distrust, and smoldering resentment. Just as dried out, fuel-laden forests burned out of control with a mere spark, so also have our cities burned as the spark of police murders touched the ready fuel of generations of racism; decades of economic decay, and months of Covid confinement. Our social ecosystem is as damaged and depleted as the forests that are so prone to fire.

The matrix of complex relationships that we call community has to a great degree collapsed into simplified relations with impersonal institutions, mediated by money and technology. Social networks may give the appearance of community, but they lack the interdependency that marks a real community (or ecosystem). We can see now how fragile – or how inflammable – such a society is.

I won’t be so bold as to say that addressing our social separation will quell the fires. Yet, one can see how the project of land healing through reverence and relationship is congruent to the project of social healing, which, too, depends on restoring reverence and relationship.

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Note: Compare with 500 years ago:

Bruegehel : the Apocalypse within

The absurdity of Bruegel’s characters comes straight out of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly, a fantasy and satire on the self-deception on much of human endeavour, mocking human pretensions, monks and theologians, the scholastic intellectual substructure that supported late Medieval piety.

Erasmus cites Democritus who was supposedly constantly amused by the spectre of humanity. The book first appeared in 1511, and underwent numerous revisions and additions until the last corrections in 1532. It was an instant success. The book’s narrator is Folly who portrays life as an absurd spectacle lambasting the foibles and frailties of mankind, only to praise the ‘folly’ of simple Christian piety, the pious ideals in which Erasmus had been educated, and spirituality of The Imitation of Christ, four treatises from the 15th century attributed to Thomas â Kempis.

Erasmus and À Kempis were both Augustinian canons, more importantly both had their roots in the devotio moderna to which Erasmus remained faithful to the end of his life.

The text of Folly is a potent mix of wit, wisdom and wordplay, but it culminates in a serious indictment of churchmen, and sets out the virtues of a Christian way of life that St Paul says looks to the world like folly: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, less the cross of Christ should be void. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God”.

This is the crossroads of belief where Renaissance Christianity and Medieval religion collide, and evangelical humanists take the turning signposted scripture. The pilgrim’s way had forked and despite the lure of side roads such as ‘theological backlash’ and ‘millenarianism’, two major routes had opened up, and remained open, to choose from.

Bruegel stood at that crossroads and  seemed never quite made up his mind which direction to go in. As he wavered in his decision, he was also sensibly never open about exactly what he believed. “He lived at a time and place in which free and open expression of certain ideas could mean death.Read more here

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The Doorway Called Enchantment

I live in the northeast of the land people call the United States. Here, fire is not much of a threat, yet. A few weeks ago I was walking with my brother in the woods behind his Pennsylvania farm, where the sloping land gives way to mountainside. We crossed a creek, a bare trickle in some places, dry in others. John told me that he had been here with an old-timer who said that in his youth, this creek was so deep and strong, even in August, that there were only a few places one could cross it. What happened to this being, this creek? Some locals say it is because too many wells were dug, drawing down the water tables and drying out the springs that feed the creeks. Others say it is because of the repeated logging of the mountain, going back to colonial times. Or maybe, I thought, it is again a long-delayed result of the cascade of changes following the extermination of wolves, cougars, and beavers. All these activities are an insult to the land and to the water, oblivious to reverence.

Ultimately, to stop the fires and turn onto a world-healing path, we must turn from domination and subjugation to reverence and respect. Sometimes that means adopting the role of a protector for vulnerable, precious beings, like Marina Silva is doing in Brazil. (Here is an organization she works with, along with others I mentioned in my 2019 article on the Amazon fires.) Sometimes it means stepping into the role of nurturer or healer, like the people reintroducing beavers, practicing regenerative agriculture, and building water retention landscapes. For someone in the corporate or financial world, reverence might steer them to choose life over profit in a moment where it takes a little courage to do that. That courage is a dilute version of the courage of South American indigenous activists who risk torture and murder by landowners, logging companies, mining companies, and their paramilitaries, because it puts something else above maximizing personal self-interest. It is thus an important act of solidarity.

Reverence brings courage. Reverence brings knowledge. Reverence brings skill. Reverence brings healing. It is the fulcrum of the great turning of civilization toward reunion with nature. Today the word has religious connotations, but this is not the kind of reverence that worships an idol. It is the reverence of the lover who looks into the eyes of the beloved and sees infinity.

If reverence brings all these things, then what brings reverence? It will not do merely to exhort people to be more reverent. The gateway to reverence is enchantment. A few days ago I stood with my son Cary, age seven, at Rhode Island’s last undeveloped coastal pond watching turtles. We felt what it was like to be those turtles. We could hardly stop watching them. In that moment, the thought that we would harm them for anything less than a sacred purpose was horrifying and absurd. We knew them as precious in and of themselves, not for any use to us. Few people, dropping into that moment, could escape that enchantment. Yet, every day, we participate in systems that treat turtles and much else as resources to exploit, or make them collateral damage in other exploitation. We cannot avoid this participation, for we live in that system, and that system lives in us. More and more of us no longer feel at home in it though. It cannot easily accommodate our reverence, our enchantment, and our true purpose of service to life.

Mining company executives or members of ranchers’ death squads might be far away from the doorway of enchantment. The principle of enchantment-borne reverence does not substitute for legal action, nonviolent direct action, and so on. However, a healed planet will not result from a succession of desperate holding actions. We need to ground ourselves in directly experiencing earth as obviously precious as the turtles were to Cary; to know her as a being and as an organism, and we need to spread that knowledge. Then we will have the clarity, the courage, the skill, and most importantly, the allies in unlikely places, to defend her vulnerable parts, to preserve and strengthen her organs, and to transition away from systems built on the mythology of earth-as-thing.

Note: The Tower of Babel by Breughel

Building the Tower of Babel was, for Dante, an example of pride., Canto 12.

 Purgatory in the poem of Dante Divine Comedy  is depicted as a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top. Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the penitent Christian life In describing the climb Dante discusses the nature of sin, examples of vice and virtue, as well as moral issues in politics and in the Church. The poem outlines a theory that all sins arise from love – either perverted love directed towards others’ harm, or deficient love, or the disordered or excessive love of good things.

The gate of Purgatory, Peter’s Gate, is guarded by an angel bearing a naked sword, his countenance too bright for Dante’s sight to sustain. In reply to the angel’s challenge, Virgil declares that a lady from heaven brought them there and directed them to the gate. On Virgil’s advice, Dante mounts the steps and pleads humbly for admission by the angel, who uses the point of his sword to draw the letter “P” (signifying peccatum, sin) seven times on Dante’s forehead, bidding him “take heed that thou wash / These wounds, when thou shalt be within.”

With the passage of each terrace and the corresponding purgation of his soul that the pilgrim receives, one of the “P”s will be erased by the angel granting passage to the next terrace. The angel at Peter’s Gate uses two keys, silver (remorse) and gold (reconciliation) to open the gate – both are necessary for redemption and salvation. As the poets are about to enter, they are warned not to look back. Read more here