Thomas a Kempis: A Beautiful Model for Moral imitation for our Time

What does a fifteenth-century devotional book have to do with modern education?

Thomas à Kempis, or van Kempen, was a German-Dutch priest of the early fifteenth century. He was associated with the Brethren of the Common Life, an informal religious movement that fostered the devotio moderna, a form of popular piety that concentrated on humility and charity as cornerstones of the Christian life, in contrast to the doctrinal focus of Scholasticism. The proponents of devotio moderna did not consider learning a bad thing by any stretch—they influenced such luminaries as Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, and St. Ignatius de Loyola—but their focus was on simple piety as the animating force of all activities, including study.

À Kempis himself was a prolific copyist and author. He made at least four complete copies of the Bible, one of which has been preserved to this day in the German city of Darmstadt, as well as writing several collections of sermons and biographies of devotio moderna founders. But his most famous work, whose original manuscript now resides in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels, is the Imitation of Christ. Arguably the single most influential religious work in Europe after the Bible, the Imitation has won an audience not only among Christian minds (crossing the Catholic-Protestant divide), but even in other faiths: Swami Vivekananda, a nineteenth-century Hindu ascetic and lecturer, constantly carried both the Bhagavad Gītā and the Imitation of Christ with him, and produced a translation of his own in 1899.

The work is intensely single-minded. All pretensions of the ego are given short shrift: from wealth to scholarship to good repute, everything is subordinated to Christ. À Kempis is a mystic, but he is anything but airy and abstract; one gets the impression that the simple daily affairs of the Brethren of the Common Life wore through any head-in-the-clouds tendencies. He often drily throws out caustic prompts to humility like “Learn to be patient with the defects of others, whatever they may be, because you also have plenty of flaws that others have to put up with.” Yet the work is written with such sweetness that the effect of these remarks is tonic rather than gloomy, and the reader comes away with an appetite for more.

To this day, the influence of the Imitation can be felt across the world.

Given the our stated goal of reuniting knowledge and virtue, it is interesting to reflect on what St. Thomas à Kempis would think of our world today. A shallow reading of his work might prompt people to think he would reject our interest in learning; yet he once remarked himself, “In omnibus requiem quaesivi, sed non inveni, nisi in angulo cum libro“—that is, “I have looked everywhere for peace, but never found it, except in a corner with a book.”

  • Thomas a Kempis:

He was a member of the Modern Devotion, a spiritual movement during the late medieval period, and a follower of Geert Groote and Florens Radewyns, the founders of the Brethren of the Common Life.

Thomas was born in Kempen in the Rhineland. His surname at birth was Hemerken (or Hammerlein), meaning the family’s profession, “little hammer,” Latinized into “Malleolus.”] His father, Johann, was a blacksmith and his mother, Gertrud, was a schoolmistress.] Although almost universally known in English as Thomas à Kempis, the “a” represents the Latin “from” and is erroneously accented. In his writings he signed himself “Thomas Kempensis” or “Thomas Kempis”

In 1392, Thomas followed his brother, Johann, to Deventer in the Netherlands in order to attend the noted Latin school there. While attending this school, Thomas encountered the Brethren of the Common Life, followers of Gerard Groote’s Modern Devotion. He attended school in Deventer from 1392 to 1399.

After leaving school, Thomas went to the nearby city of Zwolle to visit his brother again, after Johann had become the prior of the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes there. This community was one of the Canons Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim, founded by disciples of Groote in order to provide a way of life more in keeping with the norms of monastic life of the period. Thomas himself entered Mount St. Agnes in 1406. He was not ordained a priest, however, until almost a decade later. He became a prolific copyist and writer. Thomas received Holy Orders in 1413 and was made sub-prior of the monastery in 1429.

His first tenure of office as subprior was interrupted by the exile of the community from Agnetenberg (1429). A dispute had arisen in connection with an appointment to the vacant See of Utrecht. Pope Martin V rejected the nomination of Bishop-elect Rudolf van Diepholt, and imposed an interdict. The Canons remained in exile in observance of the interdict until the question was settled (1432). During this time, Thomas was sent to Arnhem to care for his ailing brother. He remained there until his brother died in November, 1432.

Otherwise, Thomas spent his time between devotional exercises in writing and in copying manuscripts. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times,[8] one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany, in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound with biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament.

As subprior he was charged with instructing novices, and in that capacity wrote four booklets between 1418 and 1427, later collected and named after the title of the first chapter of the first booklet: The Imitation of Christ. Thomas More said it was one of the three books everybody ought to own.] Thirteen translations of the Imitatio Christi and three paraphrases in English seem to have been published between 1500 and 1700.] Thomas died near Zwolle in 1471. There is a legend that he was denied canonization some 200 years after his death by the Catholic Church due to the presence of scratch marks on the interior of his coffin lid, which supposedly disqualifies him from sainthood as it would mean he did not peacefully embrace death. However, there is scant evidence to support that he was buried alive or the idea that the Church would have denied him sainthood if they did discover he died in this manner.

Kempis’s 1441 autograph manuscript of The Imitation of Christ is available in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels (shelfmark: MS 5455-61).

He also wrote the biographies of New Devotion members—Gerard Groote, Floris Radewijns, Jan van de Gronde, and Jan Brinckerinck. His important works include a series of sermons to the novices of St. Augustine Monastery, including Prayers and Meditations on the Life of Christ, Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ, Of True Compunction of Heart, Soliloquy of the Soul, Garden of Roses, Valley of Lilies, and a Life[14] of St. Lidwina of Schiedam.


The following quotes are attributed to him:

“Without the Way, there is no going, Without the Truth, there is no knowing, Without the Life, there is no living.”

“If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”

“At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.” — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 3

“For man proposes, but God disposes” — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 19

“If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. ” — The Imitation of Christ, Book II, ch. 7

  • Contents Imitatio Christi:

The Imitation of Christ is divided into four books which provide detailed spiritual instructions.

Book One

Book One of the Imitation is titled “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life”. The Imitation derives its title from the first chapter of Book I, “The Imitation of Christ and contempt for the vanities of the world” (Latin: “De Imitatione Christi et contemptu omnium vanitatum mundi”). The Imitation is sometimes referred to as Following of the Christ, which comes from the opening words of the first chapter—”Whoever follows Me will not walk into darkness.” Book One deals with the withdrawal of the outward life—so far as positive duty allows and emphasizes an interior life by renouncing all that is vain and illusory, resisting temptations and distractions of life, giving up the pride of learning and to be humble, forsaking the disputations of theologians and patiently enduring the world’s contempt and contradiction.

Kempis stresses the importance of solitude and silence, “how undisturbed a conscience we would have if we never went searching after ephemeral joys nor concerned ourselves with affairs of the world…” Kempis writes that the “World and all its allurements pass away” and following sensual desires leads to a “dissipated conscience” and a “distracted heart” (Chap. 20). Kempis writes that one should meditate on death and “live as becomes a pilgrim and a stranger on earth…for this earth of ours is no lasting city” (Chap. 23).On the Day of Judgement, Kempis writes that a good and pure conscience will give more joy than all the philosophy one has ever learned, fervent prayer will bring more happiness than a “multi-course banquet”, the silence will be more “exhilarating” than long tales, holy deeds will be of greater value than nice-sounding words (Chap. 24).

Kempis writes one must remain faithful and fervent to God, and keep good hope of attaining victory and salvation, but avoid overconfidence. Kempis gives the example of an anxious man who, oscillating between fear and hope and with grief went to the altar and said: “Oh, if only I knew that I shall persevere to the end.” Immediately he heard the divine answer, “What if you knew this? What would you do? Do now what you would do then, and you will be very safe.” After this the man gave himself to God’s will, and his anxiety and fear of future disappeared (Chap. 25).

Book Two

Book Two of the Imitation is “Directives for the Interior Life”. The book continues the theme of Book One, and contains instructions concerning “inward peace, purity of heart, a good conscience—for moderating our longings and desires, for patience, for submission to the will of God, for the love of Jesus, for enduring the loss of comfort, and for taking up the Cross.”[34] Kempis writes that if we have a clear conscience God will defend us, and whomever God chooses to help no man’s malice can harm.] Kempis writes that when a man humbles himself, “God protects and defends him…God favors the humble man… and after he has been brought low raises him up to glory” (Chap. 2).Kempis stresses the importance of a good conscience—”The man whose conscience is pure easily finds peace and contentment … Men only see your face, but it is God who sees your heart. Men judge according to external deeds, but only God can weigh the motives behind them” (Chap. 6). Kempis writes we must place our faith in Jesus rather than in men and “…Do not trust nor lean on a reed that is shaken …All flesh is grass, and all its glory shall fade like the flower in the field” (Chap. 7).Kempis writes that false sense of freedom and overconfidence are obstacles for spiritual life. Kempis writes that “Grace will always be given to the truly grateful, and what is given to the humble is taken away from the proud” (Chap. 10).

Kempis writes that we must not attribute any good to ourselves but attribute everything to God. Kempis asks us to be grateful for “every little gift” and we will be worthy to receive greater ones, to consider the least gift as great and the most common as something special. Kempis writes that if we consider the dignity of the giver, no gift will seem unimportant or small (Chap. 10). In the last chapter, “The Royal Road of the Cross”, Kempis writes that if we carry the cross willingly, it will lead us to our desired goal, but on the other hand if we carry our cross grudgingly, then we turn it into a heavy burden and if we should throw off one cross, we will surely find another, which is perhaps heavier. Kempis writes that by ourselves we cannot bear the cross, but if we put our trust in the Lord, He will send us strength from heaven (Chap. 12).

Book Three

Book Three, entitled “On Interior Consolation”, is the longest among the four books. This book is in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the disciple.

Jesus says that very few turn to God and spirituality, since they are more eager to listen to the world and desires of their flesh than to God. Jesus says that the world promises things that are passing and of little value, which are served with great enthusiasm; while He promises things that are most excellent and eternal and men’s hearts remain indifferent (Chap. 3). Jesus says that the “man who trusts in Me I never send away empty. When I make a promise I keep it, and I fulfill whatever I have pledged—if only you remain faithful…unto the end” (Chap. 3).

Jesus says that spiritual progress and perfection consists in offering oneself to the divine will and not seeking oneself in “anything either small or great, in time or in eternity” (Chap. 25). Jesus says not be anxious about future—”Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus advises the disciple that all is not lost when the result is not as planned, when one thinks he is farthest from Jesus, it is then that Jesus is nearest, when one thinks that all is lost, it is then that victory is close at hand. Jesus says not to react to a difficulty as if there were no hope of being freed from it (Chap. 30).

Joseph Tylenda summarizes the central theme of the third book with the teaching in Chapter 56, “My son, to the degree that you can leave yourself behind, to that degree will you be able to enter into Me. Just as desiring nothing outside you produces internal peace within you, so the internal renunciation of yourself unites you to God.” Jesus gives his important teaching, “Follow Me…I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing; without Life, there is no living. I am the Way you are to follow; I am the Truth you are to believe; I am the Life you are to hope for” (Chap. 56).

Book Four

Book Four of the Imitation, “On the Blessed Sacrament”, is also in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the disciple.[33] Kempis writes that in this Sacrament spiritual grace is conferred, the soul’s strength is replenished, and the recipient’s mind is fortified and strength is given to the body debilitated by sin (Chap. 1).[55]

Jesus says that the sooner one resigns wholeheartedly to God, and no longer seeks anything according to one’s own will or pleasure, but totally places all in God’s hands, the sooner will one be united with God and be at peace.[56] Jesus continues, “Nothing will make you happier or please you as much as being obedient to the divine will” (Chap. 15).[56] Jesus also delivers his “changeless teaching” — “Unless you renounce all that you have, you cannot be my disciple” (Chap. 8).[57]

To receive the Sacrament, Jesus says “make clean the mansions of your heart. Shut out the whole world and all its sinful din and sit as a solitary sparrow on a housetop and, in the bitterness of your soul, meditate on your transgressions” (Chap. 12). Jesus says that there is no offering more worthy, no satisfaction greater, for the washing away of sins than to offer oneself purely and completely to God at the time the Body of Christ is offered in the Mass and in Communion (Chap. 7).

“What would Jesus do?”

That’s the primary question Thomas à Kempis answers in his universally acclaimed work, The Imitation of Christ. In 114 short chapters organized into four simple parts, this handbook on the spiritual life offers guidance on dozens of topics such as resisting temptation, avoiding hasty judgments, putting up with others’ faults, remembering God’s many blessings, self-surrender, minding our own business, and performing humble works.

Read here The Imitation of Christ

  • Tte “Soliloquy of the Soul

Although the world wide popularity of the “Imitation of Christ” has somewhat thrown into the shade the other works of Thomas à Kempis, no apology is needed for the publication of a revised edition of the “Soliloquy of the Soul.” Its authorship has never been disputed, and internal evidence—perhaps the best amid the interminable disputes on the subject—unhesitatingly decides that the “Soliloquy” and the “Imitation” are by one and the same hand. They are, as Dean Milman observed, more than kindred in thought and language. The same spirit of exalted piety and of fervent devotion, making use of the sublime imagery of the inspired writers of the Old Testament, is conspicuous in both works. Read Here

The Improvement of Human Reason: “Alive son of Awake”

Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān (ي بن يقظان, lit. ‘Alive son of Awake’) is an Arabic philosophical novel and an allegorical tale written by Ibn Tufail (c. 1105 – 1185) in the early 12th century in Al-Andalus.] Names by which the book is also known include the Latin: Philosophus Autodidactus (‘The Self-Taught Philosopher’); and English: The Improvement of Human Reason: Exhibited in the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdhan. Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān was named after an earlier Arabic philosophical romance of the same name, written by Avicenna during his imprisonment in the early 11th century, even though both tales had different stories. The novel greatly inspired Islamic philosophy as well as major Enlightenment thinkers. It’s the most translated text from Arabic, after the Quran and the One Thousand and One Nights.

It was “discovered” in the West after Edward Pococke of Oxford, while visiting a market in Damascus, found a manuscript of Hayy ibn Yaqdhan made in Alexandria in 1303 containing commentary in Hebrew. His son, Edward Pococke Jr. published a Latin translation in 1671, subtitled “The Self-Taught Philosopher.”George Keith the Quaker translated it into English in 1674, Baruch Spinoza called for a Dutch translation, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz championed the book in German circles, and a copy of the book went to the Sorbonne Daniel Defoe (c. 1660 – 1731), author of Robinson Crusoe, was heavily influenced by the work as well as by the memoir of the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk. In the Muslim world, the book is an honored Sufi text.

The story revolves around Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, a little boy who grew up on an island in the Indies under the equator, isolated from the people, in the bosom of an antelope that raised him, feeding him with her milk. Ḥayy has just learned to walk and imitates the sounds of antelopes, birds, and other animals in his surroundings. He learns their languages, and he learns to follow the actions of animals by imitating their instinct.

He makes his own shoes and clothes from the skins of animals, and studies the stars. He reaches a higher level of knowledge, of the finest of astrologists. His continuous explorations and observation of creatures and the environment lead him to gain great knowledge in natural science, philosophy, and religion. He concludes that, at the basis of the creation of the universe, a great creator must exist. Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān lived a humble modest life as Sufi and forbade himself from eating meat.

Once 30 years old, he meets his first human, who has landed on his isolated Island. By the age of 49, he is ready to teach other people about the knowledge he gained throughout his life.

Hayy ibn Yaqdhan is an allegorical novel in which Ibn Tufail expresses philosophical and mystical teachings in a symbolic language in order to provide better understanding of such concepts. This novel is thus the most important work of Ibn Tufail, containing the main ideas that form his system.

Ibn Tufail was familiar with the differences in the ideas of Al-Ghazali and those of the “Neoplatonizing AristotelianistsAl-Farabi and Ibn Sina. In Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, Ibn Tufail sought to present “a conciliating synthesis of the Islamic speculative tradition with al-Ghazālī’s Sufi-influenced recasting of Islamic mysticism and pietism.” Ibn Tufail borrows from Ibn Sina, using the title of one of his allegories and drawing inspiration from his Floating Man thought experiment, but transforming the subject’s sensory deprivation to social isolation.

With this novel, Tufail focuses on finding solutions to the three main problems discussed during his period:

  1. Humans, on their own, are able to reach the level of al-Insān al-Kāmil by merely observing and thinking of the nature, without any education.
  2. The information that is obtained through observation, experiment, and reasoning, does not contradict with revelation. In other words, religion and philosophy (or science) are compatible, rather than contradictory.
  3. Reaching the absolute information is individual and simply any human being is able to achieve that.

Read here: Hayy ibn Yaqdhan

    Spiritual Christmas, New Year and Mystical nativity

    • The wonder of the light-birth

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

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

    it is the birth of this son within us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    • The Twelve Holy Nights

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

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

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

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

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

    • The bridge between time and eternity

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

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

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

    Draumkvedet and the medival English Dream Vision

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

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

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

    Dream song of Olaf Asteson text and notes

    • Mystical Nativity for our Times:

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

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

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

    • The Prayer of the Heart in Hesychasm and Sufism

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


    Read here The Prayer of the Heart in Hesychasm and Sufism

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

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

    Bism ‘Lláh al-Rahmán al-Rahim

    In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Surah Yasin: Heart of the Quran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • The birth of Jesus in man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read more: Jesus and the Sufi Traditon

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

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

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

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

    Medieval Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And then there are some general predictions:

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

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

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

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

    Personal Good Luck

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

    • the Yule Log

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

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

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

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

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

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

    – Blowing mid-winter horns to ward off evil spirits

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

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

    • The yule goat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rene Guenon. The message of French Sufi

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

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

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

    • The Feast of Fools

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

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

    • Feast of the Ass

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

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

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

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

    • Lord of Misrule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Massacre of the Innocents (Bruegel):

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

    Bruegel: an Interpreter of Ultimate Reality and Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • January 14 is “Feast of the Ass” Day

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

    Digging Deeper

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

    Flight into Egypt by Gentile da Fabriano

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

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

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

    • Landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life :

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

    ..he is smiling in his heart…

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    From my pact to my perjury,

    from my length to my breadth.

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

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

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

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

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

    The Course and Destiny of Inverted Spirituality

    French philosopher René Guénon (1886-1951), who spent many years searching for a true esoteric Way, crossed paths with many false and subversive spiritualities before arriving at the threshold of Islamic Sufism. In his prophetic masterpiece The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times he classed the worst of these spiritualities as examples of the Counter-Initiation.

    Anti-Tradition—secularism and materialism—opposes religion; Counter-Tradition inverts it; and the esoteric essence of Counter-Tradition is the Counter-Initiation.

     Charles Upton expands on this concept, recognizing the action of the Counter-Initiation in such areas as the politicizing of the interfaith movement, the anti-human tendencies in the environmental movement, the growing interest in magic and sorcery, the involvement of the intelligence communities in the fields of UFO investigation and psychedelic research, the history of Templarism and Freemasonry, and the de-Islamicization of the famous Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi.

    Vectors of the Counter-Initiation is conceived of as a sequel to The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age [Sophia Perennis, 2001].

    The Counter-Initiation has six main features: syncretism; inverted hierarchy; deviated esoterism; the granting of the temporal transmission of spiritual lore precedence over the vertical descent of Revelation; the reduction of religion to utilitarianism (magic) and esoterism to a purely technical knowledge (Promethean spirituality); and the mis-application of the norms of the individual spiritual Path to the supposed spiritual evolution of the collective.

    The Counter-Initiation is the ego’s idea of spirituality. It appears in the Old Testament as the Serpent in the garden, in Cain’s murder of Abel, as the “sons of God who looked upon the daughters of men and found them fair,” in the Tower of Babel, in the degeneration of Sodom, and in the magicians of Pharaoh whom Moses defeated.

     In the New Testament it is personified by Judas, and in the Qur’an by the figure of as-Samiri, who forged the Golden Calf, and the angels Harut and Marut—testers of man by God’s design—who taught magic to the human race in Babylon. For both traditions, it is destined to culminate in Antichrist.

    This book brings together two schools of thought: the Traditionalists or Perennialists (writers on comparative religion and traditional metaphysics) and the conspiracy theorists who are investigating the origin, nature, and plans of the New World Order. The NWO researchers can throw a penetrating light on the social and political dangers presently threatening the Perennialists, while the Perennialists can provide these researchers with a deeper and wider spiritual context for their vision of human evil.

     In Guénon’s time the Counter-Initiation appeared in terms of this or that secret society operating in the shadowy underworld of European occultism; it has now come up into the open, and moved inexorably toward the centers of global power. In the words of American Eastern Orthodox priest Seraphim Rose, “in our time Satan has walked naked into human history.”

    Charles Upton Answers

    1 – First of all, how would you define what is a traditional viewpoint on the world ?

    Tradition is the generation-to-generation transmission of the knowledge of the unchanging metaphysical principles upon which the universe is founded, and the Way by which the human race may actualize these principles, from the beginning of the human race to the present day, periodically enlivened by providential vertical descents of Revelation emanating directly from the Absolute. It is not primarily a nostalgia for past ages since the Truth has in fact been transmitted and is available even now. An appreciation for Tradition may include a secondary nostalgia for times when this Truth was more universally understood, but this in no way implies that it would be either desirable or possible to “return” to these times, seeing that the identical Wisdom has its unique and incomparable task to perform in every age, as well as in each moment.

    2 – Are there any spiritual movements today that are in accordance with Primordial Tradition ?

    No movement or individual can be in line with the Primordial Tradition today without accepting one of the revealed religions. The attempt to return to the Primordial Tradition apart from orthodoxy simply creates heterodox movements, the New Age, Neo-Paganism, etc. One could certainly say that the Traditionalist or Perennialist School, the followers of Guénon, Coomaraswamy and Schuon, are in line with the Primordial Tradition insofar as they accept the need for not simply a perfunctory but a sincere and complete adherence to the orthodoxy of a particular revelation, but I do detect an unacknowledged but definite drift among certain members of Schuon’s branch of the School toward a “generic metaphysics” they see as superseding the revealed traditions. One member told me that he did not accept Titus Burckhardt’s explicit requirement that anyone wishing to follow the path of traditional esoterism must adhere to one of the revealed faiths; another was willing to apply the term “Tradition” only to exoteric religion, not to “quintessential esoterism” as Schuon taught it. And the powers that be have not been slow to pick up on this chink in the Perennialist armor. In a 2010 episode of a BBC detective mystery (Inspector Lewis, “The Allegory of Love”), a young detective, during an interview with a Muslim professor at Oxford, remarks that the professor has a volume in his bookshelves by Titus Burckhardt, and goes ahead to briefly explain the Primordial Tradition without reference to any of the revealed faiths. Then a brief, nearly subliminal image is shown of the “Traditionalist diagram”, used by Schuon’s followers, of a series of concentric circle with radii; no explanation of it is given. And neither of these events have any necessary relationship to the story-line.  So it is clear to me that certain entities able to influence the content of BBC-possibly Prince Charles, who has openly patronized Perennialism, or the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, which some have called the major center for social engineering in the Western world and which reputedly has a certain amount of control over BBC programming-have adopted Perenialism as a “meme” in their campaign to break down traditional society and reform it according to globalist norms. The same episode attacks Christianity more or less in the name of Islam, which is right in line with my perception that Perennialism is more and more being defined as a school within Islam. The powers that be undoubtedly want to use Perennialism to undermine traditional Islam even as they are employing it to reduce Christianity to a mere “parochialism” in comparison with the Primordial Tradition. (The same episode presents the Inklings-the highly influential group of Christian writers at Oxford which included C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Dorothy Sayers-with no reference to their Christianity at all, placing them instead in the same category of “fantasy writers” as J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly successful Harry Potter books and motion pictures, which are clearly designed to interest the young in magic and witchcraft.)

    The Primordial Tradition is the root of all the religious revelations, which are its branches. The nourishing fruit of Tradition, however, grows on the branches, not the trunk. When the Primordial Tradition was first in force, particular revelations were not needed in the face of the “mass theophanic consciousness” of the Golden Age. But since the fall of the Tower of Babel, the Primordial Tradition has expressed itself only in terms of discrete religious “dialects”. The Tower itself represented a false attempt to re-establish the Primordial Tradition as it was in the Golden Age by power alone, and thus foreshadowed the One World Religion presently in the research and development stage in various globalists think-tanks. I can only hope that the Perennialists will wake up in time, and not allow themselves to be used in this campaign, the final fruit of which will be the regime of al-Dajjal.

    Within Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox are clearly in line with the Primordial Tradition (although, since they lack the dialectical precision of the Latin mind, they are poorly defended against the infiltration of modernist ideas), and we must certainly include the Traditional or sede vaccantist Catholics. The larger Novus Ordo Catholic Church, however, was destroyed by the modernist/Masonic/crypto-Marxist revolution known as the Second Vatican Council; see The Destruction of the Christian Tradition by Rama. P. Coomaraswamy. It is now a seed-bed of counter-tradition; Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, has come out in support of One World Government, and dedicated his church to its service. Within Islam, any Muslims who have resisted both modernism and the Wahhabi/Salafi reaction against it, and any Sufi orders possessing valid silsilahs (chains-of-transmission) who are neither seeking globalist patronage nor allying themselves with the Islamicist militants (though they must be allowed the universal right to fight to defend their homes), are definitely in line with the Primordial Tradition, as are traditional Hindus and Buddhists.

    Restoring the Temple of visions

    This text seeks to uncover the early Jewish, Scottish and Stuart sources of “ancient” Cabalistic Freemasonry that flourished in “Ecossais” lodges in the 18th and 19th centuries. Drawing on architectural, technological, political and religious documents, it offers real-world, historical grounding for the flights of, accomplished through progressive initiation, are found in Stuart notions of intellectual and spiritual “amicitia”. Despite the expulsion of the Stuart dynasty in 1688 and the establishment of a rival “modern” system of Hanoverian-Whig Masonry in 1717, the influence of “ancient” Scottish-Stuart Masonry on Solomonic architecture, Hermetic masques, and Rosicrucian science was preserved in lodges maintained visionary Temple building described in the rituals and symbolism of “high-degree” Masonry. The roots of mystical male bonding by Jacobite partisans and exiles in Britain, Europe, and the New World. Read Here

    Why Mrs Blake Cried: William Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision

    Written by a leading William Blake scholar, this is an intriguing and controversial history of the poet and artist, which reveals a world of waking visions, magical practices, sexual-spiritual experimentation, tantric sex and free love. Read here

    Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven: Jacobites, Jews and Freemasons in Early Modern Sweden

    Drawing on unpublished diplomatic and Masonic archives, this study reveals the career of Emanuel Swedenborg as a secret intelligence agent for Louis XV and the pro-French, pro-Jacobite party of “Hats” in Sweden. Utilizing Kabbalistic meditation techniques, he sought political intelligence on earth and in heaven. Read Here

    Freemasonry, Secret Societies, and the Continuity of the Occult Traditions in English Literature

    This dissertation examines the role of Freemasonry and related secret societies in the transmission of the occult traditions in English literary history from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The study draws upon recent Renaissance and Hebrew scholarship to define those elements of vision-inducement and magical theories of art which were developed into the syncretic Renaissance tradition of Cabalistic and Hermetic symbolism. After the publication and subsequent suppression of this occult tradition during the Rosicrucian agitation in Germany, Rosicrucianism was assimilated into the secret traditions of Freemasonry in England in the mid-seventeenth century. Many English literary figures, such as John Dee, Francis Bacon, Elias Ashmole, and John Milton, were involved in this theosophical, millenial reform movement. Read here

    look also :

    Coitus reservatus

    Karezza, Semen Retention, and Sexual Continence


    Treatise Of Sexual Alchemy

    3 – According to Indian cosmology, the Kali Yuga is presently ending and we are inescapably heading to a final dissolution. To you, what could be the nature of this dissolution ?

    In material terms it could entail the destruction of all life on earth, or all human life, or simply the breakup of civilization and the serious degradation of the ecosystem, leading to ages of chaos; I think the later more likely, though the first two are certainly possible. In spiritual terms, it will be the dissolution of the revealed traditions, which will it itself usher in material destruction, since the revelations are the spiritual pillars of the world, including the psychic and the material domains. This late in the cycle our spiritual orientation, if it is still viable, begins to turn toward the advent of the eschatological Savior-the Kalki Avatara, Maitreya Buddha, the Prophet Jesus, the eschatological Christ. To the degree that the coming Savior is real to us, we will see, first that the Antichrist is nothing but the resistance of the collective ego to his inevitable advent, and secondly, in the words of the Holy Qur’an, that all is perishing but His face (“His” meaning God’s, which is only applicable to the Savior per se in Christian and Hindu terms, not in Islamic or Buddhist ones). The spiritual use of the sense that all things in the world of form are passing away is to learn how to let them pass, and thereby unveil the face of Eternity. Martin Lings said that the sight of one’s world in chaotic ruins may for many of us promote the development of apatheia and spiritual detachment to a degree possible, in earlier ages, only to heroic sanctity; in this sense (among others) the downward course of the cycle is providential. And those who are able to let go of temporality and realize Eternity in the face of impending apocalypse will form the nucleus, the seed, of the next cycle of manifestation. This nucleus will not be historical, however, though it will enter history at one point as a seed to fertilize the next cycle. Before then it will take its place above time, in the “barns” where the Almighty stores up the living potentials by which He creates the worlds.

    4 – And if there is a cyclic determinism, does it mean that any act of resistance is vain ? Why is it notwithstanding necessary to inform against the counter-initiation of « the System of Antichrist » even though, as René Guénon asserts it in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, this process of dissolution is inexorable and is part of the divine plan (Guénon says this process «  must be carried right to the end, so as to include a development of the inferior possibilities of the “dark age” ») ?

    It is necessary in order to save our souls, and to give others more of an opportunity to save theirs. Things have now become so politicized and so collective in nature that “saving the world” has effectively replaced the idea of saving one’s soul-which is unfortunate, since the world is ephemeral and the soul eternal. We can’t imagine “resistance” as anything other than making a supreme effort to save the macrocosm by reversing the flow of time, by (as it were) repealing the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is obviously impossible.  And if we can’t see any to way to triumph in this endeavor, we often give up hope-which means that our hope has already become attached to a false object. But if we understand “resistance” as resistance to being spiritually destroyed by the darkness of the postmodern world, then resistance is certainly not vain; it is required, indispensable, and it promises success-if we stay the course-because God is on our side. And one of the necessary elements in this resistance to the world is insight into what the world is up to. The counter-initiation, the System of Antichrist is a temptation, an attempt by the powers of darkness to appropriate and pervert our idealism through false hope, to attach our hope and spiritual aspiration to false objects, and thus make us servants of illusion and evil. This is the possibility that, by the Grace of God, can and must be resisted.

    As for whether or not action to deal with outer circumstances is still possible or justifiable, given the inevitable downward arc of the Yuga, that depends entirely upon the nature of the occasion, of one’s personal dharma, and of whether or not God commands such action. In 2010, in relation to the controversy in New York City over the plan to build a mosque at the site of the destruction of the Twin Towers, I was moved to contact some Muslim friends of mine, suggesting that Muslims support the reconstruction of St. Nicholas’ Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed on 9/11 and to the rebuilding of which the City of New York is throwing up roadblocks, while expediting the construction of the mosque. I felt that this would be a good way of defusing interfaith tensions. I gathered expressions of support for St. Nicholas from a few Muslims and provided them to the ecumenical office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and to the imam of the proposed mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf. Then I withdrew from the controversy. Sometimes, if you still owe some karmic dues to al-Zahir, the Outer, it’s a good idea to pay them quickly, since this frees you concentrate more deeply upon al-Batin, the Inner. The only spirit in which such action can profitably be performed is that of karma-yoga as presented in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna says, “Act, but dedicate the fruits of the action to Me“- the same spirit that led the Prophet Muhammad to say, “Even if you know that the world will end tomorrow, plant a tree.” 

    5 – According to Revelation 20-7, an angel locked Satan into the Abyss and bound him for a thousand years. And when the thousand years are over, Satan will be loosed out of his prison. Is that God who releases Satan ? Even if we can’t know the exact reason for this release, have you got any idea about it ? 

    God releases Satan in the sense that the inevitable downward course of cyclical conditions, which is in line with God’s will, weakens the bonds that restrain the Adversary: the orthodox revelations. In Christian terms, it was Christ and His Church who restrained Satan in the western world by overturning a degenerate Paganism that had become Satanic. The Islamic revelation extended this overturn of Paganism to the hinterlands of the Roman Empire, and farther, and stabilized the world after the Christian revelation (which left to itself would have ushered in Apocalypse long before now) by basing itself more directly on the Primordial Tradition as represented by the Prophet Adam, and secondarily, the Prophet Abraham, than on the unique theophany that was Jesus Christ, and by consequently introducing a spacial quality as against Judeo-Christianity’s more temporal/historical drive, thus moderating the destructive effects of cyclical degeneration. And the Church, by prolonging Christ’s power into the historical dimension, also stood against the downward flow of the Yuga.

    Satan is the agent of God’s justice; the greatest punishment visited upon the primordial rebel is that he must serve God whether he likes it or not; as Frithjof Schuon put it, “Satan is the enemy of man, not the enemy of God.” Certainly the Christian and Islamic revelations did not entirely restrain human evil, but they did restrain transpersonal, demonic evil. As they weaken, such evil is released. And is there any doubt that Satan has been released already? His signs are everywhere in the demonic audacity of scientism and the uniformly sinister quality of popular culture, two things that Christianity while it was still strong was able to restrain. As Eastern Orthodox priest and writer Seraphim Rose said, “In our time, Satan has walked naked into human history”. The Eastern Orthodox see the “thousand-year reign of peace” that Christ brings as the church age, which is now over. Satan must be loosed because evil must constellate so as to confront the soul with the ultimate choice between Truth and illusion on every possible level.

    6 – Referring to Frithjof Schuon’s doctrine and Ibn al  ‘Arabi’s principles, you talk about « the transcendent unity of religions ». However, don’t you think, as Jean Borella states it, that « Just as there are different levels in light intensity,  Revelatory Word can more or less explicitly express the divine Mystery ?

    Each revelation is pre-eminent in its own terms, which means that each concentrates more fully than the others on a particular aspect of the Absolute in its relationship with humanity. Christianity, in its trinitarian doctrine of the One God, more perfectly reveals man within God and God within man than does Islam; Islamic “trinitarianism” appears in Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Fusus al-Hikam, but not as a central doctrine. Islam reveals more perfectly the Unity of God and the intrinsic submission of all things to Him, which is why it rejects the polytheistic/Manichaean tendency to portray Shaytan as the literal enemy of God. Hinduism more perfectly unveils the doctrine of the atman, the Absolute Indwelling Witness, which Christianity and Islam only allude to when St. Paul says “it is not I who live, but Christ lives in me” and the Prophet Muhammad, “he who knows himself knows his Lord”. And Buddhism reveals more perfectly the Divine Immanence, since it starts and ends with it, as well the dangers of obscuration through the literalization of metaphysical ideas-though Dionysius the Areopagite in his Mystical Theology speaks of the transcendence of doctrinal forms in very Buddhist terms, while some of the other Greek Fathers describe the natural world as being the equivalent of an inspired scripture, while Islam defines the natural world as composed only of the signs of God, only of the Truth. But each tradition contains all that is needed for salvation and Liberation, sometimes explicitly, sometimes only in implicit terms. The  spiritual justification for “comparative religion” is that the study of religions other than our own may illuminate true aspects of our own religion that we hadn’t noticed before, or sufficiently understood. Consequently it ought to work against the tendency to think one’s own religion is deficient in some way and needs to be supplemented by elements from another. Unfortunately, comparative religion often has the opposite effect, giving rise to the error that each religion has part of the truth, which means that only an amalgam of all of them can deliver the whole truth. The fact is, however, that each religion-if it is a true and revealed religion, that is, not a generic metaphysical system or a “psychic technology”-embraces the whole truth, though each possesses that truth in a different form and with a different emphasis.

    See also:

    Jesus – The Paradigm of a Pilgrim in God according to Ibn al-ʿArabi

    Jesus, Mary and the Book, according to Ibn al-ʿArabi

    Jesus in the Quran: an Akbari Perspective


    7 – You who took the « road »  of the sixties counter-culture and saw many of your travelling companions get lost in their quest, how do you consider this period now ? Do you think that there were two types of rebellion in the sixties ? A spiritual kind of rebellion, reacting against the birth of the consumer society and which could have nset up a path to Tradition, and another rebellion, seeking for a purely immanent joy and which used revolution to rapidly get rid of the ancient values to finally be able to drown into  a frenzied consumerism with no taboos ?

    That’s a very good characterization of the period.  The rebellion of the 60’s was against everything that represented the status quo: both established religion and secularism, both the social mores and the political and economic structure. This included a “spiritual revolution”, one that made the doctrines and practices of the Eastern Religions and the mystical or esoteric dimensions of the Abrahamic religions available to the public as never before. But this revolution was polluted at the outset by incursions of every pseudo-initiatory and counter-initiatory “spirituality” imaginable, both newly conceived and of ancient pedigree, including outright Satanism; by the use of psychedelics; and by the identification of mystical ecstasy with self-indulgence. The simple fact is that an interest in the mysticism and esoterism of the world’s religions could never have become an element of mass consciousness if it hadn’t been portrayed as “great fun”! The first book on comparative mysticism I ever read was given to me by an amphetamine addict. Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, which was highly influential upon my generation, is a perfect image of the blend of mysticism, sexual indulgence, drug use and madness that characterized the hippies. It is the quality of Bohemias that they will pick up all the interests and tendencies excluded by the dominant society, no matter how intrinsically incompatible they may be. (See Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann for a good picture of artistic/spiritual/political underworld of the first third of the 20th century in Germany, filled with the percolating seeds of Nazism, where proto-Nazis, Goethean idealists and heterodox Jews partied together at the soirées.) As hippies we could read the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Mao’s Little Red Book, practice yoga in hopes of gaining Enlightenment, cast a magic spell to attract a lover, withdraw from the world into a mountain retreat and dedicate ourselves to overthrowing the government, all in the space of a month or two! You could find hippies who wanted to live almost like the Mennonites-except for sex, drugs and rock-and-roll! The counterculture certainly established non-Judeo-Christian religions and the esoterisms of the Abrahamic faiths as viable spiritual alternatives, but only for the few. And in so doing, along with Vatican II (another 60’s phenomenon), it essentially completed the destruction of Christendom in the western world, the final phase of which destruction began in 1914, thus ushering in immense social and moral nihilism and chaos. We still have Christianity, but Christendom is a thing of the past. President Sarkozy sees Islam as opposed to good French secularism; what he doesn’t realize is that it was precisely secularism, insofar as it deconstructed Christendom in Europe, that opened the door of Europe to Islam. Humanity needs a religion, a way to God. If we don’t see any ultimate, eternal significance to human life, we will live only to fulfill our desires and alleviate our fears, and this will ultimately decrease the birth-rate; if we live only for ourselves, and if we know that the government will take care of us in our old age, then why have children? Islam is being drawn into the spiritual and demographic vacuum left by the fall of Christendom, but I do not believe that it is spiritually and culturally strong enough to replace Christianity, since Islam too is on its last legs. It is blundering, blindfolded, into a Neo-Pagan continent haunted by the ghost of Christ, completely oblivious to the forces of spiritual degeneracy that it is being exposed to. And simply prohibiting the Muslim veil will not restore what Europe threw away.

    8 – Does Freudian psychoanalysis belong to « the System of Antichrist » ?  If it does, what is its role in this system ? In other respects, you seem to reproach Jung, despite his dissidence towards Freudian school, for being a « false traditionalist » and for serving the cause of the satanic parody, can you tell us more about that ?

    Freudian psychoanalysis (which is more-or-less passé in North America) is in a certain sense a counterfeit of the guru-chela relationship that pertains, under different names, in every spiritual tradition, sometimes universally, sometimes only in the esoteric dimension. The idea that it is possible to deal with the psyche without reference to the Spirit is destructive in many ways. First, it replaces salvation of the soul with “social adjustment”, this deifying the world and denying God. Secondly, it may open up the infra-psychic underworld in the absence of any traditional spiritual safeguards in such a way that the client may become demonically obsessed or possessed. This is not to say that Freudian analysis is entirely false or may not have positive results on some occasions, only that if Christian society had been capable of and willing to provide true spiritual direction to the mass of believers in Freud’s time, his theories would never have become current because they would not have been necessary. Freudianism may thus be seen as one more a decay-product of Christian society. When the System of Antichrist becomes fully established Freud probably won’t play a very prominent role; but be that as it may, he has already done his damage in heralding that regime. The three pillars of Modernism-Freud, Marx and Darwin-were essentially anti-traditional; they were not yet truly counter-initiatory. But now that we are in Postmodern times, truely Luciferian “spiritualities” are readily available which, in their ability to devastate the soul and place it under spiritual bondage, put Freud to shame.

    On the other hand, Whitall Perry, in his article “The Revolt against Moses: A New Look at Psychotherapy”, from his book Challenges to a Secular Society, speaks of Freud’s interest in demonology and his tendency to speak highly of the Devil (whom he didn’t believe in), and cites David Bakan’s Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition to the effect that psychoanalysis was based in part upon an inversion of the Kabbalah. Perry sees the antinomianism of heterodox Jewish leaders Jacob Frank and Shabbetai Zevi as a major influence upon Freud’s doctrine that it is not sin that needs to be overcome, but guilt for sin. The “false Messiah” Shabbetai Zevi, a bipolar psychotic who galvanized international Judaism in the 17th century before he converted, rather disappointingly, to Islam, based his doctrines on Isaac Luria’s notion of the “restoration” or tikkun of the vessels of the seven lower sefiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, whose “shattering” constituted the Fall. Zevi reinterpreted this restoration in historical rather than strictly esoteric terms; thus we can conjecture that his influence might well have contributed to the general progressivism of the 18th century “Enlightenment” and ultimately to the inverted messianism of Karl Marx, whose “classless society”, the product of class struggle leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat, was seen in part as a restoration of “primitive communism”. Thus a case could be made that an inverted Kabbalism influenced both Marx and Freud, two of the three pillars of the modernist deviation.

    A physician of my acquaintance recently unpacked for me the main skeleton in the closet of Sigmund Freud, based on certain papers he discovered in his U.S. archives. Early in his medical training Freud had come across many corpses of children in the Vienna morgue that showed signs of physical and sexual abuse. And when he began his career as a psychoanalyst, he heard a lot of stories from upper middle class ladies of incest and sexual abuse of children. But when he presented his findings to his professional association, he was booed off stage; he career was almost destroyed. After a long depression during which he became reclusive, he emerged with a new theory: that it was really the children who wanted to seduce the parents. This theory was accepted enthusiastically by his colleagues, and his career was made. In other words, Freud’s whole theory of the Oedipus and Electra complexes was based on a self-interested coverup of child abuse.


    Note :

    Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism

    Moshe Idel increasingly is seen as having achieved the eminence of Gershom Scholem in the study of Jewish mysticism. Ben, his book on the concept of sonship in Kabbalah, is an extraordinary work of scholarship and imaginative surmise. If an intellectual Judaism is to survive, then Idel becomes essential reading, whatever your own spiritual allegiances.”-Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale University While many aspects of sonship have been analyzed in books on Judaism, this book, Moshe Idel’s magnum opus, constitutes the first attempt to address the category of sonship in Jewish mystical literature as a whole. Idel’s aim is to point out the many instances where Jewish thinkers resorted to concepts of sonship and their conceptual backgrounds, and thus to show the existence of a wide variety of understandings of hypostatic sons in Judaism. Through this survey, not only can the mystical forms of sonship in Judaism be better understood, but the concept of sonship in religion in general can also be enriched. Read here

    Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah

    This book presents important topics regarding the more mystical trend of Kabbalah–the ecstatic Kabbalah. It includes the mystical union, the world of imagination, and concentration as a spiritual technique. The emphasis in the text is on the interaction between the “original” Spanish stage of Kabbalah and Muslim mysticism in the East, mainly in the Galilee. The influence of the Kabbalistic-Sufic synthesis on the later developments of Jewish mysticism is traced, thereby providing a more precise understanding of the history of Kabbalah as an interplay between the theosophical and ecstatic mystical experiences. Read here

    Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid

    Idel’s thesis is that the role of the golem concept in Judaism was to confer an exceptional status to the Jewish elite by bestowing it with the capability of supernatural powers deriving from profound knowledge of the Hebrew language and its magical and mystical values.

    This book is the first comprehensive treatment of the whole range of material dealing with creation of the golem beginning with late antiquity and ending with modern time. The author explores the relationship between these discussions and their historical and intellectual framework. Since there was in the medieval period a variety of traditions concerning the golem, it is plausible to assume that the techniques for creating this creature developed much earlier. This presentation focuses on the precise techniques for creating an artificial human, an issue previously neglected in the literature.

    A complete survey of the conceptions of the golem in North European and Spanish literature in medieval times, allows not only better understanding of the phenomenon, but also of the history of Jewish magic and mysticism in the Middle Ages. The Jewish and Christian treatments of the golem in renaissance are explored as part of the renaissance concern for human nature. Read here


    As for Carl Jung, he was an important figure to many of my generation, especially the poets. In the poetry scene of 1970’s San Francisco, he almost held the position of Chief Hierophant, guide to all the mysteries of the Unconscious. In the 1970’s, the counterculture, and progressively the entire culture of the U.S., was living through an Age of Mythopoesis. Jung and his followers were being read; Joseph Campbell (who ended up as “mythic adviser” to George Lucas for his Star Wars movies) was becoming known; and poet Robert Bly and others were laboring to bring the mysteries of Jungian psychology and mythopoetic literature to the masses. At the same time, Jung was exerting a powerful and destructive influence upon the Catholic Church which-having been all but abolished in its traditional form by the Second Vatican Council-was groping for some way to relate to its own rich mythopoetic heritage, so much so that Jungian psychology almost replaced the Church Fathers as the golden key to scriptural exegesis for Novus Ordo Catholics. This was also the Age of the Goddess, when western civilization, in the process of its own deconstruction, was processing great waves of “matriarchal” material liberated from its repressed collective memory. While the Leftist/Feminists were pressing for women’s rights, deconstructing the family and destroying any viable social role that a man as man, or woman as woman, could base his or her life upon (this being an expression of the anti-sexual Puritanism that hid under the so-called “sexual revolution”), the tender-minded among us, both men and women, were deliquescing in the murky “feminine” waters of the Collective Unconscious. And it is certainly true that Jung’s greatest followers of the second and third generations were mostly women: Esther Harding, Marion Woodman, and especially Marie-Louise Van Franz.

    The best critique of him from a Traditionalist/Perennialist perspective is to be found in the essay “Modern Psychology” by Titus Burckhardt, which appears, among other places, in the anthology Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man, edited by Barry McDonald for World Wisdom Books. Jung seems to have a more metaphysical approach to the psyche than Freud, but this is not really the case. He “officially” denied the existence, or at least the psychological relevance, of the Transcendent (though it appears that he believed in God), and defined his “collective unconscious” as intrinsically incapable of being perceived as it is, being detectable only by the reactions it provokes; he saw it as based on residues of ancestral experience reaching back even to the animal level, residues which are presently mediated by the structure of the brain as it has evolved over the aeons. Thus Jung effectively deified the sub-human, by misrepresenting the psychic reflections of the Archetypes of the Intelligible Plane he encountered in his own psychic experience and that of his patients as the upsurgings of various primitive emotional/cognitive reactions. Consequently his goal of “individuation” simply mimics, and may in many cases block and subvert, the traditional goal of self-actualization, seeing that there can be no self-actualization without self-transcendence, no ordering of the psychic subjectivity except in reference to, and by the power of, a Spiritual objectivity that transcends it, witnesses it, and by the Grace of which it may be instructed, saved and healed.

    What interests me about Jung is not his theoretical structure, which is both erroneous and subversive, but the various psychic phenomena he encountered in his researches. “Archetypes” such as the Ego, the Persona, the Shadow, the Anima, the Animus and the Self seem to me to be true psychic traces or reflections of metaphysical principles-or of the egoic subversion of these principles-which might be capable of providing both valid intimations of celestial realities and various perspectives on the “fall” of the human psyche into egotism and identification with the material world. The canny “hands-on” expertise that Jung showed in his dealing with these manifestations, when it was not vitiated by his “Jungianism”, undoubtedly gave him the ability to act as a true psychopomp from time to time, at least on certain levels. (The same can certainly be said of his disciple Marie-Louise Von Franz.) But he was in no way a spiritual master, and his strictly psychic approach to the psyche may have effectively blocked the further spiritual development even of those he was able to help. Suffice it to say that Jungianism is filled with errors and dangers, and consequently can be of no real help on the spiritual Path-until, that is, someone definitively criticizes it according to metaphysical principles, rejecting whatever is clearly erroneous and recasting the rest in solidly metaphysical terms-presuming that such a radical revision is even possible.

    What did I learn from the Jungians? I learned that dreams are of great import, that they are a language of symbols, and that I knew how to read that language; I learned that psychic experience, if correctly understood and responsibly related to, is a necessary element of the spiritual Path, and that such understanding can throw a valuable light on life as a whole; and I learned (though this lesson derived as much if not more from the writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon as it did from the Jungians and various writers influenced by them, such as Joseph Campbell) that mythopoesis-poetry, folklore, fairy tales, folk songs, scripture, myth per se, as well as most or all of the pre-modern arts taken in their symbolic or “didactic” aspect-concealed and revealed profound mysteries, so much so that it was correct to say that myths were often simply metaphysics told as symbolic narrative, while much of metaphysics was nothing less (as with Plato) than the discursive exegesis of myth. All these lessons suffered, however, from lack of a traditional, objective context that could unpack their riches and protect those studying them (including myself) from the intellectual errors and psychic glamours that unprepared excursions into the underworld of the “collective unconscious” (often aided, in my generation, by psychedelic drugs) inevitably carried in their train. I ultimately found that context, thank God, in the writers of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School and the lore and practice of Sufism. When Huston Smith first showed me Guénon’s Symbols of Sacred Science, I said to myself: “This is what I was looking for in Robert Graves’ The White Goddess but never found”.

    9 – To what extent can our sensory experience of the tangible world play a part in our encounter with the Spirit ? Is Sufism a mystical path or a gnosis ?

    Religion / Islam. Basmala (First phrase “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”), surah of a Qu’ran manuscript in the shape of a hoopoe. 18th Century.

    Either Fariddudin Attar (author of the Parliament of the Birds) or the Argentinian writer of  metaphysical enigmas, fables and satires, Jorge Luis Borges, authored the following lines (Borges attributed them to Attar): “The Zahir is the shadow of the Rose/And the rending of the veil”. The Zahir is a Name of God which means “the Outward”. If we under the Spirit as transcending the sensory world, and come into a deep enough relation to It, then the sensory world will become transformed from a veil into a theophany; it will present us with a vision of the Divine Immanence. The Zahir is certainly a “shadow of the Rose”, of the celestial order; but if we can witness the celestial even in the terrestrial, then this most certainly will be “the rending of the veil”. An appreciation for the beauties of Virgin Nature and sacred art, if our sensibilities are sufficiently free of psychological and materialistic glamours, can be definite supports for contemplation. But this will only be true if we are subject neither to the tendency to see the material world on the one hand as self-created, a closed system, or on the other as the romantic and/or terrifying realm of the Great Goddess-unless, that is, we recognize her in her true form as the Creative Maya of the Absolute.

    Guénon’s hard and fast distinction between “mysticism” and “esoterism” is not entirely helpful in my opinion, unless one takes the 16th century Spanish mystics, for example, as representing mysticism per se. According to Guénon, esoterism is initiatory, active and systematic, while mysticism is non-initiatory, passive and sporadic; also, mysticism tends to be generally emotive, and more centered upon ecstasis than realization. Mysticism is a gift; esoterism is a path. Defined in this way, Sufism is more an esoterism than a mysticism. However, according to the way the word “mysticism” is used in the English-speaking world-to denote any approach to or incidence of the direct experience of God-Sufism may certainly be characterized as “Islamic mysticism.”

    In Sufism, gnosis or ma’rifa is central, but such ma’rifa does not take place in the absence of mahabbah or the love of God. Love delights to dwell upon its object and comes to know it intimately. And one might say that Sufism embraces mysticism as one of its aspects, since it also recognizes spiritual states (ahwal) as gifts of God, often unexpected, not as acquisitions. It is not strictly a path of “spiritual achievement”; if it were, it would be inherently false. However, since it is also a path of spiritual stations (maqamat), where the potentials inherent in spiritual states are realized and confirmed in a stable way, through spiritual effort, as knowledge and virtue, it goes beyond the “passivity” of mysticism (in Guénon’s definition of the term) and becomes supremely active. The activity in question is not, however, Promethean; it is not the heroic individual’s conquest of his freedom and the higher worlds of reality, as Julius Evola would have it. It is rather the activity of obedience to religious norms and to the directives of one’s shaykh, as well as the development of the kind of “active receptivity”-poles apart from passive resignation-that keeps constant vigil, waiting at attention for the next thing that God will do or command. And ultimately the path of tasawwuf is supremely active because the only one acting is God, who, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, is “pure Act”. As Javad Nurbakhsh put it (in my paraphrase), “If at the beginning of the Path you attribute your actions to God, you are an unbeliever; the responsibility to fulfill your duties and avoid transgressions is yours alone. But if at the end of the Path you attribute any action whatsoever to yourself, not to God, then you are equally an unbeliever; the realized Sufi knows that no-one acts but Allah.”

    10 – What is the biggest threat which hangs over Islam today ?

    Islam is being attacked by both military force and cultural subversion. The agenda of the U.S. Government and the globalist powers behind it is nothing less than to destroy Islam by setting the batinis and the zahiris, the “tolerant Muslims” (as defined by them-mostly Sufis) and the “Islamicist/fundamentalists” (as defined by them, some of whom are undoubtedly being deliberately provoked and sometimes covertly funded, trained and directed by them) at war with each other, just as they set the Sunnis and the Shi’a at war in Iraq. The U.S. government and the military, unless they are totally out of touch with reality, know very well that they cannot eliminate the Iraqi insurgents, or the Taliban, or those groups who have adopted the name “al-Qaeda” (which, I am told, was the name of the C.I.A.’s terrorist database), whether they be groups clandestinely formed by the Western powers-as we know the Taliban was founded by the  C.I.A. as a counter-Russian insurgency-or are ignorantly imitating that highly influential and largely misrepresented, if not mostly fictitious, organization. (Benazir Bhutto, in a David Frost interview, spoke of “the man who killed Bin Laden” This was deleted from the televised version but I am told that the original cut is available on YouTube.) What they do believe they can do however, by openly supporting the “good Muslims” while covertly provoking or funding the “bad Muslims”, is create the kind of chaos that will destroy traditional dar al-Islam; up to now they have obviously been quite successful at this. Their method is “divide and conquer”: set the Sunnis against the Shi’a, the Sufis against the Salafis, and (in the U.S.) the Muslims against the Christians, through their patronage of the highly inflammatory Ground Zero Mosque for example (whose Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations)-because it’s quite clear to me that they also want to limit religious freedom in the U.S. and destroy any form of Christianity that they can’t control. The Bin Laden family, remember, had and probably still has close ties with the Bush family, whose paterfamilias is both an ex-U.S. president (as his son was) and ex-director of the CIA, and the major Muslim ally of the U.S. in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, the stronghold of the Wahhabis from whom many if not most of today’s Muslim terrorists developed.

    One goal of these forces is to groom Sufism as an alternative to “fundamentalist” Wahhabi/Salafi Islam, an alternative that will hopefully be more passive to control by the West and/or the Globalists. Jalaluddin Rumi, for example, is being presented both as the patron of Turkey’s entry into the European Union and the poster-boy of the Iranian opposition, as well as appearing on the website of the Pakistani Security Forces as a representative of traditional Sufism, since in Pakistan the West is trying to enlist the Sufis against the Taliban, who are in the habit of blowing up the shrines of Sufi saints-if these aren’t simply false flag operations carried out by western agents and then blamed on the Taliban. UNESCO even designated 2007 as “The International Year of Rumi”. And the Interfaith Movement in the U.S., which is in many ways a vector for U.S./globalist control of the religions, has adopted him as a representative of interfaith unity and global peace, even though Rumi himself said:

    When has religion ever been one? It has always been two or three, and war has always raged among coreligionists. How are you going to unify religion? On the Day of Resurrection it will be unified, but here in this world that is impossible because everybody has a different desire and want. Unification is not possible here. At the Resurrection, however, when all will be united, everyone will look to one thing, everyone will hear and speak one thing. [Jalaluddin Rumi, Signs of the Unseen (Fihi ma-Fihi),

    Certain Sufis may naively think that there is nothing wrong with playing the role of “good, tolerant Muslim” for their globalist patrons; after all, haven’t they been long oppressed by these fundamentalist/Islamicists? And aren’t they now collecting powerful allies at last? Success! It is unfortunately the case, however, that certain Islamicist groups are also being infiltrated and/or supported by the West and the Globalists, whose support and funding of Sufism is more-or-less open (except for their CIA contacts and things of that nature), and whose support for Islamicist groups clandestine. Why would the powers that be support both sides? The question is not hard to answer: the powers that be always attempt to control both sides so they can “play both sides against the middle”, the middle in this case being traditional Sufism and traditional Islam. The West and the Globalists are dedicated to deconstructing dar al-Islam, both by military force and by cultural/spiritual infiltration. They want to destroy Islam as a religion because it is one of the main obstacles to their plans for a One World Government. And they have realized that the best way to do this is to separate batinis and zahiris and set them at war. The more violent the Islamicist terrorists become, the more vulnerable the Sufis become to co-optation and control by those forces who oppose the Islamicists on one level, attempt to control them on another level, and are actually behind some of them on a third. The co-optation of tasawwuf, the spiritual heart of Islam, by these forces leaves the remaining zahiri Islam that much more vulnerable to radicalization; if hearts are veiled from true remembrance of God, all that people can see any more is al-dunya, the world of politics and its “imperatives”. This is why those Sufis who have sufficient insight and courage to resist co-optation must do their best to form an Islamic “remnant”, in line with the hadith of Muhammad, “Islam began in exile and will end in exile; blessed are those who are in exile!”

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

    On Tradition, Metaphysics,and Modernity

    Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at The George Washington University and an Islamic philosopher. He holds degrees in mathematics and physics,
    geology and geophysics, and history of science from MIT and Harvard. Professor Nasr is the author of over fifty books and five hundred articles which have been translated into
    many major Islamic, European and Asian languages. These works deal with a wide array of subjects including perennial philosophy, Sufism, metaphysics, Islamic philosophy
    and science, traditional art, and the environmental crisis. The only Muslim thinker to have a volume dedicated to him in the prestigious Library of Living Philosophers series, Professor Nasr is one of the foremost authorities on Islamic, religious, and comparative studies in the world today.

    In this interview, Professor Nasr talks to us about some fundamental questions regarding tradition, the Perennial School of thought, the relation of science and religion, and the environmental crisis.
    Seyyed Hossein Nasr: On Tradition, Metaphysics, and Modernity
    Interview by Taimur Aziz, with research by Saim Raza, Derek Lee, and Lynnea Shuck
    Taimur Aziz (TA): The mention of “Tradition” is extensive throughout your works with ref-
    erence to a variety of ields including philosophy, religion and art. Moreover, you identify
    as belonging to the “Traditionalist school.” What is “Tradition,” and what role does it
    play in perennial philosophy?

    Seyyed Hossein Nasr (SHN): The meaning of “tradition” as used by traditionalists such
    as myself does not mean custom or transmitted habit, but principles of a divine order and
    their applications to various domains. I can quote for you from one of my own writings:
    Tradition . . . means truths or principles of a divine origin revealed or unveiled to mankind and, in fact, a whole cosmic sector through various figures envisaged as messengers, prophets, avatars, the Logos or other transmitting agencies, along with all the ramifications and applications of these principles to different realms including law and social structure, art, symbolism, the sciences, and embracing of course Supreme Knowledge with the means for its attainment. (Knowledge and the Sacred [SUNY Press, 1989], 67–68)

    TA: Perennial Philosophy is distinct from religious syncretism in that it insists on maintain-
    ing the boundaries of individual religions on the external level. Can you elaborate upon
    this distinction between the two schools of thought?

    SHN: There is a radical difference. Perennial philosophy as understood traditionally believes that each religion has an inward or essential and an outward or formal aspect or dimension. On the formal level religions are different and since these forms in orthodox and traditional religions are sacred and sacrosanct, they must be respected on their own level and not mixed together or neglected. Traditional perennial philosophy is therefore opposed strongly to syncreticism and pseudo-esoterism. Of course on the intellectual level a religion can borrow certain elements from another tradition to express its own truths as we see for example in St. Augustine and Christian Platonism in general but that is very different from using rites of the Greek religion as part of the Christian mass. As for religious syncreticism, as ordinarily understood, it is a mixing of different traditional elements into an amalgam, something that is completely opposed by traditionalist followers of the perennial philosophy.

    TA: You argue that the differences in religions lie only on the formal level. However, in
    many cases major traditional religions disagree over fundamental tenets such as the unity
    of the divine being and life after death. Polytheistic and monotheistic religions do not claim
    to have room for each other’s ideas. How does perennial philosophy, then, reconcile such
    basic differences between religions that seem to penetrate deeper than the formal level?

    SHN: No major traditional religion rejects the unity of the Divine Principle whether it be
    the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism, Taoism or Confucianism. As for Buddhism, although it
    does not speak to the objective Pole of Reality but the subjective one, it certainly does not
    speak of multiple ultimate nirvanas or paranirvanas. As for mythological and primal religions, behind the multiple “masks of the gods” there is always the presence of the one supreme Spirit, for example wakan-tanka in the Native American traditions. Let me also mention that in the case of Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism the dualism between light and darkness involves the cosmic and moral battle between good and evil resulting in the final victory of the good. If you ask any Zoroastrian, you will find that he or she insists on being certainly a monotheist and not a dualist metaphysically and theologically speaking.
    Concerning life after death, since time immemorial human beings have disposed of the body of the dead ritually and believed in life after death as the French traditionalist anthropologist Jean Servier has demonstrated amply in his L’Homme et l’invisible. Some religions like Confucianism have said little in their formal teachings about eschatology while others such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have spoken extensively about this matter. If, as some claim, in early Judaism there were no beliefs in immortality but later on Judaism adopted this idea from Zoroastrianism and Christianity, then why would early Jews follow the Divine Law so assiduously and even be willing to give up their earthly lives for it?
    Polytheistic and monotheistic religions may not have room for each other’s ideas on
    the exoteric level, but they certainly do on the esoteric level. As for Islam, I only need to quote a verse from one of the most famous Sufi poets of the Persian language, Shaykh Mahmūd Shabistarī: If a Muslim were only to know what an idol is, He would know that [true] religion (dīn) is in idol-worship.
    Perennial philosophy reconciles formal and external differences by first of all going from the form to the essence and secondly by viewing forms not just as external forms, but as gateways to inner meanings. As Rūmī has said:
    The differences between people arises from the name [form- nām];
    When on goes to the inner meaning (ma‘nā), there is accord and peace
    Only the Absolute is absolute in the metaphysical sense but within a particular order of
    reality its manifestation is in a sense still “absolute” although it is not the Absolute as such.
    It is to this former reality that F. Schuon refers as “the relatively absolute.” In various reli-
    gious universes many and sometimes most ordinary believers see the “relatively absolute”
    as the Absolute as such and therefore limit salvation to members of their own religion. A
    prime example is Christianity, which absolutizes the manifestation of the Divine in Christ
    resulting in the famous dictum extra ecclesiam nulla saluswith which many Christian
    theologians are grappling today. Islam has a less dificult problem with this issue because
    of the explicit universalism of many passages of the Quran. Particularism is, however,
    present in all religious climes including Islam in one way or another and is a theological
    issue with which they all have to deal especially now that the traditional boundaries of the
    various religious worlds have been removed to a large extent if not completely throughout
    much of the world.

    TA: Observing and connecting the common strands in the history of philosophy and religion seem to be a key project of perennial philosophy. However, you have previously written that perennial philosophy is a product of the process of intellection. Can you explain the nature of this process and how it contrasts with the formation of an inductive philosophy?
    SHN: Yes, observing and connecting the common strands in traditional philosophies and
    religions is a key project of perennial philosophy but not the basic project. The basis of
    perennial philosophy is a knowledge that does not come from simply examining such his-
    tories and connecting them. Rather, it comes from intellection in the traditional sense, from
    an inner illumination or what Guénon calls intellectual intuition. Metaphysically speaking,
    knowledge of principles can never be the result of mere induction. The principles must
    irst be “intellected” and their applications deduced from principial knowledge not induced
    from particulars. In inductive philosophy general truths are supposed to be based on the
    generalization of a number of known particulars. For example, if we observe hundreds of
    Arabs who are pious and then induce the general idea that Arabs are pious people, that
    is induction which, logically speaking, could be or not be true. Induction does not pos-
    sess the same certitude as deduction that moves from general principles and universals to particulars.

    The understanding and acceptance of perennial philosophy is based on intellection (in the traditional sense) and not just ratiocination although the perennial philosophy is not irrational and the faculty of reason can be used and has been used by authentic expositors of the perennial philosophy on the level of elaboration of some of its metaphysical truths and their applications to various domains. But by using only reason and not having recourse to intellectual intuition or intellection, as traditionally understood, it is not possible to gain an authentic comprehension of the metaphysical principles of the perennial philosophy as Suhrawardī already asserted eight centuries ago.

    TA: Central to many of your works is the idea of a universe that is hierarchical. For example, in The Need for a Sacred Science you write, “The Principle gives rise to a universe which is hierarchical, possessing many levels of existence and states of consciousness from the Supreme Principle to earthly man and his terrestrial ambience.” ( The Need for a Sacred Science, 56). What is the nature of this hierarchical structure and what does it constitute?
    SHN: As you know the word hierarchy is composed of the two Greek terms hiero and
    arché which mean sacred and origin, respectively. In the traditional worldview the Sacred
    Origin manifests Itself of necessity in levels and degrees that move ever farther from It yet
    are not severed completely from their Source. One can give the example of light which is
    most intense at the source but weakens as it is distanced from the source while remaining
    light; there are levels of strength and weakness of light ranging from the level that is close
    to the source of the light to one that is far removed. Traditional cosmologies were based
    on the basic hierarchy of creation itself, what Arthur Lovejoy called “the great chain of
    being.” Each being stands as a particular ring in the chain, those closer to the Source be-
    ing more perfect and having a greater degree of “intensity of being” like rays of light that
    are brightest when they are closest to the source of light. Ibn Sīnā has a treatise called Fi
    marātib al-wujūd (“On the Grades of Being”) that summarizes this doctrine of the levels of
    existence from the Islamic point of view, very clearly and succinctly.
    The idea of hierarchy involves not only existence, but also virtue, human perfection, knowledge, goodness, beauty and the like, and in a sense also their opposites. For example, there are degrees and a hierarchy in ugliness, evil, ignorance, etc. The traditional universe was dominated by the sense of hierarchy which also affected the social order, although not in the same way everywhere, as we see in the difference concerning social classes and castes in Hinduism and Islam, respectively.
    The idea of hierarchy, ontologically, cosmologically, epistemologically, ethically, spiritually, aesthetically and otherwise was so central in traditional religions that in Islam it is said that a person who does not believe in hierarchy is a zindīq or inidel. The destruction of cosmic hierarchy in the worldview of modernism and the banishing of the orders of angels from the modern Weltanschauung played a major role in the secularization of cosmic reality in the West. The vision of the traditional universe in which God reigned supreme and below Him was the hierarchy of angels from archangels down to lower angelic levels, then the psychic world and inally the natural world with its own levels of the three kingdoms and the hierarchic order of various species within them, was destroyed by modern science and philosophy leading to the cosmic dislocation and alienation that modern man faces today.

    TA: You write that “Basing itself on the knowledge provided by philosophia perennis, the
    traditional school judges between grades of divine manifestation, various degrees and
    levels of prophecy, major and minor dispensations from Heaven, and lesser and greater
    paths, even within a single religion” (The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 26). How does
    a scholar of this school make these judgements between different traditions without falling
    into subjectivism?

    SHN: The universal teachings of the perennial philosophy from metaphysics and cosmology to anthropology and art have been already expressed magisterially by such traditional masters as R. Guénon, A. K. Coomaraswamy, F. Schuon, and T. Burckhardt along with others. Once one understands these truths and realizes that they are objective truths embedded in the nature of reality, then one can judge various traditions and different schools within them accordingly. It is like having a yardstick which allows you to measure any distance objectively except that this yardstick is conined to the physical world whereas intellectual and spiritual “yardsticks” concern the intellectual and spiritual realm but they are as objective as the physical yardstick. The modern world possesses the physical yardstick but has lost the intellectual one, which must not be confused with reason as usually understood.

    TA: A great portion of your writings is concerned with the major environmental crisis that
    looms over the modern world today. Moreover, you frequently write about the “dominating
    philosophy” of the West with respect to the environment. Can you please explain what you
    mean by this?

    SHN: What I mean by the “dominating philosophy” of the West is the secularist, natural-
    ist, rationalist and humanistic worldview that became the dominating philosophy of the
    West from the Renaissance onward. It is based on Cartesian bifurcation that still underlies
    the whole epistemology of modern science and most other Western academic disciplines
    as well. There has been during the past few decades an important attempt by a number
    of thinkers in the West to emphasize “holistic science” based on unity rather than on the
    prevalent dualism based on the famous Cartesian bifurcation of reality into the completely
    distinct realms of mind and matter (the res cogitans and res extensa of Descartes). But
    despite this attempt, what I called the “dominating philosophy of the West” continues to be
    dominant not only in the West itself but now in other parts of the world to the extent that
    they are affected by modernism that had its origin and early growth in the West.
    Traditional Islamic society, like any other traditional society, did not cause the present full-blown environmental crisis nor was it aware of it until quite recently. This threatening crisis originated in the modern West and then spread elsewhere. Of course now, the Islamic world along with China, Japan, India, and other non-Western parts of the globe are all cooperating in the destruction of the natural environment. Today, in some countries in the Islamic world such as Iran, Turkey, Syria, Malaysia, and Indonesia, traditional segments of Islamic society are awakening to the reality of the environmental crisis and relearning traditional Islamic teachings about our relation to nature and our responsibilities towards God’s creatures. But this awakening is quite recent. To speak from my own experience, although my book Man and Nature, written originally in English, was one of the first to predict the environmental crisis, it was one of my last books to be translated into Persian, my own mother tongue. In any case without doubt interest in the preservation of the natural environment is on the rise in the Islamic world. Even in Saudi Arabia controlled by Wahhābism, many of whose followers nearly equate seeing the sacred in God’s creation with nature worship and idolatry, there is a grass-roots environmental movement led to a large extent by women.

    TA: You often emphasize that the only solution to the environmental crisis is the recovery
    of the traditional understanding of nature as sacred. Please elaborate on this traditional
    understanding of nature and how it compares with the understanding of nature in the mod-
    ern world.

    SHN: For most, if not all, of modernized humanity, nature is a vast machine, dead and at the service of man to be mastered and exploited for his own ends, to be conquered and dominated as Francis Bacon had said at the dawn of the modern era. Nature is abused by modern man rather than being treated as a mother, which is how traditional societies saw her; hence, the environmental crisis. I do not believe that the environmental crisis can be solved simply and only by better engineering or economics. What is needed is the rediscovery of nature as sacred. But what is the sacred? It is a quality that is ultimately and in its root divine. Modern man has lost the sense of the sacred whereas traditional man has an innate sense of it and has not needed to ask what it is. When people today say that life is sacred, they are using the notion only metaphorically, for the sacred is philosophically meaningless in the dominating scientiic worldview within which the modern world lives. But the deep “feeling” for the sacred has not disappeared completely for people of faith even in our secularized world. When a devout Catholic goes to mass, he or she experiences the Eucharist as something sacred even if that person accepts the secularized worldview devoid of the sacred once he or she leaves the church and in most cases he or she cannot even deine the sacred just experienced. God is the Sacred as such, one of the Names of God in Islam being al-Quddūs, the Sacred. We must first rediscover the Sacred that resides at the center of our being and through that rediscovery then be able to see the sacred in God’s creation, in nature as the locus of manifestation of the Sacred, as theophany.

    TA: What kind of role does scientiic inquiry play in the traditional Islamic society? And
    more importantly, how does that differ from the role science plays in today’s modern secu-
    lar world?

    SHN: First of all, let us make clear what we mean by “scientiic inquiry.” From the point of view of the philosophy of science there has been much debate concerning this term and also the term “scientiic method.” How did Einstein discover the theory of relativity or Kepler the laws of planetary motion? Certainly not through what is usually called “the scientiic method” today, nor even as a direct result of what is commonly known as ordinary scientiic inquiry based on experimentation, observation, etc. As a great philosopher of sci ence once said, “science is what scientists do.” In any case coming to Islamic society, I can say that logical and rational enquiry or what would correspond to scientiic enquiry today certainly did exist among Muslims as we see for example in Ibn Sīnā’s study of meteors, Ibn al-Haytham’s study of light and al-Bīrūnī’s of the specific weight of substances or his description of minerals. What was different in the traditional Islamic world from what one finds in the modern West is that in Islamic sciences many ways of knowing were accepted as legitimate on their own level, from empirical knowledge to intellectual intuition and vision. Moreover, traditional Islamic civilization was governed by a hierarchy of knowledge with which I have dealt in several of my works, whereas in the modern secular world this hierarchy has collapsed into a single accepted form of knowledge reached through the socalled scientiic method. Moreover, this way of looking at science has affected much of the contemporary Islamic world itself.

    TA: What loss do you think modern science has suffered as a result of its abandonment
    of ways of knowing other than the scientiic method and the collapse of the hierarchy of

    SHN: Modern science and its effects on society suffer from not what modern science is, but what it is not and yet claims to be. It is this totalitarianism of modern science, claiming to be the only legitimate form of knowledge, that is so dangerous and even lethal for the continuation of human life on Earth. It is from this totalitarian claim that both modern science itself and its blind acceptance by society in general suffer. Many modern scientists, however, not only do not suffer from the exclusionist and totalitarian claims associated with modern science, but they espouse them completely. They also believe avidly in the reductionism built into the modern scientiic worldview, denying the legitimacy of any form of knowledge other than the scientiic as authentic knowledge. In contrast, there are some scientists who realize the limitations caused by accepting the so-called scientiic method as being the only path to knowledge and the suffering that both modern science and society undergo as a result of the domineering scientistic philosophy. Newton in his own way was already aware of this reality.
    Descartes and Galileo established modern science on the basis of pure quantity and relegated all quality to the subjective realm. They thereby created a science that discovered a great deal in the realm of the material world but at the expense of the loss of higher forms of knowledge which lost their status as authentic knowledge in the modern Weltanschauung.
    Theoretically, it would have been possible to develop modern science as a science within the hierarchy of knowledge of a metaphysical and cosmological order. But historically such a course was not followed in the West, leading to the spiritual, intellectual and psychological crisis that the modern world now faces globally with the spread of the modernistic worldwide, while the applications of this quantitative science in the form of technology have led to the environmental crisis that is now threatening human life itself on Earth.

    TA: You write in Religion and the Environmental Crisis that for four hundred years, phi-
    losophers inluenced by scientism have been trying to develop secular ethics but the norm
    by which their ideas of right and wrong are assessed continue to be the fundamental ethics
    laid down by religion. Do you think the secular world can establish an independent system
    of ethics – with regard to the environment and otherwise? If not, why?

    SHN: For several centuries, as I said, numerous philosophers in the West have sought
    to devise ethical systems independent of religion and inluenced solely by the scientistic
    worldview, but they have not been very successful in spreading their teachings because
    even in the West most people still follow the teachings of religious ethics. Moreover, the
    basis of most secular ethical philosophies when it comes to the question of the virtues
    mimics what is emphasized by religion such as the cardinal virtues of humility, charity and
    truthfulness. Even as virulent an anti-religious philosopher as Marx based his ethics in a
    deeper sense on the cardinal Christian virtue of charity which he, however, secularized. If
    not for the sake of charity, why bother with the condition of deprived workers? In Russia,
    as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, Christian ethics came back in full force. In Com-
    munist China, where during the rule of Mao Confucianism was so severely attacked, the
    teaching and following of Confucian ethics are very much on the rise.
    Ethics based on scientism has had little inluence on society at large, especially outside of Western Europe, whether it be in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or the Americas—in all of which not only have religion and religious ethics survived, but their inluence is on the rise. Just look at the condition of religion in areas as different as Russia, India and the Islamic world as well as parts of what was called Christendom such as Poland along with much of the American continent. Secularized ethics has simply not had the power or innate authority to attract souls of men and women in large numbers in most parts of the world and has attracted only a minority in parts of the West where such a scientistic ethics irst arose.

    TA: In today’s world of globalization where religion has become a major subject for politi-
    cal, social and ideological interpretation and debate, how do you think the place of mysti-
    cal traditions in religions has been affected? Do you think Sufism continues to have effect
    in the lives of Muslims?

    SHN: In what you call “today’s world of globalization,” two opposing and at the same time in a sense complementary movements are taking place. On the one hand, globalization results in the destruction of local traditions, secularization of the life of both the individual and society, and even greater spread of modern Western ideas, norms, means of production, and everyday life as a whole in non-Western parts of the world. On the other hand, globalization has resulted in local reactions to preserve local cultures and beliefs. This latter reaction is associated in the realm of religion for the most part, if not totally, with what has now become known as fundamentalism. Both of these movements connected with globalizationare usually opposed to mysticism understood in its traditional sense.
    It is, however, important to point out that in many parts of the world, the majority of people still follow their religion in a traditional manner and are neither modernist nor fundamentalist but traditional. Among them various forms of mysticism continue to flourish as we see in such countries as Senegal, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia, as well as others in the Islamic world where, despite the presence of both modernism and fundamentalism, Sufism is still alive and in many places flourishing. Mysticism is also very much alive in Hindu India,despite the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and modernism, and in Buddhist Japan, despite its extensive modernization. Interestingly enough, interest in mysticism has also been increasing in the West itself, which is the cradle of modernism, and this rise is especially noticeable since the aftermath of the Second World War. We can see this rise not only in the spread of Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Islamic mystical teachings in the West, but also in the attempt of some Westerners to rediscover and revive the mystical teachings of Christianity itself.
    As for Sufism continuing to have an effect on the lives of Muslims, there is no doubt that such an effect continues and in recent decades even some of the modern educated people have been turning to it. There are many more doctors and engineers in Sufi orders in Cairo today than there were when Gamal Abd al-Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy. Sufism also continues to affect the lives of non-Sufi Muslims through many channels, especially the arts of poetry and music. It is enough to attend a session of qawwālī, which has a Sufi origin, in Lahore to realize this fact.

    TA: To what extent do you think the secularist movement of the West has resulted from the
    gradual loss of mystical traditions in Western religions?

    SHN: Historically speaking, the mystical dimension of Western Christianity became marginalized, but not completely destroyed, at the end of the Middle Ages before secularism
    set in in the Occident. It was the loss of the metaphysical dimension of religion in the West that in fact prepared the ground for the rise of secularism. When some of the most acute European minds could not find what they were seeking within the everyday teaching of the Church, they began to search elsewhere outside of the Church and turned to secularism. It is not true that somehow through some evolutionary process Western European intellectuals became more intelligent and realized the falsehood of the religious worldview. Montaigne and Bayle were not more intelligent that St. Thomas and Meister Eckhart. Rather, there is a causal nexus between the loss of the sapiential and mystical tradition in Western Christianity and the rise of secularism in the West.

    Tears, Laughter, Compassion and Wisdom in the Kali-Yuga

    YUGA describes five falls—the Fall into Time, the Reign of Quantity, the Mutation into Machinery, the End of Nature, and the Prison of Unreality. Taken together, these comprise the fate of historical humanity and are, the author is convinced, one-way trips. And the urban-industrial-vehicular-commercial-technological-pharmaceutical-electronic-information-spectator secular society they have produced has ripped the human world to shreds. The book is hard-hitting, but readers who find it disturbing overlook the invincible beatitude that undergirds its every line. When we awaken from our modern nightmare—as sooner or later we all shall—this book will help us remember what that nightmare was. In YUGA, the perennial wisdom has found a new and clarion voice.Equally at home with the Diamond Sutra and the Grundrisse of Karl Marx, while being a careful student of magazine displays at the checkout counters of supermarkets, the author cheerfully presents his book as a provocation rather than as argument. But the master achievement of YUGA, which lies neither in its ‘argument’ nor its style, is its voice. That voice speaks so palpably from the author’s heart that we find it resonating in our hearts as well. The final pages of YUGA are celebrations of joy and love, and the discerning reader will detect those qualities lurking between the lines of the book’s every page. For remember, Marty Glass is a spokesman for the truth that underlies all the world’s wisdom traditions. Behind the world of appearances—samsara, maya, and the shadows on Plato’s cave—stands the uncreated Light, Reality, which is eternal Bliss This reality speaks to individuals in the darkest of times, and its grace never falters. No one need be completely captive to history’s downward trajectory. Its dream unfolds, and we can actually love that dream if we are awake to the fact that it is we ourselves that are, collectively, the immortal Dreamer. The message of YUGA is the message of Tradition, the Sophia Perennis.

    Table of Contents

    Invitation—Surveillance—History and Way—Progress and Tradition—Self-Inflicted yet Autonomous, Unreal yet Fatal—Humanity, Posterity, Eternity—Clockwatch—Time and Temples—The Information Coronation—Import in Depth—Up to Speed—Invisible Absences—Awakening—The Name of the Age—The Degradation of Discourse—Not Impartial: Dispassionate—Taking Care of Business—Remember What the Dormouse Said! Feed your Head! Feed your Head!—One Way—Zen and the Art of Cosmic Cycle Discountenance—What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

    Christ and the Kali-Yuga:

    Prefatory Remarks—The Fall into Time—The Jews and History—The Jews, Jesus, and the West —Historicity of Jesus—Incarnation and Faith, Surrender as Salvation—Legacy of Atonement —Kalki Avatar, Maitreya Buddha—Christians in the Kali-Yuga—The Deepest We Can Go: Homage to Frithjof Schuon—The Gnostic Testimony—Formation of the Church—Consequences and More Consequences: Absence of Maya, Presence of Sin —Incarnation and History, Eternity and Time—A Catholic View: Christopher Dawson—The Desert Fathers and The End of the World—Benediction—Last Chapter, End of the Book—Appendix Read more here

    Excerpts from an Interview with Marty Glass: Tears, Laughter, Compassion and Wisdom in the Kali-Yuga

    By Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

    Samuel Bendeck Sotillos: You have had the privilege of studying under the direction of the doyen of the World’s Religions, Professor Houston Smith. Is this how you came to learn about the “Perennialist” or “Traditionalist” school of comparative religion? And could you please underscore how this perspective has uniquely fashioned your writings, becoming its essence?

    Marty Glass: I think I remember how I came to know Professor Smith. I think that it had to do with The Sandstone Papers (1986). That book was not published initially by Sophia Perennis. It was published by Threshold Books, Kabir Helminski. Either Kabir got in touch with Huston or I got in touch with him. Somehow Huston got the manuscript and he wrote an endorsement on the back cover of the book. So I guess we got to know each other that way. I would also see him annually at the Memorial Day Program of the Ramakrishna Order, events that were held in Olema [CA]. He always came there and we used to meet once a year there. I got to know him better, we went out and had pizza from time to time and I would visit him at his house. We became friends.

    I think we became friends after both he and I discovered “traditionalism,” he probably before me. He discovered Schuon at some point, perhaps after reading Jacob Needleman’s anthology, The Sword of Gnosis (1974), or maybe just because he knew everyone, and I seem to remember that he said in an interview somewhere that this changed his whole life.

    The exact same thing happened to me and probably happened to many people. I remember I walked into Shambhala Bookstore, which does not exist anymore, on Telegraph Avenue [Berkeley, CA] and casually picked up a book called Understanding Islam (1963) by somebody named Frithjof Schuon. I had never heard of him, but somehow this book got in my hand. I took it out. I read two paragraphs and I knew immediately that I was in the presence of something I had never seen before in my life. It was like a revelation, like lightning or something: this man was clearly speaking ex cathedra. I’d never seen anything like it. Then I found out about the traditionalists. I read him, Coomaraswamy, Guénon, all of them.

    I realized that if I was a seeker of the Truth I could find it right there in the world of traditionalism: that is,in religion, in the spiritual traditions, as they were expounded by Guénon, Schuon, Coomaraswamy and the others. It wasn’t Marx, wasn’t Fidel and Che or Lenin or Chairman Mao, but this traditionalist school that was the real thing I had been seek-ing, and that school became the center of my spiritual understanding altogether. I still knew that the tradition that spoke to me directly was the religion of India. But the traditionalists enabled me to understand the “transcendent unity.” Enabled me to find the Truth in any house of worship in the world.

    SBS: The concept of the yugas, although broadly accepted in the perennial cosmologies or cosmologia perennis of the world’s spiritual traditions, has not been embraced by the modern and post-modern mindset. You have written a celebrated work on the social-historical criticism from a spiritual underpinning: Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate. Would you mind further articulating on the concept of the yuga for readers who might not be familiar with this perspective?

    MG: In the Hindu tradition, history is not linear but cyclical. And believe it or not, according to cyclical interpretations things are not getting better. The spiritual traditions are unanimous on this. It’s the opposite of the doctrine of the Enlightenment, the doctrine of Progress. Let me start again on this. The Hindu doctrine proposes four yugas, or Ages, in which we witness a steady deterioration of humanity’s spiritual capacities. That’s why in the final yuga, this one, we are given, by the grace of God, an easy practice, the Invocation of the Holy Name, any Name of God. But it seemed to me, in my writing, important to understand or interpret the cyclic doctrines in terms of our concrete lives, our living experience. Progress is a very powerful argument, very powerful, and in certain respects very true, incontrovertible. In YUGA I listed, after a very great deal of reading, what I called the Five Hallmarks of the Kali-Yuga: the Prison of Unreality, the Fall into Time, the Reign of Quantity, the End of Nature and the Mutation into Machinery or the Mutation into Technology. I am just saying this in one quick sentence, but there’s a very large bibliography behind it, an archive of deadly serious sociological analysis. To be able to think this way about what was happening in our lives I was especially helped by certain books. Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989), a profoundly significant book; The Reign of Quantity (1954), of course, René Guénon magisterial work; the Fall into Time comes from Mircea Eliade’s body of work; the Mutation into Machinery has behind it an extensive archive of critical analysis addressing the meaning of technology in our lives; and the Prison of Unreality emerges from Jean Baudrillard’s work and the work of many other thinkers expounding the ramifications of the insight that we live in what we now all accept as a “virtual” world where we think everything that we see and do on screens, Baudrillard’s “hyper-reality of simulations,” Disneyland, is reality, unaware that we have lost contact with an unmediated reality, with our own lives. This is definitely the trickiest, most elusive statement about our lives, our profoundest and most invisible entrapment, the most insidious and diabolical mutation of humanity. What we perceive and regard as real is fundamental to our lives. You have to read the book. Talking about this demanded a style of prose I can’t duplicate in the spoken word.

    One of the things that distinguishes me from some of the other traditionalist writers is that my bibliography was not just taken from the world of spiritual writing by any means. There were many, many authorities, many masters I read who were writing about the times that we lived in. They are all in my bibliography. I mention so many of them in the book, like Lewis Mumford, for example, you know: so many of them who write about our times and are not specifically religious writers but are saying very very important things to help us understand what the Kali-Yuga means even though they are totally unfamiliar with that term. I called them “unconscious prophets of the Kali-Yuga.” Karl Marx, for example! He, talking about the universe of exchange value, and Guenon, talking about The Reign of Quantity,who would have loathed each other, were both talking about the same thing from different perspectives. So what informed YUGA was not only my background in religious writing, spiritual writing, but a very much larger bibliography, a much larger range of insights contributing to our understanding of the contemporary world. And they were more down-to-earth than the metaphysicians, more compelling, more demonstrable. Neil Postman writing about amusing ourselves to death, talking about television. Theodore Roszak. There are a hell of a lot of books like that; there are tons of them as a matter of fact. There are movies about what’s going down now. You can just go to the movies and see the dystopias. Read science fiction. It isn’t as if it is a secret that something is amiss. It’s presented in so many ways in our culture; there are so many people who know in different ways, different languages, different terminologies, that something is wrong. The Coen Brothers, and many other film-makers, certainly know. That body of knowledge became a very important part of YUGA. Cosmology, the four stages or the four yugas, is a form with no content. I was able to document the cyclical argument or prophecy simply by examining our daily lives.

    I am saying that it’s common knowledge that there is something pro-foundly wrong. I am happy about YUGA because it talks to people about their own lives, their lived experience. They can recognize themselves. It’s standard procedure now to contrast modern society with traditional societies, to help us understand the alternative ways of being human. Did Native Americans need more information? They did not have computers! What a terrible fate! No information! (laughter). But they had something more important than information. The traditional societies knew that there was a God, knew that there was a divinity behind this world. They had something that we have sadly lost. I talk about that of course in YUGA, but it’s almost a truism, it’s a cliché; people know that that there was something pure and wonderful about the way those people lived. They were not perfect, we are always human. There’s a great formulation by Seyyed Hossein Nasr: “The traditional worlds were essentially good with accidental evil, and the modern world is essentially evil with accidental good.”2 (laughter) I always thought that that was a brilliant summary. And yet, and yet, it’s still an oversimplification!

    2 S.H. Nasr, “What Is Tradition?” in Knowledge and the Sacred (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989),

    SBS: A core point that you make is that: “Kali-Yuga: The Age of Wrong Diagnosis”.3 Could you say more?

    MG: (Laughter) Yes, that’s certainly true, because while people know that something is wrong here, the diagnosis is always wrong; they can’t figure out what it is. The true diagnosis begins with the assumption that humanity is a spiritual entity, that we have strayed from our primordial spiritual identity, that the criteria which determine our collective behavior do not originate in that identity. We say this is the problem or that’s the problem and that’s what we have to do, scientist can handle this problem, technology will take care of these problems. But there is something much deeper that’s wrong, the whole of humanity has gone astray. And yet even this analysis is at fault because it assumes that something can be done, that a collective reorientation is possible. I think we have to simply say that what’s happening, the Kali-Yuga, is inevitable, illusory and providential. Those three descriptive adjec-tives all at once: they compose, I believe, an insight into the truth of the thing. Which means that only individual spiritual realization is the medicine. That’s why the subtitle to YUGA is “A Companion to Spiritual Practice.” It can be summed up this way: “In these times a spiritual path is an ark. The great task is to make the flood visible.” Which is exactly what I tried to do in YUGA.

    I just read yesterday or a few days ago something that was dispiriting to me. In the Pacific Ocean there’s a huge patch of garbage as big as the state of Texas, or two states of Texas, that will never go away. Plastic, plastic stuff. You hear about irreversible things like that, the extinction of creatures, desertification, irreversible ecological disasters, and you realize how incredibly significant it is.

    I have always been a storyteller for children, all my life, for my own children and my grandchildren. A few months ago I told my grandchil-dren a story about a place where all the animals who were extinct are all still alive, a quest story. First I showed them pictures from my bird book of certain birds that were now extinct and told them that there was a place where they were all still alive. In the story they go on a quest and find the place, and the story ends in great joy. 3 Marty Glass, “Last Chapter, End of the Book” in Yuga:An Anatomy of Our Fate (Hillsdale,NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004), p. 323.

    The extinction of species is genocide, a terrible thing documented exhaustively in the National Geographic magazine. It isn’t as if humanity is deliberately malevolent. People are concerned about the extinction of species, deplore and lament it. They sense that it’s an enormously significant thing. But the powers, the forces that are making it happen, the vast impersonal elemental economic forces that are controlling global affairs and making these things happen are autonomous. Nobody wants it to happen, but it happens anyway.

    SBS: The spiritual doctrines and methods of the world’s reli-gions originate in what is non-human and beyond the contingen-cies of the physical world, known as Nirguna Brahman (beyond qualities) or Paramatma (Supreme Self) in the Hindu tradition. There are nonetheless certain spiritual practices which are said to be more effective in the different phases of the yuga. Could you speak more about the current age known as the Kali-Yuga in Eastern cosmology or the Iron Age in Western cosmology and what has been ascribed as the most beneficial spiritual practice for our times?

    MG: I discuss that in the Introduction to Eastern Light in Western Eyes (2003), in rather exhaustive detail. We are told that in the Kali-Yuga the practice is the Invocation of the Holy Name. Mantra repetition, a mantra, the Holy Name. This is understood in the Buddhist tradition, Islamic tradition and in the Christian tradition…

    The teaching that God is present in his name is true. “Hallowed be thy Name” we find in the Lord’s Prayer, in Latin sanctificetur nomen tuum. Of course, it isn’t as if anybody can say the Name and the Pres-ence will be affirmed in direct experience. There has to be preparation for this, and devotion. After that evening I read about mantra practice of the Holy Name in many places. The very last chapter in Whitall N. Perry’s book Treasury of Traditional Wisdom (1971) is Invocation of the Holy Name. He gave it that dignity, that prestige, by preserving it for the final chapter. You must feel and know it to be true that All I have is thy Name. You must feel and know it to be true that I have nothing in this world except the name of God and that’s everything. Feel it and know it and rejoice in it. There is a Hindu story about the chintamani stone illustrating precisely that truth.

    SBS: In your book Eastern Light in Western Eyes you discuss the challenges of the path in a time where there is much confu-sion, if not subversion of the dharma, leading seekers astray. You present the topic of spiritual guidance for those that have no human guide underscoring the important role that books currently play. Could you elaborate on this important matter that many seekers must tackle whether they are looking for a guide or not?

    MG: That’s a very important question, and I am aware that my par-ticular story is in no way representative. The fact that I could, without a teacher, without being part of a sangha or a group, learn what I have learned and become what I have become is very much a minority thing. I am atypical.

    Most people in these times want a teacher; they want to be part of a group of some kind. These groups exist. The public consciousness, the public world is atheistic. But there are many seekers because at the very time when a Divine Reality is denied there is consequently an experienced emptiness in people—not in everyone, of course, but in many—and they seek it with even greater fervor. People are desperate for some kind of meaning in their lives, some kind of durable meaning.

    And there are many charlatans out there, of course. There is an endless, inexhaustible, kaleidoscopic and brilliantly conceived catalogue of mis-direction that people will be offered as a spiritual solution. Something to alleviate the subterranean malaise. The ingenuity of charlatans and fakers in these times is something which should be celebrated! There should be operas written about it! They are successful because the longing is desperate. And it cannot be denied that many, probably the majority, of the teachers offering specious answers to spiritual seekers are themselves sincere. That happens. The funny thing is that almost every answer will have something true in it, something that rings true. The complexity here is quite ramified, to say the least.

    I have heard it said that there are three million practicing Buddhist claimants in the United States now, people who have not been able to find an answer in Christianity or Judaism. There are Buddhists all over the place, Buddhism is very big thing, and it’s a wonderful thing, and though some of the Buddhism that is given to people is western therapy laced with Buddhism, it still works on some level and we must be grateful. People do find some kind of solace, some kind of meaning, some kind of comfort for them when they deal with tragedy or the rigors of life. The word yoga can mean literally anything! That’s happening all over the place. All of this potpourri is being dished out and all of these answers are offered to people, by all sorts of people, and that is a good thing: it characterizes the yuga.

    I know a lot of people whose Buddhism is not as rigorous as Buddhism really is, but it gives them something, it gives them something to hold onto. There are people who, on the other hand, will turn to the computer in the morning as if to some sort of deliverance: “I’m online, I’m okay—I’m real!” There are millions of people who feel that way, and of course they’re deceived. The seduction of technology in these times merits, and indeed has received, an entire bibliography. Not to mention the Supreme Seduction, the Supreme False Answer: Shopping! There are seekers everywhere, people who are seeking, looking for happiness in some way in this empty world that doesn’t offer them anything enduring.

    This is not to imply that things can be turned around; the direction is going to be what it is. But there is a kind of mercy that’s offered to people in these times. There’s a phrase I remember from Mircea Eliade; we live in what he called “the descending trajectory of the [cosmic] cycle,”4 and he suggested that in a way it’s a privilege to live in this time because you can see it, you can see it happening, and that itself is a kind of wisdom: to be able to perceive what is going on in the yuga. To see it is a privilege, a privileged position from which we can see the curtain coming down, we can see the whole thing, and we must still love the world while this is happening. The last part of YUGA, you will see, is a celebration. You are saved if you can just “Love one another as

    I have loved you.”5 Those are the words, the teaching, of our Savior. You can still do that on an individual basis. You can extricate yourself. Love one another, love the world, love the beauty of creation, love the glory of God. Love your existence. “I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known: so I created the world.” (Hadith qudsi)

    4 Mircea Eliade, “Destiny and History” in The Myth of the Eternal Return: Or, Cosmos and History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 131.

    5 John 13:34

    I remember in YUGA I talk about the distinction between historical humanity and eternal humanity. Very important. The yuga is the direc-tion of history, the collective movement in the dream of time, and it’s a one way trip. But within that collective movement, and to the degree that you can disengage yourself from history, humanity is eternal and divine, imago dei, God is present in every soul all the time, even here in the Kali-Yuga. It isn’t as if God has abandoned us—which is, of course, inconceivable. He is present in every individual soul. You can and should rise above this as individuals, rise above this “descending trajectory,» this one way trip, and still celebrate the whole thing. It’s glorious!

    I remember I once got a letter from Seyyed Hossein Nasr and he said to me, “Nothing can separate us from God.» The yuga, everything that Schuon talks about or that Guénon talks about, the whole trip, has ultimately no power over us as individuals. “Nothing can separate us from God.» There’s a passage, I think, in one of the epistles of Paul that says something like that too. So when you try to talk about this incredible business in a way it’s over our heads. Something is happening, there’s no doubt about it, yet at the same time nothing is happening: nothing can remove the core of divinity in every human being, nothing can extinguish it, nothing can erase the miracle of human birth. We are made in His Image, theomorphic, deiform, all of us, every single person, even in the Kali-Yuga, and nothing can change that. In a way the only answer to all of this, the way I ended YUGA because I didn’t want to end it with a feeling of doom, which would have been a profound misreading, is with the celebration of each individual: “Love one and other as I have loved you.» Love the world! You can still fulfill the promise of human birth, even now.

    I wanted to make that clear. And what I’m about to say may sound like a bit of a digression, but I don’t think it is. There was something about the Traditionalists that I characterized as a punitive elitism. Simply and baldly put, I felt that the Traditionalists didn’t really love people. I felt they blamed the victim in some way and I wanted to counter that. I have known a lot of people who aren’t religious specifically, but they’re wonderful people—maybe even as wonderful as the traditional­ist writers!—and what their fate is in the eyes of God we don’t know. People I love, people who have love in their hearts. There is as I have insisted, a divine presence in everyone. There was a divine presence in Mick when he died. In a way it’s not totally bad news; as Nasr said in his letter, “Nothing can separate us from God.” And so this “descending trajectory” of cosmic time, the Kali-Yuga, while it undeniably has a certain power, cannot defeat us as individuals. I refer someplace to “the eternal magnetism of heaven.” I wanted that to come across in YUGA.

    SBS: Would you say that the sophia perennis or the perennial philosophy provides the theoretical core underpinning all of your work?

    MG: What I learned from traditionalism, what I learned from those magnificent incomparably brilliant writers, has informed my writing. In my spiritual practice it means something, I suppose, but very little, really nothing compared to what the Bhagavad-Gita means, nothing compared to what the actual Holy Writ, the scripture in the tradition says to me. I find that now that I’m not writing anymore I almost never read any traditionalist literature. I gave almost my entire religious library away. I gave it to the second hand bookstore in Garberville. I kept only the books that still spoke to me, and they’re all books within the Hindu tradition, almost all of them. I think I kept two books by Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts (1953) and maybe one other. But I rarely ever look at them. They were important to me as a writer in understanding the “transcendent unity of religions,” however you want to put it. That central priceless contribution of the traditionalist writers was indispensable to me as a writer, but in terms of my practice I don’t need them anymore than anyone else practicing the religion of India would need them. You do not require the “transcendent unity” teaching of traditionalism to practice a religion. Traditionalism is not a Path.

    When this question comes up, I always employ the analogy of music. If you’re a musician you play some instrument. If you don’t play any instrument you’re not a musician. That’s your religion: some particular instrument. You don’t say that the other musical instruments are not musical instruments; they’re all musical instruments. You play the base and the other guy plays the horn. It’s that way with the religions. You understand that all of these instruments are music. Or all these styles: jazz is music, rock and roll is music, classical music, rhythm and blues, country western, they’re all music. There’s one instrument you play, one style that speaks to you. If you’re a jazz musician that doesn’t mean that the other styles aren’t music. I always point out that they are all the same kind of thing, it’s all music, and you perform one instrument or you’re in one particular musical tradition, but the others are just different kinds of music but still music. I would use that analogy of musical instruments or musical style to explain that they’re all valid, but you play one. It’s really true in music: if you’re going to be a musician it’s very very rare that you’re going to be able to master more than one instrument, very rare; it’s usually in one instrument that you find the whole truth of music. You find the whole of music in your one instrument. You find the whole truth of religion in the religion you practice.

    SBS: You have also mentioned that there are no essential dif-ferences between the margas or paths of knowledge or jnana and devotion or bhakti, which has been confirmed by preemi-nent exponents of Advaita Vedanta, the foremost expression of Hindu spirituality (i.e. Sri Ramana Maharshi). Could you say more about this?

    MG: I discuss that at great length in the Introduction to Eastern Light in Western Eyes. These are both orthodox paths, both traditional, two paths that lead up to the same mountain top. I believe that for me in my last moments it’s going to be bhakti. The love of God is what’s going to sustain me more than identity with an Impersonal Absolute. But who really knows? I can only say that I always come back to the love of God—tasting the sugar rather than being the sugar, as it’s put. I’ll always come back to tasting the sugar. But as I said, who knows? Lately Kashmir Saivism has been speaking loud and clear to me!

    SBS: You describe yourself as a “down-to-earth” person, wanting to make your books more readily accessible to wider audiences outside the current “Perennialist” or “Traditionalist” readership. Could you perhaps articulate as to why you think this is important to the contemporary era and also why these writings are so challenging to the psychology of present-day readers?

    MG: Guénon, Coomaraswamy and Schuon are not easy to read. Nobody I’ve known in my life is ever going to be able to read Coomaraswamy or any of those people. Only a very small microscopic percentage of the human race is ever going to be able to read these guys. There are passages in Coomaraswamy, who was fluent in six languages, that he doesn’t bother to translate. Who the hell is going to read this stuff? I have never suggested the traditionalist writers to anyone, and I never will. Those books are for a very small microscopic group of people.

    In my own writing I have been fortunate to have absorbed the traditionalist writings with inexpressible gratitude, but I’m trying to address a much wider audience. YUGA itself is not that easy a book, but my other books are. I try to get across some of the basic “hits” in the traditionalist archive, pithy stuff, quick jabs. But in my writing, it’s more in the style of the prose, the voice, the sensibility, the language, the feel, than in metaphysical vocabulary that I have tried to transmit something of the “transcendent unity.”

    SBS: For readers which are unaware of your recent and final book: The Woodrat Chronicles which you refer to as the mag­num opus of your life’s work, would you mind elucidating the central story and message of this work that you have called a spiritual allegory as it does not fit into the typical genre of the perennialist lore?

    MG: In all of the things I’ve written, as I’ve been saying throughout, I address a wider audience than the Traditionalists, but The Woodrat Chronicles addresses everybody. My grandson, eight years old, is doing a book report on it. He’s eight years old and he can read it. My adult friends, my age, who’ve read it, have laughed throughout and cried at the end, as I did. It has, to say the least, a broad appeal. I don’t know what’s going to happen to it. At this moment it’s on an editor’s desk at HarperCollins. I’ve sort of put it from my mind; whatever happens, happens. I sometimes feel a certain frustration because that book is so funny and so warm and so full of love, so accessible. It’s written on two levels, for children and for adults. It’s a voice that was born in me. Maybe somebody will discover it someday; maybe my kids will take care of it. I’ve made a complete tape of it. I’ve recorded the whole thing on a recorder that my son gave me and he plays it over the radio in Ukiah on a little radio program he does there with his wife. As I said, I originally wrote that book only for my children. The names of the characters are Lifeboat, Joyride, Masquerade, Karma, Wilderness and Smithsonian. L.J.K.M.W.S. My five children and my son-in-law are: Loren, Julie, Katie, Meagan, Will and Steve. But when I finished it I realized it was for more than my children. It’s for everyone. My only book written for everyone. Maybe they’ll decide to take a chance with it at HarperCollins.The Woodrat Chronicles here Free Download

    Marty Glass’s Books:

    Heartbeats of Hinduism: Living the Truth of the Immortal Dharma (San Rafael, CA: Sophia Perennis, 2008)

    Yuga:An Anatomy of Our Fate (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004)

    Eastern Light in Western Eyes: A Portrait of the Practice of Devotion (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2003)

    Sandstone Papers: On the Crisis of Contemporary Life (first edition, Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1986; second edition, Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2005)

    The idea of the Labyrinth

    • The Idea of the Labyrinth from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages

    by Penelope Reed Doob

    Ancient and medieval labyrinths embody paradox, according to Penelope Reed Doob. Their structure allows a double perspective—the baffling, fragmented prospect confronting the maze-treader within, and the comprehensive vision available to those without. Mazes simultaneously assert order and chaos, artistry and confusion, articulated clarity and bewildering complexity, perfected pattern and hesitant process. In this handsomely illustrated book, Doob reconstructs from a variety of literary and visual sources the idea of the labyrinth from the classical period through the Middle Ages.

    Doob first examines several complementary traditions of the maze topos, showing how ancient historical and geographical writings generate metaphors in which the labyrinth signifies admirable complexity, while poetic texts tend to suggest that the labyrinth is a sign of moral duplicity. She then describes two common models of the labyrinth and explores their formal implications: the unicursal model, with no false turnings, found almost universally in the visual arts; and the multicursal model, with blind alleys and dead ends, characteristic of literary texts. This paradigmatic clash between the labyrinths of art and of literature becomes a key to the metaphorical potential of the maze, as Doob’s examination of a vast array of materials from the classical period through the Middle Ages suggests. She concludes with linked readings of four “labyrinths of words”: Virgil’s Aeneid, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Chaucer’s House of Fame, each of which plays with and transforms received ideas of the labyrinth as well as reflecting and responding to aspects of the texts that influenced it.

    Doob not only provides fresh theoretical and historical perspectives on the labyrinth tradition, but also portrays a complex medieval aesthetic that helps us to approach structurally elaborate early works. Readers in such fields as Classical literature, Medieval Studies, Renaissance Studies, comparative literature, literary theory, art history, and intellectual history will welcome this wide-ranging and illuminating book. Read here

    Introduction: Charting the Maze Introduction: Charting the Maze (pp. 1-14) Anicent and medieval labyrinths or mazes (the words have different etymologies but mean the same thing) are characteristically double. They are full of ambiguity, their circuitous design prescribes a constant doubling back, and they fall into two distinct but related structural categories. They presume a double perspective: maze-treaders, whose vision ahead and behind is severely constricted and fragmented, suffer confusion, whereas maze-viewers who see the pattern whole, from above or in a diagram, are dazzled by its complex artistry.

    • CHAPTER ONE The Literary Witness: Labyrinths in Pliny, Virgil, and Ovid By the time of juvenal (ca. 60-131 A. D.), “that thingummy in the Labyrinth” and “the flying carpenter” who built it were the stock in trade of hack poets, and references to the labyrinth and its associated myth abound in classical literature. Of the many writers who treated the subject, three are particularly important, not merely because of their stature in their own age but also because they defined the labyrinth for early Christian and medieval writers, establishing a rich storehouse of labyrinthine characteristics and associations and laying the groundwork for the literal and metaphorical mazes of later literature.
    • CHAPTER TWO The Labyrinth as Significant Form: Two Paradigms Chapter 1 examined the major classical texts that defined and transmitted the physical facts and narrative implications of the labyrinth to later ages. A recurrent theme in that discussion was the maze’s inherent duality as the embodiment of simultaneous artistry and confusion, order and chaos, product and process, depending on the observer’s (or the writer’s) point of view. So far, we have looked at the principle of labyrinthine duality chiefly as it manifests itself within the written tradition, although allusions have been made to the contrasting witness of the visual arts. Now it is time to expand our understanding
    • CHAPTER THREE A Taxonomy of Metaphorical Labyrinths In chapter 1, the literary tradition of the labyrinth defined by Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny suggested the inherent and convertible duality of the maze as monument of admirable artistic complexity and cause of subjective confusion. Chapter 2 approached labyrinthine duality from a complementary perspective, using the conflict between two persistent paradigms, the multicursal maze of literature and the unicursal maze of art, as a means to identify the essential characteristics and formal implications of classical and medieval mazes. These essential characteristics define the maze as a complicated artistic structure with a circuitous and ambiguous design whose confusing toils are intended.
    • CHAPTER FOUR Etymologies and Verbal Implications As Part One examined the idea of the labyrinth in classical and early Christian times, exploring typically labyrinthine dualities, establishing the maze’s essential characteristics, and surveying the range of metaphors generated by those characteristics, so Part Two traces the labyrinth’s medieval metamorphoses from Isidore of Seville (560-636) to the late fifteenth century. As in Part One, the discussion here is thematic and selective rather than chronological or all-inclusive: there is no significant, temporally linked development of the labyrinth within the period, and listing every labyrinth reference would be tedious even if it were possible.
    • CHAPTER FIVE Mazes in Medieval Art and Architecture In the medieval period even more than in classical and early Christian times, the idea of the labyrinth depends on visual as well as verbal witnesses. Interrelationships between art and the written word can vary greatly. The two witnesses may be virtually independent in status if not in inspiration: an unnamed turf-maze adorns an English field, for instance, or an account of the Cretan myth exists in manuscript with no illuminations and no clear indebtedness to any visual model. Frequently, however, the visual and the verbal interact.
    • CHAPTER SIX Moral Labyrinths in Medieval Literature the medieval visual arts typically stress the artistic labor involved in the domus daedali as an artifact in bono, many literary texts, influenced by the context of the Cretan myth, take the labor intus completely or partially in malo. The labyrinth becomes preeminently a temptation to moral error, an emblem of the world as an almost inextricable occasion of sin. Medieval meanings of error, reflected in vernacular cognates, suggest many pejorative possibilities, all of which we will encounter: instability and incertitude; sin; madness ; false opinion or culpable ignorance; heresy ; a straying from the right path.
    • CHAPTER SEVEN Textual Labyrinths: Toward a Labyrinthine Aesthetic .The previous chapter looked at labyrinths in medieval texts; now we turn to a broader subject: the text, and the complex intellectual processes related to its creation and reception, as labyrinth. The essential qualities of the labyrinth, defined in Chapter 2, remain the basis of these speculations on the inherent labyrinthicity of much medieval literature and literary theory. A text that is wellconstructed according to medieval theories of rhetoric is, as we will see, often very like a maze: it is an ornate, highly complicated work of art, elegantly ordered by interwoven parts comprising an admirable whole.
      • In Part Three, we rise above the labor of reconstructing the idea of the labyrinth to more expansive regions and trace the grand tradition oflabyrinthine texts from Virgil’s Aeneid through Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and Dante’s Divine Comedy to Chaucer’s House of Fame. Each of these texts reflects and redefines the received idea of the labyrinth, transmitting it, enriched, to later ages and particularly to later authors in the continuous tradition here represented: Boethius knew Virgil, Dante followed boldly in the footsteps of both Virgil and Boethius, and Chaucer apologetically rewrote Virgil, Boethius, and Dante in the House of Fame.
      • CHAPTER EIGHT Virgil’s Aeneid The Aeneid, one of the most influential works of western literature, is the earliest major example of truly labyrinthine literature : it includes explicit images of the maze and references to its myth, employs a labyrinthine narrative structure, and embodies themes associated with the idea of the labyrinth (as defined in previous chapters).¹ Although the importance of the labyrinth in Books 5 and 6 has not gone unnoticed,² the full extent and significance of labyrinthine imagery and ideas in the Aeneid have not yet been explored.
      • CHAPTER NINE Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy If Virgil bequeathed to the Middle Ages a pessimistic pagan example of the highest labyrinthine artistry, the Christian Boe thius, working in the labyrinthine tradition of the classical and early Christian authors considered in Chapter , used the received idea of the labyrinth in an optimistic theodicy demonstrating that what appears to be a labyrinthine world of random confusion and injustice is in fact, with the proper perspective, a manifestation of the cosmic order created by divine providence.
    • CHAPTER TEN Dante’sDivine Comedy The literature of Christian conversion is labyrinthine by nature : converts, whose very name implies a purposeful change in direction, turn from false ways to true ones and from a disoriented, blind pursuit of false goods to an often circuitous quest for the right goal, in light of which previous paths seem chaotic and futile. Conversion and persistence in the new path come by grace, not solely by will or intellect, so converts must have supernatural aid. Their way may be twisted by error and complicated by impediments, delays, and backslidings; converts must retrace their steps to avoid danger.
    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Chaucer’s House of Fame Fame This book has examined many examples of labyrinthine literature: works that discuss labyrinths, explore their metaphorical potential, use them as central images, or entail a labyrinthine experience by hero, narrator, and reader. We have seen how three masterpieces-Virgil’s Aeneid, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, and Dante’s Divine Comedy—represent a self-consciously continuous expression of the idea of the labyrinth in western literature. Chaucer’s House of Fame is slighter than its three self-avowed labyrinthine models, but this sparkling tour de force may be the most comprehensive (if not comprehensible) and creative culmination imaginable of the medieval labyrinth tradition, and hence a fitting…
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    The Labyrinthos Archive

    • Founded by Jeff and Kimberly Saward in 2000, Labyrinthos provides a resource for the study of mazes and labyrinths. With an extensive photographic & illustration library and archive, we offer professional maze and labyrinth consultation and services for researchers, designers, students, writers & publishers. We endeavour to help you navigate your way thought this labyrinthine subject, whatever your specific path. see website
    • Labyrinthos also publishes Caerdroia – the Journal of Mazes & Labyrinths, founded in 1980 by Jeff Saward. The world’s only specialist journal researching and documenting the history, development and distribution of mazes and labyrinths, from the earliest rock carvings and artefacts to modern puzzle mazes of ever increasing complexity.

    Gilles of Binche: Jester of Wisdom, a St George or traditional hero for our times

    The Carnival of Binche is an annual event in the Belgian town of Binche during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the best known of several that take place in Wallonia, Belgium, at the same time. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century, and since 2003, it is recognised as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.[3]

    The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras), the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men.

    From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evil spirits with sticks.] Later during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich feathers, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession] The vigour and longevity of the orange-throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this. The oranges are considered good luck because they are a gift from the Gilles and it is an insult to throw them back.

    The Gilles is the best example of a character as St Georges: A Hero dying and living again each year due to the divine Greenness (Viriditas) of a Spring Rejuvenation ritual

    When we begin to look at some of the other elements of the George myth a completely different picture begins to emerge. One of the most telling clues to the genuine mystery behind the George phenomenon is in the name itself.

    The word begins and ends with the root Ge. This is one of the oldest words known, occurring in Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek and Indo-European languages. It means Earth. Everyday words still in common use such as Ge-ology or Ge-ography show how persistent this root has been over at least the last six thousand years.

    The etymology of George thus appears to show that he may originally have been an Earth-God connected with fertility, whose widespread worship in the ancient world was absorbed by Constantine’s attempts to make early Christianity into an all-inclusive religion that would become a vehicle for Roman bureaucracy. To reinforce this view the Greek translation of the name means ‘Earth-worker’ or ‘Tiller of the soil’.

    In the Golden legend :

    George is said of geos, which is as much to say as earth, and orge that is tilling. So George is to say as tilling the earth, that is his flesh. And St. Austin saith, in Libro de Trinitate that, good earth is in the height of the mountains, in the temperance of the valleys, and in the plain of the fields. The first is good for herbs being green, the second to vines, and the third to wheat and corn.

    Thus the blessed George was high in despising low things, and therefore he had verdure in himself, he was attemperate by discretion, and therefore he had wine of gladness, and within he was plane of humility, and thereby put he forth wheat of good works.

    Or George may be said of gerar, that is holy, and of gyon, that is a wrestler, that is an holy wrestler, for he wrestled with the dragon.

    Or George is said of gero, that is a pilgrim, and gir, that is detrenched out, and ys, that is a councillor. He was a pilgrim in the sight of the world, and he was cut and detrenched by the crown of martyrdom, and he was a good councillor in preaching.

    And his legend is numbered among other scriptures apocryphal in the council of Nicene, because his martyrdom hath no certain relation. For in the calendar of Bede it is said that he suffered martyrdom in Persia in the city of Diaspolin, and in other places it is read that he resteth in the city of Diaspolin which tofore was called Lidda, which is by the city of Joppa or Japh. And in another place it is said that he suffered death under Diocletian and Maximian, which that time were emperors. And in another place under Diocletian emperor of Persia, being present seventy kings of his empire. And it is said here that he suffered death under Dacian the provost, then Diocletian and Maximian being emperors. see more ST. GEORGE, MARTYR

    • Folklores of province of HainautBelgium

    In the Golden legend, printed in English in 1230 it contained a detail of St George’s career that had strangely hitherto gone unmentioned in the voluminous annals of the saint’s life. Almost a thousand years after his supposed death George was to become famous all over the world for what was his most fabulous exploit of all—the slaying of a dragon. And the folklores of Hainaut are very found of it.

    The three-day Carnival of Binche, near Mons, is one of the best known in Belgium. It takes place around Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) just before Lent (the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter). Performers known as Gilles wear elaborate costumes in the national colours of red, black and yellow. During the parade, they throw oranges at the crowd.

    • The Doudou

    The Ducasse de Mons, also commonly known as Doudou, is a popular festival that happens every year on Trinity Sunday (57 days after Easter) in the town of Mons in Belgium. The feast comprises two important parts: the procession, including the descent and the uprising of the Saint Waltrude’s Shrine, as well as the combat named Lumeçon between Saint George and a dragon.

    The feast begins from the Saturday before Trinity Sunday to the next Sunday. As an eight-day festival with a specific liturgy, it can be called an octave.

    The Procession

    The descent of the shrine takes place on the Saturday evening. During a religious ceremony, the shrine is taken down from its altar. The priest gives the shrine (kept all year in the Collegiate Church of St. Waudru) to the town authorities for the duration of the festival. Then a procession with torches begins in the streets of the town.

    On the morning of Trinity Sunday, the shrine is placed on the Car d’Or (“Golden Chariot“), which is a gilded dray, and the procession begins. The Car d’Or is pulled through the streets by draft horses. The carriage is accompanied by several guilds that represent the history of the region. At the end of the procession, the Car d’Or has to climb a steep, cobblestone street, the Rampe Sainte-Waudru. To help the horses with the immense weight, hundreds of people gather behind to push. Local superstition holds that if the Car d’Or does not reach the top of the hill in one go, the city will suffer great misfortune. This happened in 1803, due to the French Revolution, as well as in 1914 and in 1940, just prior to the two world wars.

    At the end of the week, the shrine is returned to its rightful place in the church with great ceremony.

    The game of Saint George

    This game is played on the Trinity Sunday between 12:30 (p.m.) and 13:00 (1 p.m.). It represents the fight between Saint George (the good) and the dragon (the evil). The fight is called Lumeçon. This name comes from the old French name Limaçon (old French name meaning a spectacle with horses that made circular movements.)

    The combat happens on the Grand Place of Mons. The length of the dragon is about 10 metres (33 ft). The end of his tail is covered with horses’ hairs (mane). The dragon is displaced with the help of the white men (French: Hommes blancs). Saint George is protected by the Chinchins who represent dogs. The dragon is helped by the devils (French: Les diables). Each devil is armed with a cow bladder full of air (the balloon in the past before plastic had been developed). With this weapon, they knock the Chinchins and the public that are placed all around the arena. The dragon attacks Saint George with his tail. The dragon also attacks the public. So the public is also an important participant in the fight. People try to take the mane of the tail because it is said to bring luck for a year. Finally, there are also the Leaf men (French: Hommes de feuilles) that are covered with real leaves of ivy. They help the dragon by defending and supporting his tail.

    The combat is precisely choreographed. Saint George on his horse turns clockwise, and the dragon turns in the other direction (this is a reference to good versus evil). Saint George tries to kill the dragon with his lance but the lance always breaks on contacting the dragon’s skin. Saint George uses a pistol and finally kills the dragon on the third try. At 13:00 (1 p.m.), the participants leave the square, people rush into the arena to find the last lucky manes which have fallen on the ground. And the carillon of Mons rings.

    The Pucelette Procession of Wasmes

    The procession is one of the most important festivals in the Borinage and the Mons region. Every Pentecost Monday, Wasmes (commune of Colfontaine) organizes a procession and a tour of the village to commemorate an ancient legend.

    According to tradition, the Pucelette procession has its origins in a 12th century legend. According to this legend, around 1130, a monstrous beast (probably a dragon), which had its lair in the marshes of Wasmes, sowed fear in the Borinage. It attacks everything that comes its way and devours its victims. One day, the lord and knight Gilles de Chin learns of the existence of this monster who is said to have seized a little girl from Wasmes, a 4 or 5 year old “flea”, whom he would hold captive in his lair. He invokes Our Lady before undertaking his expedition and asks her to guide him to free this little girl. Sure of his victory, he sets off. He heads for the Haine Marshes where the dragon is.

    • Parade of giants in Ath

    Each summer, the small town of Ath holds a procession known as the Ducasse (or Parade of Giants). The procession, which traces its origins to the Middle Ages, commemorates the marriage of two giants (Monsieur and Madame Gouyasse or Goliath). A mock ceremony is held in a church, and afterward, the giant fights a shepherd David, in front of the town hall.[5] Onlookers throw coins at the effigies of the giants as they pass for good luck.[5] It is clear that the Christian story of David and Goliath was influential to this festival.

    Goliath is here the Dragon :

    And David: the hero destroying Evil

    • Carnival

    The word Carnival is of Christian origin, and in the Middle Ages, it referred to a period following Epiphany season that reached its climax before midnight on Shrove Tuesday] British historian John Bossy, in writing on the origin of the practices during Carnival, states that “These were, despite some appearances, Christian in character, and they were medieval in origin: although it has been widely supposed that they continued some kind of pre-Christian cult, there is in fact no evidence that they existed much before 1200.” Because Lent was a period of fasting, “Carnival therefore represented a last period of feasting and celebration before the spiritual rigors of Lent.” Meat was plentiful during this part of the Christian calendar and it was consumed during Carnival as people abstained from meat consumption during the following liturgical season, Lent. In the last few days of Carnival, known as Shrovetide, people confessed (shrived) their sins in preparation for Lent as well. In 1605, a Shrovetide play spoke of Christians who painted their faces to celebrate the season:

    What, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica:
    Lock up my doors, and when you hear the drum
    And the vile squealing of the wry-nck’d fife,
    Clamber not you up o the casements then,
    Nor thrust your head into the public street
    To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces.]

    From an anthropological point of view, carnival is a reversal ritual, in which social roles are reversed and norms about desired behavior are suspended.[19][20]

    Winter was thought of as the reign of the winter spirits; these needed to be driven out in order for the summer to return. Carnival can thus be regarded as a rite of passage from darkness to light, from winter to summer: a fertility celebration, the first spring festival of the new year.]

    Traditionally, a Carnival feast was the last opportunity for common people to eat well, as there was typically a food shortage at the end of the winter as stores ran out. Until spring produce was available, people were limited to the minimum necessary meals during this period. On what nowadays is called vastenavond (the days before fasting), all the remaining winter stores of lard, butter, and meat which were left would be eaten, for these would otherwise soon start to rot and decay. The selected livestock had already been slaughtered in November and the meat would no longer be preservable. All the food that had survived the winter had to be eaten to assure that everyone was fed enough to survive until the coming spring would provide new food sources

    Several Germanic tribes celebrated the returning of the daylight. The winter would be driven out, to make sure that fertility could return in spring. A central figure of this ritual was possibly the fertility goddess Nerthus. Also, there are some indications that the effigy of Nerthus or Freyr was placed on a ship with wheels and accompanied by a procession of people in animal disguise and men in women’s clothes. Aboard the ship a marriage would be consummated as a fertility ritual. see Schembart Carnival

    Tacitus wrote in his Germania: Germania 9.6: Ceterum nec cohibere parietibus deos neque in ullam humani oris speciem adsimulare ex magnitudine caelestium arbitrator – “The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance.” Germania 40: mox vehiculum et vestis et, si credere velis, numen ipsum secreto lacu abluitur – “Afterwards the car, the vestments, and, if you like to believe it, the divinity herself, are purified in a secret lake.”

    Traditionally, the feast also was a time to indulge in sexual desires, which were supposed to be suppressed during the following period fasting.Before Lent began, all rich food and drink were consumed in what became a giant celebration that involved the whole community, and is thought to be the origin of Carnival]

    From an anthropological point of view, carnival is a reversal ritual, in which social roles are reversed and norms about desired behavior are suspended.

    Winter was thought of as the reign of the winter spirits; these needed to be driven out in order for the summer to return. Carnival can thus be regarded as a rite of passage from darkness to light, from winter to summer: a fertility celebration, the first spring festival of the new year.

    In many Christian sermons and texts, the example of a vessel is used to explain Christian doctrine: “the nave of the church of baptism”, “the ship of Mary“, etc. The writings show that processions with ship-like carts were held and lavish feasts were celebrated on the eve of Lent or the greeting of spring in the early Middle Ages.

    The Lenten period of the liturgical calendar, the six weeks directly before Easter, was historically marked by fasting, study, and other pious or penitential practices. During Lent, no parties or celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fat, and sugar. The first three classes were often totally unavailable during this period because of late winter shortages.[31]

    While Christian festivals such as Corpus Christi were Church-sanctioned celebrations, Carnival was also a manifestation of European folk culture. In the Christian tradition, fasting is to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert, according to the New Testament, and also to reflect on Christian values. It was a time for catechumens (those converting to Christianity) to prepare for baptism at Easter.

    Mircea Eliade, historian of religions, gives us a clear explanation about Carnival and its meaning. He writes: “Any new year is a revival of time at its beginning, a repetition of the cosmogony. Ritual fights between two groups of extras, the presence of the dead, Saturnalia and orgies, are all elements which indicate that at the end of the year and in the expectation of the new year the mythical moments of the passage of chaos to the cosmogony are repeated”.[43] Eliade also writes: “Then the dead will come back, because all barriers between the dead and the living are broken (is the primordial chaos not revived?), and will come back since – at this paradoxical moment – time will be interrupted, so that the dead may be again contemporaries of the living.” Eliade stresses that people have “a deep need to regenerate themselves periodically by abolishing the elapsed time and making topical the cosmogony”.

    • The Fight Between Carnival and Lent

    The literary theme of the struggle between personifications of Lent and Shrove Tuesday dates as far back as the year 400 with the Psychomachia. The 13th Century French poem La Bataille de Caresme et de Charnage describes a symbolic battle between different foods, meat against fish.[2] A likely graphic precursor of the painting is a 1558 Frans Hogenberg print in which the personifications of lean and fat are driven together on carts by their supporters. The supporters attack each other with fish, waffles, cookies and eggs.

    Also in 1559, Bruegel produced a series of prints of the Seven Virtues, which have formal similarities: an allegorical figure, against a background with a high horizon line, is surrounded by a crowd of figures who carry out various activities related to the subject. In the same year, Bruegel painted Netherlandish Proverbs, also modelled on a print by Hogenberg. The following year he produced Children’s Games. These three works are closely related, each forming a catalogue of folk customs. The works mark the transition of Bruegel from draughtsman to the painter of grand panels for which he is now known.[3]

    The Psychomachia (Battle of Spirits or Soul War) is a poem by the Late Antique Latin poet Prudentius, from the early fifth century AD.[1] It has been considered to be the first and most influential “pure” medieval allegory, the first in a long tradition of works as diverse as the Romance of the Rose, Everyman and Piers Plowman; however, a manuscript discovered in 1931 of a speech by the second-century academic skeptic philosopher Favorinus employs psychomachia, suggesting that he may have invented the technique.[2]

    In slightly less than a thousand lines, the poem describes the conflict of vices and virtues as a battle in the style of Virgil’s Aeneid. Christian faith is attacked by and defeats pagan idolatry to be cheered by a thousand Christian martyrs. The work was extremely popular, and survives in many medieval manuscripts, 20 of them illustrated.[3] It may be the subject of wall paintings in the churches at Claverley, Shropshire, and at Pyrford, Surrey, both in England. In the early twelfth century it was a common theme for sculptural programmes on façades of churches in western France, such as Aulnay, Charente-Maritime.[4]

    The plot consists of the personified virtues of Hope, Sobriety, Chastity, Humility, etc. fighting the personified vices of Pride, Wrath, Paganism, Avarice, etc. The personifications are women because in Latin, words for abstract concepts have feminine grammatical gender; an uninformed reader of the work might take the story literally as a tale of many angry women fighting one another, because Prudentius provides no context or explanation of the allegory.[5]

    Cycle of Life and Dead

    European masked festivals and carnivals are connected with the cycle of life and death, with the cycle of nature, with the fertility of the women and the soil as well as with the human need to affirm and reaffirm every year the relation with the environment.

    • Krampus or   Spiritual  “winter”  of  the modern world

    In Catholicism, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children. His saints day falls in early December, which helped strengthen his association with the Yuletide season. Many European cultures not only welcomed the kindly man as a figure of generosity and benevolence to reward the good, but they also feared his menacing counterparts who punished the bad. Parts of Germany and Austria dread the beastly Krampus, while other Germanic regions have Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht, black-bearded men who carry switches to beat children. France has Hans Trapp and Père Fouettard. (Some of these helpers, such as Zwarte Piet in The Netherlands have attracted recent controversy.)

    Krampus’s name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.

    The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair.

    According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night of December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. The next day, December 6, is Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior). (

    The very concept of ‘folklore’ as it is commonly understood rests on the radically false idea that there exist `popular creations’, spontaneous products of the masses; and one can immediately see the close relationship between this way of looking at things and ‘democratic’ prejudices. As bas been quite rightly said, ‘the profound interest of all so-called popular traditions lies above all in the fact that they are not popular in origin’; and we would add that if, as is almost always the case, we are dealing with elements that are traditional in the true sense of the word, however deformed, diminished, or fragmentary they may sometimes be, and with things of real symbolic value, then their origin, far from being popular, is not  even human.

    What may be popular is uniquely the fact of ‘survival‘ when these elements come from traditional forms that have disappeared; and in this respect the term ‘folklore’ takes en a meaning very near to that of ‘paganism”, taking the Jatter in its etymological sense and with no polemical er abusive intent.

    The people thus preserve, without understanding them, the debris of ancient traditions sometimes even reaching back to a past toe remote to be determined and which is therefore consigned to the obscure domain of `prehistory’; and in so doing they function as a more or less ‘sub-conscious” collective memory, of which the content has manifestly come from somewhere else. (This is an essentially “lunar’ function, and it should be noted that, astrologically, the popular masses effectively correspond to the moon’, which at the same time indicates their purely passive nature, incapable of initiative or spontaneity.)

    What may seem most astonishing is that, when we go to the root of the matter, the things so conserved are found to contain in a more or less veiled form a considerable body of esoteric data, that is, what is least ‘popular’ in essence, and this fact of itself suggests an explanation that we will lay out in a few words.

    When a traditional form is on the verse of extinction, its last representatives may very well deliberately entrust to this collective memory of which we have just spoken what would otherwise be irrevocably lost. Read more…INSIGHTS INTO CHRISTIAN ESOTERISM and René Guénon

    • St George: The Art of Dragon Taming

    Paul Broadhurst in “the Green Man and the Dragon”told about the art of Taming the dragon in Britain:

    One of the best-selling books of all time was The Golden Legend, written by the Bishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine. In it he provided the medieval world with a definitive account of the lives of the saints, which everyone at the time believed to be historical facts  gleaned by his scholarship from ancient records. In reality, like so many others that were to follow down the centuries, it was a motley mix of fact and, where there were no facts, a liberal dose of fiction. There was also an agenda.But it was a formula that gripped the attention of its readers, who preferred to believe in the fabulous and miraculous exploits of their heroes, just as in Celtic times when people loved to hear of the wondrous world of giants, gods and the Land of Faery. The saints were all these, and more, for they did the work of the one true God. Read More about St George: The Art of Dragon Taming

    • Oikosophia: For we need a home where we may once again speak the language of the soul, and a language of the soul that may take us home.

    …To awaken the Functional Consciousness is to be Love, to be Unity. Qualification separates you from the water of the sea, from the stone, from the earth, from vegetation, from the amorous turtle dove, from the ferocious beast, from all human races; but all that appears outside of you is functionally within you, man of the end of a Time.

    Qualification shows you a Moslem separate from a Jew, a Buddhist, a Brahman, a Taoist, a Christian; it discusses endlessly their “philosophies” and their merits. What is your criterion, you who do not know the revelation of Knowledge? Everything in its own fashion tells you the Truth, while only Truth speaks to you openly of Redemption.

    Redemption is within us, provided we awaken the Consciousness of the function which unifies, and renders all discussion null and void. Is not Knowing more precious than seeking Learning?

    …Sophia, then: the wisdom language that unites, rather than divides. For the time of homecoming has come. At long last. Read the complete paper Oikosophia  by Daniela Boccassini

    • The masks

    We can notice two peaks in the calendar of the European masking practices : the winter festivals (or winter cycle) and the carnivals (spring cycle). The first starts on 11th November and ends at Candlemas, the second begins on Shrove Tuesday and ends after Easter. Apart from these dates, there are also festivals taking place at other periods during the year. They are, for example, connected with important moments of the Christian or Orthodox calendar.

    Both the winter feasts and the spring feasts are periods of transition considered as « suspended », out of time. Historically and symbolically speaking, these periods were regarded as favourable to the opening of a parallel world, namely hell. This explains the recurring presence of demonic characters such as Devils and Witches during these festivities.

    European masking practices are also intense moments of social regulation. The mask – as a mediating object guaranteeing anonymity – permits the reversal of the relationship between the genders as well as the reversal of power, the acting out of sexual games, the demonstration of exaggerated virility or feminity. Sometimes all kinds of excesses and socio-cultural and political parodies are authorized or encouraged during these festivities.

    Between universality and particularity

    The mask is defined as « a false face with which one hides one’s face for disguise ». Etymologically speaking, the term masca is supposed to be derived from ancient Italian languages and to stand for « hideous and evil being ». It could also come from the Arabic word maskhara (mashara) meaning « to falsify » or « to metamorphose ». The use of the terms maschera in Italian, mask in English and masque in French leads to the assumption that all terms have the same origin. The « mask » in the narrow sense denotes an object worn on the face, on the head or fitting over the entire head and which transforms its wearer’s appearance.

    However, the mask is not used in isolation. It cannot be looked at without taking into account the costume, the accessories, the music, the dance which accompany the mask or even any other element modifying its appearance (makeup, tattoos, scarifications, ornaments).

    The earliest (visual) evidence of masking practices could date back to prehistory. Prehistoric parietal and portable art, in particular from Europe and Africa, shows indeed that therianthropic figures (half man half animal) have existed for thousands of years. However, when dealing with so distant ages, we need to be cautious. It is impossible to know the (practical or symbolic) function of these « masks » or even of these representations. Although it is difficult to go back to the origins of masking practices, we can note that all around the world they have a long history. They have survived, changed and adapted themselves until our times, both in rural contexts and in urbanized and industrial environments.

    The mask is an ambiguous object. It has existed all over the world for thousands of years and is thus universal. However, it can only be comprehended in its local context. When talking about masks, we continuously vacillate between universality and particularity. The mask as a tool for transformation acts on its wearer, but also on the audience (or the public) or even on the environment. It is a mediator achieving its effectiveness through the relations it creates. Indeed, masks provide a framework within which people’s relationships with the environment, with other persons, with gender, with hierarchical structures etc. are negociated and reasserted. These relationships in turn actively participate in the construction of diverse identities ; of course ethnical, regional and national, but also religious, sexual and generational identities. Through its collections and exhibitions, the Museum tries to show these multiple faces of the mask.

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell, in which the author discussesusses his theory of the mythological structure of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world myths.

    Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. Filmmaker George Lucas acknowledged Campbell’s theory in mythology, and its influence on the Star Wars films.[1]

    The Joseph Campbell Foundation and New World Library issued a new edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces in July 2008 as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series of books, audio and video recordings. In 2011, Time named it among the 100 most influential books written in English since in 1923.[2]

    Campbell explores the theory that mythological narratives frequently share a fundamental structure. The similarities of these myths brought Campbell to write his book in which he details the structure of the monomyth. He calls the motif of the archetypal narrative, “the hero’s adventure”. In a well-known passage from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarizes the monomyth:

    A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.[3]

    In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. “The hero’s adventure” begins in the ordinary world. He must depart from the ordinary world, when he receives a call to adventure. With the help of a mentor, the hero will cross a guarded threshold, leading him to a supernatural world, where familiar laws and order do not apply. There, the hero will embark on a road of trials, where he is tested along the way. The archetypal hero is sometimes assisted by allies. As the hero faces the ordeal, he encounters the greatest challenge of the journey. Upon rising to the challenge, the hero will receive a reward, or boon. Campbell’s theory of the monomyth continues with the inclusion of a metaphorical death and resurrection. The hero must then decide to return with this boon to the ordinary world. The hero then faces more trials on the road back. Upon the hero’s return, the boon or gift may be used to improve the hero’s ordinary world, in what Campbell calls, the application of the boon.

    While many myths do seem to follow the outline of Campbell’s monomyth, there is some variance in the inclusion and sequence of some of the stages. Still, there is an abundance of literature and folklore that follows the motif of the archetypal narrative, paralleling the more general steps of “Departure” (sometimes called Separation), “Initiation”, and “Return”. “Departure” deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest, including the call to adventure. “Initiation” refers to the hero’s adventures that will test him along the way. The last part of the monomyth is the “Return”, which follows the hero’s journey home.

    Campbell studied religious, spiritual, mythological and literary classics including the stories of Osiris, Prometheus, the Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus. The book cites the similarities of the stories, and references them as he breaks down the structure of the monomyth.

    The book includes a discussion of “the hero’s journey” by using the Freudian concepts popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Campbell’s theory incorporates a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces, and Arnold van Gennep’s structuring of rites of passage rituals to provide some illumination.[4] “The hero’s journey” continues to influence artists and intellectuals in contemporary arts and culture, suggesting a basic usefulness for Campbell’s insights beyond mid-20th century forms of analysis. Read here The hero with a thousand faces

    In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero’s journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.

    Illustration of the hero’s journey

    Earlier figures had proposed similar concepts, including psychologist Otto Rank and amateur anthropologist Lord Raglan.[1] Eventually, hero myth pattern studies were popularized by Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Carl Jung’s analytical psychology. Campbell used the monomyth to analyze and compare religions. In his famous book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), he describes the narrative pattern as follows:

    A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

    Look also : Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth and Personal myths in light of our modern-day “reality”

    Traditionalism and Folklore

    Among the Traditionalists, Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon touched upon folklore, but never made an extensive study of it. And Martin Lings, in the anthology Sword of Gnosis, did a metaphysical exegesis of a Lithua folk song. That’s about the extent of the Traditionalist treatment of folklore, though Rama Coomaraswamy told me that his father Ananda had made a collection of folk songs with a view toward a metaphysical treatment of them, but never finished the project. Among Sophia Perennis titles, Cinderella’s Gold Slipper: Spiritual Symbolism in the Grimms’ Tales by Samuel Fohr deals with this neglected area, as does Tales of Nasrudin: Keys to Fulfillment by Ali Jamnia, as well as Mining, Metalurgy and the Meaning of Life: A Book of Stories by Roger Sworder.

    Ananda K. Coomaraswamy had this to say about the metaphysical dimension of folklore:

    [By] “folklore” we mean that whole and consistent body of culture which has been handed down, not in books but by word of mouth and in practice, from time beyond the reach of historical research, in the form of legends, fairy tales, ballads, games, toys,crafts, medicine, agriculture, and other rites, and forms of organization, especially those we call tribal.

    This is a cultural complex independent of national and even racial boundaries, and of remarkable similarity throughout the world. . . . The content of folklore is metaphysical.

    Our failure to recognize this is primarily due to our own abysmal ignorance of metaphysics and of doctrines are received by the people and transmitted by them.

     In its popular form, a given doctrine may not always have been understood, but so long as the formula is faithfully transmitted it remains understandable;

    “superstitions,” for the most part, are no mere delusions, but formulae of which the meaning has been forgotten. . . . We are dealing with the relics of an ancient folk metaphysics its technical terms. . . . Folklore ideas are the form in which metaphysical wisdom, as valid now as it ever was. . . . We shall only be able to understand the astounding uniformity of the folklore motifs all over the world, and the devoted care that has everywhere been taken to ensure their correct transmission, if we approach these mysteries (for they are nothing less) in the spirit in which they have been transmitted (“from the Stone Age until now”) with the confidence of little children, indeed, but not the childish self-confidence of those who hold that wisdom was born with themselves.

    The true folklorist must be not so much a psychologist as a theologian and metaphysician, if he is to “understand his material”. . . . Nor can anything be called a science of folklore, but only a collection of data, that considers only the formulae and not their doctrine. . . .

    René Guénon, who died in 1951, also dealt with the folklore as the transmission of the Primordial Tradition, in his book Symbols of the Sacred Science:

    The very conception of folklore, in the generally accepted sense of the term, is based on an idea that is radically false, the idea that there are “popular creations” spontaneously created by the mass of the people….As has been rightly said [by Luc Benoist], “the profound interest of all so-called popular traditions lies in the fact that they are not popular in origin”; and we will add that where, as is almost always the case, there is a question of elements that are traditional in the true sense of the word, however deformed, diminished and fragmentary they may be sometimes, and of things that have a real symbolic value, their origin is not even human, let alone popular.

    What may be popular is solely the fact of “survival,” when these elements belong to vanished traditional forms…. The people preserve, without understanding them, the relics of former traditions which go back sometimes to a past too remote to be dated, so that it has to be relegated to the obscure domain of the “prehistoric”; they thereby fulfill the function of a more or less subconscious collective memory, the contents of which have clearly come from elsewhere.

    What may seem most surprising is that the things so preserved are found to contain, above all, abundant information of an esoteric order, which is, in its essence, precisely what is least popular, and this fact suggests in itself an explanation, which may be summed up as follows: When a traditional form is on the point of becoming extinct, its last representatives may very well deliberately entrust to this aforesaid collective memory the things that otherwise would be lost beyond recall; that is in fact the sole means of saving what can in a certain measure be saved.

    At the same time, that lack of understanding that is one of the natural characteristics of the masses is a sure enough guarantee that what is esoteric will be nonetheless undivulged, remaining merely as a sort of witness of the past for such as, in later times, shall be capable of understanding It.

    Sundance of Native Indians and Sundance of European youth

    Look at : The Sun Dance: A Maypole of Wisdom for the 21th century and May Day, May Tree, May Pole, St george and the Dragon, wunderkreis/labyrinth, Sun Dance and Warli : “Youthfulness” with Perpetual Wisdom.

    The Mummers Play

    The mummers were costumed actors who participated in midwinter festivals in ancient and medieval Europe, largely in pantomime, though songs also formed part of the performance.

    In the Middle Ages they performed at Christmas; the tradition of the Christmas mummers in England was revived in perhaps the 18th century.

    Their plays included such motifs as the duel, death-and-resurrection, and the triumph of St. George over the dragon.

    The word “mummer,” though derived from the Greek word for “mask,” is the likely origin of the English word “mum”; to “keep mum” means “to act like a mummer, a mime”—though the word “mime” comes from the Greek mimesis, “imitation; art”, which is related to the Sanskrit maya, the magical or dramatic power by which the Absolute manifests Itself as the universe. The universe, like a mask, both veils and reveals the mystery of the Absolute Reality. The symbolism found in “Nottamun Town” also suggests that the mummers, at one point in their history, may have had some relation to the tradition of Christian Hermeticism.

    It is interesting, however, that the first two lines of stanza five, perfectly accurate in their context and entirely at one with the genius of the song, were written by Jean Ritchie herself (she tells me), following a vision she had, while walking in the woods, of the procession that appears in that stanza—proving that the ancient but always-new lore of the Primordial Tradition is transmitted by inspiration as well as memory, even if the one inspired is not entirely certain about, or necessarily even interested in, the intellectual meaning of the gift he or she has been given.

    So René Guénon’s idea that the folk act as no more than a passive receptacle for metaphysical ideas received and transmitted by the esoteric sages must clearly be supplemented by the understanding that “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth,” that artists working consciously within folk traditions can sometimes be inspired by the same Source that the sage himself also acknowledges and serves; no-one can put their copyright on Wisdom, or their brand on Truth.

    In traditional cultures, silence, like any essential human gesture, is not neutral. It indicates not simply the subjective desire not to speak, but the objective presence of a “mystery,” an initiatory secret; the Greek word for “mystery,” mysterion, is closely related to the verb myo, which means “to shut the mouth”, to “keep mum.” And to judge from “Nottamun Town,” the silence of the mummers was symbolic in precisely this sense, indicating that they were the transmitters, perhaps at one time the conscious transmitters, of mystical or alchemical lore in cryptic form.

    In any fully traditional culture there is always a give-and-take between initiatory mysteries on the one hand and popular religion and/or folklore on the other, whether or not this exchange is mediated by an established “church.”

    To take only one example, the Hindu Mahabharata may be viewed either as a mass of folklore which has collected around the core of a sophisticated literary epic, consciously designed to transmit a mystical doctrine in the guise of a semi-historical legend, or as a consciously-composed mystical epic which has drawn upon a mass of mystical and/or historical folklore for its raw material. This ambiguity and tension between the two poles of aristocratic literature and folk legend is expressed in the epic itself through the figure of the sage Vyasa, who is at once the poet who composed the Mahabharata and a character appearing within it. And this two-way flow of lore between the folk and the literati seems to have taken place in the mummer-tradition as well, where established poets would compose libretti for mummer-plays based on folk material—literary ballads which, after a generation or two, might themselves be transformed into folk songs.

    The mystical truth which is realized in the sage is virtual in the folk.

     If the folk are the field, the sage is the fruit of the tree which grows in the center of it, a fruit which, even as it takes its place in the eternal domain of God’s attributes, also cyclically returns to the field from which it grew, via its seed, to propagate wisdom.

    Note: Fulk is an old European personal name, probably deriving from the Germanic folk (“people” or “chieftain”). It is cognate with the French Foulques, the Italian Fulco and the Swedish Folke, along with other variants such as Fulke, Foulkes, Fulko, Folco, Folquet, and so on. However, the above variants are often confused with names derived from the Latin Falco (“falcon”), such as Fawkes, Falko, Falkes, and Faulques. Folquet de Marseille, fulco minstreel Fulk, King of Jerusalem

    The folk correspond to the Aristotelian materia, that which receives the imprint of forms, and the sage to forma, that which shapes or “informs” the material which allows it to appear.

     And the tree corresponds to Tradition in the sense employed by French metaphysician René Guénon: that body of spiritual Truth, lying at the core of every religious revelation and a great deal of folklore and mythology, which has always been known by the “gnostics” of the race since it is eternal in relation to human time, representing as it does the eternal design or prototype of Humanity itself.

    A traditional culture permeated by half-understood mystical lore on the folk level is a fertile matrix for the full development of the gnostic, the sagacious individual, who, by means of his darshan, his willingness to allow himself to be contemplated as a representative of spiritual Truth, returns the seed of wisdom to the folk who venerate him.

    Such a sage may also compose tales, ballads, riddles, plays, proverbs and dances impregnated with mystical lore rendered into cryptic form, which can be subconsciously assimilated by the folk without breaking the seal of the mysteries.

    A great deal of Sufi lore, for example, has been transmitted in this way. And if mystical truths may be shown to ordinary people in dreams—who will be unable to consciously understand and assimilate these truths in the absence of a traditional hermeneutic and a mystagogue who can employ it, unless God wills otherwise—then we can also say that there is a constant two-way communication between the enlightened sage and the people via the subtle realm, or between God and the people via the sage—a communication which, however, only the sage is fully conscious of. The voice of the people may be the Voice of God—vox populi vox Dei—but only the sage can hear what, precisely, this Voice is saying. See more here

    St George: The Art of Dragon Taming

    One of the best-selling books of all time was The Golden Legend, written by the Bishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine. In it he provided the medieval world with a definitive account of the lives of the saints, which everyone at the time believed to be historical facts  gleaned by his scholarship from ancient records. In reality, like so many others that were to follow down the centuries, it was a motley mix of fact and, where there were no facts, a liberal dose of fiction. There was also an agenda.But it was a formula that gripped the attention of its readers, who preferred to believe in the fabulous and miraculous exploits of their heroes, just as in Celtic times when people loved to hear of the wondrous world of giants, gods and the Land of Faery. The saints were all these, and more, for they did the work of the one true God.

    Printed in English in 1230 it contained a detail of St George’s career that had strangely hitherto gone unmentioned in the voluminous annals of the saint’s life. Almost a thousand years after his supposed death George was to become famous all over the world for what was his most fabulous exploit of all—the slaying of a dragon. Read more here

    The Green Man, St George and the Dragon Power of Nature

    When we begin to look at some of the other elements of the George myth a completely different picture begins to emerge. One of the most telling clues to the genuine mystery behind the George phenomenon is in the name itself.

    The word begins and ends with the root Ge. This is one of the oldest words known, occurring in Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek and Indo-European languages. It means Earth. Everyday words still in common use such as Ge-ology or Ge-ography show how persistent this root has been over at least the last six thousand years.

    The etymology of George thus appears to show that he may originally have been an Earth-God connected with fertility, whose widespread worship in the ancient world was absorbed by Constantine’s attempts to make early Christianity into an all-inclusive religion that would become a vehicle for Roman bureaucracy. To reinforce this view the Greek translation of the name means ‘Earth-worker’ or ‘Tiller of the soil’.


    Hero of one of Hainaut’s most characteristic and enduring legends, Gilles de Chin also belongs to history. His adventures were told, between 1230 and 1250, by Gauthier de Tournai whose “Canchon Monsignor” was based, by his own admission, on a story by Gautier li Cordier. Born perhaps in Chin – village of Tournaisis twinned with that of Ramegnies, Gilles de Chin, Berlaymont, Chièvres, Sars and Wasmes is mentioned, in three authentic acts of 1123, in connection with a donation made to the abbey of Saint-Ghislain, by his father Gonthier and by himself from lands located in Wasmes. The most credible of the old Hainaut chroniclers, Gislebert, tells us that he was one of the comrades in arms and advisers of the Count of Hainaut Baudouin IV, known as the Builder. Having participated in the crusade, he married Ida (or Eva) de Chièvres, took part in the war against Brabant and was killed in 1137, probably on August 12, at Bouchain or Rollecourt, in Ostrevant. Buried in the cloister of the abbey of Saint-Ghislain, his mausoleum – with recumbent statue – was transferred to Mons at the end of the 18th century and placed in the old castle chapel of Saint-Calixte where he is currently more visible. Apparently, it was in the 16th century that the monks of Saint-Ghislain spread the legend of Gilles de Chin. This mythical story and the biography elements provided to us by Gauthier de Tournai allow us to evoke the figure of this knight without fear and without reproach. As a young man, Gilles de Chin participated in various tournaments, distinguished himself there and became acquainted with one of his admirers, the Comtesse de Duras, who was married. “The Countess is on her balcony with her young ladies; it leans on the pillar (according to Gauthier de Tournai). She is dressed in a simple bliaut, her braids scattered for warmth, undressed and without a wimple, still very young, because she is not yet eighteen… A spark touches her heart under the breast and makes her whole body quiver, change color and turn pale…”.

    The Comte de Duras is unaware of his wife’s tender feelings for the young and brilliant knight. “Lady,” he said to her, “look at that knight’s shield there and take it into consideration!” Placed in the presence of the Countess, Gilles felt faint in his turn. The two young people confess their love, but this cannot and must not be divulged. ‘Get this law from me,’ said the Countess to Gilles, ‘that you will never boast; put love in your heart, not in your tongue! “. This impossible love encourages Gilles to take part in the crusade. Over there, in the Holy Land, while fighting the infidels, he will doubtless forget his “friend”. He hesitates, however, but one night Christ appears to him in a dream, reminds him of his passion and invites him to take up the cross. Gilles therefore embarks, fights the Saracens, faces a formidable giant, fights against brigands, ventures as far as Egypt, is attacked by a lion but kills it then is put in the presence of a snake or a crocodile that he also manages to defeat. His exploits reach the ears of the Queen of Jerusalem who makes amorous advances to him. Gilles does not give in and returns to Hainaut with the hope of seeing his sweetheart again. Alas, this one passed from life to death! What else to do, to lessen his heartache, accomplish new feats in wars and tournaments.

    We are then around 1130 and a monstrous beast, which has its lair in the marshes of Wasmes, sows fear in the Borinage. This fantastic beast, no one has seen it. Is it a dragon or a vile serpent? It attacks everything that comes its way. And it devours its victims! One day, Gilles learns of the existence of this monster who is said to have seized a little girl from Wasmes, a 4 or 5 year old “flea”, whom he would hold captive in his lair. The knight makes the decision to attack the beast. He invokes, before undertaking his vengeful expedition, Our Lady and asks her to guide his arm. Strengthened by the assurance that he will emerge victorious from the fight, he sets off. He is alone, on horseback, perhaps armed with a spear but surely with a sword, the second “Durendal”. And he heads for the Haine marshes where, millennia ago, these enormous mastodons got bogged down: the iguanodons, whose skeletons were found in a mine in Bernissart. The adventures of the fight can be imagined. Gilles, having arrived at the heart of the spongy ground, scans the horizon but, smelling a human presence, the horrible dragon – because it is one, spitting a hellish fire! – does not take long to come out of retirement. Our hero’s horse rears but Gilles, who silences his own fear, quickly calms him down. And it is from the flank, to keep safe from the furnace which is identified with the mouth of the terrible beast, that he attacks it, thrusts his spear, several times, between its rough scales. Heavy and bleeding profusely, the hideous creature turns on its axis but the rider follows the movement and persists in harassing the body of the ferocious monster which is exhausted. How long does this fight last? What does it matter! Before evening falls, the strange animal, exhausted, out of breath, almost bloodless, remains pinned to the ground. He still lives. Gilles then gets off his horse and finishes him off with a sword before cutting off his head, which he will bring back as a trophy. But, the beast dead, he hastens, first, to seek his retirement. She’s not far. It’s a kind of cave. The “flea” is there. The ragged child smiles at her savior who places her on the back of his horse and brings her back to Wasmes, where they celebrate the liberator and the liberated. The peasants of the place are now freed from their fears and, the next day, will go to Mons to give the head of the dragon to the count. Will the valiant Gilles de Chin later marry the “young girl” and will she give him many children? The legend does not answer this question. According to some authors, the exploit of the brave knight would be at the origin, on the one hand, of the Combat known as “Lumeçon” which takes place in Mons on Trinity Sunday, and, on the other hand, of the Tour de Wasmes, or Procession known as the “Pucelette”, which comes out on Pentecost Tuesday. If the journey of Wasmes, which does not make room for Gilles de Chin or the dragon but walks the statue of Notre-Dame – this one having been invoked by the knight – and is joined at the end of the journey by a little girl – wearing a hat of ostrich feathers and dressed in a sumptuous blue dress – which represents the “Pucelette”, was aroused, it seems, by the legend, the fight of Lumeçon would not be, claim certain folklorists, derived from it.

    The « Pucelette » and the Tour de Wasmes (Colfontaine)

    A great folk event, the “Pucelette” is one of the major processions of the Mons region.

    A great folk event, the “Pucelette” is one of the major processions of the Mons region. Based on an ancient legend, it is the occasion for many festivities every year. On Whit Monday, “La Pucelette” is presented to the population before starting the Tour of Wasmes on the Tuesday, a procession which combines history and tradition.

    A dragon at its origin

    We are in the 12th century, around 1130, the Borinage lives in fear of a horrid beast with its lair in the Wasmes marshes. The terrifying dragon devours its victims, attacks the population and one day snatches a young  resident of Wasmes. The terrified «Pucelette» awaits her fate in the lair of the monster. When he hears of this tragedy the Knight Gilles de Chin decides to fight the beast and to free the child. After defeating the beast, Gilles de Chin brought the child back to her village where the population celebrated the saviour and the freed hostage. The legend was born

    The Pucelette

    There are many families in Wasmes who register their baby daughter from birth to play the ‘Pucelette ‘. 4 or 5 years old, she symbolises purity and innocence and embodies the child freed by the Knight Gilles de Chin for one day. It is the priest of Wasmes who  designates the lucky girl, to the delight of the families, who see this choice as a rare privilege. Dressed in a light blue satin dress and wearing a tiara with 3 ostrich feathers, she is presented to the people on the afternoon of Pentecost Monday. She is collected at home, decorated for the occasion, before being escorted to the Church, for a solemn blessing.
     The Tour of Wasmes 

    This procession retraces the journey of the injured dragon until its death. It is organised in honour of the Virgin Mary who Gilles de Chin had invoked to guide his arm, before the terrible battle with the dragon. The procession starts at 4 in the morning for the early risers and continues throughout the day. Pilgrims escort the 12th century statue of Notre-Dame de Wasmes in polychrome wood, on a long tour of 17 km ending at the church of Wasmes. Flour is thrown as the procession passes, an offering made to receive the salvation of the young child. Popular tradition has it that this action will bring happiness to those present on the route of the procession.

    • Le Doudou, ducasse rituelle de Mons( in French) : Info here
    • Saint George and the dragon:Cult, culture and foundation of the city.

    A Sauroctone hero is a dragon slayer hero. They are found throughout Europe, very often becoming Saints, directly attached to the Myth of the Foundation of a City. They are then called: “THE HOLY FOUNDERS” “Les Routes de Saint-Georges”: This Network of Cities and Regions has as its main objective the promotion of European identity and citizenship through popular festivals celebrating the myth of Saint-Georges (as “Founding Myth”).

    From Palestine to England, from the Balkans – the sources agree that George was born in Cappadocia – to Catalonia (San Jordi), the figure of the saint also defines morphologically one of the most important martyrological cults in Mediterranean area.

    Following the insights of René Girard, which describes the violent origins of human culture, I propose to analyze through the traditional image of St. George, the foundation of the “enclosed city”, model of the Mediterranean city during the Middle Ages, with particular reference sacrificial origins of living space.

    Worship, cult and culture are, in fact, even the mythical-ritual moments of a single human being on earth, in its anthropological, historical and institutional and political-symbolic. Read here: Sacrifice is the City

    look also

    Saint George in devotions, traditions and prayers

    Saint George’s Day – 23 April

    • Ducasse of Ath

    At the “Ducasse d’Ath”, David finally struck down the giant Goliath . More than five centuries old, traditionally organized on the 4th weekend of August, the Ducasse d’Ath was marked this year by the victory of the shepherd David against Goliath. The festivities will continue on Sunday and Monday.

    More than five centuries old, traditionally organized on the 4th weekend of August, the Ducasse d’Ath was marked this year by the victory of the shepherd David against Goliath. The festivities will continue on Sunday and Monday. After the “burning of the chestnuts” of the giant Goliath, Friday evening, a symbolic moment created in 1986 and which celebrated its 30th edition this year, the festivities of the Ducasse d’Ath reached their peak on Saturday.

    This popular festival, which once again attracted thousands of people, continued early Saturday afternoon with the street parade of the giant Goliath and his future wife, Honorine. The couple went dancing from the town hall to the Saint-Julien church where the nuptial vespers of “Gouyasse” were celebrated. At the end of the religious service, the couple returned to the town hall where the giant Philistine faced in single combat the little shepherd David. This year again, the role of the shepherd was played by Yolan Sauvage, 8.5 years old. Shortly before 6 p.m., before this fight long awaited by the crowd, the two protagonists recited a dialogue called the “Bonimée”. And the height of happiness for the Athois, little David defeated Goliath.

    With the Shepherd having won the fight, the giants began their traditional dance.

    • David and Goliath interpreted: Goliath = Dragon / David = Hero, St georges, Gilles

    The story of David and Goliath is told in the 17th Chapter of I Samuel. It is one of two stories that presents David to King Saul. The first story you are no doubt very familiar with also. It tells of David playing the harp to soothe the weary mind of Saul.

    The second story about David the giant killer begins with the Israelites and Philistines confronting each other ready for a big battle. They were situated on two hills. One day David came to the Israelite camp with food from home for his brothers in the army. When he arrived he heard Goliath challenging any Israelite to come out and fight him. All the soldiers were reluctant to take up the challenge. Goliath was a giant of a man. According to the story he was nine and one half feet tall and loaded with heavy armor. His appearance and challenge struck terror in the Israelite soldiers. When David saw their fear he was amazed and horrified. David had a simple faith and trust in God. He believed that with the Lord on his side he could not be defeated in any challenge. He believed that Israel could not be defeated since the Lord was on the side of Israel and he was therefore quite surprised to see the negative reaction of the soldiers in the Lord’s army. David was quick to take up the challenge of fighting the giant. The other soldiers thought it was ridiculous that a scrawny kid would even think of fighting a giant. But they took him to Saul to get his permission. Saul too was reluctant, but David convinced him. David told Saul of his experiences as a shepherd when he would have to fight off bears and other wild animals.

    Saul finally consented to let David try his hand with the giant. He even wanted to help David by letting David use his armor. But to David the armor of Saul was a burden. Instead David went to meet the giant with his sling. On the way he picked up five smooth stones from a river bed. When Goliath saw David coming to meet him he was flabbergasted. The giant said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” He cursed David and laughed at him. He thought he would have a ridiculously easy fight in taking care of David. He further said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

    Goliath’s sarcasm and threats did not scare David. David said to the giant, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David even went further and said to the giant, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head.” Goliath probably laughed at this outburst of confidence. He did not think David had a chance with him. As they came together for the battle David took a stone and put it in his sling. He slung the stone at the giant, hitting him on the forehead. We are told that the stone sank into the giant’s forehead, he fell to the ground, and David ran to him, took the giant’s sword and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw what happened to Goliath, they panicked and fled. The Israelites chased them and defeated them.

    There are a number of interpretations that can be derived from this story, depending upon the level of consciousness and interest of the individual. A military commander would see that no compromise or advantage can be given to the enemy if he is to win the battle. Also he will see the necessity of courage and confidence in his troops if he is to attack the enemy and be successful.

    On a higher level of interpretation we might say that a basic meaning of the story is this.

    When we believe our cause is right and believe that God is with us, we can succeed in meeting any challenge no matter how big or difficult it may seem to us. All challenges that seem to defeat us begin in our minds. Our perceptions cause us to be afraid. The giant is some big misconception in our minds that is really false. And we are loaded with misconceptions about life, about God, and about ourselves. We think many of these misconceptions are actually true. We have a great misconception about our potential ability and powers and what we can accomplish in life. Many of us have accepted the negative opinions of others about us. Or we have judged ourselves and our potential by appearances instead of judging by truth. Many think they are limited in talent, intelligence, and ability, simply because their parents may seem to be limited. We often get too concerned about what others may think about us, what we think, say, or do. We may even be overly concerned about what they may think about the way we dress, how we comb our hair, how we walk, or how we talk. This negative analysis inhibits our true thoughts and our actions. Many times we would like to do something but we are afraid of the giant, what we think someone might say or do.

    We also have many religious misconceptions that keep us shaking in fear and bondage. Many are afraid to challenge traditional religious concepts. They think that God will strike them dead or send them to hell to suffer for eternity. The truth is there is no hell in the first place to be afraid of, and God would not strike anyone dead simply for asking some questions in his pursuit of truth. We should never be afraid to question and even reject beliefs that we come to know are false. The church has used the threat of eternal punishment to control us. It has no right to do that. No minister, priest, rabbi, or any other religious leader has the right to dominate anyone. There is no eternal punishment but believing there is will inhibit our thought and actions. We will keep performing the same old rituals. We will keep listening to the same old fear preaching. And we will be kept in line by those who are claiming to be God’s representatives on earth.

    David is a character that is not afraid to accept the challenge of the giant. He knows the giant cannot defeat him. He has a simple faith and trust in the Lord of hosts, the Presence and Power of God within him. If we are to grow in this type of faith and confidence we too must begin with an absolute trust in our inner Lord. It is not the easiest thing to develop. The ego is used to trusting in itself. It is not eager or willing to put aside its misconceptions. It likes to believe in what it can see, touch, smell, or manipulate. To believe in and trust something as abstract and seemingly non-existent as the Lord seems ridiculous. But the ego functioning on the human level has not discovered the great Reality of the Lord. David has had this discovery and it has filled him with an indomitable courage. According to appearances he did not have a chance to win in the battle with the giant. The giant had all the modern equipment, the size, and the big mouth.

    There are many times in life when it seems we do not have a chance in dealing with some concept or some problem. Some give up in despair at these times. But the David type stands firm and then goes forward to meet the challenge. When we go forward in trust we then get the right idea, the smooth stone, that will enable us to be victorious. This idea is not something that we put in our minds. It is not something that we dream up with our intellect or try to figure out through human effort.

    It is a spiritual idea that is revealed to us when we become still and trust in our inner Lord.

    It only took one stone to do the seemingly impossible job on the giant. The stone sank into the forehead of the giant. The forehead is a symbol of the imagination. That is where the many human giants are located, the many misconceptions that we hold in our mind. He is our human vision of life. He is our negative thinking. He is not the person in our lives that we think is making our lives miserable. He is not the job or the lack of one. He is not anything outside of us. He is in our own imagination. He is our big negative thought about the outer things in our lives. Knowing this we do not have to struggle and battle with people and things. We do not have to eliminate people from our lives. What we have to do is defeat the imaginary giant that we think is so real.

    The cause of all manifestation in our lives is in our consciousness. Nothing happens by fate or chance. We may not know what is in our consciousness that ties us in with the situations and people in our lives but we can be sure there is something that must be worked out. It makes no difference whether we know or understand or accept this or not.

    The ego likes to elude any personal responsibility by blaming people or things. The human ego justifies itself through rationalization. Take for example the one who thinks someone else is making his life miserable. He says to himself, “If it was not for so and so, I would be happy.” What he should be saying is this, “If it was not for the attitude I have about this person I would be happy.” We should remember it is a lot easier to change our attitude than it is to change some person.

    Some would say, “If the rich people would give up their wealth we could solve the poverty problem.” But that would not work either. If there is lack in our lives we must get rid of the giant in us that believes that we have to be in lack. We have to have the simple faith of a David that believes that God does provide for every need.

    The truth is, no one can make you unhappy and no one can keep your good from you. Only the misconception, the big giant of lack and limitation, can do that. The truth accepted in consciousness can change any outer situation. It may not happen overnight but we can defeat all the Goliaths that come on the scene of our minds. Like David we may have many battles with fears and other wild human thoughts. These battles strengthen us. They strengthen our trust in the Presence and Power of God within us.

    We must have an absolute honesty in working in principle. There must a complete willingness to surrender and trust in the inner Lord. When the ego can let go and do this, then the individual will experience a surge of faith and confidence he has never known before. It will not be an egotistical self assurance. It will be a calm inner poise. The mind will be at peace while meeting the biggest of giants. When the seemingly impossible vision is changed or killed, the outer will change. We must cut off the giant’s head. We must eliminate the negative belief at the source, in the head, in the imagination.

    It does not take a lot of equipment in the outer to change our lives. It does not take a lot of metaphysical formulas. All it takes is a simple trust in the Lord.

    • Spring Rejuvenation ritual :  Carnaval of Binche in Belgium

    In the Walloon town of Mons (Mons), the amusing dragon play of “Le Lumqon” or “Le Doudou” is still performed every year, on Trinity Sunday immediately after the procession has been drawn. When he has reached the cathedral again with the famous “Car d’or” drawn by six beautifully decorated brewer’s horses, he has reached the cathedral again and the Te Deum, initiated by the clergy, is followed by the Bergen national anthem: “Le Chant du Doudou”, begins in front of the town hall on the Groote Markt, the battle of “Saint George et le Lumqon”. Saint George has a forced martial appearance. On the head a cuirassier helmet with fluttering tail; high, shiny riding boots accentuate his horsemanship, a lance, a sword and a pistol are the weapons with which he will attack the beast, but he does not rely solely on the strength of these anachronistic weapons, for he has required reinforcements in four “chinchins” who give him a most cuddly guide and defy the dragon. We recognize figures of widespread popularity in these characteristic gray riders. The Bergen “chevaux goddesses” are identical to the English “Hobby-Horses”, which are missing in every “Mummer’s play” besides “The snap-dragon”, to the German Schimmelreiter and to our ’s Hertogenbossche spit-up. Their task at Mons is described in “La Chanson Montoise” in: “Les Chinchins agréables Courent aussi dans ces lieux Leur danse très aimable Sait plaire à tous les yeux. En dansant sautillent Ils nous font crever d’rire Dans ces lieux, tous les yeux Font se fixer sur eux’. to animal mimicry, which was generally applied in daemon scrolls among Aryan peoples, as Severian, Maximus of Turin, Chrysologus of Ravenna and Caesarius of Arles have already shown in the first centuries of our era, and has confirmed the new folkloric research These hobbyhorse riders from the Dragon Steer Game in Bergen are a last memory (Lock follows)

    At the side of the dragon fight on against “Monseigneur Saint Georges” two wild men armed with clubs and completely wrapped in green ivy leaves. I found these mythological “Hommes sauva-ges” in the May procession of the St. Evermaer town Rutten near Tongeren. , where they advanced on either side of the priest, who under Heaven bore about the Most Holy. Their foliage has been changed in the traditional figure of the Carnaval de Malmedy: “Le Savedje” in a body covering of green, yellow and red painted wooden shales, which in the English Mummers of Overton and Longparish in paper fringe can arouse both memories of the vegetation daemon. , which in France is called ‘Le Feuillu’ as on the scaly skin of the dragon.In Mons it is led in its evolutions by six dragon servants dressed entirely in white, leggy fellows, who know how to maneuver the monster dexterously and make sure that the meter-long tail regularly sways in the audience to the great amusement of all bystanders, but to the lesser pleasure of those affected. Chinchins under the constant volleys of helmeted Pompiers and the exciting accompanying play of harmony, the hobbyhorse riders.

    It was a good idea of Mr Remouchamps, director of ‘Le Musée de la Vie Wallonne’, to publish a characteristic folk print of this popular entertainment in 1926, which respected the folkloric character of this naive display in all its naivete. Of course, that the cuirassier Joris will emerge victorious — at the stroke of one o’clock, after having fired two pistol shots at the monster! Then, with thunderous clapping of hands, every year on the Bergensche Markt, joy rises to its peak and tens of thousands of excited Bergen residents start to sing their national anthem: “Le Chant de Gloire de la Cité Montoise”, which we have followed here in Hainaut, patois and understandably French: Nous irans virel car d’or. Nous irons voir le Char d’Or al procession d’Mon á la procession de Mons. Ce s’ra l’poupeye S. Djer Ce sera la statue de S. George qui nous suivra de lon. qui nous suivra de loin.

    C’est l’Doudou, c’est I’mama C’est l’poupeye S Djorge ki va Les djins the rempart riy’ront come des kiards the vir tant d’carotes; les djins the culot riy’ront come des sots the vir tant d’carotes e la pot. C’est le Doudou, c’est la’mama’. c’est la statue S. Georges qui va. Les gens du rempart riron’s comme des chiards Ne voir tant de carottes ; les gens du’quatier éloigné riron’s comme des cors de voir tant de carottes dance color pot’.

    The word Doudou means the Infant Jesus and “Fmama” his mother, the Blessed Virgin. When the meaning was completely lost, Le Doudou became the familial name that de Montois gives to his Lumqon, the dragon, now used again by Saint Georges, but in the eighteenth century it was fought by the secular hero Gilles de Chin, who must have lived in the early twelfth century, as the chronicler Gislebert, chancellor of Baldwin V of Hainaut tells us.

    In the Holy Land this nobleman killed all alone with his lance a furious lion Minstrels like Gautier le Cordier and Gautier de Tournay sang this heroic feat and the pious crusader became a historical, legendary person, while the battle scene was moved from the Holy Land to Wasmes in the environs of Mons, where the vanquished lion metamorphosed into a fallen dragon. At the beginning of the 17th century, two old paintings could still be seen in the church portal in Wasmes, the allegorical meaning of which could not be explained.

    One represented a knight fighting a monster, while the other represents the same knight kneeling before the Virgin. These paintings were later associated with the heroic deed of Gilles de Chin, who was venerated as a benefactor at Wasmes.

    About 1600 a monk of St. Gislain connected the allegorical representations with the history of Gilles de Chin, and he spread the legend that with the help of the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary of Wasmes the dragon was defeated.

    I found this legend under No. 84 also mentioned in the collection of Wolf’s Dutch sagas, while a painting can still be seen in the church at Wasmes, in which the knight is depicted in a kneeling position with the caption: ,Sainte Vierge, en ce jour, je viens pour t’implorer The détruire en ce jour un dragon qui vient nous dévorer’.

    A banner is also carried along in the procession every year, on which the dragon battle is depicted with the caption: ,Attaques Gilles de Chin de dragon furieux Et tu sera de lui par moi victorieux’. This procession-famous in the Hainaut country as „Procession de la Pucelette” also keeps alive the memory “á, ce légendaire Gille de Chin,” who rescued a child from the mouth of a dragon. They go there to the house of “La Pucelette”, a girl of 4 or 5 years, who, receive the clergy in a room furnished as a chapel. In the living-room, the Pastor hangs the insignia of her high dignity on a large golden heart, which she wears on her breast. Her processional garb, consisting of a blue silk dress and cloak, never changes, while she also wears a crown on her head as “Pucelette” “surmontée de plumes d’autriche blanches, aux extrémités retombant en panache”. So we see here the rescued Dragon Child of Wasmes, who has to honor “Gilles de Chin” as his savior, wearing the same headdress as the contemporary “Gilles de Binche”, when in “Le grand cortège” to the music of “Le Doudou” perform their rhythmic Carnival dances.

    On the one hand the name “Chin” seems to have been transferred to “Les Chinchins” from the St. George’s Game in Mons, while on the other hand the name “Gilles” became popular for carnival appearances, which with their ringing bells set themselves akin to the English Morris dancers, who also accompanied their Snapdragon and King George in old May Games.

    Chinchins mons – Doudou
    Morris dancers

    Austrian tresterer
    Christkindlmarkt Perchtenlauf, Salzburg 20101221 Foto: Wildbild/Lukas Prudky

    It would take me too far afield to establish here in numerous analogies and parallels the identity of the English Morris dancers, Hainaut Gilles, Austrian Tresterer and Tyrolean KranzMufer, but I do not wish to deprive my readers here of the curious legend in which the Gilles de Binche also be brought closer to the dragon slayers, especially to “Messire Gilles de Chin” who replaced St. George at Wasmes.

    Once, a long time ago, there lived at Ath a giant, a man-eater — called Golias ( Goliath)— who terrorized the whole land of Hainaut, and every year had to receive an innocent maiden as booty for his feast. The good lord of Binche omised to Gilles de Chin, who knew how to slay the monstrosity, his beautiful daughter Marceline in marriage. Now one day she walked innocently in the great forest, where she picked flowers, strayed from the right path, and got lost in the labyrinthine paths.

    See Spring Festivity at Steigra – Germany

    There the formidable man-eater approached her and dragged her to his dreaded abode, which no living soul had ever left. A poor, heavily hunchbacked woodcutter—Caracol is his name—hidden behind a bush, had seen the nefarious business, and in conjunction with the wolf, the lion, and the hare, the three animals whom he tended in complete peace, he killed Golias.

    Note : caracol is not only a word for escargot a dish very famous in belgium but also a very old military tactic as the labyrinth tactic in India, the Chakravyuha descibed in the Maharabata

    Already he thought he could lead the beautiful damsel of Binche before the altar, when Senechal, hunchback like him, but rich and powerful like Drost, dared to pretend to be the victor. And as there were no witnesses in the depths of the forest at the time of the raid, no one could give proof to the contrary, for Marceline had instantly fainted at Golias’ face, and had seen only in a brief moment of awakening that her savior had been ” bossu”,hunchback . Understandably, the lord of Binche would have preferred the hunchback Drost rather than the hunchback woodcutter to be his son-in-law, but just as he was about to clasp the hands of bride and groom, a fairy who spoke the truth intervened.

    The hunchbacked woodcutter turned into a handsome young Prince, and the impostor Sénéchal was rebuked by disfiguring him with a hump in front and behind. And voilà pourquoi le Gille porte deux bosses, celle de Caracol et celle de Sénéchal. This is why the Gille has two bumps, that of Caracol and that of Sénéchal.

    And the end of thefestival , the effigy of the Giant goliath is ritually burn :

    As also the bumps of the Gilles, so the evils of the winter can be destroyed and the Greenness of Spring can rejuvenate Man and nature:

    Associating this saga with the rhythmic jump dances of the Gilles to the music of the Mons national anthem Le Doudou, which is also played during Le combat de Saint George et les chinchins avec le Dragon et les diables the folklorist of the ethnological school recognizes in this a variant of the mythical story, which in all European countries depicts the struggle between summer and winter, fertility and sterility.

    But also The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Virtues and Vices and the continuous struggle to clean our soul.

    • The fight between Gilles de Chin and the dragon, a process of individuation.

    “Process” and “individuation” are important in JUNG’s psychology. Individuation designates, for JUNG, “the process by which a being becomes a psychological “in-individual”, that is to say an autonomous and indivisible unit, a totality”, “become a truly individual being in our uniqueness the most intimate. Individual means that cannot be divided.

    This principle of self-realization, of one’s uniqueness is inscribed in every human being. Something in us, which JUNG called the Self, prompts us to do so. The Self, not to be confused with the Me, limited to the field of our consciousness, is the goal of psychic life. To individuate is therefore to integrate what should have been different, it is to widen the field of one’s consciousness. “Process” indicates the transformation, the progressive progress and with changing courses.

    Individuation thus never responds to a kind of all or nothing law, but follows an evolution which sometimes accelerates, slows down, seems to stagnate, even regress but tends inexorably towards the realization of our Self.

    We know other dragon stories, sharing, in particular, with that of Wasmes the offering of fresh flesh which is made to him in a cyclical manner. Thus, for example, the tale of “Two brothers” transcribed by the Grimm brothers. At the gates of the city there is a high mountain where a dragon dwells; every year he must be given a virgin, otherwise he will devastate the whole country. They have already delivered all the virgins to him, there is no one left but the king’s daughter. Everyone who tried to kill the dragon died there. He is one of the two brothers, a hunter and soon to be a hero of his state, who, after having also gathered in a chapel, will kill him, marry the princess and inherit the kingdom.

    In Bordeaux, Poitiers, Tarascon (country of the beast called Tarasque, tamed by Ste Marthe), the monster devoured a virgin a day. “Aquatic ferocity – we will come to this later – and devouring, will become popular, writes Gilbert DURAND, in all the medieval bestiaries in the form of fabulous coquatrix and the countless cocadrilles and cocodrilles of our countryside. »

    In the North of France it is called Bouzouc, which the people of Mons called Doudou. We find the term dragon in the Italian drago, the English dragon, the German Drache; it comes from the Greek “drakôn” which means something relating to the gaze, to the vision. The term Drac is associated with several names of rivers in France. It is interesting to note that in different places around the world, similar stories have been woven, that central themes and recognizable creatures have supported the common thread. We will talk about these elements later but, from now on, it seems useful and important to me to try to define what, in the human psyche, can be at the source of these tales and legends.

    We have known for a very long time but above all, to put it simply, since the work of Sigmund FREUD, that alongside our consciousness there is another very vast field, that of an unconscious. Its personal part, or “shadow” is composed of what we do not want to be, of what we do not want to see entering or returning to the field of our consciousness. If FREUD limited the notion of the unconscious to this personal part, Carl Gustav JUNG brought out the existence of a collective part of our unconscious, that which is transmitted from generation to generation of human beings, inscribing each time its passage as the mason marked his stone, a mark that was as significant as it was insignificant with regard to the cathedral . This collective unconscious is like a matrix of the psychological development of humanity, which makes us psychologically human beings and not just anything else, just as our instincts make us make gestures, undertake behaviors which ensure nutrition, reproduction or even survival without these having ever necessarily been learned.

    Within this collective unconscious, an energy system is the basis of our thoughts, our images, our functioning as human beings. These energetic nuclei or archetypes, common to all of humanity but whose expressions, manifestations, “concretizations” – in Jungian language we will speak of constellations – will become more specific to such an individual, to such a group of individuals according to their personal experience, ethnic or geographical affiliation, etc.
    Dreams, stories, tales, legends or myths were born, developed and perpetuated, symbolically telling different things but yet fundamentally a little the same through the ages as in the beyond borders.

    The legend before us is made up of four characters, at least in its final form. The monster, in this case a dragon, a living and virgin offering, the Pucelette, a hero, Gilles de Chin and an inspiring woman, the Virgin Mary.

    1.The dragon.  

    When we evoke a dragon fight with a Sauroctone hero, that is to say dragon slayers, such as those delivered by Saint George or Saint Michael, the first attempts at explanation that come to us relate to a fight of forces good against forces of evil, those of the devil/dragon, forces of light against those of darkness. I would say these dualist explanations are often moralizing, that is to say referring to a system of values that they defend or want to impose. These fights then become allegories, representations – in the theatrical sense of the term as is the “mystery” or “Game of Saint George” or even “Lumeçon” played in Mons and which since 1380 takes part in the Procession of the Trinity, a week after Pentecost. They distance themselves from the creative and living symbolic richness of the first materials, the first phantasms, the first daydreams generated by the human psyche.

    The legend of Gilles de Chin has, first of all, a human origin often forgotten, even ignored, by dint of being only socially dressed to the tastes and interests of an era, of an institution. A few years ago, young Wasmois stole the Mons dragon to bring it back to its village of origin. A few days from Doudou, there was panic but everything was back to normal.

    Quarrel of steeples or attempt to put back in place, in order? Already in 1737, a request, which remained in vain, had been sent by the inhabitants of Wasmes to the Austrian government to bring back the head of the dragon preserved in Mons, a crocodile head in fact, to Wasmes, its place of origin, they believed.

    The human imagination has created monsters/dragons all over the world. Gilbert DURAND classified symbolic productions according to two successive “regimes” for humanity (phylogenetic level) as for the individual (ontogenetic level).

    First of all a diurnal regime : predominance of postural reflexes (standing up, fleeing, etc.) faced with the fears of becoming aware of the weather. The imagination feeds on antithesis, separation and distinction, polemics. The symbolization is of theriomorphic character (of animal form like the horse, the ogre,…), nyctomorphic (darkness, our dragon, the black moon,…), catamorphic (the abyss, the labyrinth, the fear of falling,… ). Then comes the symbolism relating to the search for the mastery of the first fears. The symbolization is then linked to productions of the ascending type (angelism, the monarch, the scepter, verticality, etc.), spectacular (light, the sun, the eye of the father, etc.), diairetic or cutting (weapons of the hero, we will come back to this later, the sword, the purifying water, the soul,…).

    Then comes a nocturnal regime : it is, on the one hand, that of the inversion and the unlearning of fear (soft heat, reflection, egg, interlocking, etc.), of intimacy (cave, secret room, house, holy places, etc.), mystical structures (swallowing/swallowing, euphemization, minimization or gulliverization, etc.). This “regime” marks our imagination with a concern for compromise, for synthesis.

    Finally, cyclical symbols where symbolization takes over the mastery of time, particularly in the myths of the return (the lunar phases, the Son, etc.). Then the myth of progress symbolized by the cross, the tree of life,… and the access to the synthetic structures of the imagination (spirit of system, harmonization of opposites,…) will prove possible.

    Various hypotheses concerning the origin of the legend report work on the draining of swamps, the construction of dams, etc. These diversified and controversial hypotheses, however, all bring together the same intuition of natural aquatic elements controlled, at least attenuated, allowing the less precarious installation of the inhabitants, combined with a possible exploitation of a soil where one takes root more, of a basement which will be full of a black stone leveling almost everywhere, the coal.

    This fear sends primitive man back to his still chaotic individual as well as collective psychic functioning, a state where unconsciousness takes precedence over the awareness of the interior and exterior world, a state of lack of differentiation leaving a bridle to emotional cataclysms and little room for mastery, a state of nascent humanity, of the progressive constitution of an ego gaining in solidity.

    The dragon thus represents, among other things, our primitive impulses. From an ontogenetic point of view, the dependence of a devastating dragon represents the lack of differentiation of the newborn from the outside world, particularly from the mother. The Subject that forms is still fused, confused in the world of the Object.

    Marie-Louise VON FRANZ writes in “The myths of creation” about a Chinese parable entitled The death of Houan-Toun: “this name is translated into English by chaos and in German by unconscious. Houan designates the muddy or the torrent, the whole of something, which is complete, and Toun, which is confused. Houan-Toun therefore means, approximately: a confused, unintelligible, troubled, muddy whole, not yet separated, without cause or reason, without bottom, and of which one cannot see the root. »

    The dragon is the archetypal image of this original lack of differentiation and of its anguish at getting lost in time, in the pond, in the waters. Here we find the symbolization of the raw material, the materia prima of the alchemists in its dangerous aspect, a material from which will emerge, later, much later, differentiation, consciousness, individuation. “The dragonsnake, an archaic animal, is an image of the deepest psychic layers. It is also unconsciousness, under its maternal aspect of non-differentiation. To kill the dragon is to come out of the mother, to be born into individual consciousness” writes Marie-Louise VON FRANZ in “The way of individuation in fairy tales”.

    At this stage, there is no fight, not yet. The dragon alone is in action in our imagination. The symbolism of the terrible, devouring mother is manifested here in its most unconscious, coldest, most murderous form. It is, for example, the image of the mother goddess of the Babylonian epic Tiâmat who gave birth to pitiless giant snakes, placed dragons, hurricanes, furious dogs and other monstrous creatures before being, later, overcome by her son Marduk and create the world. To kill the dragon will therefore be to free oneself from the raw material, to “liberate”, to generate consciousness, to free one’s living environment from the devastating element and to create one’s own world of consciousness.

    A return to Alchemy where Basile VALENTIN , monk chemist, philosopher and botanist of the 16th century. century, author of a work entitled “The Twelve Keys” (for the knowledge of the Work) describes in the tenth of these keys “the cibation or nutrition of the dry matter with its own milk.

    This matter corresponds here to the dragon which will have to be nourished by the virgin (well, well that tells us something!) which appears under him. In clearer terms, it is necessary to extract from the ore found in the terrestrial caves, the spirit which will allow the transmutation. » (J. VAN LENNEP, « Alchimie »,). Another alchemist, BARCHUSEN , author of “Elementa chimiae” in 1718, writes this: “The matter remaining at the bottom of the vase, at the beginning of the experiments, appears in the form of a toad vomiting earth, water, fire and the air which, in the following will be mixed, ordered until producing a unitary element symbolized by the terrestrial globe. A dragon, sulfur, rushes into the mercurial water until it merges completely with it. The fire it spits will end up gathering itself into a solar ball where the child of philosophy will appear…”

    Frightening and promising at the same time, source of anguish and life. There you have the symbolic ambivalence of everything in the dragon. Terror of water and riches of life, of organization.

    Should we consider the dragon as totally evil, as an image of the only evil? And is evil altogether evil, good altogether good?

    From this raw material, another phase can begin, a duality emerges, a differentiation takes place. What would be this self-nutritional substance of dry matter, what would be this spirit allowing transmutation…?

    2.The maid or little virgin girl

    … A breath, a glimmer of hope, a light breeze indicating our unconsciousness. Something is preparing, still precarious like a balance to be reached but still distant, called into question by the natural elements and the primitive anxieties they generate. Precarious too, as were the fleas delivered as an offering to the monster, periodically swallowed up, periodically sacrificed attempts to outline and construct a consciousness.

    As we saw earlier, this female character is not present in all the stories of the legend, in the final staging though. Yet it is she who is honored during the Pentecost celebrations, perhaps the result of the addition of a fashionable processional practice or contamination by another story.

    To return to our legend, if the flea saved by Gilles de Chin is honored, I would like to pay homage, existence and function to all those who preceded her.

    All these sacrifices of virgin children make me think of an exchange between Miguel SERRANO and CG JUNG (“CG JUNG and Hermann HESSE. Tale of two friendships”). SERRANO evokes the Massacre of the Innocents and says to JUNG:

    “Much has been said about the death of Christ, but no one seems to care about the death of so many innocent people. Their deaths seem to have been accepted simply as necessary for the birth of the Redeemer. The same thing happened when Krishna was born when all the neighborhood children born on the same day were executed by the tyrant Kansa. Thus, it seems that a terribly unjust event must always precede the advent of a Saviour. One could almost consider this fact as a positive evil. However, the question remains whether the end justifies the means.

    Jung was silent for a while, then said slowly: – And when you think that those who are sacrificed are often the best…”

    A cyclic feminine element is introduced, interferes in the unconscious and slowly takes its place in the imagination. A dragon feeds on maidens and at the same time inoculates itself with the seeds of its defeat, or rather of its transformation. As JUNG said, quoted by ML VON FRANZ, you should not worry too much if a dragon appears. Just remind him that his natural destiny is to devour himself.

    He will then say “Oh yes! and will start biting his tail. It is the ouroboros of the alchemists. It will be necessary to remind him of his duties, that is to say to inoculate him with a little conscience and then to retire. For humanity, this is well worth these repeated sacrifices of virginal victims.

    If we speak of maidens, we associate with them the potential fertility, not yet realized, actualized of the feminine being. The dragon of the initial turbulent waters begins to bear fruitfulness within itself.

    The cruel waters participate in the fertilization of the shores and neighboring lands such as these vegetable gardens which have disappeared under the silt after a violent storm. The fertilization guaranteeing a future made of awareness, of sedentarization, of individuation to the detriment of the present of a little girl makes for lack of differentiation, the unconscious, precariousness.

    The slow work of individuation can be understood through this passage from “Water and Dreams” by Gaston BACHELARD: “We would then interpret the birth of an evil child as the birth of a being who does not belong not to the normal fecundity of the Earth; he is immediately returned to his element, to very near death, to the homeland of total death which is the infinite sea or the roaring river. Water alone can rid the earth. It is then explained that when such children abandoned at sea were rejected alive on the coast, when they were “saved from the waters”, they easily became miraculous beings. Having crossed the waters, they had crossed death. They could then create cities, save peoples, remake a world. The superposition of these words with our caption is clear.

    Kali, it is told, sprang forth armed from the brow of the Great Goddess Durga during a battle to annihilate demonic male power. Although she is often presented as cruel and horrific, with her lolling red tongue and necklace of severed heads, Kali is creator and nurturer, the essence of Mother-love and feminine energy. In India, worship of the goddess in her multiple forms, and the vision of the sacred as woman have never ceased. Now, the image of Kali has begun to appear in new contexts as men and women look beyond outworn stereotypes. Using the powerful imagery of paintings, sculptures and writings, Ajit Mookerjee, the distinguished author of Kundalini: The Arousal of the Inner Energy, presents a celebration of Kali and an exploration of the rich meanings of feminine divinity. Read here

    This feminine breath, a slow journey towards awareness, towards a potential individuation, towards the realization of the Self, still fragile and partial, still maintained in the darkness of non-differentiation can be considered as a constellation, a representation of the anima, this psychic element which draws man into life. In opposition to the primitive chaos represented by the dragon, something of the order of humanity, of balance, of consciousness is expressed, is put in place. A work of ascension takes place. These young girls are delivered to death, like Persephones, to give birth, later on, to a more fertile region in the psyche hitherto dominated by the most obscure unconsciousness.

    In primitive civilizations, we find this kind of awakening told in tales where life first unfolds in lethargy (cf. ML VON FRANZ “Woman in fairy tales”). It is an awakening through female mediation as in the Hopi myth often quoted by JUNG “…originally, these Indians lived in the deepest layers of the earth. Whenever one of these levels was overcrowded, the women made the situation so intolerable that the men were forced to find a way to reach the upper level, so that the women who themselves did nothing, forced little little by little by their bad mood the Hopi men to reach the world of the conscience. »

    The anima, Latin word meaning “breath, life”, is a feminine personification of the prefiguration of thought, of the inspiration which arouses creative thoughts in man, “the inspiring woman” (JUNG), “the relationship to the source of life in the unconscious” (James HILLMAN).
    Instance of connection between the collective unconscious and the conscious, it refers to the traditional, historical and archaic past, maintains a “curious relationship with time” (JUNG “Introduction to the essence of mythology”). Its relations with history go back to the archaic and even phylogenetic past, that is to say, to the collective past of man. She governs the inner world of the male collective unconscious. The anima, feminine principle, has its masculine counterpart in the woman, the animus. “While the anima goes back, the animus worries more about the present and the future. (JUNG “Problems of the modern soul”) “One could almost extrapolate: the anima takes us back into history so that the struggle with history – the history of the cases we are , that of our ancestors, of our culture – is a way of proceeding to the constitution of the soul. Interest in the present, the political scene, social reforms, current opinions and all futurology are the responsibility of the animus – and this, for both men and women -. The anima and the animus need each other because, while the animus updates the past in relation to the present and the future, the anima gives depth and culture to the current opinions and conjectures. (E. JUNG and J. HILLMAN, “Anima and Animus”)

    We will therefore see these sacrificed and devoured fleas as imaginary representations of this management of the collective unconscious, imaginary representations of the construction of consciousness and of the self, of the cyclical mediation between man and his raw material. The anima thus functionalized is indeed the archetype of the “psychological call” (J. HILLMAN) because before becoming conscious, we must begin by glimpsing that we are unconscious.

    The sacrificed child is the prelude to the coming of the hero. It was, just now, the second term of a differentiation, it becomes now that it is delivered, the third term of a transcendence, of a beyond of the fight with the dragon.

    As the poet Reiner-Maria RILKE said “All the dragons in our lives are probably only princesses waiting to see us beautiful and brave. »

    3.The hero.

    Time, initially circular, eternal, has become “decircularized” to “spiral” and progress verticaly. This germination of a feminine in the dark, the nigredo of the alchemists, must succeed and see the light of day. At the risk of remaining forever in endless primordial unconsciousness, a breaking point must arise on this sequence, an insurrection must emerge. Like Zeus, helped by his mother Rhea, was stolen from the devouring appetites of the ogre Cronos. Listen to Hesiod, quoted by Michel CAUTAERTS, describe this episode in his “Theogony”: “But the day came when she was going to give birth to Zeus, father of gods and men; she then begged her parents, Earth and Starry Sky, to form a plan with her that would allow her to give birth to her son in secret […] they brought her to Lyctos, in the fat land of Crete, the day when she was to give birth to the last of her sons, the great Zeus; and it was the enormous Earth that received her child to nourish and care for him in vast Crete.

    Carrying him away under cover of the shadows of the rapid Night, she reached the first heights of Dictos, and with her hands she hid him in the hollow of an inaccessible lair, in the secret depths of the Divine Land, on the sides Mount Aegeon, which is covered with thick woods. Then, wrapping a large stone in swaddling clothes, she handed it over to the mighty lord, son of Heaven, first king of the gods, who seized it with his hands and engulfed it in his belly, poor wretch!, without his heart suspecting that , for later, in the place of this stone, it was his son, invincible and impassive, who preserved life and who was soon to, by his strength and his arms, triumph over him, drive him from his throne and reign in his turn among the immortals. (M. CAUTAERTS, “Couples of the gods, couples of men. From mythology to psychoanalysis on a daily basis”)

    Note: see also Dante’s purgatory: Because Dante is right

    Knowledge of the eternal truths is potentially present in the human spirit or intellect, but its unfolding is directly conditioned by the will, negatively when the soul falls into sin, and positively when this fall is overcome. The different punishments in Purgatory that Dante describes can be regarded, not only as posthumous states, but also as stages in ascesis, that lead to the integral and primordial condition, in which knowledge and will—or, more precisely, knowledge of man’s eternal goal and his striving after pleasure—are no longer separated from one another.

    In our legend also, the child so far devoured may have been saved. Time, hitherto circular and closed, can therefore flow spirally and verticaly, a differentiation takes place, a maiden-hero couple is born, a feminine-masculine couple of opposites. Figure of animus, the hero acts, realizes in his actions what the individual, the subject could or should do. What should happen on a conscious plane does not happen, does not materialize or not yet, “executes in the unconscious and then appears as a projected figure” (Jung, “Metamorphoses of the soul and its symbols”), a fighter of our imagination who achieves what is consciously impossible for us.

    On the psychological level, a field of consciousness with an armed and equipped Me can emerge from unconsciousness. As Lucie JADOT writes in an article entitled “The Myth of the Hero according to Jung”: “…achieving extraordinary and perilous feats, he (the hero) is the projection of the ego ideal of the ordinary man. Because man, every man, is the psychological hero of his fight for the autonomy of the ego: the archetype of the hero, activated in the psyche, arouses emotions, images, motivations which can be projected on the mythical hero, amplifying , exalting and glorifying the ordeal that the self experiences. »

    The hero, by the synthesis he operates between conscious and unconscious, constitutes,

    psychologically, a representation of the archetype of the Self, “a potential anticipation of an individuation which approaches the All” (“Introduction to the essence of mythology”), of a totality. He is human with supernatural characteristics, qualities; it still participates in qualities

    of the “divine” of the collective unconscious but also enters and brings into the field of consciousness. “Becoming conscious is perhaps the most potent experience of the original eras because through it the world, of which no one knew anything before, came into existence. “And God said: let there be light”, these words are the projection of the experience

    pre-temporal experience of a consciousness separating from the unconscious. (“Introduction to the Essence of Mythology”). Magnificent expression of what was this eternal time when man, in his undifferentiated unconsciousness, “knew nothing” of his environment and suffered from it, endured its floods and its engulfments. To rebel, to make the sauroctone hero appear, is to set oneself up as a Subject, it is to make desire appear, it is to begin time, it is eternity and one day, a first day, fragile as will still be many of the following. We are never safe from the return of the beast within us, from a psychotic submersion, from a destructive possession by the unconscious. The fight against the monsters, Jung tells us, indicates “the danger for the acquired conscience to be devoured again by the soul of instinct, the unconscious” (“Introduction to the essence of mythology”)” If, during my existence, I do not encounter the dragon that is within me, if I lead an existence that remains devoid of this confrontation,…

    this deficiency will lead with age to an annoyance similar to that caused by the omission of a natural need… If one has not been the target of inner difficulties, one remains on one’s own surface. » (« Man discovering his soul ») This meeting for the widening of consciousness, of his individual particularities, is the task to which compels the human being, it is also, as for our hero, his great risk.

    This lack of differentiation, this original unconsciousness is that of the “kingdom of the Mothers” as Goethe wrote.

    This mother from whom we all come after having been founded, melted and merged there. This original mother who contains life at the same time as death, the one before life. Foster mother and also terrible and devouring mother. As Charles Baudouin wrote in “L’oeuvre de Jung”, quoted by L. Jadot, “what the hero fights in the monster is less the enemy father…than his own fixation on the mother. What is delivered in this way – like the treasure or the captive virgin – is the libido [term for which we can substitute “psychic energy”] once chained by virtue of the primary fixations. To free ourselves, therefore, from the regression of our psychic energy towards the collective unconscious, towards the maternal image which calls us to fusion, as the song of the Sirens called Ulysses towards the destructive rocks.

    The fight that the hero undertakes and that he leads against the monster for a transcendence which proves necessary is the expression of the controversy established between the opposites, the light is opposed to darkness, the rise to the fall. . As Gilbert DURAND says, light tends to become lightning or a sword, the ascent to trample a defeated adversary. We are well, with the hero and his weapons in the diairetic symbolism (see table “Symbolic of the imaginary”). “Sword, sword of fire, torch, water and lustral air, detergents and stain removers (he alludes to our current advertisements) thus constitute the great arsenal of diairetic symbols available to the imagination to cut, save, separate and distinguish darkness from luminous value” (“Anthropological structures of the imaginary”). In the Germanic and Indo-European tradition, the killers of monsters, bears or dragons are innumerable. The Christian prototypes are, of course, the Archangel Saint Michael, who fought near the Norman mount of the same name, and Saint George, the mythical prince who also delivered a young girl from the clutches of a dragon which he slew with his spear. .

    As in our legend, the hero who conquers death by opposing the annihilation of the soul, achieves renewal, personifies the creative force. A new individual and collective existence can then emerge. Sacrificer, he is at the same time sacrificed, sacrifices himself by accepting the fight. By this double sacrifice, he recreates life. To sacrifice means ” to make sacred”. As Pierre SOLIE points out, during the sacrifice a round trip of the shamanic type takes place. “During this, they all changed state: they became sacred, that is to say, they took a “bath of eternity”, thereby taking up the challenge of their mortal destiny. … When they return from their “trip”, all the components that have participated in one way or another from another to sacrifice are so transformed by their passage through the sacred universe, induced by violent ritual death, that the profane universe is itself changed. »

    New existence, new relationship to the world of the Object, new relationship to the environment for an asserting Subject. A new era, perhaps. Let us remember that our Sauroctonian hero was later dressed in the clothes of Gilles de Chin, the same man who bequeathed to the inhabitants several bonniers of land for the exploitation of coal. We know what happened and the importance that this exploitation had in the region. The walls that surround us still tell the story, the “misery in the Borinage” that accompanied and followed it still shapes the soul of the inhabitants.

    Bernard SERGENT, Doctor of Ancient History and Archaeology, researcher at the CNRS (“Cahiers internationales du symbolisme” n° 86-87-88, 1997) carried out an interesting research about the sauroctone fights and their meaning of renewal by the victorious fight on the Dragon. He had the curiosity, in fact, to identify and locate on the calendar all the saints to whom acts of elimination of dragons or serpents in France and Belgium were attributed. He was thus able to observe that the highest frequencies are in May/June and October/November which can be considered, according to the expression of the author, as “months of dragons”. The moments of greatest density correspond to the cycle of the four great Celtic festivals which are Imbolc located on February 1, Beltene on May 1, Lugnasad on August 1, Samain on November 1.

    The author draws the conclusion that “the sauroctonian saints of Western Europe represent a Celtic mythical and heortological heritage. »

    If the feast of Samain, the Celtic new year, opened the winter, Beltene, dedicated to the sun god Belenos, closed it. The two festivals form the cuts of the two great seasons of the Celtic year. They are, says the author, ” moments of confrontations, invasions, duels, often based on the contact between the human world and [the Other] that of the infernal (and divine) powers,…” Celebrating the victory of Gilles de Chin over the dragon in the same way period, therefore, it seems to be part of a Celtic tradition of a rebirth, a renewal of nature that the hero establishes by his victorious combat.

    In fact, if I mentioned earlier the now possible flow of spiral and linear time, with the hero’s fight, we are in yet another dimension of time, that of the moment, of the instant just to carry out this fight. We know the adage: “it’s not time before time, it’s too late after time”. The Greeks had created many deities to represent that particular time. Hermes of the full silence during which “an angel passes” we say now, Kairos, god of circumstances favorable to action, but also Nike, goddess of victory, of the mysterious moment when, in a conflict, in a fight, a board suddenly tilts in favor of one of the belligerents. It is this moment that our hero has seized to confront and defeat the dragon. Before the hour was swallowing up, after the right moment is deliverance.

    It remains for us to analyze the appearance in the final story of a fourth character who has his importance, his influence in the fight, I mean the Virgin Mary.

    4.The Virgin Mary .

    Since the appearance of the dragon in the imagination which engendered the legend, as we have seen, the virgin, with a lowercase V, has appeared in the form of an offering, a cyclically swallowed up sacrificial element. With the appearance of the liberated Pucelette and her liberating heroic complement, a fourth element emerges tending, thus, to establish a quaternity, a totality, a step towards the realization of an individuation. This element is symbolized here by the image of the Virgin Mary, but what does it actually express?

    Success in the fight against the terrible mother, obstacle on the path of life as we have seen, reconquers the mother who dispenses love and life. From the “diurnal” phase of the imaginary , characterized by the diairetic struggle against the monsters engendered by temporal anxiety, we enter the next phase, the “nocturnal” phase of evolution. of our imagination. This regime is that of conversion and euphemization, reversing the images of death, of the flesh and of the night in the gentleness of time, in a sublimated, spiritualized Virgin-Mother.

    Virgo is associated with water as the great lunar goddess. She is called “spiritual moon”, “stella maris”, “star of the sea” or even “queen of the ocean”. From the turbulent and engulfing waters of the first times, we access an ethereal, welcoming and beneficial water, source of life. She is the ideal mother, spiritual fruitfulness, harbinger of the future, of a new birth. She is the vessel of the divine child. These words from a Mottet entitled “Alma redemptoris mater” attributed to Jean OCKEGHEM, a Saint-Ghislain composer of the 15th century:

    “Sweet mother of the redeemer who remains the accessible door of heaven, star of the sea and support of the fallen, who wishes to uplift the peoples. You who by a marvelous gift gave birth to your holy offspring. Virgin before as well as after, who from the mouth of Gabriel accepted Salvation, have mercy on our sins. »

    Albert Le GRAND, theologian of the 13th century, wrote after a dream quoted by JUNG in Psychology and Alchemy, “Hail, resplendent star of the sea, Mary, born to enlighten the nations…” We find there the association with water, on the one hand, and the renewal of a community, on the other.

    Mary is the mother of God and, as Claude-Henri ROCQUET writes (“Ruysbroeck. Bridal mystic, maternal mystic” Editions de l’ULB): “Mother of God! This is unthinkable, inconceivable. It passes all categories and degrees of the reasonable… How would the finite contain the infinite, how would the temporal, and the mortal, give birth to the eternal, to the immortal, to what is even beyond the origin? There you have it, in other words, the mystery of the Self, the beginning and end of our psychic life .

    Thus by the appearance of a symbol like that of the Virgin, posing as the opposite pole to the mother – dragon, a spirit-matter duality, a new momentum can be taken by the transcendent resolution of these opposites. Like Aphrodite, of which she is a representation of the spiritual side, she can be associated with a path of transformation. As Michel CAUTAERTS writes: “Judeo-Christian civilization has emphasized the figure of Mary, leaving Venus the passions of the body that she condemned. In return, alchemy uses the goddess to illustrate the metamorphoses of matter and spirit: representations of snakes evolving into dragons, then into various animals before becoming eagles or doves. Constellated, this archetype imposes a path of transformation, a narrow, dangerous but exciting path. »

    The symbolism of Virgo represents a third stage in the development of the anima, as ML Von FRANZ mentions in “Man and his symbols”. Here book douwnload

    The first is that of the anima linked to instinct, associated with the image of Eve, with our dragon;

    the second is linked to aesthetics, although still sexualized, associated with the Hélène of Faust, with our liberated virgin;

    the third where “love reaches the altitude of spiritual devotion”.

    The fourth stage being Wisdom or Sophia, towards which tends the psyche without rarely reaching it fully.

    We are coming to the end of this exposition, of this proposal for an analysis of the legend. From the undifferentiated One at the beginning, we moved on to the two of differentiation, then to the three of separation/distinction and finally to the four of the reunion of opposites and of totality.

    The aphorism of the alchemist Mary the Prophetess: “One becomes two, two becomes three and from the third is born one as a fourth.” »

    Read also : Jung’s Prophetic Visions and the Alchemy of Our Time

    and “The world hangs on a thin thread…and that is the psyche of the man

    Books: Psyche and Matter (Marie-Louise von Franz)

    Creation Myths (Marie-Louise von Franz)

    Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales

    • St George in Islam : Saint George (Khidr) Slays the Dragon and Becomes a Saint

    Sultan al Awliya  Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani 2 September 2009 Lefke, Cyprus

    In the holiest month, Ramadan. Blessed month. And through this blessed month I am trying to reach something from spirituality. Through spirituality I am asking to reach the level of holy ones, that holy ones they are blessed ones. Blessed ones and O people! If you are not going to reach blessings from heavens through your whole life, what is the benefit of your existence here?

    What does it mean? It means nothing nothing! Why? Why you are not asking “Am I in existence to be nothing? To be like a dust?” It is big blame, O people! if I am not asking that question, “For what I am in existence? What is the main aim of my being in existence? For what I have been granted eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet and a perfect figure? Yes, man just created on a perfect figure. No any other created as a man. The creation of man it is perfect.

    But if you are not thinking Who granted to you who is figure, designer, for you, for what granted that to you , you must think on it. Designer of man on same womb, designing some babies as a man. Designing some babies as a baby girl or baby boy. As He likes. You are not putting your will there to say “I must be figure of man.” Or “I must be figure of lady.” Or no one can say, “I must be red color or white color or ? color or green color.

    “O Shaykh we are never hearing of green color man!”

    “Yes, we must be. You are not looking east and west. Say to top people that you must do and you must look and find green men also.

    Yes there is green men, it is true. there is green man. Only one, but he is not also, his face green, but that is then Christians saying St. George, but we are saying Khidr (as) . Green man, chevalier St. George. Always in his hand he is killing a dragon. Very good. It is very very and a  important symbol that they are making a figure on a horse through his hand a spear and killing a dragon. So many people they are taking only looking to that figure, but really that figure asking to teach people.

    O people! That one who is a famous personality through creation, through his hand with a spear killing a giant gigantic dragon.

    O people! Look what does it mean? It means that St. George going to be a saint because he killed that dragon that it is  representing our egos. Killing and going to bury the same. O people! ! Enough to carry your feelings that belongs all of them to your dragon. Leave that feelings and kill that one then everyone going to be a St. George, a blessed one in the Divine Presence. And that Green Man is only one. And asking to teach people “O people! Til your most terrible enemy, the dragon is killed…but you are not taking any care of it.

    As everyone knows that every prophet they were sitting on earth, not on thrones. There are some exceptions, doesn’t matter, but mostly whole prophets sitting on earth with poor people, weak people, native people, and aseer, (slaves) slave people. They were sitting with those people and that not taking honor from them but giving honor because they are trying to give something to our Lord’s creatures. They tried to make people best ones, not the worst ones. Who is working for their egoes and no other aim for them is except their dragons? Therefore don’t try to be “First Lady”or “Number One” in America, in Turkey, in England, in Russia.

    Who is first one? Who is best one? Don’t think that every first one going to be best one.

    Everybody thinking first one. First one they claim but it is not important. Important is that one who is claiming to be best one. Are you best one? Give answer to me. To be “First One” if making you best one, bravo. If not then it is a very dangerous situation to be “First Lady”or “Number One” through nations. No. Only if you are asking our honor in Divinely Presence. Yes, you may claim, “I am first one on earth” but on heavens do you think your name written under tables of best ones? Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Holy Quran what there are saying? What are they teaching people? Teaching them to be best ones or worst ones? Say! Popes say! Archbishops say! Patriarchs say! Presidents say! Philosophers say! Hindus say! Buddhists you may say! The Lord of heavens asking from you to be first ones or best ones? That is the main source of troubles on earth.

    • Kill   Your   Dragon

    …. Here in England, in London, I am looking  at St. John’s Wood.  I want to say something about t Saint George. There is a statue nearby to central mosque. People running around and coming but they are not taking wisdom. What is that? What Saint George doing? What he mean to say? He is killing a dragon, showing people “O people, all of you must be killer of dragons.”

    • Everyone has a dragon.

    …  Same dragon attacking on Adam. Same dragon just attacked on Noah. Same dragon was attacking on Moses. Same dragon attacking on Abraham. Same dragon attacking on Jacob. Same dragon attacking on Solomon and David and on Zakariya… Same dragon attacking to Jesus Christ. And same dragon attacking also on the Seal of Prophets. And same dragon’s attacking on believers.

    Everyone has a dragon. And that is Saint George showing – “O people, you must kill it. If you are not killing it, no rest, no peace, no mercy, no justice, no love, no respect to you. Kill it, O mankind.Calling through that statue. But people running around, looking what is that?

    Yes. And we are feeding that dragon. Instead to kill it, we are feeding it. … Every morning we are awakening and making like this “O my Lord, what you are asking? You’re asking smoking? Ready. Asking wine? Ready. Asking something else? It’s ready. I am under your command. Everyday I am your slave.” – People saying to their dragons. Feeding, very carefully saying “I am your obedient worshipper. I never leaving you. I am never getting disobedient to you. I am not rebellion or rebellious to you. Always you are finding me obedient one.” Yes. Why no peace on earth? Because you are feeding dragons. You are looking after it so carefully. Never listening the Lord’s command. No one going to be obedient to the Lord of heavens and earth.

    Why people attacking on Prophets? Do you think that they are bad people? If they are not accepting now, good ones, they are fighting. But what about for Prophets? What was their sins? No sins for Prophets. Prophets, they are innocent people. They are pure people, clean people, perfect people. Why common people attacking them, trying to kill them? And they killed thousands of thousands of Prophets. Murdering martyrs, thousands of Prophets. And they killed, martyred so many saints. Why? They were bad people? They were devils, or people they were devils?

    Yes. We must look once again to ourselves. What we are doing? For what we are working? For the Lord, for the sake of Lord? To make Him pleased or to make our egos, our dragons pleased? You say to yourself. Don’t say to me. When you are alone nighttime, you may say to yourself “Oh I am… Just I worked for my Lord today”. If you are saying this, you are very happy person, very lucky. But you must be true.

    First, you must be true to yourself before becoming true to others. But it is so difficult to be true even for yourself. Because that dragon should prevent you to say truth. Yes. Ask yourself. When people sleeping, and you’re alone – “O James, or John or Ahmad or Abdullah. Are you here, Abdullah? Our name’s Abdullah, the servant of the Lord. But you must ask do you think that you’re really servant of your Lord. Tell me, to whom you served today?” Yes. Be sincere. Everyone must be sincere or this world going to be destroyed. Because devils taking chance from insincere people, taking courage, taking power and trying to make people insincere. Yes. Therefore, I don’t think that any religion say something else… Because their source is heavens, from heavens coming every religion to establish through the conscience of mankind the love and respect towards their Lord.

    If anyone knowing another thing, may say. That is, up today I learnt, as a summary. From whole books, from whole religions I have that summary that every Prophet coming with divinely messages to make people more in love and in respect for their Lord . That is our mission. And that is most precious mission and that is most acceptable mission in Divine Presence. You can’t find more than this respected job for mankind. Most respected job in Divine Presence [is] to call people in love and in respect to their Lord . And we are finding hindrance, biggest veil for reaching to that station. Our egos too jealous, too jealous. Asking every respect to himself, asking every love to himself, asking every obedience to himself, asking everything for himself, not for anyone else, either for the Lord of heavens and earth or for others.

    … Therefore, whole religions, whole religions taking methods for protecting people, protecting followers from their egos. One of the most important protection for believers is fasting. Without fasting, no one can be able to control that dragon and to protect himself from that dragon. You should find same fasting through every religion from old religions, beginning from Adam. He fast first 30 days without eating and drinking. Because he ate from prohibited wheat in paradise, from prohibited tree. When he ate, he has been sent on earth. And till that, going from him he was fasting 30 days without eating anything. But the Lord  giving permission to his children to fast from morning up to night, up to evening. And it was through Moses’ holy book, through Jesus Christ’s holy book, and through David’s psalms, through Abraham’s orders and through Noah’s heavenly orders.

    Every Prophet just came with fasting. But we did it, we changed. Christians doing 50 days. It was before correct fasting. It is now – there are only a few people keeping even that order for Christianity. Even they can’t carry to be patient not to eat what prevented for them through that period. They are doing as fasting – not to eat fat or meat or such things. Even for that, now they are not keeping that order. And it was before fasting. And in our days anyone who asking a protection from their dragons, from their terrible egos, they must practice fasting. Yes. It is not something to be hungry, to be thirsty. People may say “What is the benefit from being hungry or thirsty?” But whole power on itis  “to be able“, when your ego rushing to eat, you are saying that “There is 5 minutes more, be patient.” And it was attacking, and we are saying “There is 1 minute more. You must be patient.” That is training for ego and to protect yourself and to be able to cut it...

    When we are going to be enough powerful to catch that dragon, we have a method for cutting it. Because a small one can’t catch a sheep and cut it, slaughter. No. Must be enough power to keep and to cut. And don’t think that only that fasting you may be enough powerful to slaughter your dragon. No. We have another methods. When you are going to be prepared for that purpose, we have 40 days. 40-days seclusions in Islam also, that every Prophet they did it. As it is mentioned through Holy Qur’an, 40 days for Moses before going to mount Sinai. And the Seal of Prophets, he was using that seclusion before his prophecy on the mountain of Nur. Jabali Nur, mount of lights. And don’t think that you can be able when you are living with people to cut it. No. You must take it out of communities. Whole saints, they were cutting it – out of communities, countryside, through deserts, through lonely mountains. That is the reason Christians, they are using monasteries on silent deserts, on mountains. But now it is also lost. Whom they were in monasteries, they are not going to be there to feed their egos. No, but to cut it.

    And finally, we are asking forgiveness from Allah Almighty and asking good understanding. Everyone through their religions, through their beliefs, and every religion coming on same point to give more love, more respect to Allah Almighty. But in front of you, your ego preventing. Take it away. Kill it. And open, then you should find your Lord in front of you, in you, with you, around you.

    Astaghfirullah. Astaghfirullah. Astaghfirullah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Wa shukrulillah. Walhamdulillahi Rabbi l-alameen. Wa salatu wa salamu ‘ala rasulina Ziyadatan li sharafi Nabi, sallAllahu alaihi wa salam… Fatiha.

    To learn more see Sufi Path of love website

    Some students have witnessed the medieval iconography of the Green Man with the Sultan al-Awliya, and not only in Britain, but even in Cyprus.  Green Man “visit” to the Celts, whose lands are at the outer reaches of Europe; See The Green Man, St George and the Dragon Power of Nature

    After all, al-Khidr  is the teacher of the Afrad or Solitaries, that is, saints “outside” the community of believers. Especially relevant in this context is the medieval poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,Read here St george and al Khidr

    Apocalypse of Angers

    A Disclosure of Wisdom Following the Reader of the Apocalypse of Angers

    An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω meaning ‘un-covering’), translated literally from Greek, is a disclosure of knowledge, i.e., a lifting of the veil or revelation, although this sense did not enter English until the 14th century.[1] In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden. In the Book of Revelation (Greek Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου, Apocalypsis Ioannou), the last book of the New Testament, the revelation which John receives is that of the ultimate victory of good over evil and the end of the present age, and that is the primary meaning of the term, one that dates to 1175.[1] Today, it is commonly used in reference to any prophetic revelation or so-called End Time scenario, or to the end of the world in general.

    An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

    Maieutic concepts historically have their origin in Plato’s dialogues of Socrates.

    In The Symposium, Socrates repeats the words of the priestess or wise woman Diotima of Mantinea who suggested that the soul is pregnant and wants to give birth, but the delivery requires assistance. Thus according to Plato, the role of the philosopher is to assist in this delivery, as would a midwife. From this dialogue comes the word “maieutics”, the “spiritual midwife.” to give birth to wisdom

    In Theaetetus, Socrates is presented as a “spiritual midwife” and in Meno, by posing questions to a slave who never learned geometry, Socrates leads him to “remember” how a square is doubled.

    The human crisis of our time is immense. To meet this crisis, we need real thinkers and doers. We need people who are able to be persistent in asking good questions and willing to do the work needed to follow through, with great persistence, in seeking answers. We do not want everyone to merely be robots who only know how to memorize and regurgitate the popular talk of the day. We cannot afford to have millions of citizens who are too uninspired, unable or unaware to continue working persistently for the sake of their own understanding. We need to cultivate sapient beings capable of leading their lives with excellent and original thoughtfulness. Such people create original new talk and new doings that help all humanity create a future worth living.

    The art of living, not just for the Socratic method but as an art of all willful living, can be expressed as the art of asking and answering questions and then committing ourselves to live out the best of our understanding. In order to live well, there must be an art of living. Education that does not inspire and empower people to embrace the art of living is not fit for human consumption. The Socratic method of conversation, when properly conducted, strengthens that which is fundamental to all expressions of inquiry and creativity no matter what culture calls us her sons and daughters, no matter what historical time adorns us in the fabric of our living, no matter what purpose of questioning is pressing upon our hearts. The Socratic method is the king of exercises for keeping the beating heart of the human will to education alive and well.

    Read here : A Disclosure of Wisdom

    The Power of Love and The parrot  Seeker of eternal life

    • Exploring the Power of Love in ‘Attar’s Conference of the Birds

    Kenneth Avery explores the famous story of Shaykh San‘an and its message of love and friendship across religious boundaries ( from Beshara magazine,)

    Farid al-din ‘Attar’s epic poem The Conference of the Birds is one of the spiritual masterpieces of the world. An extended allegory for the spiritual path, it has continued to inspire seekers, artists and commentators from the 13th century to the present day. In this article, Dr Ken Avery explores the meaning of one of the most famous sub-sections, ‘The Story of Shaykh San‘an and the Christian Maiden’ which relates the tale of a pious shaykh who falls in love with a beautiful young girl and abandons everything to follow his passion.  He suggests that this radical and complex tale has much to  teach us, in our divided world, about tolerance, empathy, friendship and love.

    ‘Let us love one another; for love is of God, and one who loves is born of God and knows God; one who does not love does not know God; for God is love.’ (I John 4:7–8)

    ‘I am one colour with your friendship, a companion of your love.’    (Jalaluddin Rumi)

    King Solomon’s Hoopoe, spelling out the ‘bismillah’

    As I write this, it is the twentieth anniversary of those terrible events of 11 September 2001 when the twin towers in New York were brought down. The media is awash with stories of horror and survival, of love and hate, of terror and forgiveness. It has also been recently filled with images and stories of the failure of Western nations in Afghanistan after twenty years of military intervention, and the great suffering of the Afghan people.

    There are, of course, some who would argue that this is a religious conflict, and that reconciliation between ‘Christian’ and ‘Muslim’ ways of thinking and acting is not possible. That this is wrong on so many levels is borne out by a deeper understanding of the historical, political, cultural and economic conditions operating over the many centuries of encounter between Western and Muslim-majority societies. Without addressing political and economic arguments, on a purely religious level there are many more common sources of inspiration and shared culture of the two faith-systems than differences – though admittedly this is not always evident. Islam is sometimes portrayed in Western eyes as monolithic, intolerant, backward looking and hostile to the Christian values which used to underpin Western societies. But an understanding of mainstream Islamic culture and literature makes this view untenable.

    In this short article, I wish to focus on a writer from the classical age of Persian literature – from the period which Westerners call medieval – as an illustration of what can be learned of tolerance, empathy, friendship and indeed love across religious boundaries.

    Farid al-din ‘Attar (d.1220) lived in the late 12th, early 13th centuries in what is today north-eastern Iran, working as a pharmacist/physician in the bustling city of Nishapur, a great centre of culture and learning. He wrote several books in rhymed couplet form, a collection of lyric poems and a prose hagiography, all showing his great erudition and understanding of the Sufi path of love and spiritual journeying. His works invite us into the transcendent world of Sufi spirituality, but he is also a superb literary craftsman and an inspired story teller, his writings couched in a mellifluous poetic style.

    His story-telling skills come to the fore in his most well known book, written in rhyming couplets, Mantiq al-tayr, usually referred to in English as The Conference of the Birds.[1] This masterpiece contains a primary framework narrative interspersed with secondary stories and anecdotes culled from religious and secular history, folklore and everyday life. The ‘theme and illustration’ genre has a clear didactic purpose for aspirants on the Sufi path, but it is also aimed at non-lettered listeners as well as more literate readers.

    The frame story in the Conference is an allegory about a group of birds, led by the wise hoopoe, who undertake a journey in search of their king, the legendary simurgh. At first, each bird makes excuses for its timidity in this venture, but the hoopoe, a thinly disguised Sufi master, gives encouragement and advice for the quest. After many trials and guidance through seven allegorical valleys, thirty birds (si murgh) reach their goal of self-discovery. They finally realise that they themselves contain the truth they have been seeking: with their selves purified by their quest, they become one with the Truth. ‘Attar here tries to speak of an encounter which cannot be put into words but is experienced as divine grace.

    Detail from Folio 11r

    The birds gather and listen to the message of the hoopoe about their king. Detail from Folio 11r of the royal manuscript of Conference of the Birds, 1487, Isfahan, Iran; illustration an addition by Habibullah of Mashad, c. 1600. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Move the computer mouse over the image to enlarge

    The Story of Shaykh San‘an

    The focus of my purpose here, however, is not on ‘Attar’s esoteric – or indeed ineffable –  teachings but rather on a beautifully expressed story about the transformative power of love in all its aspects, across religious and cultural horizons.

    The story of ‘Shaykh San‘an and the Christian Girl’ is the longest and arguably the most important fable contained in the Conference of the Birds. It is a complex, baffling, and even iconoclastic tale of love, desire, betrayal, friendship, empathy and compassion. It is played out between an aging, revered, pious shaykh from Mecca – the heartland of Islam – and a young, dazzlingly beautiful, woman, a Christian devotee from Byzantine Turkey. The story begins when the pious shaykh, secure and surrounded by many followers in Mecca, has disturbing dreams of worshipping an idol in Rūm (the eastern Christian Roman empire or Byzantium). He is determined to find the meaning of the dream and sets off to visit Rūm; as soon as he arrives, he falls hopelessly in love with a young Christian woman of exceptional beauty.

    He camps at her door for a month, stricken and distraught until she eventually begins to taunt him. He declares his love for her but she demands that he abandon his Muslim faith, burn the  Qur’an, worship idols and drink wine, all abhorrent to his faith. The shaykh accepts all of these demands but she then insists that he become her swineherd for a year, in utter degradation. In despair, his followers limp back to Mecca where his chief disciple who had not accompanied them to Rūm castigates them for abandoning the master.

    They all return, and in their fervent prayers a vision of the Prophet Muhammad assures them that the shaykh is freed of his infatuation. They find him repentant and remorseful and all return to Mecca. Meanwhile the young woman has a dream telling her to adopt the shaykh’s faith; she awakens realising her folly and runs after the master, imploring forgiveness. He admits her to his path but her pain is too much and she soon dies of grief and shame.

    In this bare outline the tale is a ‘fall and redemption’ fable with the ‘hero’ undergoing numerous trials before he emerges triumphant with the vanquishing of his opponent. But this is a superficial reading of a story which holds great subtlety and complexity, written by an author who is not afraid to subvert conventional narratives of faith and unbelief, or symbols of piety and apostasy. Before exploring these themes, however, some context to this story needs to be given.

    Firstly, the Shaykh San’an episode occurs about a quarter of the way through the book where all the birds are wavering with indecision about undertaking their perilous journey. The hoopoe tells the story in an attempt to win them over and give them courage for their venture. In this s/he succeeds admirably: the story of the loss of self at this crucial point in the book convinces the other birds of their need to forge ahead on their flight of discovery.

    Secondly, in dealing with interfaith issues, it is important to remember that the ‘Christianity’ ‘Attar portrays in the Conference of the Birds is not what we understand today in the West as Christianity. For Muslims of ‘Attar’s time there was little differentiation made between Christians, Jews or Zoroastrians; all were minority religions living under Muslim polity,  known from the Qur’an as ‘People of the Book’, i.e. faith communities possessing earlier written scriptures. There was generally a good deal of tolerance for these minority faiths but there were civil and economic restrictions, such as wearing distinctive clothing, taxation disadvantages and sometimes being treated as second-class citizens.

    In the story of Shaykh San’an, the ‘Christian’ faith he is enticed into involves renouncing Islam, burning the Qur’an, worshipping idols and drinking wine. He is also made to enter a ‘monastery’ where there are idols and wine drinkers, but it is a Magian (Zoroastrian) monastery (dayr mughān), a poetic figure common to Persian lyrical poets. This is not the only occasion in the story where ‘Attar refers to Zoroastrian rather than specifically Christian symbols and nomenclature. This confusion of referents is perhaps poetic licence, but it is also a warning against an overly literal reading of the text. It makes it difficult to link these Christian symbols with the denomination of the Church of the East (known pejoratively in the West as Nestorians), prominent in Iran and along the silk roads during the Middle Ages. Their iconography and use of wine in the eucharist could account for these references, but ‘Attar is a poet rather than an historian.

    Given these caveats, we can now go on to look a little closer at this remarkable story and its implication for spiritual journeying today.

    Shaykh San‘an beneath the balcony of the Christian maiden. Detail from Folio 18r of the royal manuscript of Conference of the Birds, 1487, Isfahan, Iran; illustration an addition by an unknown painter, c. 1600. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Falling in Love

    At the beginning of the tale the shaykh is portrayed as a faithful and highly respected leader of his community, with 400 followers – the pinnacle of piety and conventional religious faith and practice in the holy city of Mecca. But as soon as he began to have disturbing dreams of worshipping an idol in Rūm, he knew what this entailed. He immediately sensed that all his piety was of no value if these dreams continued:

    I do not know whether I can live with this grief:
    I have said that I have to die if I lose my faith.[1]

    This mention of having to die (tark-i jān) means in this context abandoning the full sense of self and being to which the shaykh was accustomed in his conventional, religiously-contained and prescribed life.

    The shaykh is determined to find the source of his recurring dream and hastens to the ‘Christian’ land with his 400 followers in tow. ‘Attar leavens the seriousness of this undertaking with allusive and piquant humour:

    They travelled from the Ka‘ba to the extremity of Rūm;
    they went round and round every part of Rūm.

    The ‘extremity’ (aqṣā) alludes to Jerusalem while ‘round and round’ (ṭawf) alludes to the circumambulation of the Ka‘ba during pilgrimage

    When the shaykh discovers the young woman, her great beauty is described in typically exaggerated language familiar from the Persian poetic tradition. Images of light, fire, sun, stars, and so on, abound:

    In the sphere of beauty and the constellation of gracefulness
    she was a sun, but one that did not set.

    Yet her physical beauty is mirrored by spiritual beauty as well. She is portrayed not as a brazen siren intent on luring the old man to destruction – at least not yet. She is initially described as:

    That young Christian woman of spiritual qualities (rūḥānī ṣifat)
    with a hundred intimations of divine knowledge on the path of the spirit of God.

    The shaykh immediately falls desperately in love with the hopeless infatuation of an old man for a beautiful young woman. The love is openly erotic, passionate and painful, described in terms of fire and darkness. He cries:

    Like a candle I am extinguished by heat and burning;
    burning continually at night and snuffed out by day.

    ‘Attar comments:

    All which was his, before his eyes, was no more;
    his heart was filled with smoke from his passionate melancholy.

    His companions try to reason with him and counsel repentance, but the old man realises he has lost his position of authority, his social standing and all that was part of his former life:

    I have repented of fame, honour and high standing,
    free of being a revered elder, of speaking and teaching.

    Distraught and on fire he camps at the woman’s door, seeking seclusion (khalwat – a word usually meant for spiritual retreat and secluded prayer) with the stray dogs of her street. He professes unconditional love for her:

    I will lose my life (jān) for you if you give the word […]

    I am going to the grave with a burned soul (jān),
    the world ablaze from the fire of my being (jān).

    This word jān is worth a bit of exploration. It is a multivalent Persian word which I have highlighted in the translation excerpts to show the fluidity of its meaning; traditionally translated as ‘soul’, it means much more – such as ‘life’, ‘being’, ‘true self’, etc. – depending on context. Its Sanskrit cognate dhyāna travelled by way of Buddhism to reach Japan, to be rendered as ‘Zen’.

    Shaykh San‘an drinks wine at the bidding of the Christian maiden

    Shaykh San‘an drinks wine at the bidding of the Christian maiden. Oil painting, late 19th century, Iran. Image: Jonathan ORourke/Alamy Stock Photo

    Drinking the Wine of Love

    Following the shaykh’s declaration, the girl begins to taunt him about the hopelessness of his love and the physical and spiritual disparity between them. Finally she demands four things before he can become her lover: bow down to an idol; burn the Qur’an; drink wine, and turn away from his faith. At first the shaykh is willing to drink wine but does not agree to the others. This is significant since the wine he drinks is the experience of erotic/mystical ecstasy:

    She said: ‘Arise! Come and drink wine;
    when you have drunk you will shout out!’

    They carried the old man to a Magian monastery,
    his companions following clamorously.

    The shaykh of the Truth (al-ḥaqq) glimpsed a new crowd,
    he saw the party’s host was immeasurably beautiful;

    The fire of love carried off his dignity;
    the tresses of the Christian carried off his life.

    Not an atom of his reason or understanding remained;
    without a word he drank up;

    He took the cup from his friend’s hand;
    he drank and his heart was broken.

    The wine of erotic ecstasy removes all knowledge and memory of his former life and learned ways. He is enraptured and in this state he succumbs to her other demands:

    Love does not agree with a comfortable life:
    a lover must always be an unbeliever.

    If you venture resolutely in love
    Your path (madhhab) is these curled tresses.

    Her invitation for him to ‘convert’ is more allusive than literal; she entices him into a religion of love, eroticism and ecstatic experience occasioned by wine and the lure of youthful beauty. He agrees to burn his books in front of an idol, but ‘Attar is ambiguous about the nature of the idol, whether it is a religious icon or the young woman herself who is described thus poetically. She tells the old man:

    Before this time you were raw, raw in love;
    live well, for you are now cooked, so there! […]

    Well-cooked intellect (‘aql) is merely learning the alphabet of love;
    love knows what is hidden (ghayb) and what bewilders. 

    The shaykh seeks her hand in the union of marriage but she rejects him because of his age and poverty. He feels betrayed and grieved: having thrown away everything for her love, he responds with the vehemence of unrequited passion, in language reminiscent of ‘Attar’s lyric poetry. Then comes the punch: she demands he become her swineherd for a year; his degradation is complete. ‘Attar comments:

    When you begin the path, O man of action,
    you will see both idols and pigs a thousand fold;

    Kill the pigs; burn the idols in the desert of love,
    else become like the shaykh, disgraced in love.

    At this point, the shaykh dismisses all his followers, who return distraught to Mecca. One of his followers, however, had remained in Mecca the whole time and had not travelled to Rūm. When he hears the sad story he castigates the others for not staying and supporting their master:

    When he bound on the Christian girdle (zunnār)
    you should all have done the same!

    You should not have left his side voluntarily:
    you should all have become Christians!

     He goes on to say that true friendship persists even though the friend becomes an unbeliever:

    When the shaykh fell into the mouth of a crocodile
    you all fled from him, fearing for your reputation and honour.

    Love has its foundation in disrepute (bad nāmī);
    all who turn away hypocritically are unripe (khāmī).

    With these words about the nature of friendship, this tale suddenly reaches its pivot point which will eventually lead to its resolution. The shaykh’s faithful disciple urges prayer and supplication, and this is performed so vociferously that heaven is aroused. The Prophet Muhammad appears in a dawn vision telling all the followers that by their prayers and fasting the shaykh has been freed from his bonds and his sins forgiven. The followers hasten back to find him remorseful and repentant, with all his wisdom, learning and memory returned. ‘Attar makes clear that it is through the Prophet’s intervention that the shaykh is forgiven and his actual repentance is not much emphasised.

    The Christian Lady submits to Shaykh San‘an. Detail from Folio 22v of the royal manuscript of Conference of the Birds, 1487, Isfahan, Iran; illustration by an unknown painter, c.1600. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    The Transformations of Love

    The attention of the story now turns to the fate of the young woman. She has a dream in which she is told to adopt the shaykh’s path (madhhab); on awakening she realises her folly and runs after him, imploring forgiveness in anguished prayer:

    For all which I have done, do not take offence; I am miserable:
    I have accepted your faith; do not regard me as irreligious (bī-dīn).

    The shaykh is told by an inner voice that the woman has repented:

    She has found friendship in Our (i.e. God’s) court:
    her situation has found remedy now on Our path.

    Turn around and be with that idol again:
    become a friend and confidant of your idol!

    This, it seems to me, is the crux of the whole story. There is great gentleness and sensitivity in ‘Attar’s description of the woman’s conversion, and great compassion is enjoined on the shaykh. Despite the harshness of her earlier demands on the old man to convert her to ‘Christianity’, now that he has been humiliated and purified of his conventional, narrow religiosity, he is called to become a friend and confidant of the ‘idol’ – the formerly disdainful beauty who led him ‘astray’ into his enlightenment.

    She now implores the shaykh to teach her the path of submission and the way of Truth (rāh-i ḥaqq). He obliges, but her remorse and sorrow weigh so heavily on her that she bids farewell to the world:

    That moon-like one said this and left her life (jān);
    she had half a life (jān) and scattered it over her Beloved Lord (jānān):

    Her sun became hidden behind a cloud;
    sweet life (jān) separated from her, alas!

    ‘Attar mourns her death, and thus the story ends with these closing lines:

    Like the wind we all pass from the world;
    we all depart like her, all of us.

    Many times [this story] has happened on the path of love;
    one acquainted with love will know this […]

    The carnal self cannot hear the secrets [of love];
    it is said that someone without a fortune cannot be robbed.

    This [secret] must be heard by the ear of our inmost being (jān) and heart,
    not by the painted form of water and clay [our physical body].

    The war between the heart and the carnal soul intensifies every moment:
    cry out in lamentation as the mourning increases.

    On this path our watchfulness must be great
    if we are to dive into this deep sea.

    Of course ‘Attar had to end this subversive story in a conventional way with the woman converting and the shaykh returning to his traditional path. Otherwise the Conference of the Birds would have been banned and the author arraigned before religious or civil authorities in 12th-century Nishapur. But ‘Attar had already subverted the established protocols, both in this story and in other places throughout his writings, despite the apparent formal pieties of his Sufi themes and subjects.

    Both the shaykh and the woman are transformed by true love. From the security, conventionality and complacency of the shaykh’s religious and social standing he is utterly devastated by erotic and mystical ecstasy, and eventually returns to his former self enlightened by love and friendship for his new disciple, the young Christian woman. She, on the other hand, is transformed from her ‘religion’ of haughty self-regard, of narcissistic beauty, of contempt and cruelty for lesser mortals, until she learns too late the path of humility and true self-worth.

    In this story there is love in all its forms: divine, erotic, passionate, compassionate, as well as friendship, forgiveness, and the pain of unrequited love. But what is important today is the view – uncommon if not radical for ‘Attar’s time – that friendship and love cut across religious or denominational horizons and connect believers and unbelievers alike. Conventional religious behaviour and personal piety are not enough: they may even lead down the wrong path. The freeing of religious faith in the loss of self and self-regard is the only way to show love in the world, and to attain true spirituality.

    ‘Attar’s tomb in Nishapur, which continues to be much-visited in the present day.

    Kenneth Avery is an Australian, a teacher of music and a writer. He studied Semitic and Islamic studies at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne, and has published books on early Sufism as well as Fifty Poems of ‘Aṭṭār, an edition and translation of selections from ‘Attar’s lyric poetry (with Ali Alizadeh)

    • The parrot  Seeker of eternal life: What good is immortality Spent in a cage?”

    The “Conference of the Birds” is a 12th-century Sufi poem by Attar of Nishapur, that is a timeless parabol of the mystical quest for the Truth. It features the hoopoe, a spiritual guide figure, leading the birds on a perilous search for their King, the mythical Simorgh. Each bird in turn makes an excuse for not setting out, until at last they are all ready to take part. The parrot symbolizes false immortality, and would rather stay safe in her cage than  live forever. Read here the Conference of the Birds

    • From the “Conference of the Birds” by Attar of Nishapur

    “Welcome, O Parrot ! In your beautiful robe and collar of fire, this collar is fitting for a dweller in the underworld but your robe is worthy of Heaven. Can Abraham save himself from the fire of Nimrod? Break the head of Nimrod and become the friend of Abraham, who was the friend of God. When you have been delivered from the hands of Nimrod put on your robe of glory  and fear not the collar of fire.


    Then came the Parrot with sugar in her beak, dressed in a garment of green, and round her neck a collar of gold.

    The hawk is but a gnat beside her brilliance; earth’s green carpet is the reflection of her feathers, and her words are distilled sugar.

    Listen to her: ‘Vile men whose hearts are iron have shut me in a cage, so charming am I. Held fast in this prison I long for the source of the water of immortality guarded by Khidr. Like him I am clothed in green, for I am a Khidr among birds.

    I should like to go to the source of this water, but a moth has not strength to lift itself to the Simurgh’s great wing ; the spring of Khidr is enough for me.’ Read more here