Last Dispatches from Sydney

Leave a comment

Greetings from another very warm and nice day in Sydney…sadly my last full day. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will board the Virgin Australia plane for California in the afternoon, and some 15+ hours we will land, still during the day on Wednesday! It will be a very long Wednesday indeed! When we flew west, we left on Saturday and arrived on Monday…Sunday disappeared! What a strange planet…

Yesterday (Monday) we explored more of The Rocks, and visited St. Mary’s Cathedral, the huge Gothic Revival RC Church. I then walked over to the Australian Museum and spent about an hour and a half in their natural history exhibits…local flora and fauna, dinosaurs, unique Australian creatures, and a delightful loan exhibit of Charles Adams cartoons, “American Gothic.”

Dinner found us back at The Rocks, where we dined at the Löwenbräu Restaurant. It was quite similar to the Biergärten of Bavaria and Austria. It was a lot of food, and of course, large flagons of beer carried by capable waitresses (four in one hand!). Sure, it is for tourists, but lots of Australians were there too.

Speaking of Beer…there is NO Fosters here that I can tell. It must be their export beer. They do have many local beers, as the Australians do like their suds.

Another Hotel (pub+restaurant+rooms) we looked into had a cook-it-yourself steak grilling area, something I have not seen before.

Tuesday morning arrived, and I headed out to the delightful suburb of Leichhardt to visit the headquarters of the AMORC English Grand Lodge for Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Grand Master Paul Panikian was very welcoming, as were Frater and Soror Kogel. Frater Kogel is CEO of the Grand Lodge, while Fr. Panikian serves as the Grand Master.

They showed me around the compact and very efficient property where they produce and distribute the monographs, publications and other items, and administer the Grand Lodge. We visited their Council of Solace Temple Room, which was very peaceful and of high vibratory energy. It was a wonderful visit, capped off by a delicious lunch at one of their favorite Italian places in town, where they have know the owners and their parents for many years, fanatical devotés of Milan Soccer.

I have found out that Soccer is also called soccer here, as Football means Australian Rules Football. Rugby is hugely popular in NZ and very popular in Australia. Cricket is also well followed. Both nations are very outdoors-oriented and athletic endeavors are wide-spread.

After a fond farewell, I returned to the Australian Museum near Hyde Park to complete my visit. The Museum itself is well put together, with many interactive features and engaging learning activities for children and youth.

In particular today, my first focus was the traveling exhibit about Alexander the Great from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The exhibit chronicles Alexander’s rise to power, and his conquests in the Middle East, Egypt, Persia, Afghanistan and India. The artifacts are impressive, and the timeline is well presented.

The signage for the exhibit does not seek to excessively glorify Alexander, or vilify him, but paints a realistic picture of his strengths and weaknesses. More than anything else, it presents the world-changing effects of the spread of Hellenism and its fusion with other cultures.

A considerable portion of the exhibit demonstrated the profound and lasting effect that this Hellenistic and diverse society has had on the world.

As this exhibit appears to be exclusively for Sydney, I encourage you to visit their site at

After spending quite a bit of time in the Alexander Exhibit, I then continued with the Native Australians galleries. These galleries not only celebrate the beauties of Aboriginal and Torres Straits cultures and spiritualities, but also to face head-on the tragic near-destruction of these ancient communities by the invading Europeans, and the efforts to make amends.

Anthropologists suggest that humans may have inhabited Australia as early as 65 million years ago, and as such the Aboriginal and Torres Straits cultures would be the oldest surviving continuous human cultures on the planet. As such, they have incalculable things to teach us.

In addition to epidemics and massacres and substance abuse, the Europeans took the children away from their families to “assimilate” them, now known as the Lost Generations. This is, of course, all too sadly familiar to North Americans.

Australia is working to right these wrongs, insofar as this is possible. The Aboriginal peoples did fight back and tried to resist the incursions, but they did not have the warrior culture of the Maoris of New Zealand, who forced the British to sign treaties (not always honored).

It was sobering, and also a strangely appropriate juxtaposition with the Alexander exhibit. Two cases of conquest, with different times and different cultures.

The final gallery I visited was a fabulous dreaming through the Aboriginal animal art: stunning, spiritual, moving, and sometimes funny. We cannot afford to lose this Ur-human culture from our Planet.

Back to the hotel I went, and drank in the rich architecture of this bustling city.

If I can get Wi-Fi on the plane, I’ll try to write some concluding thoughts about this South Pacific Odyssey tomorrow!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services

Addenda et Corrigenda: Sydney Edition

Leave a comment

Greetings from a finally warm and sunny Sydney! It’s Summer!

This post will catch up, add, and correct a few items about Sydney. The title uses two Latin Gerundives of Obligation:

Addenda: Those things which must be added

Corrigenda: Those things which must be corrected.

Gerundives are verbal adjectives, which are necessarily passive, since they express what action needs to be taken.

Strangely enough, a Gerundive takes the dative for its object, so that we would have

Addenda et corrigenda mihi sunt de Sydneyensi.

These are the Things I must add and correct about Sydney.

So let’s get started!

Bloody Marys: There are (very good) Bloody Marys in Sydney. Unique and delicious. My apologies to the Mixology Community of New South Wales!

Over the last few days, we have enjoyed some of the very flavorful–and different than any other–Bloodies.

The first was at Longrain Thai Restaurant in Surrey Hills. Chef Martin Boetz has created a modern Thai location that is simple, and stunning. From what I understand, he is the only non-Asian allowed to cook for the Thai Royal Family. His restaurant is often voted one of the top 100 in the world.

The Bloody Mary there is appropriately Thai-flavored, and worth a special trip for.

The next was at Kaya Sydney, an Izakaya-style Japanese restaurant new to Darlinghurt’s Oxford Street. Opened in 3rd Quarter 2012, this is destined to great things here in Sydney. Chef Stephen Lim captains the kitchen superbly, and we were waited on by co-owner James Pollard.

We had some wonderful Japanese finger food, and superb (and Asian-oriented) Bloodies. Kudos to Kaya Sydney.

Most recently, in The Rocks neighborhood, we stopped in at the Argyle Exchange, one of four establishments in what looks like an old warehouse space. Many of the shopping and eating places in The Rocks have that Ghiradelli Square / The Cannery feel to them.

At The Argyle Exchange, the Bloody is made entirely from scratch, including muddling fresh tomatoes rather than using pre-fab juice. Again, the Pacific Rim accent can be tasted, with lots of Veggies (Salad in a Glass) and a splash of red wine. It really works!

So, be at peace: the Vitamin C favorite, Bloody Marys, are alive and well here!

The Rocks, of course, is the (in)famous spot where the first convicts were dropped off from Britain to start the colony. The story is well known. Britain was having trouble getting volunteers to colonize Australia, and in 1788, the first prisoners were set ashore.

Some were criminals, but many were simply the poor who were convicted of stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families, etc. It was convenient, however, for the Crown to use these feeble excuses for crimes to round up (unwilling) British and Irish new colonists.

It is estimated that humans have been living in the area for about 30,000 years. When the British arrived, there were 4,000-8,000 Cadigal peoples living in the area of Sydney. The first landing was actually at Botany Bay (whence the name of Khan’s Penal Ship in Star Trek), but was moved one cove up as a more favorable space.

The year following the European incursion, as the Rosicrucian and Masonic inspired French Revolution began a world away, a terrible epidemic swept the area, possibly chicken pox from the setters’ shingles, which devastated the native people, by 1800 it reduced the Aboriginal population of the area to 500-1000.

During the ensuing years, the history is much the same as that of the US Old West. The Europeans flourished, and set about the to “civilise, Christianise and educate” the Aborigines by removing them from their clans.

I remember growing up in Phoenix and not thinking a thing about the Phoenix Indian School at Central and Indian School Road. Later I realized that these were children taken from their families on the reservations to “help” them.

A wonderful counter-example is the Russian work in Alaska. When the Russians came to Alaska in the mid 1700s, they did not try to “Russify and Christianize” the Inuits, Aleuts, et al. Rather they shared their culture and Orthodox Christianity in a non-threatening way.

Many Alaskan people had religious ceremonies to connect them to the First Time. The Orthodox brought the rich liturgical ritual of the Byzantine Tradition, and explained that this connected participants to Before the First Time, and Beyond. Monks such as St. Herman of Alaska lived simply (he lived in a Skete on Spruce Island) and let the people see the life of a pious Christian.

As a result, many Aleuts, Inuits and others chose freely to become Orthodox Christians, as this blended well with their own indigenous culture. This is much the same pattern as took place in Montana with the Salish and Kootenay people whom I was honored to serve for 6 months as a Novice. They sent no fewer than three delegations to St. Louis to ask Fr. DeSmet to send Jesuits to teach them about this Christ they were hearing about.

The beginnings of Christianity in Ireland are the same. When Patrick came back to Eire, he lit the Bealteinne Fire on May 1, and the Celts created a Druid Christianity. As the Druid Bard Taliessin said, “In Asia, the Christ may be something new. We Druids have always followed The Word.”

This was the original design of Christianity, to blend with and transmute each ancient culture in all areas, to transmit the ancient wisdom (the Primordial Tradition) with the illumination of those ancient traditions with the Light of the Holy Spirit. St. Justin the Philosopher (Justin Martyr in the West), taught that the spermatic Logos had seeded Divine Truth throughout all cultures, and the job of Christians was to discover this everywhere they went.

It could have been different…!

Mardi Gras:

First: there were more than 500,000 participants, not the 300,000 I originally reported.

Second: I know that March 2 wasn’t Mardi Gras. It wasn’t even Samedi Gras. They are using the general term as “celebration.”

Mardi Gras, of course, is “Fat Tuesday,” the last day before Western Christian Lent, and it is celebrated on that day each year in Rio, New Orleans, etc.

The next day is “Ash Wednesday,” the beginning of Western Lent, Mercredi des Cendres.

It is interesting to note that the days of the week (in English and French, as well as many other languages) still honor the Ancient Deities. Tuesday honors the Nordic God of War, while Mardi refers to Mars, the War God of the Romans/Greeks (Ares). Wednesday is dedicated to Wotan (Odin), the God of Wisdom and Magic, while Mercredi salutes Mercury (Hermes), who fills the same role in the Mediterranean, and who is the avatar of Hermes Trismegistus (Thoth).

In any case, the Roman Catholics created Ash Wednesday in the Middle Ages (around the 11th century) to round out the 40 Days of Lent. In the East, no such recalculation was needed, as the Sundays of the Great Fast are not counted in the 40.

Maybe the Sydney Mardi Gras folks are more observant than I realized. This year, Byzantine Great Lent begins on the evening of Sunday March 17. This calendar is observed by Eastern Orthodox and many Byzantine (Greek) Catholics.

On the Sunday before this, (Mar 10 this year) is Meatfare, when Meat is eaten for the last time. Then on the 17th, we will have Cheesefare (Maslenitsa) when we eat fish, eggs and daily products for the last time. In the late afternoon, a beautiful service called “Forgiveness Vespers” is held, at which the Pastor asks forgiveness of his parishioners for all his offenses, and they forgive him, and then ask pardon for theirs. Each parishioner then goes around the circle asking forgiveness and giving to to each one.

At the end, all are anointed with sanctified Olive Oil, in accord with the Gospel command to keep your face clean and shining when fasting.

So perhaps, the Sydneysiders are preparing for the Orthodox Pascha!

One should note that the difference in the date of Easter (Pascha) stems from a memory problem. All of the Eastern Churches of Christendom remembered that the First Council of Nicaea determined that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March Equinox, UNLESS that date fell before or during the days of Passover, when it would be pushed forward. The notes from the Council in 325 CE have been lost, and the Western Church forgot the part about Passover. That’s the reason for the difference.

Now back to Sydney: we’ve spent yesterday and today enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of this world-city. I’ll elaborate more tomorrow, our last day Down Under!

My apologies to Fratres Tom and Romelio, my schedule didn’t let us meet. See you Stateside!

Cheers Mates!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services