What is so Interesting about Vampires?

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Sarah Michelle Geller as Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Geller as Buffy the Vampire Slayer

After some rather heavy posts, I thought I’d look at something lighter. So I picked Vampires. Go figure!

From Bram Stoker to Buffy, from Nosferatu to Ann Rice, from Dark Shadows to True Blood, from Salem’s Lot to The Lost Boys, and even Twilight (ah well!) we are head-over-heels about these Blood Suckers. Whats going on?

Etymologically, Vampire comes from the French vampire, which is from German Vampir, probably from the Serbo-Croatian vàmpīr (possibly a variant of the Proto-Slavic *upir *ǫpyrь It may derive from Macedonian. Compare the Russian упырь (upýr’), Polish upiór, etc.

Vampire stories must be one of the most popular genres in the modern world. Just check out the Wikipedia lists and articles on Fictional Vampires, Vampire Literature and Vampire Films. Their extent is staggering! I find it interesting that Wikipedia uses the article title “Fictional Vampires.” Are there any other kinds? Hmmm!

Lilith

Lilith by Filomena Pereira

Lilith by Filomena Pereira

Almost all world cultures have stories of supernatural creatures that feed on human flesh and blood. Among ancient peoples, these were seen as Demons of various kinds. One of the most prominent was the Babylonian/Assyrian Lilitu, who has come down to us through Hebrew as Lilith. She is explicitly referenced in much Vampire Literature.

A very fine academic study of Lilith is Lilith: The Edge of Forever by Filomela M. Pereira (Las Colinas, TX: Ide House, 1998). While it is out-of-print, this can be found in Libraries and some used book venues. I highly recommend this to learn about the history of this influential Myth, and Filomela is a friend of mine, and part of the Book Club we had at Rosicrucian Park for some years.

In her most recent incarnation, the novels of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris and their HBO version True Blood make her the Mother of Vampires. This is fairly traditional, as the Hebrew Lilith is the first wife of Adam, and mother of demons.

It is also in the role of Adam’s first wife that she appears in George MacDonald’s 1895 Fantasy

Lilith in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

Lilith in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

Novel Lilith. It is considered his most profound work, and deals with what the Christian ἀποκατάστασις (apocatastasis) (Universal Salvation) would actually work. It’s importance was marked by Lin Carter’s inclusion of the novel in the renowned Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series in 1969. It has been one of my favorites since I read it at that time. MacDonald was a formative influence on C.S. Lewis.

Vampires as We Know Them

Revenants who return to feed on humans are written about as early as the 12th Century in Europe (Walter Map and William of Newburgh), but the Vampire proper comes from Eastern European legends of the 17th-18th Centuries. In 1672 the legend of Jure Grando came from Istria (in modern-day Croatia). During the 18th Century, Eastern Europe was awash with such tales culminating in the “vampire craze’ of the 1720s and 1730s,” and these spread to Western Europe, and thence to the rest of the World. In Asia, particularly, these tales merged with older legends to become very popular.

Perhaps the first literary mention is found in The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, and another, the narrative poem Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger. These are notably followed by

Carmilla (1872)

Carmilla (1872)

  • Robert Southey’s oriental epic poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1797)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Christabel (written between 1797 and 1801, but not published until 1816)
  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)
  • Lord Byron’s The Giaour (1813) and a fragment about Augustus Darvell, his his contribution to the famous horror story competition at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816, between him, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and John William Polidori.
  • John William Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) from the same competition.
  • Cyprien Bérard’s Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires (1820) attributed to Charles Nodier.
  • Elizabeth Caroline Grey’s The Skeleton Count, or The Vampire Mistress (1828)
  • Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer (or Thomas Preskett Prest) (1847)
  • Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872)
  • Paul Féval: Le Chevalier Ténèbre (1860), La Vampire (1865) and La Ville Vampire (1874).
  • Marie Nizet’s Le Capitaine Vampire (1879)
  • Hans Wachenhusen’s Der Vampyr – Novelle aus Bulgarien (1878)

The Vampire legend achieved its iconic form in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). After that, the floodgates soon opened. I recommend the Wikipedia articles referenced at the beginning of this post for a thorough review of the literature and films.

Vampires Today: What Fascinates Us?

Vampires today are villains and heroes. Both archetypes flourish. There are even Vampire Lifestyles (connected to the Goth sub-culture) and Vampire Religion.

Many reasons have been evinced over the years to explain Vampire Legends. These include:

Temple of the Vampire

Temple of the Vampire

  • Ancient Slavic Spirituality
  • Decomposition and Intact Bodies
  • Premature Burial
  • Deaths from Contagious diseases
  • Porphyria
  • Rabies
  • Psychodynamic unconscious desires and anxieties
  • Political implications (the Noble Dracula preys on the peasants)
  • Psychopathology
  • Vampire Bats

I would suspect that all of the above have some relevance. But what I am more interested in is what makes them so interesting?

We can divide modern portrayals of Vampires into several categories:

Angel

Angel

  • Monstrous Evil Vampires (Nosferatu, most of the Vampires in Buffyverse)
  • Suave, Sexy Evil Vampires (Dracula, Carmilla, some of the True Bood Vamps)
  • Noble, Sexy Vampires who even though they suck blood, do good sometimes, or become more noble (Eric Northman, Spike)
  • Noble Sexy Vampires on a Crusade, tortured by their own Vampire Nature (Bill Compton, Angel, all of the Vampire Detectives and Policemen, and NBC’s Dracula—Alexander Grayson). They are often making up for their evil pasts.
  • Purely Good Sexy Vampires (Edward Cullen) (It’s just another race of creatures).

You will note that while there are more Male Vampires than Female throughout the genre, this is changing, particularly in Buffy, True Blood and Twilight. Equal Opportunity is here, and racial boundaries are also crossed.

What makes the Monstrous Vampires Evil? 

Nosferatu

Nosferatu

This seems obvious. They not only kill us, they turn us into monsters too. It’s as if being bitten by a Nazi could change you into a Skinhead. They use their preternatural abilities to hunt us. They must shun the Light (a symbol of goodness) and are harmed by tokens of Holiness. It is always entertaining to read about or watch heroic women and men fighting creatures that seem to have the advantage.

How About the Other Kinds of Vampires?

Eric Northman

Eric Northman

As we move through the categories, we can discern a growing pattern. Notice that each of the other categories includes “Sexy.” This suggests that we like flirting with danger, and also we are afraid of sexuality as a culture, or at least think of it as dangerous, and sometimes deadly (with STDs and AIDS, this is sadly true).

The fact that Vampires of all genders prey on both gay vampiresmen and women make Vampires a natural for LGBT themed books and films. Good Reads lists 343 such works, and there are numerous films and TV shows that feature LGBT themes.

Coming to the varieties of Noble or Good Vampires, we are now crossing over into the Superhero genre, as well as stories of People-With-A-Past atoning for their sins through service. These are both very good fodder for drama. We love the tortured hero, as well as the Anti-Hero.

So who wouldn’t want to live like a Vampire. As they say in The Lost Boys:Lost_boys

Sleep All Day. Party All Night. Never Grow Old. Never Die. It’s Fun to be a Vampire.

Add to that super-strength, speed, flight, allure, and several other preternatural gifts. What could be wrong with this?

Aside from the physical and spiritual evil involved, and dominating other people’s lives (Makers control their progeny ruthlessly), there is an esoteric concern, even for the heroic Vampires.

Physical Immortality has a catch. If one accepts the Karmic cycle of reincarnation after reincarnation, perfecting the Soul Personality and moving up the ladder of being, then being stuck in one lifetime is indeed a curse. The Karmic debt piling up for a 5000 year old Vampire would be truly horrendous. If we are meant to return, cycle after cycle, to grow and learn, Vampires are stunted in their development. Seeing all one’s mortal loved ones die again and again would also leave a deep psychic wound.

I could not resist one political reference, so here are (thankfully former!) President Bush II and VP Cheney in revealed in their true natures:

The Real G.H.W. Bush

The Real George W. Bush of Skull and Bones

Dr. Evil

Dr. Evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s make sure there is no Bush III. Please!

So it seems that our attraction to Vampires is pretty reasonable after all. It’s the candy we know is bad for us, but we love it so much! Back to True Blood!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

 

Why Everyone Should Watch Cosmos…and Vote!

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Title Card from Cosmos

Title Card from Cosmos

If you haven’t been watching the reincarnation of Cosmos on Fox and National Geographic, then please, don’t walk, run to catch it from the beginning on your Cable Service’s On Demand, any of the many streaming services, or directly from their Websites at http://www.cosmosontv.com/watch/256286787977 and http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/.

Wait…am I actually endorsing something from Fox?

Yes… from Fox’s real entertainment division, one of my favorite channels. Can you say The Simpsons, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, simpsons-family-couchGlee, Bones, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen, etc., etc.? And Fox Sports is my favorite sports provider. After all, can you resist this lineup of Commentators for the NFL:

Curt Menefee (Studio host, 2006–present)
Terry Bradshaw (Analyst, 1994–present)
Howie Long (Analyst, 1994–present)
Jimmy Johnson (Analyst, 1994–1995; 2002–present)
Michael Strahan (Analyst, 2008–present)
Jay Glazer (NFL Insider, 2007–present)
Pam Oliver (Reporter, 1995–present)
Mike Pereira (Rules analyst, 2010–present)
Erin Andrews (Reporter, 2012–present)
Rob Riggle (Prognostication, 2012–present)

Fox NFL Commentators

Fox NFL Commentators

and NASCAR:

Chris Myers – Host
Michael Waltrip – Co-Host/Analyst
Darrell Waltrip – Co-Host/Analyst

Fox Entertainment shows regularly bashes Fox News, and that is one of the things that make me think that Rupert Murdoch uses Fox News just as one huge put-on, which makes him tons of money. No one could really be as benighted and venal as Fox News appears to be. (Well…Maybe…)

Anyhow, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is not to be missed. It is entertaining, instructive, beautiful, and very much-needed today. For those who might not remember, or are too young, a little background is in order.

The First Cosmos

Title Card from the Original Cosmos

Title Card from the Original Cosmos

In 1978-79 the PBS L.A. Affiliate KCET, in partnership with the BBC, produced a thirteen episode series about Science called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan (who would marry Sagan in 1981), and Steven Soter, and hosted by Sagan. It was first broadcast in 1980.

Carl Sagan was not only an astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist, he was the leading science popularizer of his day, much as Leonard Bernstein was for Classical Music.

The series was wildly successful, and was the most widely watched PBS series until 1990’s The Civil War, and as of 2009 still held that title world-wide. It has been seen by more than 400 Million world-wide.

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan (1980)

Carl Sagan (1980)

I was familiar with Carl Sagan’s work since I had earlier encountered his scholarship in my Freshman year Astronomy 101 (“Gut”) class at Yale, which we affectionately called “The Solar System is your Friend.” We studied his theories on the likelihood of communication with other intelligent life in the Universe. He was very cogent.

When the 1980 Cosmos originally aired, I appreciated the series, but was mildly critical of what I took to be Sagan’s critique of religion. That says as much about me in 1980 as it does about Sagan. In reality, he was quite balanced on the issue, from my standpoint today.

Looking back, how could I take such issue with someone whom Isaac Asimov admired? Asimov is one of my greatest

Portrait of Asimov by Rowena Morrill. It depicts him enthroned with symbols of his life's work.

Portrait of Asimov by Rowena Morrill. It depicts him enthroned with symbols of his life’s work.

heroes, who through his books taught me about Ancient and Modern History, Science, Math, How to Use a Slide Rule, and every other subject imaginable, as well as being perhaps the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time. A brilliant autodidact and polymath, author of over 300 books and clearly very aware of his own intellectual prowess, Asimov wrote in his 1980 Autobiography that Carl Sagan was only one of two people whose intellect surpassed his own (the other was Marvin Minsky).

Here are some of the things Carl Sagan said about Religion and Science (click the link for the sources of the citations):

Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others—for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein—considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws.

An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.

My long-time view about Christianity is that it represents an amalgam of two seemingly immiscible parts, the religion of Jesus

The Jefferson Bible

The Jefferson Bible

and the religion of Paul. Thomas Jefferson attempted to excise the Pauline parts of the New Testament. There wasn’t much left when he was done, but it was an inspiring document.

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.

In “Preserving and Cherishing the Earth”, Sagan and other noted scientists wrote that “The historical record makes clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment… Thus, there is a vital role for religion and science.”

Sagan sounds very balanced 30 years later. I might not agree with everything, but he is as cogent as he was when I studied his work in College. My apologies Carl!

The New Cosmos

For years, Ann Druyan, Steven Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson had been trying to do an updated version of Cosmos. Tyson had been befriended by Sagan in his youth, and was a great inspiration to him. Tyson is a noted astrophysicist in his own right, and is currently Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum in NYC (a great Museum!!). He has become the best known Science Popularizer or Communicator of our day.

Seth MacFarlane. Photo© 2010 Gage_Skidmore

Seth MacFarlane. Photo © 2010 Gage_Skidmore

In 2008, Tyson introduced Druyan to Seth MacFarlane, the actor, animator, comedian, writer, producer, director, and singer, for whom the original Cosmos was a formative influence. The rest, as they say in Hollywood was history, and in 2014, the updated Cosmos: A Timespace Odyssey premiered. It was produced by Druyan, MacFarlane, Cosmos Studios’ Mitchell Cannold, and director Brannon Braga (ST:NG, ST:V, ST:E, ST:Generations, ST:First Contact [My favorite Next Generation film], 24, Terra Nova). The music is by Alan Slivestri, who is the prolific composer for many Science Fiction, Adventure and other films.

 

 

 

The updated version tells the story of the Cosmos, with up-to-the-moment science, special effects, graphics, animation, and historical contexts. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson certainly deserves an Emmy for his outstanding, erudite and understandable work, guiding us effortlessly through history and science. Although he points out the mistakes that Religion and Governments have made over the centuries, there is a profound respect for spirituality, and the program has the feel of Fr. Thomas Barry and Dr. Brian Swimme’s The Universe Story.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson

I was particularly moved by the latest episode, in which Tyson reminds us that it is our intelligence that is our most important advantage, and that we must move forward using our intelligence. On the next episode, Cosmos will give us a glimpse of what will happen if we don’t stop our causing global climate change. (I love the spectacle of Fox Entertainment slamming Fox News!)

Rosicrucians will especially appreciate Cosmos, as many of the topics, and particularly historical vignettes, are the subject of Rosicrucian studies, and many of the scientific pioneers of the past were associated with the Rosicrucian Path.

Going Forward Intelligently?

This brings me to the heart of the matter: why we should watch Cosmos (and after all, it’s great TV!), and why we should vote.

Right now, in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Canada, some very irrational people have far too much influence on our National life. We are paying a ridiculous amount of attention to the Christian Fundamentalists and extremists and their positions, encouraged by the Politicians who are using them for their own purposes. And the Astroturf-Koch-Brothers-invented Tea Party is right in the thick of it.

Let me begin with some Caveats. I fully support freedom of speech and freedom of religion. You can believe anything you want. You can believe that the world is flat, that the universe was created in 4004 BC, that cave men rode dinosaurs, etc. Be my guest. I defend your right to be irrational.

An idyllic diorama at the Creation Museum

An idyllic diorama at the Creation Museum

Yes, Cave Men and Dinosaurs, together… visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg KY: http://creationmuseum.org/. And remember, Satan planted fossils and the geological record to fool us into not believing the Bible!

What we focus on, manifests. If we focus on the outlandish opinions of this minority of Christians, they will multiply. People should believe anything they want, but the rest of us have to out vote them and oppose any attempt to affect our communal life.

The U.S. has long been a laughingstock in the world for the number of people here who oppose the Theory of Evolution. As of 2008 only 40% of Americans accept that we evolved along with everything else, with 20% more unsure. Only Turkey ranked lower at 20%. Even the Roman Catholic Church accepts Evolution, as long as they hold that the Soul was a Divine Gift to Humans at the right time in Evolution.

Here in the U.S., good, complacent reasonable people have allowed these Creationists to force their non-scientific theories into science class. Our Public Schools should teach Science in Science Class. If the School wants to start a Religious Studies Class or a Philosophy Class, that’s where Creationism belongs.

Design © Sam Kuo.

Design © Sam Kuo.

Then Senator Rick Santorum tried to get Federal Funding for Intelligent Design teaching in 2001. Happily he failed. In 2005 the Kansas Board of Education ruled that Science Teachers must “instruct science students along the lines of the Discovery Institute, that evolution could not rule out a supernatural or theistic source, that evolution itself was not fact but only a theory and one in crisis, and that Intelligent Design must be considered a viable alternative to evolution.

And of course, Global Warming is a Myth, the same ilk say.

This story has a happy ending, and it illustrates how we can stop these people from imposing their ignorance on us and our children. On August 1, 2006, voters ousted 4 of the 6 conservative Republicans on the Board of Education, and, encouraged by then Governor Kathleen Sebelius, replaced them with moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats. On February 7, 2013, the Board overturned the 2005 decision (6-4 [the four dissenters were the remaining Born-Again Christians on the Board]) and returned the definition of Science to “the search for natural explanations for what is observed in the universe.” Reason triumphed, because people voted.

A Teleological Universe

I myself understand the Cosmos/Multiverse to be teleological (moving toward a goal) along the lines of Aristotle’s Final Cause. τέλος–telos–

Plato (left) and Aristotle, detail from The School of Athens by Raphael (1509)

Plato (left) and Aristotle, detail from The School of Athens by Raphael (1509)

the Goal or End is the origin of teleology, and the word that Aristotle used.

For Aristotle, there are Four Causes: material, formal, efficient and final. The Final Cause is the purpose toward which the thing is growing. This is used in science all the time. For a seed, the Final Cause is to become a full plant. You’ll recall the Acorn Story from a previous post which illustrates this.

George Holmes Howison, in The Limits of Evolution says:

Here, in seeing that Final Cause – causation at the call of self-posited aim or end – is the only full and genuine cause, we further see that Nature, the cosmic aggregate of phenomena and the cosmic bond of their law which in the mood of vague and inaccurate abstraction we call Force, is after all only an effect. … Thus teleology, or the Reign of Final Cause, the reign of ideality, is not only an element in the notion Evolution, but is the very vital cord in the notion. The conception of evolution is founded at last and essentially in the conception of Progress: but this conception has no meaning at all except in the light of a goal; there can be no goal unless there is a Beyond for everything actual; and there is no such Beyond except through a spontaneous ideal. The presupposition of Nature, as a system undergoing evolution, is therefore the causal activity of our Pure Ideals. These are our three organic and organizing conceptions called the True, the Beautiful, and the Good.

For Aristotle and Aquinas, Finality is the End to which something is ordered. A Match is ordered to Fire.

Teleology is hotly debated in the philosophy of Science.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Either way, in my philosophy, similar to that of Anthropologist and Theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ, the whole Cosmos (Multiverse) is being pulled toward the Omega Point, reintegration with its source, the Divine.  Teilhard teaches in The Phenomenon of Man:

…everything is the sum of the past…nothing is comprehensible except through its history. ‘Nature’ is the equivalent of ‘becoming’, self-creation: this is the view to which experience irresistibly leads us. … There is nothing, not even the human soul, the highest spiritual manifestation we know of, that does not come within this universal law.

Teilhard and I see Evolution as the engine of this progress, both material and spiritual. I suspect Darwin did too. This is certainly in line with Rosicrucian and Martinist Ontology.

However, I would never suggest that these ideas be taught in Science class, they are philosophical concepts, especially in philosophy of science. Our High School sciences classes should teach experimental science and the scientific method, first classically enunciated by Ibn al-Haytham of Basra ( ابن الهيثم, Alhazen or Alhacen; c. 965 – c. 1040), featured in the New Cosmos. If a school wanted to start a philosophy of science class, that would be fine, but with budget cuts I doubt that is going to happen.

When Good Men do Nothing

We can no longer afford to let people who are clearly being irrational run anything. Our World is at a critical moment. It is our intelligence which will get us through. In a democracy, which I fully support, we must out-vote them, and use economic pressure to isolate any jurisdictions, which doesn’t have the sense to do that.

albert-einstein-evilWe must take our cue from Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” (Edmund Burke—1770).

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing” (John Stuart Mill—1867).

This has given rise to the modern adage: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In this context, I understand ignorance and irrationality to be a grave and dangerous evil.

William Butler Yeats described our age to a “T”:

The Second Coming (1919)

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

Jeremiah Henry's illustration of the poem from his blog post on the poem

Jeremiah Henry’s illustration of the poem from his blog post on the poem

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Good, rational, progressive and liberal, broad-minded people are doing nothing, while irrational fundamentalists (Christian, Islamic, of any stripe), right-wing conservatives and Fox News are full of Passionate Intensity. Far too many are the American Idiot spoken of by Green Day:

Don’t want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It’s calling out to idiot America.

Remember that Idiot is from the Greek ἰδιώτης (idiōtēs), an individual out of context of society, or who refuses to take part in public life. Those who are irrational are not taking part in society, they are trying to impose their Flat-Earther views on us all. Should we not have a Navy because some people maintain that the Earth is flat?

Blaise Pascal, 17th Century

Blaise Pascal, 17th Century

So what do we do, good rational people? Get out and vote. Vocally oppose irrationality everywhere and vote.

There are clearly things that transcend reason (Pascal: « Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point » “The Heart has its reasons, of which Reason knows nothing”).  There are areas that Science does not pretend to study. These are fine. I am very much involved in those fields. But let’s let science be science.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant.

Ave Atque Vale: The 561st Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

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Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco

Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco, serving Divine Liturgy in continuity with the Roman Empire in 1453. The Legacy continues.

Ave Atque Vale: The 561st Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

Hail and Farewell!

I cannot let today go by without commemorating one of the most pivotal events in history. On Tuesday May 29, 1453, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, the walls of New Rome (Constantinople) were breached by the Ottoman Turks, and the Roman Empire, whose legacy stretched back through the Republic to the Kingdom to 753 BCE, the founding of Rome. 2100 years of Ῥωμαιοσύνη–Rōmaiosúnē–Romanness, which, of course, by 1453, was Greekness, came to an end at its center.

Romanitas (the Latin equivalent of Ῥωμαιοσύνη) had been withdrawn from Western Europe earlier, with the Fall of the Old Capital of Rome in 476, and then after its recovery, the final loss of Roman power there after the Emperor Justinian’s reconquest, was complete. Western Europe was in darkness.

Today, Ῥωμαιοσύνη is perpetuated not only in the Churches, but in every Nation which has an

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Eagle as its standard (the early single headed eagle, as in the United States, or the later Roman Double-Headed Eagle used by Russia), uses the Fasces as an emblem, and builds its National structures in the Roman fashion. We are children of Alexander, and heirs of Rome. 

I am only mentioning this briefly this morning as I commute on CalTrain to Rosicrucian Park, as I have blogged extensively about this before to commemorate this watershed event. The two events, Tuesday May 29, 1453 and October 12, 1492, when Columbus rediscovered the New World, are the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the modern world.

So much flowed from these two events. From the Fall of Rome, the ancient wisdom and mysteries were communicated to Renaissance Italy. These had been preserved in the East, and in Islam, and fueled the Renaissance fascination with Hermetism and other mysteries. From Columbus’s landing on Hispañola came the massacre of millions of New World Natives (there were as many people in North and South America as there were in Europe at the time), and the beginning of the war of conquest waged by Europe against the rest of the world which has resulted in the world as we know it.

An excellent video and documentary on the lamentable Fall can be found here: http://www.crashonline.eu/darkest-day-in-history-of-hellenism-fall-of-constantinople-29-may-1453-video/. Link to this page, as they have linked to us!

The Fall of the Roman Empire?

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins

Those educated in our school systems are probably now asking themselves, “Didn’t the Roman Empire fall in 476? That’s what they taught us in History Class?” Well, I can only relate an anecdote about what authorities teach us:

Molly Ivins, the late, and much missed Journalist and Author, tells the story about how her parents taught her to only drink from the “Whites” fountain in public places like the train station, and not to drink from the “Coloreds” Fountain, because “it was dirty.” One day at the depot, she walked past the “Coloreds” Fountain and saw that it was pristine. She then wondered…”What else have they been lying to me about?”

As she put it: “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point — race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.”

Your History teachers weren’t so much lying, as they and their teachers had been lied to. No one puts it better than Kelley L. Ross, PhD, whose site Rome and Romania is my hands-down, absolute favorite for the subject of the Roman Empire and many other historical items. He and I might disagree about some modern political ideas, but I applaud his forthrightness, and agree on our allegiance to the Constitution. On history, I know no better source. Bookmark it! I quote from his preface at length because he nails it:

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

What most people would probably regard as an obscure and possibly unpleasant footnote to Mediaeval history, the Byzantine Empire, was in fact still the Roman Empire, known to Western Europeans, “Latins” or “Franks” at the time, as Romania, already the name of the Empire in Late Antiquity. In the Middle Ages, the Greeks used the Classical word for “Greeks,” Hellênes, Ἕλληνες, to mean the ancient pagan Greeks, as the word is used in the New Testament–sometimes the Latin word for Greeks would be borrowed, as Graikoi, Γραικοί, if this was needed for contemporary reference, as for the language. In 1354 Demetrius Cydones even translated the Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas Aquinas into Greek as the Book against the Hellenes. Mediaeval Greek speakers, and the other citizens of the Empire, whom we would now regard as different nationalities, Armenians, Albanians, Vlachs, etc., were themselves always Romans, Ρωμαῖοι, Rhômaîoi, and the Empire was always ἡ Ρωμαίων Ἀρχή hê Rhômaíôn Arkhê, ἡ Ρωμαίων Βασιλεία, hê Rhômaíôn Basileía, “the Empire of the Romans,” or even Ῥωμανία, Rhômania, as in Latin. (See the “Note on ‘Romania‘”.)

It is then natural that Classicists, to whom the Romans were the last people who proudly weren’t Christians, would prefer the hostile modern neologism “Byzantine” for the continuing Empire, rather than pollute the memory of Augustus and Trajan with that of Justinian, Heraclius, or Basil II. Yet even Justinian wore no beard and was still speaking Latin — and what Classicist will dare, and I dare them, to fault the others for speaking Greek? The very people, as it happens, thanks to whom we possess Classical Greek and its literature. Indeed, even Edward Gibbon, who actually called Mediaeval Romans (and he does frequently call them that) “a degenerate people” [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Modern Library, p.299], nevertheless, when speaking of the replacement of Latin by Greek in the Law, Court, and Army, referred to “the Greek, whose intrinsic merit deserved indeed the preference” [p.295, boldface added]. So we find that Gibbon was a Hellenophile.

Historians sometimes note the humiliation of the Greeks in being conquered by Rome, and sometimes the irony of the Romans admiring and adopting Greek thought, architecture, literature, etc. — Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, “Captive Greece captured the wild victor.” But I have never seen the stark truth put this way: The Greeks inherited the Roman Empire, without, however, ceasing to identify with it. Why does no one say that? They must be thinking that those Christian Greeks are no longer really Greeks, who by definition were pagans. Of course, Basil II and Alexius Comnenus would agree. They are no longer Hellênes; they are Rhômaîoi. But if, to historians, they are neither Greeks nor Romans, what can they be? Oh, let’s make up a word. They are “Byzantines” — and we all know how nasty that is. But the Romans, who were the last Classical people who were not Christians, were also, as it happens, the first who were. Classicists, as with Gibbon’s “triumph of barbarism and religion” [ibid. p.865], seem to choke on this simple truth.

… I have in fact never seen a book or treatment of the Roman Empire that addresses it as an institution with a continuous history from Augustus to Constantine XI. Classicist “Roman” historians lose interest in the 4th century and throw in the towel in the 5th, while “Byzantinists” generally begin with Constantine. This is a distortion due to modern prejudices, written by historians whom the Romans would have dismissed as “Franks.” The Rhômaîoi themselves possessed a strong sense of their identity and the continuity of their history, which is reflected in the popularity of continuous histories and chronicles written by Mediaeval historians in Constantinople. For instance, John Zonaras, writing in the 12th century, produced an Epitome, or abbreviated history, starting with the Creation, that was so popular that 79 partial or complete manuscripts survive today. Zonaras, drawing on sources that are now often lost, such as much of the history of Cassius Dio, divided his treatment in half, with Book II running from 106 BC down to his own day [cf. Warren Treadgold, “John Zonaras,” The Middle Byzantine Historians, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp.388-399].

Read the whole study here, you won’t be disappointed!

So refuse the lies of Edward Gibbon and those classicists who follow his lead. The truth will set you free to think for yourself!

Remembering Rome

There is always so much to say, but this is enough for today. Remember Rome, as did William Butler Yeats:

Sailing to Byzantium (1926)

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the treesSail
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire

Byzantine Mosaic

Byzantine Mosaic

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

 

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

What the Heck is Going On in our Society?

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Candlelight Vigil in Isla Vista Copyright © 2014 Getty Images. All rights reserved.

Candlelight Vigil in Isla Vista Copyright © 2014 Getty Images. All rights reserved.

With this weekend’s new massacre in Isla Vista (they had one in 2001 too), we must ask ourselves… What is Going On? Almost weekly here in North America we hear of shootings, stabbings, etc. connected to our schools, at all levels, Grammar School to University. And there are more around the world.

Violence, of course, is endemic in our world as it always has been. Wars, terrorism, genocide, hate crimes, murder, as well as rampant white collar crime (which may actually hurt more people than all the others) rage on.

An Aside on White Collar Crime

As an aside on White Collar Crime, Attorney General Holder, then Deputy AG, enunciated the policy in 1999 that prosecutors could “go easy” on some white collar crime to preserve Corporations too big to fail. This of course was not original with him. It has clearly been the operating policy for some time in Washington.

This is one of the reasons why Corporate Personhood is a bad idea and must be eliminated. Individuals who break the law within corporations LLE_Corporate-Personhood-as-meat-grinderoften escape prosecution because the Corporation as a whole pays the fine and shields them behind its “personhood.” What should happen is that the Corporation should be fined appropriately, and the people responsible for the crime should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Every time. If there is a reason for leniency, that is the job of the judge and jury to decide.

And of course, as we know, if you are poor or middle-class and break drug laws, etc., you will get the book thrown at you. If you are wealthy or notable, you might fare better. There are exceptions (Martha Stewart, Paris Hilton). However, “Prison isn’t right for some people. Do you know what it’s like in there?” the refrain usually goes. I am, of course, all for reasonable and alternative sentences where appropriate. Again, that’s for the Judge and Jury to decide.

School Violence

Back to our subject at hand. A climate of people getting away with White Collar Crime, does generate a general moral poison which infects all, including young people. “Getting away with it,” has become a favorite pastime.

Poster for The Bad Seed

Poster for The Bad Seed

First, we must rule out sociopathy. When parents see the signs of incipient sociopathic behavior in their children, action must be taken at once to treat this, and limit the potential for the child to act out on this disorder. So too, we must be very aware of other mental illnesses and not be afraid to treat them effectively in our children. They won’t go away on their own.

But what is at the roots of this tragic rise in school-related violence in seemingly nomad kids?

It is a cancerous culture we have allowed to form, and the cancer has infected many many people. It is the culture of “Might makes Right.” There are many subsets of this, “Greed is Good,” “Winning at all Costs,” “Winning through Intimidation,” for example. But the basic principle is: if you are strong enough, do anything you want. President-for-Life Putin certainly acts on this principle.

When I say “Might,” I am not exclusively referring to physical strength, although that is one component. It is any kind of power:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Economic/Entrepreneurial
  • Social
  • Political
  • Religious
  • etc.

It is quite natural that those who have these strengths will rise above the competition, and that is just fine. I am too much of a friend of C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters) to endorse a false egalitarianism that brings down the best to mediocracy. I have no problem with competition. “Without contraries there is no progression,” says William Blake, and it is the Law of the Triangle.

Noblesse Oblige

The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines Noblesse Oblige as, “Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.” Christians would say “The Kingdom of God is at Hand…act like it!”

But what do “The Best” (οἱ ἄριστοι—hoi aristoi) in each area above do today in the modern world we have built, once they have achieved well? Mel Brooks’s quip as King Louis XVI in History of the World Part I is the key “It’s good to be the King.” Step on everyone, use your Might to dominate. Bask in your superiority.

Our media are full of this principle. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the Reality Series, Survivor. In to win in this competition, everyone else must be eliminated. Many Video games have a similar theme. Be the last person standing. This is called Zero-Sum or Win-Lose thinking.

St. Macrina from St. Sophia Cathedral, Kiev

St. Macrina from St. Sophia Cathedral, Kiev

What if we turned this concept on its head. It would still make good drama, actually even better. What if in order to win, the whole group had to survive. Not one could be lost. The fate of the weakest was of vital interest to the strongest in the group? This is Non-Zero-Sum or Win-Win thinking.

This is not new. The Late Antique Christian teachers Cappadocians, Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, along with Gregory of Nyssa, and Macrina (the teacher of all of them) explained that, for example, that (what we would call today) the skill of entrepreneurship is a Divine gift. If a person is good at creating quality goods and services at a reasonable price, employing many at fair wages, that is just fine. He or she can make money at this too, and live decently.

What the entrepreneur must realize and act on is that he/she is obligated to keep the goods high quality and fairly priced, to keep his/her employees fairly paid and cared for, and he/she must generously support the poor. The entrepreneur was given this talent to serve the whole community. So too the metalsmith, the athlete, the artist, the politician.

Enlightened Self-Interest

We must therefore have enlightened self-interest, a concept I was first introduced to by Yale President Kingman Brewster many decades ago. It is in my best interests for everyone else to succeed too, to be healthy, educated, well housed and cared for, and to be good citizens. I am better when my community is better. I know we all give lip service to this concept, but it is not practiced in our society today. Instead we have created a “Dog eat Dog” culture.

My parents (and my father was no liberal—a Dixiecrat) both often said that, while they paid to send me to Catholic Schools, they had no problems at all paying property taxes to support the public school system. They knew it was in their best interest to have an educated citizenry.

Calvinism and Social Darwinism

What we have instead is deeply ingrained in the foundations of the United States. Many of the Northeastern States were populated by Calvinists (Puritans). In Calvinism, God creates some Saved and some Damned. There is no way out. He (it is clearly He in Calvinism) hates the damned and loves the Saved. The way you can tell which is which is by worldly success. Wealth and Power are a sign of being Saved, while Poverty and Weakness are signs of being Damned.

Current right-wingers (you know who you are, Koch Brothers, Fox News, et al.) are firmly Calvinist and Social Darwinist in their thinking (even while they reject Evolution!!). It is the survival of the fittest. As Scrooge says:

[The poor are dying and] “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Geniuses like Lincoln, however, know that “the better angels of our nature” can rise above the horrors of Calvinism and the Lex Talionis (The Law of the Talion—an eye for an eye) and Homo homini lupus (People are like wolves toward other people). (The latter is first seen in Plautus’s Asinaria, 195 BCE, “lupus est homo homini”). We, like some of the other higher animals (apes, dogs, cats, horses, cetaceans) can be altruistic and sacrifice ourselves for others, sometimes not even of our own species. Even the lower creatures, such as many group-mind insects (ants, bees), understand self-sacrifice in a way, too.

The Ideal of the Round Table

Arth_tapestry2What is the concrete and practical way we can reverse this cancer on our society, and restore sanity to our schools (as well as other venues)?

Tolkien knew that it is in our Myths and Stories that we can find the most important “applicability” to our lives. One of the great Mythic tales of our culture is that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. T.H. White, in his magnificent re-mythologizing of this tale in The Once and Future King has the key. (The title comes from Thomas Mallory’s 1485 Le Morte d’Arthur, which relates that many said that Arthur’s tomb had the inscription Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus – “Here lies Arthur, the Once and Future King.”)

Merlin explains to Arthur that while all around us, including the Knights, it appears that “Might Makes Right” (if you are strong enough, do anything you want), the ideal should be “Might for Right” (using Might to serve the right way). Arthur founds the Round Table on this ideal, and leads his Knights in implementing this policy.

In Greek literature, the adjective πρᾶος (práos) is translated Meek, but I was taught that this is only the tip of the iceberg. More deeply it means, strong, but placing one’s strength at the service of another, and therefore, domesticated. Dogs and horses, while strong, are práos, and the two main people having this epithet in Greek are Hercules, and Jesus. Hercules put his might at the service of his father Zeus, and Jesus humbly placed himself at the service of His Father.

Implementing Might for Right

What would this mean in practical terms, at first, in our child-rearing and schools?

From the earliest ages, the child must be thoroughly inculcated, by deed more effectively than word, with the ideal that whatever strength a person has must be used not only for her/his own benefit, but for the benefit of those weaker. After all, this is exactly what the parents are doing for their child.

The familiar parental corrections “You’ll do it because I’m the parent and your’re the child,” and “As long as you’re living under my roof you will obey my rules,” need to go away for good. They can be replaced by explaining why the action is good for the child, whether or not they agree. I’m not suggesting giving in to bad behavior, but explaining it differently, not in terms of raw power. Punishment is sometimes necessary, but never in anger or revenge. Always for correction.

In school, from the beginning, all teachers, coaches, at al. must make sure that the kids know that whatever strength they have (see the list at the beginning for some ideas of different kinds of strengths), they must use it, not only to succeed, but the help those who have less of that strength than they do.

This becomes increasingly important as the students mature, and their real strengths become more and more evident. That perennial bastion of physical strength and discipline, the football team, can take a leading role in this. Coaches should make it second nature for their athletes that off the field, their role is to protect the weaker students from bullies, encourage those with lesser abilities to do the best they can. All other athletic teams must do the same. The same with the intellectually gifted. And those who are beautiful, socially adept and wealthy must understand that their job is to help the less attractive, less socially skilled, less affluent.

Like the Knights of the Round Table, all the students of a given school must come to realize that it is better for all of them if all the students can succeed. Of course some may not, but it should not be from lack of trying. While it is natural that human beings, and especially kids, will gather in common-interest groups, they must not be allowed to become cliques. The Glee Club, the Dungeons and Dragons Club, the Socialites and the Sports teams must be taught that they are all important to the school’s success, and each participant is equal in human worth.

When we magnify this attitude, we understand that each American is better when all Americans are better, regardless of race, creed, color, language, family, gender, orientation, etc. And finally, we are all better in the world when all succeed. And Humans are better when our companions on this planet fare well. We are all in this together.

I should note here that I am not opposing fair,  equal-playing-field competition. I was a debater in High School, and served as a debate coach at Brophy Prep in Phoenix and Loyola High in Los Angeles. Many of my close friends have been competitive athletes. These are the right arenas for competition, just as Knights jousted.

Can you find me in some of the black and white photos in this next youtube video? The President, Fr. Greg Goethals is a dear old friend, and Fr. John Auther (in another black and white) is also a dear friend and classmate in the Novitiate! In the second black and white of me, is also Mr. Robert Ng, whom I took to the National Tournament in San Antonio his Senior year!

Is this feasible to implement Might for Right? Is it practical? Of course it is. All we have to do is start doing it. There is no expense attached to this, no committees needed. just a change of heart (μετάνοια—metanoia).

Here is my prescription to those who are practicing Social Calvinism, Social Darwinism, and Might Makes Right. It comes from a famous sketch from MAD TV:

Just Stop it!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Save our Vets and Net Neutrality, and other Pressing Issues!

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We have a lot of things to keep in prayers and demand action on at the moment. Just to name a few:

  • Stopping the mad Boko Haram in Nigeria
  • The Ukrainian Crisis fomented by Putin
  • The Coup in Thailand
  • Ongoing Poverty, War and Sickness
  • Corporate Greed, etc.
  • The Drug Cartels

(Certainly, the Benghazi Raid is not one of them…this is pure Republican BS.)

Jessica Urbina, Senior at Sacred Heart-Cathedral Prep in San Jose

Jessica Urbina, Senior at Sacred Heart-Cathedral Prep in San Francisco

Some good things happened this week too:

— Marriage Equality is gaining more and more ground.

— The SF Cathedral High student wearing a Tux for her Yearbook photo received an apology from the school

Robert Copeland

Robert Copeland

administrators for taking it out of the Yearbook, and will put it back in.
— Robert Copeland, the NH Police Commissioner who insulted all of us with his unapologietic racial slur against our President, resigned. Good Riddance. The right thing happened, and let’s all visit the lovely little town of Wolfeboro, NH. They stepped up, and condemned his remarks and attitude immediately.

 

 

Two of the issues we Americans can all take direction on are in the U.S. are the following.

Save Our Vets

It has now come out that the VA has criminally mis-managed Veterans’ Care in several locations around the U.S. We cannot let this go on. The first priority is to fix the system immediately. The second is to hold responsible, publicly, legally and criminally, those who made these horrendous, sometimes fatal decisions.

Please write your Representative and Senators immediately. If you aren’t sure how to do this, here’s a site that makes it easy! http://www.contactingthecongress.org. (My Representatives and Senators get regular emails from me, as you might imagine.)

Save Net Neutrality

The FCC this week floated a proposal to allow Paid Priority Internet, so that a company, say, Netflix, could pay the Internet provider to speed up their feed. Of course this means we would then have fast internet and slow internet. You know who will pay the price in the end: us. It will end up slowing the Internet access we have. Here’s what I wrote to my Representative and Senators, and to the FCC:

I categorically oppose any diminution in Net Neutrality, and ask you to stop the FCC’s proposal to allow any kind of Paid Priority Internet. I use the internet for work and home constantly.

The FCC suggests that allowing Paid Priority will be balanced by the ability to penalize any companies that do this unfairly. After so many years of watching corporations break regulatory rules, and the sometimes years and fortunes it takes to prosecute them, we must not be naive. Unethical corporations will cheat and try to get around the regulations every time, and dare us to stop them. The only motivation for a corporation is profits. Let’s not even let them get a foot in the door in the Internet.

One of the Sites that has the best information and action items is http://www.stoptheslowlane.com. Here are some of their Graphics, to amuse and motivate you (click to see animation):

And here: http://www.stoptheslowlane.com/index.html

So let’s get busy! Time’s a wasting!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Monotheism

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A friend and colleague recently asked me about Monotheism. Here are my reflections:

The one thing Monotheism has going for it is that it is true.  There is, and can only be, one Divine Source of All Being of the Multiverse and all planes of existence. This is illustrated in a poem I wrote for the Mithraic issue of the Rosicrucian Digest:

Français : Mithra sacrifiant le Taureau (100-200 après J-C) collection Borghése achat en 1807 par le Louvre , exposition dans la galerie du temps au Louvre-Lens by Serge Ottaviani

Mithra sacrifiant le Taureau (100-200 après J-C) collection Borghése achat en 1807 par le Louvre , exposition dans la galerie du temps au Louvre-Lens
by Serge Ottaviani

Sun, Word and Wisdom

Mithras!

Your name on the winds of ages
Conjures Legions of Grizzled Soldiers
United in your twilight grottos,
Rivals to the Galilean’s Fishermen.

But is this true?

Your name,
Perhaps plucked from a Persian Pen,
concealed your true nature from us
for centuries upon centuries.

Anselm,

Hierophant of both Rose and Cross
received a sliver of light from
the ancient Torches
concealed within your Caves:
“That than which Nothing Greater can be
Conceived”
he called you,
whom ancient adepts knew
as the One above all Fate,
All Gods and Goddesses,
All the Spheres and Heavens.

The One who turns
the very globe of the Heavens
and more beyond,
the goal of Thrice Great Hermes and his kin.

But rival to the Essene Master, the Repairer and Restorer?
Nothing could be further from the Truth.

You taught us not to settle for any but the Source of All,
Communion with the One,
whose Icon wise Nefertiti and Akhenaten
revealed to us
in the blazing sun,
Your twin and symbol, and our true nature.

While Mary’s son, the self same Source as you,
Unconquered Sun,
came to walk among us,
manifesting how to live, and love, and be
transfigured,
nothing here below that is not Divine in essence,
awakening to full transcendence in the One.

Two thousand years have passed since those times,
and the ages turn again, from Pisces to the Water Bearer.

In this time when our world and universe
are known to ride the cosmic waves
on vibrating membranes, part of a vast expanding Multiverse,
we need you both, Mithras-spirit and Christ-spirit,
and Isis too, Divine Sophia:
Sun, Word, and Mother Wisdom,
Compassion of the Buddha:

The totally beyond and the totally here, within,
in all the forms you manifest throughout the world.

Lead us in love, compassion, and transfiguration,
Unite us in the Marriage of the Heart:
Lead us to realization in the One.

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. 1511

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. 1511

Now, if you are thinking of this Monotheistic Source as a white-robed old man with a long white beard, sitting on the clouds directing the Cosmos, I reject that image categorically. Like Socrates, in regard to that image, I am an atheist. I am talking about (and deep in their hearts, all Monotheisms speak of) the One, the Unmoved Mover, the Ground of Being, the Source of All, etc. Although the anthropomorphic God image makes nice Western Art,  it was actually condemned by the 7th Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II–787).

C.S. Lewis acknowledged this in one of his poems which is a favorite of mine:

Footnote to All Prayers

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, muttering Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.

Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

So Monotheism is true in the absolute sense; however, the way that most monotheisms have been practiced is not pretty. Unfortunately the usual approach is “My Way, or the Highway!” And this is then enforced by force.

Darius_I_the_Great's_inscription. The Behistun Inscription contains many references to Ahura Mazda.

Darius_I_the_Great’s_inscription. The Behistun Inscription contains many references to Ahura Mazda.

I would be hard pressed to find any true polytheism in history. That is, a religion, spirituality or culture which believes that the many gods are actually independent eternal entities, not coming from any other one original source. The debate is open as to whether Zoroastrianism is actually dualist or monotheistic. On the one hand, the most ancient of their Scriptures describe Ahura Mazda as the One, Transcendent Source of all, and Ahriman as a non-personal “tendency to disorder or chaos.” However, popular piety and some modern scholars contend that Zoroastrian Cosmology really posits the two as dualistic gods.

In most cases, such as the Egyptians, the Mystery Schools, The Celts, and modern Hindus, they all know that the gods, and in fact all things, are Manifestations of the One, just different aspects.

This can be illustrated by the two Egyptian words, Netr (The Divine) and Neteru (The Gods). The One Source is Netr. The Neteru manifest aspects of Divinity, as do all created/manifested things and beings. Hindus teach that “All is Atman, which is Brahman.”

Sophisticated practitioners of Greco-Roman Religion knew this too, as modern scholarship has well demonstrated:

Polymnia Athanassiadi; Michael Frede. Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. http://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Monotheism-Antiquity-Polymnia-Athanassiadi/dp/019924801X

Stephen Mitchell; Peter van Nuffelen. One God: Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. http://www.amazon.com/One-God-Pagan-Monotheism-Empire/dp/0521194164/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400027374&sr=1-3&keywords=Pagan+monotheism

Stephen Mitchell; Peter van Nuffelen. Monotheism Between Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity. Leuven; Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010. http://www.amazon.com/Monotheism-Christians-Antiquity-Interdisciplinary-Religion/dp/9042922427/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400027374&sr=1-2&keywords=Pagan+monotheism

Greco-Roman Monotheism was actually nothing new. The Greek Mystery Schools, beginning with the Orphic Mysteries and continuing through the Pythagoreans, the Mysteries of Eleusis and Delphi, etc. All taught that the classical stories of the gods were symbolic narratives meant to teach deeper realities. The Mystery Schools sought to realize the unity of each of us with the Transcendent Divine Source. As the Orphics put is “Through being Mortal, you have become God.”

Alexander the Great spread this kind of thought across much of the world, as he planted Hellenism wherever he went. Plato and Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists were certainly monotheists of this type. Cicero, Seneca and most Roman philosophers were also Classical Monotheists. They saw no contradiction of speaking of God and the gods, just as the Egyptians did.

What was remarkable about the changes in Late Antiquity (2nd-8th centuries CE) in this Classical Pagan monotheism was that, with the threat from Christianity, philosophers and spokespersons for Greco-Roman religion began to be more explicit about this, like The Emperor Julian II (the Apostate or the Restorer, depending on your position) (331–363).

To be sure, there were different schools of philosophical thought, but you did not see Stoics killing Epicureans, for example. They debated and compared systems.

There are two outstanding characteristics of these kinds of Monotheism, distinguishing them from the Big Four “standard” Monotheisms (Atenism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is their use of two methods:

First, they understood that the gods (and indeed, everything) were manifestation of the One Source—God.

Second, they were liberally syncretistic. As cultures encountered one another, they found similarities in their gods. Thoth=Hermes=Mercury=Odin≈Samara, for example.  They were universalists in that they understood that each culture experienced the one Divine in their own ways, but that does not affect the Unity of the One Source.

St. Patrick lighting the Bealteinne Fire, associating himself with Druidry.

St. Patrick lighting the Bealteinne Fire, associating himself with Druidry.

Christianity almost went in this direction. Early Christianity was very diverse, and the ancient Mysteries in each location were encoded into the type of Christianity there, such as Coptic Christianity, Byzantine Christianity, Roman Christianity, Celtic (Druid) Christianity, Persian Christianity, etc. Each shows the distinct traits of their respective Mystery Schools.

For many reasons, mostly social, economic and political, but also due to its inheritance from Atenism and Judaism, Christianity closed ranks.  Both Atenism and Judaism were radically Monotheistic, and antagonistic to any syncretism. Akhenaten closed all of the other Temples in Egypt. We can also see this in the Maccabean Revolt sparked by the erection of a Zeus statue in  the Jerusalem Temple’s sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

A 2nd century Christian teacher shows how it could have been different. St. Justin the Philosopher (Justin

St. Justin the Philosopher

St. Justin the Philosopher

Martyr) taught that the Logos had implanted truth in all cultures (the Spermatic Logos) and it was the Christian’s job to find these truths planted everywhere, according to culture.  There are other examples, such as Celtic Christianity and Native Alaskan Orthodox Christianity. Then too, there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and many Saints and Angels with roles much like the old gods.

In Bernstein’s Mass, the celebrant sings: “I believe in One God, I believe in Three. I’ll believe in any God who believes in me.”

Now the less educated Pagans might have thought of Zeus and Hermes as actually separate entities, just as some undereducated Christians mIght think that Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe are different persons, but others know better.

Islam claims to be, and is often regarded as radically monotheistic; however, it certainly does borrow from other traditions, and is heavily influenced by Neo-Platonism. Ismailis may also have Zoroastrian influences.

Therefore, we can see that “monotheism” in itself may not be the problem. Rather, it is how a religion is administered that is the issue.

Before we go further, we need to define a few terms.

A religion is a body of people who share common spiritual beliefs and lifestyles and almost always have some form of leadership, whether it be elders, priests, shamans, rabbis, imams, teachers, etc. Religions have teachings (doctrines) and vary in the degree to which these are considered to be binding on all members. In most religions, monotheistic or “polytheistic,” the leaders play some kind of mediating role between the people and the Divine. This is most evident in religions that have priests. Almost all ancient pre-Judeo-Christian religions had priests.

Spirituality is not well defined. It is usually used to describe a corpus of approaches to the spiritual life. In Catholic Christianity, it designates the particular charism of one of the schools of Christianity, for example, Carmelite Spirituality or Jesuit Spirituality. These are seen as complementary, not conflicting.

St. Gregory Palamas

St. Gregory Palamas

Another current usage considers Spirituality as opposed to Religion. Someone might say “I’m not religious, I’m Spiritual.” They mean that they do not adhere to any organized religion, but have a generally spiritual outlook and philosophy of life.

Mysticism is the practice of deep meditative prayer to attain union with The Divine without mediation of “priests or kings.” Virtually all religions include Mysticism in their practice, and Mystics exist outside of religion, such as Rosicrucians and Martinists,

With these definitions, the real contrast is between a personally explored and experienced spirituality, usually including some form of Mysticism, with belonging to an organized religion. Of course, a member of a religion might also have this kind of independent approach as well, privately disregarding the parts of their religion they do not find useful or true.

Some religions permit this kind of private choice approach and are “latitudinarian.” This term is favorable by those who like this approach, and a heresy for those who don’t (Pope Pius IX, nicknamed “Pio No-No” condemned it in the 19th Century), and such practitioners are derided by Conservative Catholics as “Cafeteria Catholics.” This is a fine example of “My way or the highway.”

Pio No-No, by the way, is the infamous Pontiff who presided at Vatican I when the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was propagated. Quite a few

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:PD-1923

Gregory II Youssef, Patriarch of Antioch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 1864 to 1897.

Bishops left the Council rather than publicly vote against it. When Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef (October 17, 1823 – July 13, 1897) spoke against it, and then left the Council:

“The Eastern Church attributes to the pope the most complete and highest power, however in a manner where the fullness and primacy are in harmony with the rights of the patriarchal sees. This is why, in virtue of and ancient right founded on customs, the Roman Pontiffs did not, except in very significant cases, exercise over these sees the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction that we are asked now to define without any exception. This definition would completely destroy the constitution of the entire Greek church. That is why my conscious as a pastor refuses to accept this constitution.”

All of the opponents of the doctrine left the Council except for the Bishop of Little Rock, Edward M. Fitzgerald, who cast the sole vote against it .  The next time Melkite Patriarch Gregory visited the Vatican, the Papal Guards seized the Patriarch and threw him at the Pope’s Feet. Pius IX put his foot on his head to demonstrate his power. A far cry from the Master Jesus washing the feet of his disciples! This certainly is a dark side of Monotheism.

When religion moves from the private sphere to the public, on the larger level in society, we have the phenomenon of religions that seek to enforce their views in public life controlling how everyone behaves. This is very widespread on the planet and not exclusive to monotheism. Very often, politicians who have no genuine religious feelings simply use the religious views of their constituents to manipulate them into supporting what the politician wants. Whatever one’s symbolic system uses as images for Hell, or Karmic Balance, such manipulative leaders are condemning themselves to a very painful next stage of existence.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) and members of the Imperial family offer sacrifice in gratitude for success against Germanic tribes. In the backgrounds stands the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitolium (this is the only extant portrayal of this roman temple). Bas-relief from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, Rome, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) and members of the Imperial family offer sacrifice in gratitude for success against Germanic tribes. In the backgrounds stands the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitolium (this is the only extant portrayal of this roman temple). Bas-relief from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, Rome, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

Contrasting this with classical times, we see something of a difference. In classical Rome, for example, as long as you were willing to burn incense and offer sacrifices to the State Gods, you could practice pretty much any religion you wanted. The Official Cult kept the world in balance. This was similar to how Egyptians viewed the externals of official religion, it preserved Ma’at and so was necessary.

What got Jews and Christians in trouble was that, with their radical exclusivist monotheistic inheritance from Atenism, they would not make these Official gestures. This made them enemies of the State.

Most of us are torn in our views of this situation. On the one hand, we applaud the assertion of individual rights by the ancient Jewish and Christian individuals and condemn the State for trying to enforce a religious practice. On the other hand, we are not comfortable with the intolerant exclusivist approach of the radical monotheists. Something to meditate on!

 

So what good is religion anyway?

Religio comes from the Latin for Gather Together, with old Proto-Indo-European roots. It binds us together. Many see this as a burden, but consider that one Ox can pull only so much weight, while a yoked team can do much more. Together we are stronger, better.

I see the “being tied together-ness” as in the 1906 poem (and later hymn) by G.K. Chesterton:

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.

Listen to it here:

Believe it or not, the hymn is so well known in Britain that Iron Maiden did a riff on it, with some updated additions:

But it does more than that, when religion works well. First, it keeps the symbols of mysticism and the sacred before us, and implants them in us, in a culturally appropriate way so that they are there when we are ready to move more deeply into mysticism.

Also, well-integrated religion offers culturally specific first steps on the journey toward reintegration with the Source of All (God, as you conceive God to be). If one goes to the heart of each tradition, as the mystics of each tradition do, one meets all the other initiates, since there is a fundamental, and dynamic Oneness at the base of it all.

The journey toward reintegration with our Source, represented in most world religions and spiritualities, is the ultimate goal. It is the journey of involution and evolution imaged by the Fool’s Journey in the major trumps of the Tarot from the Fool to The World. Properly handled, religion is the beginning of this ladder, and a support on the journey.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The Tree of Amalion.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The Tree of Amalion.

On the journey of Reintegration, we discover our own role, as those who have a Divine birthright, and a priestly role of reintegrating the whole Cosmos with its source. We take up our inheritance as Creators:

Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons- ’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.

Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”

This certainly sounds like Humans in their First Estate of Martinès de Pasqually and Louis-Claude de Saint Martin.

Religions can provide a great deal of social support for their adherents, and are responsible for a great deal of charitable activity in the world. For example, St. Ignatius of Antoich (1st/2nd Century) calls the Roman Church: “The one which excels in charity,” (philanthropia—practical love manifested in deeds) because of its outstanding care for the poor.

Julian II presiding at a conference of sectarians

Julian II presiding at a conference of sectarians

Roman Emperor Julian II (the Apostate/ the Restorer—chose one) knew this and admonished his Pagan priests to return to promoting the ancient Greco-Roman practice of Philanthropia. This selection from his Letter to a Priest is a remarkable example of Late Antique Pagan Monotheism. It certainly sounds “Christian” to us today, and includes remarkable insight on society. Note that he also propounds the Law of AMRA, and echoes 1 John 4:20. The modern nature of Julian’s approach is truly stunning, and therefore I cite it at length:

You must above all exercise philanthropy, for from it result many other blessings, and moreover that choicest and greatest blessing of all, the good will of the gods. For just as those who are in agreement with their masters about their friendships and ambitions and loves are more kindly treated than their fellow slaves, so we must suppose that God, who naturally loves human beings, has more kindness for those men who love their fellows. Now philanthropy has many divisions and is of many kinds. For instance it is shown when men are punished in moderation with a view to the betterment of those punished, as schoolmasters punish children; and again in ministering to men’s needs, even as the gods minister to our own. You see all the blessings of the earth that they have granted to us, food of all sorts, and in an abundance that they have not granted to all other creatures put together.

And since we were born naked they covered us with the hair of animals, and with things that grow in the ground and on trees. Nor were they content to do this simply or off-hand, as Moses bade men take coats of skins, but you see how numerous are the gifts of Athene the Craftswoman. What other animals use wine, or olive oil? Except indeed in cases where we let them share in these things, even though we do not share them with our fellowmen.

What creature of the sea uses corn, what land animal uses things that grow in the sea? And I have not yet mentioned gold and bronze and iron, though in all these the gods have made us very rich; yet not to the end that we may bring reproach on them by disregarding the poor who go about in our midst, especially when they happen to be of good character— men for instance who have inherited no paternal estate, and are poor because in the greatness of their souls they have no desire for money.

Now the crowd when they see such men blame the gods. However it is not the gods who are to blame for their poverty, but rather the insatiate greed of us men of property becomes the cause of this false conception of the gods among men, and besides of unjust blame of the gods. Of what use, I ask, is it for us to pray that God will rain gold on the poor as he did on the people of Rhodes? For even though this should come to pass, we should forthwith set our slaves underneath to catch it, and put out vessels everywhere, and drive off all comers so that we alone might seize upon the gifts of the gods meant for all in common.

And anyone would naturally think it strange if we should ask for this, which is not in the nature of things, and is in every way unprofitable, while we do not do what is in our power. Who, I ask, ever became poor by giving to his neighbors? Indeed I myself, who have often given lavishly to those in need, have recovered my gifts again many times over at the hands of the gods, though I am a poor man of business; nor have I ever repented of that lavish giving. And of the present time I will say nothing, for it would be altogether irrational of me to compare the expenditure of private persons with that of an Emperor; but when I was myself still a private person I know that this happened to me many times. My grandmother’s estate for instance was kept for me untouched, though others had taken possession of it by violence, because from the little that I had I spent money on those in need and gave them a share.

Portrait of Julianus Apostata ( Julian the Apostate) on a bronze coin from Antiochië, 360-363. Photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (CNG)

Portrait of Julian II on a bronze coin from Antiochië, 360-363. Photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (CNG)

We ought then to share our money with all men, but more generously with the good, and with the helpless and poor so as to suffice for their need. And I will assert, even though it be paradoxical to say so, that it would be a pious act to share our clothes and food even with the wicked. For it is to the humanity in a man that we give, and not to his moral character. Hence I think that even those who are shut up in prison have a right to the same sort of care; since this kind of philanthropy will not hinder justice. For when many have been shut up in prison to await trial, of whom some will be found guilty, while others will prove to be innocent, it would be harsh indeed if out of regard for the guiltless we should not bestow some pity on the guilty also, or again, if on account of the guilty we should behave ruthlessly and inhumanly to those also who have done no wrong.

This too, when I consider it, seems to me altogether wrong; I mean that we call Zeus by the title ‘God of Strangers,’ while we show ourselves more inhospitable to strangers than are the very Scythians. How, I ask, can one who wishes to sacrifice to Zeus, the God of Strangers, even approach his temple? With what conscience can he do so, when he has forgotten the saying “From Zeus come all beggars and strangers; and a gift is precious though small”?

Again, the man who worships Zeus the God of Comrades, and who, though he sees his neighbors in need of money, does not give them even so much as a drachma, how, I say, can he think that he is worshipping Zeus aright? When I observe this I am wholly amazed, since I see that these titles of the gods are from the beginning of the world their express images, yet in our practice we pay no attention to anything of the sort. The gods are called by us ‘gods of kindred,’ and Zeus the ‘God of Kindred,’ but we treat our kinsmen as though they were strangers. I say ‘kinsmen’ because every man, whether he will or no, is akin to every other man, whether it be true, as some say, that we are all descended from one man and one woman, or whether it came about in some other way, and the gods created us all together, at the first when the world began, not one man and one woman only, but many men and many women at once. For they who had the power to create one man and one woman, were able to create many men and women at once; since the manner of creating one man and one woman is the same as that of creating many men and many women.

In the 4th and 5th Rosicrucian Manifestos, a Universal Religion (or Universal Spirituality) is envisioned. I’m all for it, in the mode of Diversity.

Positio Fraternitatis, the historic 4th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2001).

Positio Fraternitatis, the historic 4th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2001).

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).

Consider this: would you want to eat filet mignon day in and day out? Or spaghetti, or Kung Pao Chicken, or any type of cuisine all the time? Should there be a Universally Uniform Cuisine? I certainly would say no. Diversity of cuisines is one of the great delights of the world.

In fact, diversity is so fundamental to the nature of being that some traditions, like Christianity, enshrine this in their doctrine. The Unitary Godhead is diverse within itself: the Three Persons, One God. Other traditions speak of the mystery of the One and the Many.

I take a Gnostic reading (that is, topsy-turvy) of the story in the Hebrew Scripture’s Book of Genesis 11: 1-9—the Tower of Babel. I see in this symbolic story the following:

God originally created everything diverse, and that includes the natural evolution of diverse cultures and languages. At the Tower of Babel, people had done away with the diversity of languages and culture, and formed one monolithic path, symbolized by the tower. Uniformity crushing diversity.

The Falling Tower, Colored by (c) 2010 Torquil MacNeil. https://www.flickr.com/photos/laird_of_kiloran/6242185068/

The Falling Tower, Colored by (c) 2010 Torquil MacNeil.

God broke the Tower, the model for the Falling Tower of the Tarot, because the Divine Will (and its

The Icon of Pentecost

The Icon of Pentecost

manifestation, Cosmic Law) demand diversity.

In the Christian New Testament, the wound of Babel is healed at the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-6). Through the realization of the Holy Spirit in the Theotokos, the Apostles and the Disciples, they began to preach in their own language (Aramaic), and all the diverse peoples who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost understood them in their own languages. Unity does not require uniformity. Unity and Diversity are complementary, not in opposition.

Why is diversity so important? To answer this, we must go back to the Hermetic axiom, “As Above, So Below; As Below, So Above.” There is a natural and iconic correspondence between all levels of existence. Each thing in all of the manifested Cosmos/Multiverse and all the planes of existence are symbols or Icons of their ultimate Source, the ultimately diverse and ultimately One.

In the Tarot, one of the major meanings of Trump 16 is the breaking of illusions imaged by the preceding card, 15–The Devil. It is a necessary step in the final journey of enlightenment. It corresponds to the North, Winter, the Winter Solstice, the Earth, The Nativity, Death and Rebirth, Assiah: World of Action, Mars and Tuesday. The Walls of the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, fell on Tuesday May 29, 1453 at about 2pm in the afternoon. You put it together.

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead

(Thank you Alfred North Whitehead for bringing these concepts together. Whitehead in the 20th century argued that we needed to go back to Plato and start Philosophy over. While the Greeks held immutability as a perfection and therefore predicated it of the Divine, we now hold responsiveness as the highest value. Therefore for Whitehead the Deity is immutable in its ultimate responsiveness/potentiality/mutability. This also gives us a bridge between the general Western conception of the One, and the Buddhist conception of the Pregnant No-Thing-ness.)

Now how can finite things (as everything appears to be here below) image the Infinite? Through Diversity. The Cosmos must be diverse to even begin to point toward its Source. Therefore, our religions must be diverse, both within traditions (as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Earth-Based spirituality and virtually all other spiritualities are), but also through the panoply of human faiths. I can think of no better example of this than a wonderful scene from Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5  (note: Babylon…Babel… hmmm!?)

On the space station, the annual festival of religions is taking place. Each of races from the many planets give a demonstration of their world’s religion. When it comes time for humanity, Commander Sinclair ushers the delegates into a large room. Here is the result:

I will leave it to those who know Commander Sinclair’s ultimate role in the story to link his name with the Templar Sinclair’s of Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel, etc. With Michael Straczynski, nothing is ever accidental!

The genius of humanity is to know that no one approach to spirituality can answer it all. We need them all to be healthy, to be human, to be divine.

Just like with cuisine, I may primarily cook Mexican food at home, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t make forays into other cuisines and other restaurants! So too with Religion.

Cocina de un restaurante en San Pedro Atocpan, Distrito Federal, México, en la que se está preparando mole. Photo by GABIEGUIN

Cocina de un restaurante en San Pedro Atocpan, Distrito Federal, México, en la que se está preparando mole. Photo by GABIEGUIN

(A whole other discussion is the diversity of culinary approaches. Broadly speaking, the Western cuisine that developed during the Middle Ages seeks to enhance and display the flavors of the ingredients themselves. Many other culinary traditions, including ancient cuisines, and many African, Middle-Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, seek to transform the ingredients in a kind of Alchemy to produce something that transcends to sum total of the parts. But that is another story altogether.)

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, the Unknown Philosopher

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, the Unknown Philosopher, the inspiration for Martinism.

How does this square with the Rosicrucian Utopia’s call for a Universal Religion? The Martinist Tradition provides the answer. We work for the day when Initiates of every Path recognize the Initiates of all other Paths. The Universal Religion should not, and must not mistake uniformity for unity. Rather, each values her or his own way of approaching spirituality, and rejoices in others’ ways of doing the same.

A great image of this is in the film, Van Helsing. In the underground laboratories of the Vatican, the true Illuminati, from every race and creed work together for the common good. This is how it should be.

So there are my thoughts on this, and I understand what the manifestos are saying. The world’s religions must end their sectarianism, or risk extinction. I envision them doing to create Babylon 5’s vision of human religion. So Mote It Be!

Steven A. Armstrong

Tutor, Editor, Consultant