Enjoy My New Book–Circles: Poems of Youth!

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cicle_coverI just wanted to share the good news that my chapbook of poetry is now available for sale at Amazon.com in Print and Kindle formats. Get it here!

It is the collection of poetry I wrote in my early years, which I have kept with me all my life. It was first privately printed years ago as part of some of my Esoteric work. This second edition adds a much more recent poem, “Sun, Word, and Wisdom,” first published in the December 2010 Rosicrucian Digest Web Supplemental, and reprinted here with permission from the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC.

Bucking Broncos

The first section, “Bucking Broncos” contains poems written while I was a student at Brophy College Prep, the Jesuit High School in Phoenix AZ, 1968-1972. I had a wonderful time in High School, and still stay in contact with friends from Brophy. Since the class of 1972 graduated, Brophy has grown tremendously, now having an academic campus, an athletic campus, and a spiritual retreat campus. In addition, while being the standout academic and athletic

"Brophy College and Chapel" by Kabugenyo

“Brophy College and Chapel” by Kabugenyo

High School in Arizona, Brophy has recently added the Loyola Academy, a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade division which accepts students who demonstrate academic promise but have had limited educational opportunities. This, of course is directly in line with the Ignatian spirituality of the Faith that does Justice. I am eternally grateful to my friends and teachers at Brophy. I use what I learned there, academically, humanly, and spiritually, every day.

The Dead Shall Be Raised

The Egyptian Revival Gate to the Grove Street Cemetery. Photo by Ragesoss.

The Egyptian Revival Gate to the Grove Street Cemetery. Photo by Ragesoss.

The next section contains poems from my early Yale years, 1972-1974. The title of the section comes from Yale itself. On the Lintel over the entrance to the Egyptian Revival Gateway to the Grove Street Cemetery next to the Campus, is inscribed “The Dead Shall Be Raised.” The citation, of course, comes from 1 Corinthians 15:52:




ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα.

…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

This, of course resonates with me for spiritual reasons (and please note, the resurrected body will be the Glorified Body, or as Martinists call it, le Corps Glorieux, not limited by time or space, just as was the Resurrected Body of The Christ, in my belief), and also for its resonance with the Paschal Troparion of the Byzantine Liturgy:


Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας,
καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι,
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!

Christós anésti ek nekrón,
thanáto thánaton patísas,
ké tís en tís mnímasi,
zoín charisámenos!

Russian Icon: The Harrowing of Hell (Pascha--The Resurrection)

Russian Icon: The Harrowing of Hell (Pascha–The Resurrection). Photo (c) 2008 Shakko.

Old Church Slavonic:

Хс҄рсто́съ воскрє́сє ᾿иꙁъ мє́ртвъіхъ,
смє́ртїю смє́рть попра́въ,
᾿и су́щимъ во гробѣ́хъ Живо́тъ дарова́въ.

Khristos voskrese iz mertvykh,
Smertiyu smert poprav,
E sushchim vo grobekh
Zhivot darovav!


المسيح قام من بين الأموات
و وطئ الموت بالموت
و وهب الحياة
للذين في القبور
Al-Masīh qām min baīni’l-amwāt
Wa wati’ al-mawt bi’l-mawt
Wa wahab al-hayāt
Lil-ladhīna fī’l-qubūr!

Christ is Risen from the Dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And unto those in the Tombs
Bestowing Life!


Furthermore, the Egyptian Revival Architecture may have been a mystical precognitive moment pointing to my work and life as a Rosicrucian, and at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum!

Not only is this a landmark in New Haven, there is Yale lore attached to it. New students are told that whenever there is a new Mayor elected in New Haven, or a new President at Yale, the two would take a ceremonial walk around the campus. When they crossed before the entrance to the Grove Street Cemetery, it is said that the Mayor would always read the inscription: “The Dead shall be Raised.”

The President of Yale would respond, “When Yale needs the land.”

I doubt that it is true, but it has entered into the lore of Old Eli.


The Fear of the Lord

At More House my Freshman Year. Can you find me?

At More House my Freshman Year. Can you find me?

The poems in this section are from my Junior and Senior years at Yale, 1975-1976. I am most grateful to Fr. Dick “Francis” Russell, Fr. Peter Fagan, and Sr. Ramona Pena for being there for me at St. Thomas More House. Yale was a graced time, and a lot of work, but it cemented what Brophy had begun as I became a young adult.

I am incredibly grateful to all of my friends, colleagues and professors. I just had a chance to visit recently with one of my roommates, Caesar T. Storlazzi in New Haven, where he serves the University as Chief Financial Aid Officer. We also hobnobbed with Bruce Shenitz in Manhattan in June.

I’m not good at staying in touch with people, but I am grateful to Peter Fish, Bruce Shenitz and John Hsiao who have never let me drift too far out in space. Peter is an editor-at-large in Travel for Sunset Magazine, Bruce worked for many years in journalism, has a book out (that somebody else published, not like me!), and is now in Information Services. John is a psychiatrist at NIH and the National Institute on Aging. Thanks to all of you, and to all at Silliman, at More House, and at Yale!

The Queen of Peace

The Pacifica Graduate Institute now uses the campus of the College of the Queen of Peace.

The Pacifica Graduate Institute now uses the campus of the College of the Queen of Peace.

The next section has poems from my time at the Jesuit Novitiate in Montecito, CA, The College of the Queen of Peace, 1977-1979. There I met brothers and friends who have been with me for the rest of my life. Thank you to all of the Society of Jesus, and the families, students and mentors I have been graced to stand with!  After those years, I got so busy, my muse took a vacation. I want to send my love to all those I have been with at St. Ignatius Mission, the Tecate and Tijuana Sisters, Fordham, Loyola High, Weston, St. Andrew’s, St. Michael’s, St. Andrew’s in Westbury, Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, Annunciation Cathedral, St. Anne’s, Holy Transfiguration, St. George’s, the Melkite, Russian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian Catholic Churches, the ECPA, the JCE, John XXIII Center, The Orthodox Churches, Clergy and Members I have worked with, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and the BTI, the GTU, USF, SI Prep, and everyone else. I pray to the Servant of God the Hieromonk Walter Ciszek, S.J. that he will ask blessings for you all. I wasn’t writing poetry then, you all were poetry for me!

Domus Sancti Spiritus

There are four Muses of Poetry:

Calliope: Καλλιόπη, Kalliopē “beautiful-voiced”  guides epic poetry

Euterpe: Eὐτέρπη, “rejoicing well” or “delight” from Ancient Greek εὖ ‘well’ + τέρπειν terpein ‘to please’) guides song and elegiac poetry

Erato Ἐρατώ “desired” or “lovely” inspires lyric poetry.

I presume it was Erato who jump-started my poetry again in 2010 for the Mithraic Mysteries Issue of the Rosicrucian Digest. This latest poem was not in the first, privately printed edition, and I am grateful to Grand Master Julie Scott for giving permission for this reprint.

The name of the section comes from a Rosicrucian Manifesto:

Robert Fludd: The Rose gives Honey to the Bees.

Robert Fludd: The Rose gives Honey to the Bees.

In the Fama Fraternitatis, the first of the Rosicrucian Manifestos, published in 1614, we are told that once a year, the members of the Rosicrucians would gather on a specific day at a particular location: “That every year upon the day C. They should meet together at the house S. Spiritus, or write the cause of is absence.”[i]

In the veiled language of the Manifestos, this can be interpreted as follows: “Every year on the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ), they should meet at the House of the Holy Spirit (Domus Sancti Spiritus)…”

The observance of Corpus Christi in the Western Christian Churches which celebrate it, falls on the second Thursday after Pentecost, which usually places it very near the Summer Solstice, and it is probably one of the reasons this date is found in the Fama. It is also interesting to note that Thursdays have been the traditional Sanctum evening for Rosicrucians.

Espiritu Santo Springs

The connection with the Holy Spirit was highlighted for Rosicrucians from the Americas some years ago when we held one of our planning workshops in Safety Harbor, FL, just outside of Tampa/St. Petersburg. We discovered that in 1539, the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto had found and named a natural mineral spring in Safety Harbor, Espiritu Santo Springs. Later, the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa was built over the Holy Spirit Springs to take advantage of its waters, and that was exactly where we were meeting, in “The House of the Holy Spirit,” so to speak! We returned last November for another weekend of meditation and inspiration.

It goes without saying but bears repeating (opposites that mean the same thing!), that I am so grateful to all of the members and officers of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC for the home I have found in the Order! Thank you!


Just like The Lord of the Rings, this little volume has an appendix, since much of my poetry has foreign words and phrases. Also, many of the poems are dedicated to people represented by initials. That is an old publishing concept, not much used now. It used to be very common in the 19th century. I may work with computers, but I do remember the old ways. This device was used by one of my favorite authors, Gene Wolfe in a wonderful short story, “The Detective of Dreams.” Read it, it’s awesome!

And of course, thanks to Chris and Angus. The book has quite a few pictures of Angus!

I hope you enjoy the poetry! Get it here!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant


How Did Ebenezer Scrooge Get to Congress?

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Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page.

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page.

During the recent shameful spectacle of our Washington Elites unable to do the job any family or business does—that is, keep things running and stay on budget—something has gotten lost that we need to explore.

You will recall the iconic character Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” One of his most memorable (pre-metanoia) utterances is in this scene:


This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list.

“Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?”

“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very night.”

“We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word “liberality,” Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.


Dickens’ keen wit is speaking about the battle then raging over social reform in Britain and elsewhere.

Social Reform in Response to the Industrial Revolution

With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in England in the 1760s, and soon after in Western Europe and North America, the

Raven Mill on Raven Avenue, in Chadderton, is one of many former cotton mills in Greater Manchester, England. Most of which were built to service the cotton industry in the 19th century. 18 November 2005. www.geograph.org.uk (c) Roger May. Wikimedia Commons.

Raven Mill on Raven Avenue, in Chadderton, is one of many former cotton mills in Greater Manchester, England. Most of which were built to service the cotton industry in the 19th century. 18 November 2005. http://www.geograph.org.uk  Photo (c) Roger May. Wikimedia Commons.

relationship among social and economic classes altered radically. The situation was quite complex, but one of its least savory aspects was that workers, including children, began to be treated as just another part of the machines they served. Social conditions were often deplorable for the “working class.”

Visionary writers such as William Blake decried this situation over and over, as in his reference to “Dark Satanic Mills” in the now famous “Jerusalem,” and called for reform:

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

— From the frontispiece to Milton: a Poem (1808).

That call was heeded, in both the secular and religious worlds. The English Reform Movement, beginning around the 1830s worked for and brought about a wide range of reforms, and this was taken up in the United States and elsewhere.

Domus Sancti Spiritus. The House of the Holy Spirit (Rosicrucian).

Domus Sancti Spiritus. The House of the Holy Spirit (Rosicrucian).

Sources of Reform

The ideals of the reformers were those of the Enlightenment, and in particular, the progressive ideals of the Rosicrucians and Free Masons, who had sparked the wave of Independence movements, commencing with the American Revolution of 1776. In some sense, this was part-two of The New World Order of equality, freedom and justice. We have discussed this in previous Blogs. Many reformers also were inspired by their religious beliefs.

On the religious side, the Roman Catholic Church took a clear stand on the side of the workers and the poor, and this was signaled with Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical, Rerum Novarum in 1891. This tradition of progressive social and economic teaching has continued unbroken to today:



Pope Pius XI
Quadragesimo AnnoPope Pius XII
Social teachingsPope John XXIII
Mater et Magistra
Pacem in TerrisVatican II
Dignitatis Humanae
Gaudium et Spes

Pope Paul VI
Populorum progressio

Pope John Paul II
Laborem Exercens
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis
Centesimus Annus
Evangelium Vitae

Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
Caritas in Veritate

Pope Francis
Lumen fidei

In Lumen fidei, Pope Francis completed an encyclical drafted by Benedict XVI, and continued this progressive teaching:

“Faith, on the other hand, by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and

Pope Francis greets the crowd of faithful from his popemobile in downtown Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis touched down in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, starting his first foreign trip as pontiff.

Pope Francis greets the crowd of faithful from his popemobile in downtown Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis touched down in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, starting his first foreign trip as pontiff. Toronto Star.

to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care. Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted; it teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good. Faith likewise offers the possibility of forgiveness, which so often demands time and effort, patience and commitment. Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil, and that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than our every denial. From a purely anthropological standpoint, unity is superior to conflict; rather than avoiding conflict, we need to confront it in an effort to resolve and move beyond it, to make it a link in a chain, as part of a progress towards unity.” (Lumen fidei, 55)

Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople, surrounded by minarets. The Great Church in Captivity. Photo (c) 2004, Robert Raderschatt. Wikimedia Commons.

Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople, surrounded by minarets. The Great Church in Captivity. Photo (c) 2004, Robert Raderschatt. Wikimedia Commons.

In Eastern Christianity, during the early reform movement, most Churches were under either very controlling governments (e.g. Russia) or hostile regimes (e.g. Greece, Constantinople and the Middle East) so that their social teaching was muted. Once freedom was regained, however, the same progressive social and economic Patristic tradition that we spoke of two weeks ago with St. Basil and the Cappadocians was restored to the fore.

Paulos Mar Gregorios

Paulos Mar Gregorios

Some outstanding examples of this may be found in Theology and the Church by Dumitru Staniloae (Eastern Orthodox), and the writings of Paulos Mar Gregorios (Oriental Orthodox). Staniloae was the outstanding theologian of the Romanian Orthodox revival, and arguably one of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century. Mar Gregorios was a Metropolitan in the Orthodox Church of India (Malankar). For a fascinating beginning in learning about the riches of Indian Christianity (which dates from St. Thomas the Apostle), see the Orthodox Wiki article.

We must, in fairness, acknowledge that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Churches are officially conservative on certain gender and reproductive issues. In addition, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy has erred horrendously in their cover-up of the molestation scandals of the last decades. Pope Francis is attempting to temper the obsessive focus on a few issues, and, inspired by his Ignatian theology and patronage of St. Francis of Assisi, is moving his Church back into the middle.

While being generally socially and economically progressive, Eastern Christian Churches generally tend to avoid partisan politics on official level, leaving this to the realm of Good Works (Philantropia) by the Faithful. This wise policy was explained and backed by one of my former students, Ron Dudum of San Francisco in an insightful essay. This can temper things, understanding the difference between what civil society can do, and what happens within the Church.

Conservatives in the American Roman Catholic Church have long demonstrated their propensity to “Cafeteria Catholicism,” an epithet they self-servingly throw at the Progressives in their Church, meaning one who does not subscribe to all of the Church’s

Gary F. Wills. As Eamon Duffy says,

Garry Wills


That this is a clear example of “the pot calling the kettle black,” was William F. Buckley’s National Review publishing the concept of “Mater, sí, Magistra, no” (Mother, yes, Teacher, no), first coined in a phone conversation between Buckley and Gary Wills. It is a play on the then current Cuban exile motto: “Cuba, sí, Castro, no,” and the title of Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical Mater et Magistra.

I never thought that Mr. Buckley was a non-Catholic because he rejected the Church’s social teaching, when he came to Mass with his son Christopher at St. Thomas More House at Yale where I served and sang as a student, I hope he would have felt the same about me!

So what about Congressman Scrooge and Senator Marley?

Having put social reform in context: Why are the current GOP elected officials, and the Tea Party in particular, so hostile to the concept of universal health care for all Americans? (Remember that the Tea Party is an Astro-Turf Organization, artificially created by the infamous Koch Brothers and their ilk.)

Foundation of the National Health Service in England.

Foundation of the National Health Service in England.

Today, they claim that they object to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but let’s face it: the conservatives have been fighting universal health care for decades, and doing everything they could to dismantle FDR’s New Deal and its descendent, LBJ’s The Great Society.

In most of the “Industrialized World,” meaning roughly our peer nations, some form of universal health care is common. The systems are not perfect, but they work, and people do not have to choose to eat or get medical care. This is more or less a result of the Social Reform movements we have discussed. In Britain, after World War II, the government told its people that the same solidarity that had brought them victoriously through the war, was now needed to bring them to health.

Why not here? There may be several reasons.

Naturally, Big Pharma and the Health Care Industry do not want regulation that will diminish their profits (if it really would). And they wield a lot of power (=money).

But there are deeper reasons.

American Exceptionalism

First, Americans have long embraced, or at least flirted with “American Exceptionalism:”

American Exceptionalism?

American Exceptionalism?

“We’re special. It is not useful to compare us to other nations because we are the ‘City set on a Hill’ (Mt. 5:14). We are a qualitatively different (and—hint, hint, wink, wink—superior) society.” William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation preached this “City set on a Hill” clearly and unambiguously. The Pilgrim settlement was to be the pattern of all for the future.

This concept is seen as early as Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s and 1840s, and has become common political currency since about 1980 in the United States, especially among conservatives, but liberals use it when it suits them. Needless to say, post-national thought rejects this.

It is fascinating that the exact phrase “American Exceptionalism” came from the American Communist Party in the 1920s. American Communist leader Jay Lovestone enunciated the belief that America was exempt from the Marxist Laws of History “thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions.” Stalin himself condemned this as heresy!

The phrase was picked up in the 1980s by the press to express America’s uniqueness, and it was a contention in the Obama-McCain campaign.

Our Puritan Heritage

Second, it also has something to do with the Puritans.

Following just weeks after the ancient feast of Samhuinn (modern Hallowe’en, All Saints and All Souls), in the United States we will gather around tables laden with Turkey, dressing, Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish (at least in NPR households) and the rest, and commemorate what started off somewhat well, between Europeans and Natives. Linus van Pelt, in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving sums it up beautifully:

“In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.”


My ancestors were standing in the Southwest, waving “Hello, and welcome to the Continent” to these British immigrants!

“Coronado sets out to the north.” Frederic Remington (1861–1909)

As we know, the relationship between the Europeans and the Native peoples deteriorated tragically, as it had ever since Columbus landed on Hispañola, beginning the destruction of the thriving and sophisticated Native civilizations of South, Central and North America. The vitality of the civilizations of the Americas has recently been demonstrated in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.

Many of the later Pilgrims were Puritans (beginning in 1630), that is, Protestant Christian dissenters from the Church of England (Anglican). Some of these, and perhaps the most influential, were Arminians (not Armenians!). This branch of Protestanism stems from the teachings of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius and his followers:

  1. Election (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the rational faith ornonfaith of man;

    Jonathan Edwards College, Yale.

    Jonathan Edwards College, Yale.

  2. The Atonement, while qualitatively adequate for all men, is efficacious only for the man of faith;
  3. Unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
  4. Grace is resistible; and
  5. Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace.

This tempered the strict teaching of Reformer John Calvin. The French theologian Calvin was one of the chief reformers of the Protestant Reformation, and seen as the inspiration for the Reformed, Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.

Calvin taught Double Predestination. God has already chosen whom he favors, and they will be saved. He has also chosen those he hates, and they will be damned. Hmmm!

Some branches of his followers, including those in New England, construed his thought this way: how can we tell whom God loves and whom God hates? Wealth and success are signs of God’s favor, and poverty and failure are signs of God’s wrath.

This is a kind of Social Darwinism, preached by Ebenezer Scrooge: Let the poor die. Decrease the surplus population. Why should we provide DoublePredestinationhealth care for them? If God loved them, they’d be able to pay for it for themselves!

This is directly opposed to the mainstream of Christianity, and of all world religions and spiritual traditions. Yet it subtly underlies the national debate on health care, and fuels the opposition to it:

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you…”  — Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” 1741.

As my Parish’s former Deacon, Fr. Dn. Gerry Sondergaard would say, “Which New Testament is he reading?”

Charting our Course

Knowing the context and background of issues is paramount to navigating through these dangerous shoals. This argument isn’t really about Affordable Health Care. It’s about the nature of American Society, and one’s implied theological stance. Mainstream Christianity, in concert with most all world spiritualities clearly teaches that God is on the side of the poor. It’s not that God doesn’t love the wealthy, they just don’t need any help. The poor do, and the rich should provide that to image God.

Roman Emperor Justinian

Roman Emperor Justinian

With regard to health care, we saw in our post two weeks ago that the Christian Roman Empire had a fully developed free healthcare system. Those against universal health care in the US, and who claim to be Christian, need to learn what their religion actually stands for.

OK, that’s my word for today. Thank you for reading!

Some may wonder what my model for style is. I like to think of myself as that rambling old professor who is supposed to be teaching the various uses of the genitive case in Classical Greek, but spends the first 20 minutes of the class waxing eloquent on something, and then eventually gets to the genitive absolute.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Irrational Numbers?


A question from a High School student whom I am tutoring in French, during his tutoring session Saturday morning, inspired today’s Posting: thank you!

First, let me apologize to the mathematicians out there. This won’t be about your irrational numbers.

Rational and Irrational Numbers in Math

Φ: the Golden Section

Φ: the Golden Section

The math whizzes in the audience would tell us, as does Kenneth Rosen in his 2007 Discrete Mathematics and its Applications, that “[i]n mathematics, a rational number is any number that can be expressed as the quotient or fraction p/q of two integers, with the denominator q not equal to zero.” The set of Rational Numbers is designated by the symbol ℚ or Q. All integers are rational numbers. The decimal expression of a rational number always either ends after a finite number of digits or begins a regular series of repetition. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

An Irrational Number, on the other hand, “is any real number that cannot be expressed as a ratio a/b, where a and b are integers and b is non-zero.” The most famous irrational is π (3.1416……forever, non-repeating), the golden ratio φ (see the Fibonacci Sequence) and the square root of two √2. The first proof of their existence is attributed to a Pythagorean (possibly Hippasus of Metapontum) Ἵππασος, Híppasos; 5th century BCE.

Real Numbers, by the way, are any number that is a quantity along a continuous line. They include Rational and Irrational Numbers, and Transcendent Numbers (π is sometimes called one of these). Surreal Numbers include the Reals, as wells as Infinite and infinitesimal Numbers.

I know very little about higher math, but the terminology and semiotics of math do fascinate me.

But we’re not talking about that today.

“Irrational Numbers” in French!

My jumping off point for another meaning for “irrational numbers” was my student’s question: “Why are the French numbers from 70-99 so strange?”

Ῥωμανία (Romania).  Copyright (c) 1996-2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Ῥωμανία (Romania). Copyright (c) 1996-2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

For non-Francophones, we can quickly summarize. French number names are generally pretty regular Romance Language words, evolved from Latin. We usually think of the Romance Languages as Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. Some people know the fun cocktail party fact that Romanian is a Romance Language (notice the name?). But the current and usual count is 23:

Barcelona Cityscape   (c) 2009 Diliff, Wikimedia Commons.

Barcelona Cityscape (c) 2009 Diliff, Wikimedia Commons.

Whether or not you realize it, you heard quite a bit of Catalan spoken in the summer of 1992, as it was the first language for all announcements at the Barcelona Olympics. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia (CatalanCatalunya, SpanishCataluña)

The evolution of Latin to French numbers went fairly smoothly:

Number Latin numerals Latin Name French Name
1 I ūnus un
2 II duo deux
3 III trēs trois
4 IV quattuor quatre
5 V quīnque cinq
6 VI sex six
7 VII septem sept
8 VIII octō huit
9 IX novem neuf
10 X decem dix
11 XI ūndecim onze
12 XII duodēcim douze
13 XIII trēdecim treize
14 XIV quattuordecim quatorze
15 XV quīndecim quinze
16 XVI sēdecim seize
17 XVII septendecim dix-sept
18* XVIII duodēvīgintī dix-huit
19* XIX ūndēvīgintī dix-neuf
20 XX vīgintī vingt
21 XXI vīgintī   ūnus vingt-et-un
30 XXX trīgintā trente
40 XL quadrāgintā quarante
50 L quīnquāgintā cinquante
60 LX sexāgintā soixante
70* LXX septuāgintā soixante-dix
80* LXXX octōgintā quatre-vingts
90* XC nonāgintā quatre-vingt-dix
100 C centum cent

Notice the number names *starred. In the first case, for 18 and 19, French carried on using the 10+ pattern. Latin, on the other hand, had earlier switched to its subtractive principle that we have spoken about in the past, as evidenced in Roman numerals (IV = 4, that is, 5-1, IX = 9 i.e. 10-1) and their calendar. The Latin 18 and 19 literally mean “two from twenty,” and “one from twenty.”

In the second case, for 70, 80, 90, Latin carries on logically, while French suddenly changes to an additive principle:

70   soixante-dix
71   soixante et onze
72   soixante-douze
73   soixante-treize
74   soixante-quatorze
75   soixante-quinze
76   soixante-seize
77   soixante-dix-sept
78   soixante-dix-huit
79   soixante-dix-neuf

And then from a Base-10 (decimal) system to a Base-20 (vigesimal) system:

80   quatre-vingts
81   quatre-vingt-un
82   quatre-vingt-deux
83   quatre-vingt-trois
84   quatre-vingt-quatre
85   quatre-vingt-cinq
86   quatre-vingt-six
87   quatre-vingt-sept
88   quatre-vingt-huit
89   quatre-vingt-neuf

90   quatre-vingt-dix
91   quatre-vingt-onze
92   quatre-vingt-douze
93   quatre-vingt-treize
94   quatre-vingt-quatorze
95   quatre-vingt-quinze
96   quatre-vingt-seize
97   quatre-vingt-dix-sept
98   quatre-vingt-dix-huit
99   quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

Oh là là là là là là là!! Tiens! Qu’est-ce que se passe?  Oh my, oh my! Look! What’s happening?

Decimal and Vigesimal Systems

The Virgin's Mantle--Vierge au manteau, Ville du Puy-en-Velay, 1417, Musée Croatier

The Virgin’s Mantle–Vierge au manteau, Ville du Puy-en-Velay, 1417, Musée Croatier. For background on this Iconography, read this article!

In the Middle Ages, evolving French had two numbering systems. The decimal system (by 10s) was inherited from Latin, as we have seen above:

Latin: vīgintī (20); trīgintā (30); quadrāgintā (40); quīnquāgintā (50); sexāgintā (60); septuāgintā (70); octōgintā (80); nōnāgintā (90)

French: vingt (20); trente (30); quarante (40); cinquant (50); soixante (60)

The base-20 system (vigesimal) was inherited from the Celtic languages (for example Breton, still spoken in Northwestern France). If we wrote them in modern spelling, they would be:

  • vingt (20)
  • vingt-dix (30)
  • deux-vingts (40)
  • deux-vingt-dix (50)
  • trois-vingts (60)
  • trois-vingt-dix (70)
  • quatre-vingts (80)
  • quatre-vingt-dix (90).

Celts? In France?

Yep! Actually the Celts have been just about everywhere in central to western Europe. Possibly originating in the Caucasus or Carpathian Mountains, by the 6th Century BCE had a flourishing civilization in middle Europe, and by the 5th Century BCE had gone East, West and South, most famously to Iberia, Gaul, Britain, Wales, Scotland and Eire.

Celts in Europe. For Legend, click the image. Atlas of the Celtic World, by John Haywood; London Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2001, pp.30-37 and other sources. QuartierLatin1968,The Ogre,Dbachmann. Wikimedia Commons.

Celts in Europe. For Legend, click the image. Atlas of the Celtic World, by John Haywood; London Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2001, pp.30-37 and other sources. QuartierLatin1968,The Ogre,Dbachmann. Wikimedia Commons.

That is, they journeyed as far west as they could. St. Brendan may have made it to the New World (several scholars believe his “Voyage” has a real voyage behind its colorful descriptions), but the rest of the Celts had to wait until the re-discovery of the New World by Columbus (on this very weekend, 521 years ago!!) to immigrate to Boston, New York, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and other places and begin running them!

United Irish Cultural Center, San Francisco.

United Irish Cultural Center, San Francisco.

The Celts were a force to be reckoned with in Gaul. Just remember that the Romans called them “Gauls,” in France and that they gave Julius Caesar a lot of trouble. Can we say, Vercingetorix ?

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, an account written by Julius Caesar about his nine years of war in Gaul.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, an account written by Julius Caesar about his nine years of war in Gaul.

Today, there are six surviving Celtic languages. “Speakers” indicates Native Speakers + those with some skills in the language.

  • Galige (Irish) – ca. 1,888,000 speakers – Eire, UK, US
  • Gàidhlig (Scotts) – ca. 92,000 speakers – Scotland & Cape Breton Island (NS, Canada)
  • Cymraeg (Welsh) – ca. 722,000 speakers – Wales, England, Chubut Province Argentina, US, Canada
  • Brezhoneg (Breton) – ca. 356,000 speakers – Brittany, France
  • Kernewek (Cornish) – ca. 3,000 – Cornwall, England
  • Gaelg (Manx) – ca. 1,823 speakers – The Isle of Man (British Crown Dependency)
Celtic Nations today. QuartierLatin1968. One note: The Orkneys and Shetlands should not be shaded as part of Scotland - they were formerly Pict and latterly Norse, but never Celtic.

Celtic Nations today. QuartierLatin1968. One note: The Orkneys and Shetlands should not be shaded as part of Scotland – they were formerly Pict and latterly Norse, but never Celtic.

Wikipedia also correctly reports three “Mixed Languages” influenced by Celtic:

Proto-Celtic is the common ancestor, and comes is part of the Indo-European family of languages. Many other Celtic languages are now extinct, including those spoken in Spain and Portugal.

Vigesimal Celtic Numbering

As it turns out, some of the Celtic Languages use a vigesimal system, base-20, including today, Welsh, Irish and Scots:

  • Welsh: Deugain = 2 times 20 i.e. 40, trigain = 3 times 20 i.e. 60.
  • Irish: 30 = fiche a deich (formerly fiche agus deich), i.e. twenty and ten. 40 = dhá fhichead, i.e. two twenties (still in the decimal system as daichead), trí fichid = 60 (three twenties), ceithre fhichid = 80 (four twenties).
  • Scots: deich ar fhichead = 30 (ten over twenty), dà fhichead = 40 (two twenties), dà fhichead ‘s a deich = 50 (two twenty and ten), trì fichead = 60 (three twenties), up to naoidh fichead = 180 (nine twenties).
Forever 21 Store, San Francisco

Forever 21 Store, San Francisco

Decimal number names are now being taught in the schools in these Countries, but the old names also persist.

Vigesimal systems are fairly wide-spread in human cultures. One of the best known (thanks to the 2012 rumors) is Mayan. In many languages, the name for 20 is “special,” not related to the normal naming convention. Even in Latin, viginti is different. Logically, one would have expected duginti. Greek also has a “special” 20, and we can also see some parallels and variations in the various stages of Greek for all the numbers.

Proto-Indo-European 20 has been variously reconstructed as *wīḱm̥t-; originally perhaps *widḱomt- or *duidḱmti. The first two show where the Latin viginti comes from. The English twenty is cognate with the German zwanzig.

The Celtic 20s in French Numbers

In the 17th century, when the French Academy began to try to standardize the language, they chose the most common usage of

L'Institut de France, including L'Académie française. Nitot, Wikimedia Commons.

L’Institut de France, including L’Académie française. Nitot, Wikimedia Commons.

the best authors of the day for these numbers, which turned out to be decimal up to 60, and then vigesimal from 70-99.

In BelgiumSwitzerland, the Democratic Republic of the CongoRwanda, the Aosta Valley and the Channel Islands, the decimal system is used in French for 70-99, and so you get archaisms (old usages) such as septante (70); octante (80), or huitante (80); nonante (90) or neuvante (90).

The only known photograph of President Lincoln giving his Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863. Library of Congress.

The only known photograph of President Lincoln giving his Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863. Library of Congress.

Believe it or not, we have a similar usage in English. Remember how Lincoln’s Gettysburg address begins “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”? That means 4×20 + 7 = 87 years ago. “Score” was our word for multiples of Twenty. Two Score = 40. Two Score and Ten = 50. This is now archaic in English, but we still see it in historical documents.

 Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880) by Randolph Caldecott (d. 1886)

Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880) by Randolph Caldecott (d. 1886)

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

While we’re on the subject of language about numbers, how about the old Nursery Rhyme:

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye.

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie.

Even though we normally say Twenty-Four, we can understand what “Four and Twenty” means. It is an echo of our language’s Germanic roots. As speakers and students of modern German know, counting in German is like English, until you get to 21:

eins 1
zwei 2
drei 3
vier 4
fünf 5
sechs 6
sieben 7
acht 8
neun 9
zehn 10
elf 11
zwölf 12
dreizehn 13
vierzehn 14
fünfzehn 15
sechzehn 16
siebzehn 17
achtzehn 18
neunzehn 19
zwanzig 20

Notice now that we have the “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” approach. The ones number is said before the tens number, linked by “und” (and).

21 to 100
einundzwanzig 21
zweiundzwanzig 22
dreiundzwanzig 23
vierundzwanzig 24
fünfundzwanzig 25
sechsundzwanzig 26
siebenundzwanzig 27
achtundzwanzig 28
neunundzwanzig 29
dreißig 30
einunddreißig 31
vierzig 40
einundvierzig 41
fünfzig 50
sechzig 60
siebzig 70
achtzig 80
neunzig 90
hundert 100

German does get a little carried away with its word building procedures. For example, the number 999,999,999 is


neunhundertneunundneunzig  (there is no break in the word, it just won’t fit on the screen!)

Image from

Image from “A Tramp Abroad” (1880) by Mark Twain.

(Kudos to paradoxa4 on the wordreference.com forum for correctly parsing this!) Mark Twain parodied German’s idiosyncracies in his essay “The Awful German Language” in 1880’s A Tramp Abroad.

I have to say that elf (11) and zwölf (12) are my two favorite German numbers, they just sound so cool!

In Austria and Bavaria, zwei becomes zwo, and zwanzig becomes zwozig. Other German speakers will sometimes use these variants to distinguish zwei from drei. In the southern German variant, ja (ya – yes) becomes jo (yo – yes). So Rocky is saying, “Jo, Adrian,” “Yes, Adrian.” (!)

Our Cardinal Numbers

And how about our names for cardinal numbers? Coming from Old English, our number names are from the Germanic family, from one to 999,999 (Nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred (and) ninety-nine). These were so commonly used that we kept them, even after the Norman Conquest. The Latin 1,000,000 is attested at decies centena milia, but how many times did the ancient world have to count that high?

Googol. Yot, Hidro, Wikimedia Commons.

Googol. Yot, Hidro, Wikimedia Commons.

In today’s world, however, we need much larger numbers. The “Short Scale” is used exclusively in the U.S., and increasingly in British English:

  • million
  • billion
  • trillion
  • quadrillion
  • quintillion
  • sextillion
  • septillion
  • octillion
  • nonillion

What do you notice? Through Old French, from Italian, we have adopted the Latin names, augmenting them with the suffix –on(e).

Higher still, the most common counting scheme is given by Robert Munafo (in some very interesting pages! ) as

N N in Latin 3,18 103N+3 name for 103N+3
10 decem 1033 decillion
11 undecim 1036 undecillion
12 duodecim 1039 duodecillion
13 tredecim 1042 tredecillion
14 quattuordecim 1045 quattuordecillion
15 quindecim 1048 quindecillion, quinquadecillion
16 se(x)decim 1051 sexdecillion, sedecillion
17 septemdecim 1054 septendecillion
18 duodeviginti24 1057 octodecillion
19 undeviginti24 1060 novemdecillion, novendecillion
20 viginti 1063 vigintillion
10100 “googol” = ten duotrigintillion
100 centum 10303 centillion
1000 mille 103003 millillion
1000000 decies centena milia 103000003 milli-millillion
1010 to the 100 “googolplex” (i.e. 10 to a googol.

As Munafo explains, Googol and Googolplex were invented just for the expression of these huge numbers:

“In 1938, mathematician Edward Kasner asked his nephew Milton Sirotta (who was 9 years old at the time) to invent a name for the number 1 with a hundred zeros written after it, and the nephew chose the name googol. As Kasner’s telling of the story goes, ‘He was very certain that this number was not infinite, and therefore equally certain that it had to have a name.’

“The name googolplex was invented at the same time, and also by Milton Sirotta if we trust the grammatical implication of the wording in [his account]. An article by Carl Bialik indicates that relatives and ‘family archives’ point to the invention of these words being in the 1920’s, and gives more details.

“Regarding its definition, Kasner wrote: ‘It was first suggested that a googolplex should be 1, followed by writing zeros until you got tired. […] It would never do to have [contemporary boxing champion Primo] Carnera [be] a better mathematician than Dr. Einstein, simply because he had more endurance. [and so it was decided that googolplex should be] a specific finite number, with so many zeros after the 1 that the number of zeros is a googol.’

“A generation later, googol had been popularized enough to be able to reach audiences of the widely-distributed Peanuts comic strip in which Schroeder estimates Lucy’s odds of eventually marrying him as ‘Oh, I’d say about ‘googol’ to one’:”

Schroeder and Lucy discuss googol.

Schroeder and Lucy discuss googol. Charles Schultz.

If you love language about numbers, please treat yourself to Robert Munafo’s pages (© 1996-2013 Robert P. Munafo) !

Scientists and Mathematicians usually just use the exponent notation system (10100). But the words are fun to play with!

Illustration, anonyme Chronik, „Von der Schöpfung der Welt bis 1384 / From the Creation of the World until 1384“

Illustration, anonyme Chronik, „Von der Schöpfung der Welt bis 1384 / From the Creation of the World until 1384“

I should note that this post comes on the day of perhaps the most infamous number in the western world, 13! It was not a happy day in 1307: On Friday, 13 October, King Philip IV (the Fair) of France rounded up the Knights Templar in his realm, and arrested them on trumped-up charges of Heresy. They were subsequently tortured into “confessing,” or died. Pope Clement V later disbanded the Order. Philip’s motives were primarily economic, as he wanted their “treasure” which vanished with their persecution.

Today, with the recent discovery and publication of the Chinon Parchment by Barbara Frale, which details Clement V’s exoneration of the Templar leadership and attempts to thwart Philip’s villainy, the Roman Church admits that the arrest, murder and disbanding of the Templars was a mistake.

We usually pat ourselves on the back and think how lucky we are not to live in those benighted times. A quick look around the world, however, and even in our own country, will show that people are still persecuted for their differences in religious belief, and religion is still used as a mask for economic and political oppression. O Tempora! O Mores!

We’ve taken quite a journey around the world of numbers and the words that represent them. I hope it has been fun! See you next time!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Enough is Enough!


US Capitol


The manufactured crisis of Governmental Shutdown has pushed me over the line. I have to come out of the Political Closet. Enough is enough.

English: George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate i...

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate in Literature 1925. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enough, by the way, is a prime example of our twisted legacy of historic spellings in English. George Bernard Shaw is credited with the quip that Fish should be spelled Ghoti…“gh” from enough, “o” from women, and “ti” from nation. Historical spellings plague both French and English, and to some extent, German. Wikipedia has excellent sections on English spelling peculiarities, French Orthography, and German Orthography.

I apologize in advance if this edition seems overly political or partisan. One of these days, I’ll do what I hope will be an equally biting Blog entry on “When Liberals Go Bad.” I have plenty of ammunition for that too. But the current state of affairs leads me in another direction today.

Elephant and donkey in Luna Park, Coney Island, N.Y., prior to race to Washington to decide the bet of Joseph Cannon and Luna Park creator Frederic Thompson. 1911

Elephant and donkey in Luna Park, Coney Island, N.Y., prior to race to Washington to decide the bet of Joseph Cannon and Luna Park creator Frederic Thompson. 1911.

The Two Parties

OK, back to the topic. A friend of mine, Fr. Tom Allender, S.J. and I came up with a pithy way of talking about our current U.S. political landscape:

“We have two parties: The Stupid Party and The Evil Party.” Thanks Tom!

As a life-long Democrat, I sadly concede that my party is the Stupid Party. We had full control of the Government at the beginning of the Obama Administration and couldn’t get much done.  The old joke is unfortunately true:

“Do you belong to an Organized Political Party?”

“No. I’m a Democrat.”

Contemporary Republicans

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (center), Stephen Colbert to the left and Jon Stewart to the right.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (center), Stephen Colbert to the left and Jon Stewart to the right.

But the other side of the Aisle has now become The Evil Party. Taken over by religious fanatics and the Astroturf “Tea Partiers” (The Tea Party is a fake creation of the Koch Brothers and their allies), the GOP now just lies and obstructs any progress at all. Its media voice is Roger Ailes’ (mis)led Fox News, who wouldn’t know a fact if they stumbled over one in the dark. Fox “newscasts” are simply one long propaganda stream without any attempt at fairness or balance. It is such a parody of itself that only a comedian as talented as Stephen Colbert can mock them, while his colleague Jon Stewart holds their feet (as well as CNN’s, MSNBC’s and other Media’s feet) to the fire.

This has not always been true. When I was growing up, The Grand Old Party was a dignified group of people whom I didn’t

President Eisenhower

President Eisenhower

particularly agree with, but they were (in the language of the day) Statesmen. Pres. Eisenhower, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, Pres. Ford are good examples. Even (gasp!) Pres. Nixon was a remarkably progressive in social reform and international politics. He just had a deadly problem of his personal morality and honesty that doomed his administration. Sen. Barry Goldwater was a fine Senator for my home state of Arizona, although I didn’t want to see him President.

Beginning with the administration of Pres. Reagan, however, things shifted, and the Neocons and Religious Right took over. Chaney, Rumsfeld, Gingrich, and their ilk took over behind the scenes, and eventually, under Pres. G.W. Bush and since, have led the party.  There are some Republicans who hearken back to the better days of the GOP, such as Gov. Chris Christie.

The Shutdown of 2013

The current Republican Shutdown of the National Government and the statements of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are prime examples of the bald-face lying—or completely being out-of-touch and believing one’s own fictions—that now typify the current Republicans.

Now let me be fair. Democratic Politicians lie when it suits them, and spin things to their advantage. They just aren’t very good at it, being generally liberal progressives, since it makes them feel (and look) guilty. The “hand in the cookie-jar” look. Just think “Gov. Rod Blagojevich”!

The Shutdown-Anti-Affordable Healthcare talk of Congressional Republicans is a perfect example for us to subject to submit to rhetorical analysis. Cruz is backed in this effort by the rather Conservative Heritage Foundation.

Fr. Protodeacon Paul Weyrich

Fr. Protodeacon Paul Weyrich

As a side note, I was a colleague of Heritage and Free Congress founder Fr. Protodeacon Paul Weyrich who was a good man, and a fellow supporter of Amtrak. I just disagreed very very much, respectfully, with his politics and social views. I served the Divine Liturgy with him in the Holy Place, and trust that he is with God now.

This highlights one of the most important things missing from the Right’s verbage. They have lost the concept of “the Loyal Opposition.” Fr. Dn. Paul (of Eternal Memory) and I are both loyal Americans with very different viewpoints. In the current hyper-partisanship of the Republicans, if you criticized Pres. G.W. Bush, you were being disloyal to the Country. Today, if you criticize Pres. Obama, you are a patriot. Point-of-View has become the absolute standard instead of a reasoned, balanced debate among loyal citizens. As we will see later, this must change.

The “Argument”

The Anti-Affordable Healthcare talk goes like this: “Obama care will hurt Americans. They don’t understand it and don’t want it. This was forced on the American People by the President and the Democrats.”

The reality: The Affordable Health-Care Act is not perfect, and like so much of government, is confusing. Some of its inadequacies stem from the opposition of Republicans during its creation. Nevertheless, it is a very long-overdue reform of a health-care system that is incredibly out of line with those in most Western Industrialized Nations. As of 10-2-13, the second day site was open, 6.1 million people have visited the registration site, overwhelming the resources of the website. We want this. We need this.

What Boehner, Cruz and other nay-sayers are doing is like this:



You are standing with a friend next to a civic auditorium, the (former HP Pavilion) SAP Center in San Jose where a concert by Justin Timberlake is about to take place. Fans of every age, gender and ethnicity are lined up by the thousands up and down Santa Clara Street and into the Parking Lot waiting to get in. CalTrains continue to disgorge more attendees every few minutes. The marquee flashes “sold out.”

You turn to your friend and say, “Man, nobody listens to Justin Timberlake any more. Who would go to a concert of his?”

Your friend points to the crowd, a puzzled look on his face.

You reply, “Oh, they don’t count, those kind of people have no taste! I mean real, ordinary people.”

QED (quod erat demonstrandum=that which was to be demonstrated)

This is what Boehner, Cruz and their colleagues are doing, ignoring the clear facts in front of their faces, and instead, following their own ideology.

Rhetorical Analysis

Let’s apply some rhetorical analysis.

First, they have demonized the Affordable Health Care act by calling it exclusively “Obamacare,” (just as Christians “demonized”

Winged snake-tailed daimon in an animal frieze, gecko on the right near the handle. Oversized Corinthian kylix, ca. 620 BCE.

Winged snake-tailed daimon in an animal frieze, gecko on the right near the handle. Oversized Corinthian kylix, ca. 620 BCE.

the word δαίμων (daimon), originally benevolent nature spirits in Greek Religion). This implies that this health-care legislation is something dreamed up by, and imposed by, one man, instead of the result of decades of effort by lots of people. Hyper-partisans are very good at this tactic, and media are like sheep in using the handy terms. They are attractive because they are pithy, catchy and convenient, while “Affordable Health Care Act” is none of these, being government-speak.

Next, their propaganda relies on fear, and misinformation. For decades, since Pres. Reagan, Republicans have been scaring the daylights out of middle America (what we now call the Red Areas) and gaining power by doing it. When the big bogeyman of Communism fell, it became liberals, latte-drinking, yogurt-eating urbanites, feminists, and LGBT people, immigrants, and hybrid-drivers that the great middle was told to fear.

Let’s be honest: On the other side, urban progressives often (secretly) look down on their fellow Americans from the Red Areas as benighted, ignorant hicks.

I say “Red Areas,” by the way, instead of Red States, because the reality is far more complex. If we examine a map of voting by counties, we see the real divide.

2008 Counties

Mark Newman at The University of Michigan has done an excellent analysis of the voting patters in the 2008 Presidential Election. What we see is generally a divide between Urban America and Rural America. The little blue spots are areas of higher population density. This is a bit oversimplified as there are some regional divisions as well, but I believe we see the problem.

A note is due on how easily we can debunk the partisan stereotypes. A friend had an old stockbroker in Oklahoma who was making fun of those who drive Hybrids. “Can’t see one of those puny hybrids having enough power to be of use on a farm!” he quipped.

My friend, whose family includes trainmen like mine, held back from reminding him that railroad trains are hybrid diesel electric. And Superman is the only one more powerful than a locomotive!

That’s how silly this all is, funny, if it weren’t destroying us.

Bangkok during the Riots

Bangkok during the Riots

The deep roots of the fear-mongering can be summed up as “Fear those who are different from you.” This is the tribal mentality that fuels the Balkans conflicts, the massacres in Africa, the civil unrest in Thailand, and so many other tragedies. Ideologues routinely use this strategy to divide and conquer.

When I was an undergraduate at Yale, the New York Times did an investigative report on the Boston Bussing controversies, which set poor blacks and poor Irish at one another’s throats. As it turns out, this manufactured conflict was created by the wealthy “Boston Brahmans” to keep these potential partners in reform from making common cause in reform and civic progress. To this day, an African-American takes his life in his hands if he walks into Irish Southie, and the reverse is somewhat true of Roxbury.

Invincible Ignorance

Finally, the Congressional Republicans are practicing the “Invincible Ignorance Fallacy.” This is a state of mind that is ideologically based, refusing to admit of the possibility of any evidence opposing your position, and deliberately refuses to listen to any facts and evidence that would counter your argument. It is, in fact, a sham argument, since real argument necessitates facts and evidence, along with reasoning. They are either knowingly or unknowingly caught in this Fallacy.

Ultra-Extreme Creationists (not the Intelligent Designers) follow this approach. The most extreme think this way:

The Devil planting Fossils to fool us!

The Devil planting Fossils to fool us!

God made the world exactly the way it says in the “Christian” (actually Jewish) Bible. It was created about 4004 BC (sic).

  • What about the fossil record, the geological record, the archeological record, and evolutionary theory that all show a much different picture?

The Devil planted all that evidence to tempt us to disbelieve the Bible, which is literally inerrant.

(Note: the vast majority of Christian Churches have never taught inerrancy on the literal level of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. We will do another Blog post on the uses and interpretation of Sacred Scriptures, featuring the Integumentum: the Four Levels of Meaning!)

You probably think I’m joking about the devil and dinosaur bones. Try Googling “Devil plants fossils.” You’ll be amazed. This is the same Invincible Ignorance Fallacy that the Congressional GOP is using on Affordable Health Care and other issues (think Gun Control—not even shooting up a bunch of little kids could get through to them). This is also what fuels hate groups like the Westboro “Baptist Church.”

What Can We Do?

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew

Pope Francis, God bless him, is working to bring his Church back into balance, and restore the spirit of Vatican II. He has the charism of both St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi to inspire his Christianity. We have to restore balance in our Country, too, using the tools we have at hand.

Papa Francisco

Papa Francisco

So what are we going to do about this state of affairs?

  1. In the short-run, Boehner, Cruz, et al. just need to give up, and end the shutdown and co-operate to raise the debt limit.
  2. Our national conversation must restore the concept of The Loyal Opposition.
  3. We have to reach out across the Urban-Rural and regional divides to recognize that we are all Americans, and we are this together.
  4. We must sadly give up on trying to convince the Invincibly Ignorant. Let’s concentrate on building a reasonable majority coalition.

Now, we are going to enter my own personal fantasyland. If we really, really want to restore balance to our national political life, here’s my wish list. I know it’s “out there,” but keep an open mind.

Money Out of Politics

  1. Take all money out of Politics.
    1. No private or corporate campaign spending or donations. All elections, at every level, are publically financed. You can’t use your own money to run for office.
    2. Outlaw PACs and the like.
    3. All broadcast time for campaigns is free, donated by the Networks. We do own the airwaves, you know. A reasonable equation can be worked out for how much support you need to get TV/radio time.
    4. Restrict Lobbying to merely sharing your opinion/position with elected officials. No goods/services/perks may be given, not even buying a Congress member a cup of coffee. No Gifts. No writing bills for Congress to use. No junkets. None.
    5. Limit Campaigns to six weeks or maybe two months. No campaigning allowed before the kickoff date.
    6. Voting on Saturday and Sunday to maximize participation. All voting machines must either use a scanned paper ballot or issue a printed receipt showing the vote, with two copies, one for the voter and one for the polling place. A paper re-count can always be done. No computer-only paperless voting, as this is too easy to manipulate.
    7. Non-Partisanship strictly enforced on Non-Profits, e.g. Churches. They can advocate for positions, but absolutely for no candidates or parties. Tax Exemption of the Parish/Congregation or offending body will be removed on the first offense for a reasonable amount of time.
    8. Once this is done and in place, we can then proceed to remove Personhood from Corporations by a Constitutional Amendment. Corporate officials are now personally liable for the decisions they make, and their consequences. If I drive drunk and kill someone, I am found guilty of vehicular manslaughter. If a corporate official signs off on a product/policy that he/she knows is demonstrably dangerous to life (as in substandard car part), and someone dies as a direct result, he or she should be tried for—say—negligent homicide. Let’s get serious about personal responsibility. What do you say, William Bennett? Put that in your Book of Virtues!
      1. Corporate Secrecy is limited to proprietary secrets that are necessary to protect their copyrights, patents, etc. All other materials (emails, audits, board meeting minutes, etc.), are open to Public scrutiny. A Court, using in camera sessions, can even scrutinize the proprietary secrets if needed for a criminal or civil case.
      2. Think of how this will change our Financial Institutions,
        Big Pharma, Big Tobacco (!), et al.
President Teddy Roosevelt

President Teddy Roosevelt

We have a great deal to accomplish, and we are a great country and a great people. We have to tackle

Our Mother and Father among the Saints, Franklin and Eleanor (Thank you AZ Club and Uncle Dan!)

Our Mother and Father among the Saints, Franklin and Eleanor (Thank you AZ Club and Uncle Dan!)

poverty, homelessness, a crumbling infrastructure, millions who need meaningful work, sustainable and renewable energy independence, continuing racism and classism, and so forth. We have to get past this partisan blockade and move forward together.

I think this is perhaps our last chance to break the power of the corporations and big money at this stage in history. We did this at the beginning of the 20th century. We need to return to updated versions of the Square Deal of President Teddy Roosevelt and the New Deal of Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Neither President Roosevelt was perfect (Teddy held some pretty offensive racial opinions, for example), but their economics were pretty good.

My Inspiration

The Three Satellites of the Holy Trinity: Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian.

The Three Satellites of the Holy Trinity: Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian.

What is my inspiration for my positions? Well, first, my Eastern Christianity. Christianity which is always socially and economically progressive. Many Church Fathers, such as St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzen), and St. Gregory of Nyssa were economically progressive. St. Basil taught that if you have two cloaks in your closet, you have stolen one from the poor.

Tri Sviatitelia (Russian: Три Святителя meaning the Three Holy Satellites) was a pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Russian Navy during the 1890s.

Tri Sviatitelia (Russian: Три Святителя meaning the Three Holy Satellites) was a pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Russian Navy during the 1890s.

Entrepreneurship in Byzantine Christian thought is the same as a talent for metalworking, or any other skill. An Entrepreneur has been given that skill by God:

  1. To Provide honorable employment with a living wage
  2. To Produce good and useful products and/or services at a reasonable and fair price

If he or she makes a tidy sum doing this, that is fine, as long as he/she also is very generous in Philanthropia. God is Ὁ Φιλάνθρωπος, The Philanthrōpos, The Lover of Humanity par excellence. We must image God in this quality.

Roerich Museum, New York (1931); Louis & Nettie Horch col., New York (1935); Katherine Campbell col., USA (1940s); Nicholas Roerich Museum (on loan since 1949; acquisition, 1963).  Пантелеймон Целитель.

St. Panteleimon. Roerich Museum, New York (1931); Louis & Nettie Horch col., New York (1935); Katherine Campbell col., USA (1940s); Nicholas Roerich Museum (on loan since 1949; acquisition, 1963). Пантелеймон Целитель.

One of the concrete ways in which the Christian Roman Empire did this was in its health-care system in the capital of Constantinople. By the 6th century reign of St. Justinian as Emperor, the Health Center there gave the best medical care available in Europe until the 18th century, and this continued throughout the life of the Empire, until its fall in 1453. Health care was free, and open to all. Doctors and Nurses (we have copies of their notes for rounds) worked at the Center for 6 months of the year, and there were no fees paid by the patients. During the off 6 months, medical professionals could conduct their private practice for fees.

The system was supported by the Imperial Family,

St. Luka

St. Luka

wealthy Romans, and the Church. Parenthetically, there is a class of Saints in Eastern Christianity called “The Holy Unmercenary Physicians,” who healed miraculously without charge. These were the Ἅγιοι Ανάργυροι, Hagioi Anárgyroi, such as St. Panteleimon, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, and a modern Saint, Валенти́н Фе́ликсович Во́йно-Ясене́цкий, Valentin Felixovich Voyno-Yasenetsky, later Archbishop Luka (Luke), Архиепи́скоп Лука́ (1877-1961). An outstanding surgeon, he served as Archbishop of Simferopol and of the Crimea.

Fr. David serving Divine Liturgy at Emmaus House

Fr. David serving Divine Liturgy at Emmaus House

A friend and colleague of mine, Melkite Greek Catholic priest Fr. David Kirk edited a little volume called Quotations from Chairman Jesus, demonstrating Christ’s love of the poor and revolutionary spirit. He is one of many progressive Christians, like Dorothy Day, Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine (Екатерина Фёдоровна Колышкина) Catherine Doherty, Archbishop Joseph Raya, and Jim Wallis.

Another inspiration for my views and approaches is the Rosicrucian Utopia, probably

Rosicrucian Cultural Center of NYC, Harlem

Rosicrucian Cultural Center of NYC, Harlem

best known through the vision of the Federation in Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek. One can learn more about the Rosicrucian Utopia in the 4th Rosicrucian Manifesto, Positio Fraternitatis (2000).

Let’s get to work. We have a lot to do!

Thank you for listening!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutoring, Editing and Consulting

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

Catherine Doherty

Catherine Doherty

Archbishop Raya

Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis

There and Back Again: Halfway around the World!

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AucklandMontage24032011I Find Myself in Middle Earth!

…Or at least in its cinematic setting. New Zealand. All the way around the world!

I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be here. But as my old Latin teacher, Fr.. Maurey Brill, S.J. said to us in class, “Never predict what may happen in your future.” In fact, I think he might have used the analogy of going to Australia (where I will be soon!).

I hope to send a series of reflections from my travels, and this will be the first, from the Wi-Fi Breakfast nook of the Jet Park Hotel in Auckland.

Often when I come to as new place for the first time, I have an idealized experience which stays with me forever. My first encounter New Haven, with Berkeley and with Haight Street in SF all have a faerie quality to them in my memory.

Something similar happened yesterday when we got to Auckland after an exhausting period of travel (3 flights, about 18 hours in the air, plus layovers and normal travel problems). We don’t have Anthony Bourdain‘s production crew with us to smooth things out!

When we landed at the airport, it all seemed somehow familiar, and somehow different. Our language was everywhere, but so was Maori. The money looked different, but it was in dollars, and my ATM card worked fine to obtain it (with the foreign currency surcharge, of course…blast you run-away capitalism!).

But it all got stranger when we took a cab ride up to K Road, a popular downtown district. As we drove through many different neighborhoods, some reminded me of Britain or Eire, some of Phoenix, some of New York–say Brooklyn or the Bronx, some of Toronto and Vancouver. And all of this is smack-dab in the South Pacific, world away–literally–from all those other places.

And much was distinctively New Zealand.

What began to dawn on me was this was my civilization, projected onto these paradisical islands, mixed with Maori and Pacific Rim culture, and alive and vibrant. Wow!

The closest analogy I could draw was from a number of episodes of Josh Whedon’s Firefly, in which we see Old West towns established on other planets. This is another world, yet Her Majesty is on the banknotes, and they make good mixed drinks.

Now you may say…Steven, you grew up in North America, where several European Cultures projected themselves and morphed: the many regions of the U.S., Canada and Mexico all are a result of this. But I am experiencing what G.K. Chesterton called Mooreeffoc.
He describes taking a long voyage, and recounts the strange habits of those he meets. Of course, in the end, he is speaking of the Britons, his own people, just seen from another perspective. Mooreeffoc is Coffee Room seen thought the other side of the glass door. It means that we must often get a different perspective to see what we have been experiencing all our lives.

I reflected on the awe the colonists must have felt discovering these lands, and also the surprise and all-too-often horror that the inhabitants felt when they saw these uninvited strangers setting up camp. Frequently it was not a good mix from their standpoint.

With the Maoris, I know that there have been many tragedies, many problems. But from what I can tell so far, this was a more successful partnership than most other European colonizations. I am sure that Maoris will help me understand better, but when I look at how the Native Peoples of the Americas were treated (with remarkable exceptions such as the Jesuits), this feels better. I’ll keep you up-to-date.

I am fascinated to have this opportunity to see my own assumptions, my own viewpoints from another perspective, Mooreeffoc! And to experience a part of our planet I never hope to visit. I know it will enhance my service in teaching and Member Services. I hope this gets through to all of you, and please send your prayers and light for safe travel.

An editorial note: I am typing these on my iPhone with a Bluetooth Keyboard, and although this arrangement works well, I am not able to proof these entries as carefully as I would normally. I pray you forgive me for any typos and infelicities!

Your Faithful Correspondent,

Steven Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member Services


Happy St. Laurence Day!

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Archdeacon Laurence

Archdeacon Laurence

August 10 marks the Feast Day of the early Roman Martyr, the Archdeacon Laurence (Lawrence). The Commemoration is of such antiquity that it is celebrated on the same date in both the Latin and Byzantine Calendars. In the Byzantine Calendar, he is joined by his fellow Martyrs of the persecution by Emperor Valerian in the year 258: Pope Sixtus II, the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, and the Soldier Romanus.

The inclusion of a Christian Roman Solider bears out more recent research that Christianity was growingly popular among the ranks of the military, alongside Mithraism.

Several legends surround the Archdeacon Laurence, linked to his role as treasurer of the Church of Rome. One story has him receiving the Chalice of the Holy Grail from the Greek Church, and sending it for safekeeping to Huesca, in present day Aragon. That Chalice is today venerated in a chapel in Valencia.

The shrine at San Lorenzo in Lucinain Rome containing the supposed gridiron used to grill Saint Laurence to death.

The shrine at en:San Lorenzo in Lucinain Rome containing the supposed gridiron used to grill Saint Laurence to death.

The most famous part of his legend, however, is how he was Martyred. St. Ambrose of Milan (De officiis ministrorum, 2.28) tells us that when Sixtus was killed, Laurence worked for three days to distribute any resources of the Church to the poor. When the Roman Prefect demanded that the Archdeacon turn over the wealth of the Church to him, he presented the poor, the lame, and the sick, and declared that these were the jewels of the Church.

Bernardo Strozzi, The Charity of St Lawrence

Bernardo Strozzi, The Charity of St Lawrence

An unhappy Prefect then ordered him to be burned on the gridiron. When I was in grammar school, the Sisters transmitted the ancient story that at one point during his roasting, he quipped “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” Therefore to us kids, as to generations before us, he became the patron saint of Football (Gridiron), Cooks, and Comics. See how legends grow!

Modern historians doubt the historicity of parts of Laurence’s hagiography: “the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est [“he suffered,” that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted]” (Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri). The Roman edict condemning Christian clergy indicated that they were to be beheaded, and the Liber Pontificalis uses “passus est,” for both Sixtus and Laurence.

In any case, he died standing up for what believed, and has been venerated in East and West ever since.

(c) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Martyrs Stephen and Laurence

(c) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Martyrs Stephen and Laurence

I have a particular connection to both the Saint and his Feast. I am named after the first Christian Martyr, another Deacon, Stephen from the Church of Jerusalem. His Martyrdom is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, witnessed by none other than Saul of Tarsus (later St. Paul). The two Deacon Martyrs are often linked in Iconography and hagiography.

Second, 40 years ago today, I was visiting Rome with my family after I had graduated from Brophy Prep. I wanted to visit the five Patriarchal Basilicas (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and San Lorenzo fuori le muri (outside the walls). Each of these is dedicated to one of the Patriarchates of the Pentarchy–the five Patriarchal Sees within the Roman Empire. St. Laurence’s basilica is dedicated to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where the Protomartyr Stephen was glorified. The others correspond to Antioch (St. Mary Maggiore), Rome (St. John Lateran), Constantinople (St. Peter’s), Alexandria (St. Paul’s Outside the Walls). (This was probably a not-so-subtle move by Rome to suggest that it was the center of Christianity.)

Forum Romanum, archeological area, Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, view from Palatine hill

Forum Romanum, archeological area, Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, view from Palatine hill

We should pause a moment in our narrative for some explanations:

Basilica: A Roman Basilica was a high-ceilinged hall for Royal use (βασιλικὴ στοά)–Basilkē stoa. Α 1st century CE Neopythagorean Basilica was unearthed in Rome, and when Christians began openly building Churches in the 4th century, they often followed this architectural pattern with three naves and an Apse.

Miniature 38 from the Constantine Manasses Chronicle, 14 century: Construction of Hagia Sophia during the reign of emperor Justinian.

Miniature 38 from the Constantine Manasses Chronicle, 14 century: Construction of Hagia Sophia during the reign of emperor Justinian.

Pentarchy: The Christians who made up the groups that were tolerated by Constantine had already organized around urban centers headed by a Bishop. Five of the Major Cities of the Empire began to be recognized as the centers of five “Patriarchates”: Jerusalem (the Mother City of Christianity), Rome (the old Capital), Constantinople (the new Capital), Antioch (“where they were called Christians for the first time”), and Alexandria. Each area had different Liturgical and other usages, and reflected the cultures and philosophical heritage of their localities. This became known as “the Pentarchy”–rule by five.

A chart describing the divisions within the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala

A chart describing the divisions within the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala

Of course, outside of the boundaries of the Roman Empire, other Patriarchal or Archiepiscopal Sees were recognized, notably the Ethiopian Church, the Churches of Armenia and Georgia (the first two nations to adopt Christianity officially), the Church of SeleuciaCtesiphon (Persia), and the Church of India (Malabar).

In addition, there were many other varieties of Christianity, including Gnostic movements, the Manichaean hybrid of Christianity and other religions, etc.

Now, back to our story.

Basilica of St. Laurence Outside the Walls

Basilica of St. Laurence Outside the Walls

On that day, Wednesday Aug 10, 1972, I made it to the last of the five Basilicas, San Lorenzo. When I got there, I noticed that the statue of the Saint was set up in the middle of the Basilica fully decorated with flowers. Then I discovered that indeed, it was his Feast Day! No wonder. As I explored the monumental cemetery which is attached to the Church, I marveled a this synchronicity.

So Happy Feast Day!

The Fall of the Roman Empire (5/29/1453)


My Friends,

Thank you to those who commented on my post of May 29! Let’s unravel the mystery.

What is “The Roman Empire”?

Augustus of Prima Porta

Augustus of Prima Porta

The Roman Republic slowly became the Roman Empire as Octavian (Julius Caesar’s adoptive nephew) took on more and more authority after his defeat of Cleopatra and Marc Antony at the battle of Actium in 31 BCE. By the end of his life, he was called Imperator (“Victorious One,” and also “Emperor”) and Augustus (“Outstanding One”). More importantly, he was designated Princeps (“First Head,” “Prince”) by the Senate. His power over Rome and the Provinces increased steadily.

The Romans had a great distaste for the title of Rex (“King”). The legendary founding of Rome by Romulus on April 21, 753 BCE (after he had killed his brother Remus), was followed by the reign of seven equally legendary Kings. They were not well liked by the Roman nobles and people, and were overthrown in 509 BCE, when Rome became a Republic. Res Publica, the origin of our word, means “Public Thing/Business.”

Because of this, they could not stomach calling Octavian Rex when he began consolidating his power in 27 BCE, so they used Princeps, Imperator, and Augustus instead, as well as Caesar, indicating his link to the now divine Julius Caesar. After Augustus’s death in 14 CE, Tiberius was chosen as his successor. This solidified the unique position of the Princeps in the Empire. Future Emperors would clearly be in charge, and the power of the Senate became more and more attenuated. The Empire rolled on, with good years and bad. One of the best sites for this history is Dr. Kelly Ross’s massive: Rome and Romania. It may be Web 1.0, but it is still my go-place for so much information. (I don’t always agree with his political philosophy, but his history is top notch!)

The Tetrarchy

The Line of Diocletian

The Line of Diocletian

In 285/6 the Emperor Diocletian ran a jurisdictional line through the middle of the Empire, and began a political experiment known as The Tetrarchy. A Co-Emperor assisted by a Co-Caesar would govern the eastern half of the Empire, and a second pair would govern the western half. Note that they were understood as each governing a half of The Roman Empire. Not two Empires…one.

Some things last a long time. If you extend the line far enough north, it splits Eastern Europe. It runs between Croatia to the West, and Serbia to the east. For the most part, eastern European countries on the west of the line are predominantly Roman Catholic (Croatia), while those on the east are Eastern Orthodox (Serbia). Serbs and Croats speak the same language, but the Croats write it in Latin letters, while the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet shared with Old Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, etc. The world is still fighting across this line today.

In This Sign Shalt Thou Conquer

Vision at the Milvian Bridge

Vision at the Milvian Bridge

In the early 4th Century, (St.) Constantine was Emperor of the western half of the Empire. He combatted a number of rebellions, and on his way to oust one of his rivals, Maxentius, from Rome, he had an unusual experience. It is recounted that on the night of October 27, 312, Constantine had a vision, in which he saw a sign in the sky, with the words, “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” En toutō níka, “Conquer in This!” which is rendered “In hoc signo vinces,” in Latin: “In this Sign Shalt Thou Conquer.”

What he saw is reported variously, however the Labarum, his Vexilla or battle standard, used the now familiar Chi-Rho:

Labarum with the Chi_Rho

Labarum with the Chi_Rho

Crossed Rho Labarum

Crossed Rho Labarum

Other forms include ✼  (I X) as well as a simple crossed capital Rho (see left). All of these play on the name and title Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Iēsous Christos–That is, Ieshouah the Messiah. The Chi-Rho and the crossed Rho is the first two Greek Letters of Christos: X P. The “asterisk” is I X, the Greek initials of the name and the title.

In any case Constantine (whose Mother was a Christian: [St.] Helen) defeated his rivals and became sole Emperor of both halves of the Empire. In 313 he tolerated Christianity (he was not baptized until his deathbed), and in 330 removed the seat of the Empire to a city on the Golden Horn, Byzantium, which he re-named New Rome. Common custom also referred to it as Constantinople–Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoúpolis; Latin: Constantinopolis, Constantine’s City.

The Hellenized, Christian, and still Roman, Empire 

Juian II

Julian II

Constantinople was “New Rome,” and although the old Senate remained behind in Old Rome, its power was steadily declining, and there were new Senatorial families in the new capital. Over the years, some Emperors, like Constanius II (317-361), Julian II (331-363–the last Emperor of the Old Religion), (St.) Theodosius I (347-395) and (St.) Justinian I (482-565) ruled as sole Emperor, while at other times, some form of the Tetrarchy was revived.

Culturally and linguistically, the Roman Empire had already been Hellenized. As we saw above, Constantine’s vision was in Greek, and language of the Imperial Court was Greek. Justinian was the last Emperor to speak Latin as his first language. The title of the Emperor could now be the Greek βασιλεύς, Basileus, King, since that term had no pejorative historical connotations for the Romans.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA, USA

The old city of Rome was now very much the “Old Capital,” much as Philadelphia is today in the United States, an historical curiosity–I actually love Philly, but it isn’t still the capital.

First Milan, and then Ravenna became the western capital. When there was a sole Emperor, the Imperial Legate resided there. When the clergy and the people of Old Rome elected their Bishop, his name had to be taken to Milan–and later Ravenna–for Imperial approval before he could be ordained and installed.

David Roberts, Temple of Isis at Philae, closed by Theodosius I

David Roberts, Temple of Isis at Philae, closed by Theodosius I

While it is true that (St.) Theodosius I “divided” the Empire between his two (weak) sons, Honorius (384-423) and Arcadius (377-408), and closed the remaining Pagan Temples–much to the distress of scholars and esotericists–this division was in the spirit of the old Tetrarchy. They (and their successors) were co-Emperors of the two halves of one Empire.

Old Rome was taken by “barbarians” (the ancestors of many of us!) several times. Roman rule in the west first ended in 476 when the Heruli chief Odoacer invaded Ravenna, the western Imperial Seat, and dethroned Romulus Augustus (460-ca. 500) who was the last “western” Emperor. Note that Romulus was not recognized in the East. The last official western Roman Emperor was Julius Nepos, who was deposed in 475.

Kelly Roberts, Romania in 565

Kelly Roberts, Romania in 565

The final push of Roman civilization in the West (Romanitas) was during the reign of (St.) Justinian I, who by his death in 565, had reconquered all of North Africa, southern Spain, and Italy, which he ruled as sole Emperor. These borders were slowly eroded until finally Ravenna was taken by the Lombards in 751. Romanitas was lost to the West. During this period, it became common to refer to the Roman Empire as Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, Basilea Rōmaiōn, the Roman Empire, or simply Ῥωμανία, Rōmania, Roman-land.

The Eastern Empire is the Roman Empire

Theophilos Hatzimihail (1870–1934), The Fall of Constantinople.

Theophilos Hatzimihail (1870–1934), The Fall of Constantinople.

The later Latin term Romanitas, describes the quality of being a Roman, also denoting the virtues and totality of Roman civilization. Its Greek equivalent, Ῥωμαιoσύνη, Rōmaiosunē, literally, “Romanness,” has come to mean the totality of the Christian Roman Empire with its seat at New Rome.

The inhabitants of Constantinople and the remaining territories of the Roman Empire in the East called themselves οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι, hoi Rōmaioi, The Romans. When the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmed II and his troops breached the walls of The City on Tuesday May 29, 1453 (at about 2pm, I believe–not that we have long memories!), he is said to have proclaimed “I have conquered Rome!” The last Roman Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos may have fallen in the final defense of Constantinople, although reports vary.

Theotokos and Christ flanked by Justinian I and Constantine I, from Hagia Sophia

Theotokos and Christ flanked by Justinian I and Constantine I, from Hagia Sophia

According to legend, the priests serving Divine Liturgy in the Great Church of Ἁγία Σοφία, Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom during the siege, picked up the Chalice and Diskos with the Holy Gifts, and walked into the walls, to return only when The City is returned to Christendom.

The Sultan Mehmed II, called himself Kayser-i Rûm, Caesar of Rome, not only because of his conquest, but also because he claimed to be descended from John Tzelepes Komnenos, a nephew of Emperor John II Komnenos. Κομνηνός, Komnenos may be related to κόσμος, cosmos (world, universe, beautiful ornament), and means beautiful.

Rei Momo, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham and Melkite Archbishop Jules Zerey

Rei Momo, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham and Melkite Archbishop Jules Zerey

Based on the  Arabic الرُّومُ ar-Rūm, Rome, still today in the Middle East these terms are in use:

  • Rūm Ortodox = Greek Orthodox (the Church of the Empire)
  • Rūm Katolik = Greek Catholic (Melkites, in union with Rome)
  • Lateen = Roman Catholic.

The Legacy of The Roman Empire

Asguskov/Wikimedia Commons: Saint Basil Cathedral summer night closeup Moscow Russia Kremlin Red Square

Asguskov/Wikimedia Commons: Saint Basil Cathedral summer night closeup Moscow Russia Kremlin Red Square

Mehmed II was not the only one to claim the title of the Roman Caesar. Moscow is considered The Third Rome by Russians. The Russian monk Philoteus (Filofey) of Pskov in 1510 proclaimed in a Eulogy for Grand Duke Vasili III,

“Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!”

The Russian Emperor was called царь, Tsar, from the Latin Caesar. This association was bolstered by the fact that  Moscow is built on seven hills, as was Old Rome and New Rome.

Fietsbel/Wikimedia Commons: Lombard Street as viewed from Telegraph Hill (Coit Tower).

Fietsbel/Wikimedia Commons: Lombard Street as viewed from Telegraph Hill (Coit Tower).

(Although San Francisco actually has many more hills–47+ by last count, by tradition it is said to be on seven hills: Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson. Together with the resemblance of the Golden Gate to Constinople’s Golden Horn, this clearly shows why The City will be the headquarters of Star Fleet in the 22nd Century!)

The symbol of the Roman Empire, especially of its military, was the Eagle. The standards carried by the Legions were named for eagles, aquilae, Latin for eagles. By the 10th Century, the Roman Eagle had two heads, one looking East and the other looking West, to demonstrate the Emperor’s right to rule both halves of the Empire. Moscow also adopted this, since it claims to be The Third Rome.

Roman double-headed eagle featuring the 'sympilema (the family cypher) of the Palaeologus dynasty. From a church mural, 14th century.

Roman double-headed eagle featuring the ‘sympilema (the family cypher) of the Palaeologus dynasty. From a church mural, 14th century.

Naturally western Europe wanted in on the act, too. As early as the 9th Century, Charlemagne and Roman Pope Leo III plotted to usurp the title Imperator Romanorum, Emperor of the Romans, when Leo crowned Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800. The only problem was, there was an Emperor–or rather Empress–on the Imperial throne, the Empress Irene (752-803).

She was without doubt the Roman βασίλισσα, Basilissa, Empress. Both Leo III and Charlemagne rejected the idea that a woman could head the Empire, and used that as a pretext, after she turned down Charlemagne’s offer of marriage!

Empress St. Irene

Empress St. Irene

The Germans entered the picture, with their own version, Heiliges Römisches Reich, Imperium Romanum Sacrum, the Holy Roman Empire from 962-1806, with most of the territories of Central Europe. They used the double-headed eagle as well. The only problem was, as one of my professors put it, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy nor Roman!

Many of the European nations, and their American children, symbolically claim to be the heirs of Rome. This can be seen in the use of the Roman symbols of the eagle and the fasces in so many cases, as well as the ubiquitous Imperial architecture used in Government buildings.

Fasces in the 18th Military Police Brigade shoulder sleeve insignia (USA)

Fasces in the 18th Military Police Brigade shoulder sleeve insignia (USA)

There are actual heirs to the Imperial Throne. One was Mario Bernardo Angelo Comneno (1914-1988), an Italian descended from the Imperial family, the Komnenoi. His children now inherit this lineage. One branch of his family had escaped to Trebizond on the Black Sea after the tragic Fourth Crusade sacked and occupied New Rome from 1204-1261. Other Roman refugee outposts included the Empire of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus. Roman rule was re-established in 1261.

There are many descendants of the Palaiologoi, the last Roman dynasty, throughout Eastern and Western Europe. I actually know a fine young man who through his Russian Noble lineage, is a descendent.

So How did We get the “Byzantine Empire”?

The one term you have not heard me use in this essay is “Byzantine Empire.” There was no such thing…ever. The term is not ancient. Everyone in the ancient, mediaeval and Renaissance world knew perfectly well that the Roman Empire continued in New Rome and its territories. The Imperial succession, and the governmental continuity were clear. So where did the term come from?

To answer that, we must return to our old friend, Cui Bono…No, not a child of Sonny and Cher…it is the Latin phrase “Whom does it Benefit.” Here is my take on this.

Edward Gibbon, by Henry Walton (died 1813).

Edward Gibbon, by Henry Walton (died 1813).

One of the primary culprits is the 18th Century historian Edward Gibbon, famously the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789…interesting dates!).

Although generally a good historian, and in some ways the founder of modern historical methodology, he had a problem. He, like many of his contemporaries, was a fan of the Classical, Pagan world–I have no problem with that, but it does blur one’s objectivity.

A great example is William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much with Us” (1802):

Benjamin Robert, Haydon, Wordsworth on Helvellyn.

Benjamin Robert, Haydon, Wordsworth on Helvellyn.

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

(C.S. Lewis vigorously responded with “A Cliché comes out of Its Cage.” I’ll let you decide for yourselves.)

Here’s what Gibbon actually said about the Christianizing of the Roman Empire. Some of this may also have been the result of his conversion from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, and then back again to Protestantism.  Any Animus noted?

Adam Carr, Photo of Christ in Hagia Sofia.Ο Χριστός, κεντρική μορφή της "Δέησης". Περιβάλλεται από τον Αγ. Ιωάννη τον Πρόδρομο και την Παναγία. Στο Ν. μέρος του υπερώου.

Adam Carr, Photo of Christ in Hagia Sofia.Ο Χριστός, κεντρική μορφή της “Δέησης”. Περιβάλλεται από τον Αγ. Ιωάννη τον Πρόδρομο και την Παναγία. Στο Ν. μέρος του υπερώου.

“As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal that the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers’ pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. Faith, zeal, curiosity, and more earthly passions of malice and ambition, kindled the flame of theological discord; the church, and even the state, were distracted by religious factions, whose conflicts were sometimes bloody and always implacable; the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to synods; the Roman world was oppressed by a new species of tyranny; and the persecuted sects became the secret enemies of their country. Yet party-spirit, however pernicious or absurd, is a principle of union as well as of dissension. The bishops, from eighteen hundred pulpits, inculcated the duty of passive obedience to a lawful and orthodox sovereign; their frequent assemblies and perpetual correspondence maintained the communion of distant churches; and the benevolent temper of the Gospel was strengthened, though confirmed, by the spiritual alliance of the Catholics. The sacred indolence of the monks was devoutly embraced by a servile and effeminate age; but if superstition had not afforded a decent retreat, the same vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to desert, from baser motives, the standard of the republic. Religious precepts are easily obeyed which indulge and sanctify the natural inclinations of their votaries; but the pure and genuine influence of Christianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the barbarian proselytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.” (Chapter. 39).

Gibbon wanted to prove that a major factor in the Fall of the Roman Empire was its adoption of Christianity. He could do this if it is was scarcely more than a century from the toleration of Christianity in 313 to the Empire’s Fall in 476. He most certainly could not prove this if he stuck with the facts: from the toleration of Christianity in 313 to the Fall of the Empire was 1,140 years! Interestingly enough, the legendary foundation of Rome was in in 753 BCE, with its Fall in 1453, a nice symmetry.

Thus began a tradition of bad history that has plagued us for generations. Many modern scholars reject Gibbon’s stance, while correctly admiring many other features of his work. One recent scholar, Georgije Ostrogorski, in his History of the Byzantine State (1986)  puts it this way:

“For Gibbon and Lebeau were genuine historians—and Gibbon a very great one—and their works, in spite of factual inadequacy, rank high for their presentation of their material.”

Dead White (Western) European Males

Osirion at Abydos, where initiations took place.

Steve F-E-Cameron: Osirion at Abydos, where initiations took place.

A contributing factor was also certainly the traditional bias of Western scholarship toward Western Europe. When I was in school, until relatively recently, “History” largely meant:

  • Studying Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East, and then losing interest in that part of the world
  • Ignoring the roots of western civilization and mysticism  in Ancient Egypt, and moving on to Classical Greece and Rome, and after the 5th Century, focusing almost exclusively on Western Europe, and later America. The primary occasions when other parts of the world were mentioned was when Western European (and later, American) power extended itself, as in the Crusades (11th – 13th Centuries), the period of Western European Conquest of the World (15th – 19th Centuries) and the New Imperialism (19th – 20th Centuries). Eastern  Europe was hardly thought of until we studied the 20th Century. One of the great Imperial colonizers, Russia, was usually ignored except for the purchase of Alaska, until the Communist Revolution. Only “Bible History” kept any focus on the Middle East. India and China: who are they, except European colonies?

In this academic climate, it is hardly a surprise that Europe’s most stable Christian Kingdom, and its capital, the largest and most prosperous Late Antique and Medieval city, were virtually ignored.

Fayum Portrait of Hypatia, Neoplatonist Philosopher martyred by a Christian mob in Alexandria (415)

Fayum Portrait of Hypatia, Neoplatonist Philosopher martyred by a Christian mob in Alexandria (415)

Thankfully, that Western European/American (“Dead White (Western) European Males”) bias is largely gone from academe, and scholars are thinking globally, inclusively, and multiculturally. But in the common discourse, not so much. The geographic ignorance of young Americans is well documented by National Geographic. In 2006, 60% of 18-24 year-olds surveyed could not find Iraq on a map. And let’s be fair, this is not confined to other countries. Even after Hurricane Katrina, 30% could not point to Louisiana on a blank US map, and 48% could not find Mississippi. Parents and Educators: we have a lot to do!

Case Closed

Case Closed. Res Ipsa Loquitur (The Thing Speaks for Itself). If it please* the court, I hope I have demonstrated why I say that the Roman Empire fell on May 29, 1453. I’ll be back soon with more Language and History!   Thank you!

* That’s our very rare English Subjunctive! A Rara Avis (“Rare Bird”) indeed!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant