Today being September 13, the world is in a kind of holding station, holding our breath in the hope that the current negotiations and discussions at senior international level involving Russia, the USA, the UK and France, and Syria and other powers, will result in an effective agreement whereby the chemical weapons of the Syrian government can be “put beyond use” under international control. Then we have to get on with the crucial task of actually rebuilding peace inside the troubled country of Syria. In this the international community can only facilitate and help local actors play their part. Syria is an ancient and complex multi-religious and multi-ethnic culture, and the last thing it needs is to have any kind of mono-cultural imposition put on it from outside, e.g. by Islamist fundamentalism, in the style of extreme Wahabi doctrine as expounded by the Saudi regime. Nor of course extreme Shi’ism, or indeed, extreme anything. We need to listen seriously to claims that it has been Jihadist fighters funded and supported by Saudi Arabia who actually released by accident a series of Chemical weapons that resulted in large scale deaths. If this turns out indeed to be true, then perhaps the USA should rethink the extent of its military alliance with Saudi Arabia and insist on certain ethical positions being taken up. There are still unanswered questions to many minds about the extent of Saudi Arabian foreknowledge about the events of 9/11 whose anniversary we have just witnessed, which need answering. Or it may turn tout that the UN establishes beyond a shadow of doubt that it was indeed the Syrian regime that authorised the use of these chemical weapons. The international community must exercise epoche and suspend judgment pending the full facts coming out.
From the perspective of the Centre for Peace Policy Research, in order to build peace in the tragic war-torn country of Syria, firstly, we have to establish truth, some kind of return to respect for truth. How can this be done when both sides accuse the other of lying ? When both sides demonise the other ? The UN can and should establish not only whether chemical weapons were used, which is obvious, but also try to establish who unleashed them. All those involved should be interviewed and their witness testimony taken. Carla del Ponte who has been working with the UN at senior level, states that she has reason to believe these chemical weapons were unleashed not by the Syrian government at all but by rebel forces. Let us just for one moment explore this hypothesis: let us say that the USA is so indebted to the Saudi Arabian government, that although it knows this to be true, it dare not publicly admit it, and rather seeks to silence and cover up these awkward facts. Why should we in the UK care about this ? Why should truth matter ? As a philosopher specialising in the philosophy of peace, it seems to me to be self evident that truth matters, and that any lasting peace in the middle east can only be built on peace and justice, and for this, transparency in facts and events as they unfold is paramount. So as the world is pausing and hiding its breath, and as congress comes to debate whether lethal force should indeed be used against Syria, which proposition they will hopefully reject, all those still capable of thinking independently should ask themselves: what can force and violence do that simple inquiry, truth-force and ahimsa, love, cannot accomplish more effectively. Somehow the international community has to create, through the power of its combined citizenry, through the power of its women and men working in harmony, through the power of is writers, its poets, its intellectuals, and its sages (who seriously need to come out of the woodwork) the recognition that soul-force, love, and ahimsa, can more effectively create peace in the Middle East than violence or hurting and killing force.
Christians have always, ostensibly, know bout this, since this pattern of thinking and acting was revealed to them by Jesus Christ, who famously refused to let St Peter fight in the Garden of Gethsemane against the Temple guards who had come to seize Jesus. Generation after generation, new Christian leaders have emerged who have articulated afresh this common bedrock commitment of Christianity to the path of love and non-violence (one thinks of St Martin of Tours, St Francis of Assisi, George Fox, Tolstoy, Martin Luther King etc.). Yet Christians whilst personally espousing non-violence, have, since the time of Constantine accepted that sometimes the state has a duty to wage official war in the name of justice, and paradoxically, in the name of Christianity, for self defence. So the ideas of the chivalrous Christian knight was born, as exemplified by King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. In Islam here is a similar understanding that warfare and violence although sometimes necessary, needs to be governed and moderated by spiritual laws and chivalrous codes of conduct, and Muhammad brought in strong codes of ethics which governed the way that Islamic warriors were to govern themselves on the battlefield. Muslims however have not always lived up to these codes (nor of course have Christians) and nowadays there are many tragic cases of violence being undertaken against non-Muslims, especially and tragically against Christians, in the name of a pseudo-Islamism that Muhammad and Ali themselves would have rejected as unjust, callous, cruel and inhuman. See the work Crucified Again: exposing Islam’s new war on Christians, by Raymond Ibrahim (Recovery Publishing, Washington DC, 2013) for details of this war against Christianity on the part of Islam, which is hardly ever reported as such in the mainstream media. Judaism likewise whilst accepting that war and violence may be necessary in a just cause, or in defence of a people and a way of life, also puts strong ethical binds on those who practice it and demands of its warriors a consciousness that the highest ethical ideal remains “not to kill;” as in the commandment received by Moses from God. Why is it then that notwithstanding all these moral teachings and religious codes, violence is still raging in countries such as Syria and indeed, in Egypt ? Perhaps if we turned to studying the lives and teachings of the great sages and saints of humanity, and listened to what they have to say to us across the centuries, then we might put away our weapons of war, and take up the pen of scholarship once more.
Today’s list of Saints and Sages as celebrated in the Castle of the Muses, are as follows: For Christians, we celebrate Postel, Guillaume, 1510-1581, an important Christian mystical thinker, who studied Judaism and the Qabalah first hand, and produced a series of influential writings in which he argued that Christianity, Judaism and Islam all went back to a common source, and that there should be lasting and perpetual peace between the followers of each tradition. His ideas also influenced Dr John Dee, the magus at the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st, and about whose life and work IIPSGP organised a special symposium in Wales in 2008, at Brithdir Hall. On that occasion we also went into the life of Postel in some depth. He was a devoted advocate of the Christian Qabalah and believed that through advanced esoteric studies, exoteric religions can be brought to have harmony, peace and love for one another. He also counted many Jewish thinkers among his friends.
For Buddhism, today we celebrate Subhuti – 1 of 10 great disciples of Buddha, an expounder of the important doctrine of emptiness, shunyata. In Tibet he is known as Rabjor. The Elder Subhūti addresses the Buddha, in the earliest dated printed book (Diamond Sūtra) which is in the British Library in London. Subhūti was one of the Ten Great Śrāvakas of Śākyamuni Buddha, and foremost in the understanding of emptiness. In Sanskrit, his name literally means “Good Existence” (su: “good”, bhūti: “existence”). He is also sometimes referred to as or “Elder Subhūti” (Sthavira Subhūti). He was a contemporary of such famous arhats as Śāriputra, Mahākāśyapa, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākātyāyana, and Ānanda.
For Hinduism, we celebrate Sankara Misra, who flourished about 1500 AD and was a philosopher. For culture and the arts we celebrate Odysseus Elytis the famous 20th century Greek poet. For Paganism, we celebrate Timycha. For Islam, it is the turn of
Khwaja Yusuf al Hamadani (1048 – 1140) whose tomb is in Merv. He was born in Buzanjird near Hamadan and went to Baghdad, aged 18 and studied with Abu Ishaq and followed Abu Hanifa. He also studied in Isthavan and Bukhara. His spiritual teacher was Sheikh Abu Ali Al-Farmadhi. Also he became the spiritual director of Imam Al-Ghazzali. He wrote a famous book called Stations of the Travellers and Stations of the Wayfarers. He had four disciples and he founded the Khwajgan order, which is one of the most important Sufi orders of all time. Note, he studied and taught. He did not use violence, he did not attack or kill people. That is not the way of true Islam. He was a teacher and a spiritual seeker, as should all true Muslims be, in the opinion of this author. For Judaism we celebrate the life and work of Lev Vygotski, 1896-1934 a famous Russian psychologist. For Chinese thought it is Huang Ku’n, Patron saint of incense makers in China. For Sikhism, Bhai Mati Das, a devotee of Guru Tegh Bahadur, he was sawn alive in two for refusing to covert to Islam in 1732. For esotericism it is Puharich, Andrija Henry, M.D who has explored the psychology of the occult and paranormal, and wrote a book about his studies of Uri Geller. For freemasonry it is the life of General Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 that we celebrate. He served as commander of the USA forces in the Far East from 1941 onwards, and reconquered the Philippines from the Japanese. When the current author went to Manilla for a UNESCO conference, he saw the chapel in De La Salle University campus where the Japanese had slaughtered all the clergy, monks and nuns taking sanctuary there just before they fled from Manilla to escape Macarthur’s reconquering of the city. Today is also the historic anniversary of the Battle of the Heights of Abraham, whereby Gen Wolfe captured Quebec and Canada from the French in 1753. This is an important day to Canadians therefore. Interestingly, it is a fact that General MacArthur based his surprise landings in the Korean War at Inchon, which outflanked the North Korean invasion of the South, on the famous manoeuvre of General Wolfe in scaling the heights of Abraham. Both MacArthur and Wolfe knew the paths of true Christian warriorship that we have discussed above (interestingly, Wolfe also fought at Culloden in 1745 against the Jacobites, a tragic and unnecessary affair if only diplomacy had been used, in the author’s opinion).
Finally, for women we celebrate the life of Ouida 1839-1908, an English Italian writer, who lived in London, Florence and Lucca.
Let us hope, on this day of Friday 13th September, that the strange synchronicities which criss cross our existences here on this plane of being, and which seem to betoken the interdependence of many worlds, as Postel, John Dee, Subhiti, Buddha and many other saints and sages have always maintained, can also bring wisdom and guidance to the world’s international diplomats and leaders, that they can find a way to worship the complex source of being in humility and devotion, and to honour and reverence one another, rather than seek to do violence and pain to each other. Let us hope we can all have that Damascus Moment which brought St Paul from the path of violence and fear to the path of love.