Today at the Castle of the Muses we celebrate several extraordinary thinkers and sages. For Christians we celebrated the life and teachings of Simeon the New Theologian 949-1022, who was a Byzantine Christian monk and poet who was the last of three saints canonized by the Eastern church and given the title of “Theologian” (along with John the Apostle and Gregory of Nazianzus). “Theologian” was not applied to Symeon in the modern academic sense of theological study, but to recognize someone who spoke from personal experience of the vision of God. One of his principal teachings was that humans could and should experience theoria (literally “contemplation,” or direct experience of God). For Christians we also celebrate the life of St Donatus, who was originally from Ireland, raised as a Christian, and went on Pilgrimage to Rome; on the way back to Ireland, quite unexpectedly he was chosen as Bishop of Fiesole, just near to Florence in Tuscany, by a miraculous and supernatural sign. He just wandered into the Cathedral as the election was underway, more or less as a tourist, and suddenly the bells rang out, the lamps suddenly lit of their own accord, and he was therefore elected as chosen by God. He was also a scholar and teacher and wrote a life of St Bridgid of Ireland and founded a hospice for pilgrims dedicated to St Bridget, as well as writing a poem in praise of Ireland. He died in 876 AD and is buried in Fiesole Cathedral. He never did get home to Ireland. The Universal church celebrates his memory this day, October 22. For Buddhists we celebrated Vasumitra– a Buddhist Patriarch in India and an extremely subtle metaphysician, who said that all Dharmas exist in three modes, past present and future (simultaneously) but the present ones exist in actuality with the past and future only in latent modalities. For Hinduism, today is the day of Swami Sivananda 1887-1963, founded Divine Life Society near Rishikesh, and Yogavedanta Forest Academy in 1936. Author of 200 books on yoga and spirituality. For the arts it is that of poetess Rossetti, Christina (1830-1894). For pagans, it is that of Roman ruler Augustus, who died in 14 AD and whose life coincided with the birth of Christ, the work of the poet Virgil, and who was a great patron of literature and the arts and friend of not only Virgil butt also Maecenas. His reign is called The Augustan age and was a time of peace and prosperity – certainly he was a man of moderation and wisdom compeered to later Emperors such as Nero and Caligula. For Islam we celebrated Kamal e Khojandi (d. 1401) Iranian poet and mystic. For Judiasm it is the day of Bloch, Philipp 1841-1923 Historian of Kabbalah – among other works, he wrote Geschichte der Entwickelung der Kabbala und der jüdischen Religionsphilosophie, (Berlin: Poppelauer, 1894). We also celebrate the life and works of the great Chinese historian, Ssu Ma Chien 145-85 BC, court historian of China, and one of the greatest historians who has ever lived in any culture. Considered the father of Chinese historiography for his work, the Records of the Grand Historian, a general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to his time, during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han. He also worked as Court Astrologer since history and astrology were regarded as connected sciences. This is interesting, since it was felt in Chinese thought that the job of the historians is to discern the general rules or patterns of changes as age succeeds age. It is this philosophical problem that I also addressed in my doctorial and post-doctoral works on transpersonal history. Today we also celebrate Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, a famous Persian Zoroastrian, Dadabhai Naoroji (4 September 1825 – 30 June 1917), known as the Grand Old Man of India, was a Parsi intellectual, educator, cotton trader, and an early Indian political and social leader. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895, and the first Asian to be a British MP. Naoroji is also credited with the co-founding of the Indian National Congress, along with A.O. Hume and Dinshaw Edulji Wacha. His book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India brought attention to the draining of India’s wealth into Britain. He was also member of Second International along with Kautsky and Plekhanov. He is also the ancestor of the author’s friend and colleague Zerbanoo Gifford, who runs the Asha retreat centre in Gloucestershire, a parallel project to the Castle of the muses. (See Zerbanoo Gifford, Dadabhai Naoroji: Britain’s First Asian MP; Mantra Books, 1992). Today we also celebrate the life and writings of esotericist Selden, John, 1584-1654, who was an amazing polymath based in London in the 17th century, friend to Edward Herbert of Chirbury, Elias Ashmole, Lord Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Hyde, Cotton –he was an expert in Hebrew studies and ancient religions, and law. Originating in Sussex, John Aubrey writes of him and his work in his Brief Lives that when Rev Johnson, Minister of the Temple buried him, who was preaching at his funeral service, he stated that: “when a learned man dies there dyes a great deale of learning with him, and that if learning could have kept a man alive our brother had not dyed”. This was a touching eulogy for such a great scholar as Selden. His friendship with Lord Herbert was perhaps most notable, as it occasioned the surrender of Montgomery Castle by Herbert to the Parliamentary army, in order to retain his library intact, who then had it transported to London through the battle lines of the then civil war. Selden is important in the history of pagan scholarship since he wrote de Deis Syris, about the ancient pagan polytheist religions of the Syrians. Given the wars and fighting in Syrian it were well to rediscover this book and see if any good news could be gleamed from it, about the pacific orientation of the heart of the Syrian mind-set. Selden knew of course that the Syrians loved their Goddesses, and perhaps this would be the key to peace in their troubled land – if a council of learned and wise women from all parties and factions in the land were to be assembled from all towns and given power and authority to make peace in their troubled country, and all men were to be forbidden from office for a period of 12 moonths. Selden’s ghost would be pleased at being in some way instrumental in bringing peace to that troubled land, in retrospect. He was also instrumental in Cromwell’s monumental decision to readmit the Jewish people back into Britain, since Cromwell consulted him on the legality of this move, and Selden gave a judgment that it was perfectly legal and proper to do so. There are some possibilities that he might have had a hand in assisting the development of freemasonry in Britain and was certainly also someone learned in the Kabbalah, and friend to various learned Rabbis and mystical Jews. For freemasonry, today at the Castle we celebrate the life of Nelson, Horatio 1758-1805, the great admiral and naval commander from Norfolk, son of a Vicar, whose great love of his life, Emma Hamilton, inspired him to do notable deeds on the battlefield, through her friendship with eh sister of Marie Antoinette, and Queen of Naples and Sicily, and who therefore informed him first hand of hte brutalities being inflicted by the French revolutionary mob (they were stopping aristocratic women in the street and butchering them out of sheer jealousy and frenzy, by slicing off their breasts alive – this infuriated Emma Hamilton (a famous beauty of her day), and Nelson, to undertake to stop the French invasion of Britain by all means possible). Finally, we celebrate this day the life and work of Schwimmer, Rosika 1877-1948, who was an amazing Hungarian pacifist and feminist. Rosika Schwimmer was born on September 11, 1877 to a Jewish family in Budapest in Austria-Hungary. She studied music and languages but when family finances deteriorated in 1896, she began to work as a bookkeeper. In 1897 Schwimmer founded the Hungarian Feminist Association, helped to found Hungarian National Council of Women, later organized the first Women’s Trade Union in Hungary and was a board member in the Hungarian Peace Society. In 1909, the Minister of the Interior appointed her to the governing board of child welfare. In 1913 she became a corresponding secretary of the International (IWSA). Schwimmer toured Europe with Carrie Chapman Cattto lecturing on female suffrage. She also edited magazine A No (The Woman). In 1914 Schwimmer moved to London and worked as a correspondent of various European newspapers and press secretary for IWSA. When the World War I broke out, she could not return home and began to agitate for the end of hostilities. In 1914 she toured the USA to demand that president Woodrow Wilson form a neutral conference to end the war. In 1915 she took part in the formation of the Woman’s Peace Party. During the April 28-May 10, 1915 Hague Congress of Women, her proposal for a Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation between the governments of the belligerents was adopted. In 1915 she gained the support of Henry Ford, who chartered a Peace Ship to Stockholm. Disappointed with Ford’s efforts, she later organized the International Committee for Immediate Mediation in June 1916. After the armistice, Schwimmer became vice-president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. When Hungary gained independence from Austria-Hungary in 1918, prime minister Mihály Károlyi appointed Schwimmer to be Minister to Switzerland. When the communists gained control of the government in 1919, she opposed it and lost her civil rights. In 1920, when Miklós Horthy’s government ousted the communists, she fled to Vienna and in 1921 to the USA. In 1935 she formed the World Centre for Women’s Archives with Mary Ritter Beard. She received a World Peace Prize in 1937 and formed the Campaign for World Government with Lola Maverick Lloyd. In 1947 she was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize but no one received it the next year. Although she app[lied for USA citizenship she was denied it for being a pacifist and this was why she campaigned for a democratic and equitable world government in which people of all countries could celebrate their unity instead of falling for the temptation of nationalism which only encouraged one to hate other nations. By any standards Rosika was a true muse of peace, and therefore someone who deserves having their life and work celebrated here in the Castle of the Muses this day, October 22, 2013. May al these great luminaries rest in peace and send down showers of blessings on all those here on this plane who continue to struggle for peace with peaceful means.
Today, October 12th, is the Saint Day of St Edwin (588-633). who lived almost exactly contemporaneously with Muhammad, and who was a very important King of Northumbria, when that was an independent Kingdom, and began his life as a pagan, who would have followed the ancient runic wisdom of the Anglo Saxon’s priests and the pantheon of deities they worshipped, including Odin and Freya etc. He was apparently a learned man and a deep thinker. Later in life, he married a Kentish Christian Princess, having fallen in love with her, and she said she wouldn’t marry him unless he allowed her to keep her Christian faith, and to bring a priest or two with her up North. he agreed. After some years, he himself, after much deliberation and reflection, also decided to become a Christian. It was he who built the foundations of York Minister, and also his Kingdom at one point stretched so far North that it included Edinburgh, which was named Edwinsburg after him,. Since i am going to Edinburgh on Monday i think it is nice to have a chance to salute the Saint after whom the city is named. Bede tells the whole story of Edwin’s life and reign. later, he was killed in battle by the pagan King of Mercia, Penda. Those were troubled times back then, but as i explored yesterday in this blog, for many Christians around the world, death is a daily fear they have to face up to. Edwin also had a great reputation for justice. What would he have done about 11 Christians an hour being martyred somewhere on the planet, one wonders ? Interestingly, the World Council of Churches grew out of the ecumenical movement founded in Edinburgh. Maybe they ought to be doing more to highlight these abuses ? Also today at the Castle we celebrate the lives and works of: Brother Roger Schurtz, founder of Taize, who was also killed recently; Rilke the poet, whose Castle Duino of his famous elegies I visited a while back in Italy; Berossus of Babylon, a famous historian and theologians of antiquity; Alexander Altmann, the famous Jewish philosopher, James Webb, the historian of the esoteric and occult whose work influenced by own research orientation early on in my academic career (and who died in a car crash aged 34 on my birthday, May 8). To all their deeds and works, we give thanks. May we carry on and prove that the Pen is indeed mightier than the sword !
These figures are shocking: “According to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Centre in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the situation calls “a situation of witness” each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith”. This data is from John L Allen’s The War on Christians: dispatches from the front Lines of Anti-Christian persecutions (2013) Why does the Western media of the world not report what is arguably the worst human rights abuse going on anywhere in the world right now, period. Is it because it suffers from its own anti-Christian myopia ? Has the West become so hoodwinked by secularist relativism that it bends over backwards to be seen as “not pro-Christian” and therefore cuts away at the very foundational ideals, principles, concepts and liberties and duties which established our universities, our schooling system, much of our literature, our parliamentary democracies and most of our social institutions ? I have met over the years some extremist neo-pagans and other extremist anti-Religious or other-religious people who themselves seem to be so anti Christian that they might well even rejoice in these shocking figures. But Christian-hating, which has become a sort of disease spread by some relativist secularisers, as well as fanatics of other faiths, has consequences. What it means is that as long as it is unchallenged it will continue to allow inaction, moral blindness, apathy and under-reporting to go on, and these deaths will continue to mount up. Their blood is on the hands of all of us in the West who have freedom, who have access to the media, and who choose to remain silent. Just remember, after you have read this, that in the next hour, 11 Christians will have been killed, somewhere in the world, simply for their faith. Now get up and do something about it… What, you might ask ? The only serious action a Christian can undertake, in my view, is not “war” or “militarism” but education, and peace witness, showing there are other ways, and also theological education, explaining simply and clearly what Christianity is about, and trying to communicate that to other faith paths, in ways that make sense. This is the frontier terrain that IIPSGP occupies, and why we are working to end this shocking violence. It is why we are recording here at the Castle of the Muses our commentaries on the New Testament, as well as the entire Quran and the Psalms of Judiasm, in an attempt to advance inter-theological understanding. It is also why we hold a weekly Druid-Christian service here in the chapel. As a start, if these figures come as a shock to you, then I suggest you yourself take time out in the coming week and read the whole of the New Testament. Then ask yourself why would anybody be killed for simply believing that this text is sacred ? What is sad really, is it shows how little mankind has progressed, morally speaking. As my late mother used to say, “Humanity has a long way to go, Thomas… but we will get there in the end”. One thing for sure is that these shocking killings must cease, at once. A global interfaith ceasefire is called for, and all faith leaders of all faiths, from the smallest little pagan tribe to the greatest major denominations of the planet, should agree to sign a global non-Violence treaty in which they pledge their respective adherents not to kill or wound or hurt each other. Jews, Muslims and Christians, Bahai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Druids, Pagans, Wiccans, New Age, New Religious Movement followers, Goddess worshippers, all are called to participate in this peace process. I hope it would be signed in time for the reopening of the Golden Gate in Jerusalem and the dedication of a Peace Tent on the Temple Mount. As a contribution towards ending the suffering of these poor people who are being martyred as we speak, 11 per hour, I believe we all have a moral duty to enable this to happen. Please join IIPSGP in its work towards this end…
Today at the Castle of the Muses we have celebrated various sages and saints, including St Canice, the son of a bard from Ireland, who was a friend and companion of St Columba and a very important early Christian Saint in both Ireland and Scotland, living from 515 – 600 AD. His father the Bard was called Lughadh and was indeed a distinguished bard, a highly trained, professional itinerant poet. Lughadh settled at Glengiven, in what is now County Londonderry. Lughadh ended up under the favour and protection of the chief of Cianachta, and became the tutor of the chieftain’s son, Geal Breagach. Canice’s mother was Maul. St Canice grew up and then in 543 became a pupil at St. Finnian’s monastic school at Clonard. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at the Clonard monastery. It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction there was 3,000. Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, Cainnech was one of these. It was at Clonard that Canice became a friend and companion of St Colmcille (Columba). I have myself been to Clonard and seen the ruins there. It is worth reflecting that Ireland was a place where Christian teachings and ancient pagan Druid wisdom lived comfortably alongside each other, for the most part, and that in the average modern Irish home, you still see pagan customs jostling alongside Christian ones, as revealed in John Moriarty’s fabulous autobiography Nostos. St Canice went on to travel widely throughout Ireland and Scotland, also spending time in Wales, where he was ordained, and visiting Rome, and he spent many moons on Iona, not too far from the Castle of the muses. I like to think that at some point in his wanderings he might well have passed through Loch Goil and sheltered on the rocky hill overlooking the waters that the current day Castile of the Muses stands on. In view of my own love of Salzburg, it is worth noting that it was from the monastery that St Canice founded, at Aghaboe in Ireland, which grew in importance after its original foundation by St Canice, that in the 8th century was sent St Feargal (700-784) as a missionary to the church of Salzburg. His name was latinised at St Virgil and he is known ever after as the bringer of Christianity to Salzburg and its surrounding regions. Virgil was a highly learned man and an expert in sacred geometry, canonised in 1233, who believed in the spherical shape of the earth long before it became common knowledge. H became Bishop of St Peter’s Monastery at Salzburg which is where young Mozart learned to become a musician. Kilkenny in Ireland is named after this saint, since he by legend had a final discussion or contretemps with the then Archdruid of Ireland, and his remains were later interred there. In his old age Cainnech retired to an island in what was once Loch Cree, and wrote a commentary on all four Gospels. This became known as Glass Kinnich (Glas-Chainnigh) or Chain of Cainnech. Speaking personally, I think the legend of a war between St Canice and the last Archdruid of Ireland is an exaggeration, and probably describes a healthy conversation. Druids are well known for their ferocious conversations, which to outsiders might well look like a war. St Canice was probably able to give as good as he got in this regard ! For one thing, there are still Archdruids of Ireland, and the current one is living happily in Kilkenny to this day !
Also today we celebrate the lives of the following sages: economist and philosopher E. F Schumacher, philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005, an expert on Karl Jaspers, Husserl and the reconciliation of phenomenology and Christian theology, who write widely on many philosophical matters), Egyptian sage Manetho (3rd century BC author of the History of Egypt) Islamic thinker Salih ibn Hablla, Jewish Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph (40-137 AD, who was tortured alive by the Romans with iron combs that flayed his skin, under whose authority the current list of books in the Tanakh was largely drawn up; it was also said of him, that of 4 sages who entered paradise while still living, only he returned unscathed; Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to whose teachings the oral version of hte Zohar is ascribed, which was only written down much later, was in fact a student of Rabbi Akiba, and Akiba was also the main redactor of the Mishnah), Alan Watts and English scholar Margaret Roper 1504-1544, among others. May their work live on and show the paths to peace for all mankind !