Tag Archives: Europe

“America is seething with anarchy on every plane, because of the constantly changing economic conditions, the conflict between creeds, casts, codes, cultures and races. Society has never had a chance to settle down. The expansion westward, the discovery of gold, coal, iron and oil, the slavery question, the secession question, the constant flux caused by the development of technical science, the religious and moral instability, the conflict between federal centralization and state sovereignty, the congestion of cities, the exploitation of the farmer by the financier, the shifting of the economic centre of gravity, these and a thousand other conditions arising from the unprecedented development of the country combine to make it impossible even to imagine stability in any plane of life. There is thus a radical distinction between Europe and her daughter. We know more or less what to expect in any set of circumstances. Heterogeneous as we are there is a common ground of thought and action. We are even able to draw reasonable conclusions about Asia and Africa. London and Tokyo are sufficiently alike in essentials to make our relations intelligible, but in spite of the community of language, customs, commercial conventions, and so on, between London and New York, the difference between us is really more radical. There are many incalculable factors in any formula which connects the United States with Europe.”
Chapter 75 from Confessions

Quote featured at PROGRESS ANARCHY COMMON SENSE from the Ministry of Information.

Antichrist

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antichrist: A novel of the Emperor Frederick II by Cecelia Holland.

Cecelia Holland Antichrist

Historical novelist Cecelia Holland is the author of Antichrist: a novel of the Emperor Frederick II (1970). The British issue of the same book had a more timid publisher, it seems. The title there was Wonder of the World, in reference to Frederick’s renown as stupor mundi. The US Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church identifies Frederick II as the “Frederick of Hohenstaufen” enumerated among the saints of Liber XV, and he points to Frederick’s notable antagonism with Rome, but he fails to note the item that gave Holland her title: a tradition of identifying Frederick as the Antichrist.

Antichrist is an inherently prophetic figure, and the prophecies of Frederick’s Antichrist status were initially derived from Joachim of Fiore’s writings. Holland observes this fact with a brief notice in her prefatory “Note” (ix). The Super Hieremiam was a pseudo-Joachimist work that identified Frederick as a head of the apocalyptic dragon and as the emperor whose death would inaugurate the age of the Holy Spirit. The prophecy regarding Frederick is one of the elements that made Joachim’s work topical for the Franciscans who became interested in it during the 1240s.

Holland’s story is set in the 1220s, with Frederick’s prosecution of the Sixth Crusade. She depicts the Franciscans in Outremer as opponents of the Emperor, and she has them accuse him of being Antichrist. Whether they would have done so at that time, before taking up the ideas from Joachim, or whether the accusation in the novel was anachronistic, I don’t know.

Besides the Franciscan Order, Antichrist includes a rough and caricaturing treatment of the military Orders of the Temple and the Hospital. Of the former, Holland writes that they “were beyond doubt Satanist,” choosing to take the French court proceedings as gospel on this count (xiii). She depicts both Orders—who were, after all, opposed to her protagonist Frederick—as corrupt and malevolent. In fact, her depiction of them is much in keeping with the villainous roles that they play in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

An important aspect of the novel (and the events it attempts to describe) is the relationship between Christians and Muslims, both in southern Europe and in Palestine. The idea that Frederick was Antichrist had much to do with his perceived and actual intimacy with Saracens and Islam. Holland creatively adds a member of the Order of Assassins to Frederick’s bodyguard in Palestine. This touch on her part leads to a historical error, in which she has the “Assassins” in question refer to themselves as Hashishiyyun (164). The Muslims associated with Alamut whom the Crusaders called “Assassins” were sometimes called hashishis as a term of derision by their Muslim antagonists, but they were in fact, and knew themselves as, Syrian Ismailis of the Nizari sect.

Holland’s book was great fun to read: it has a lot of witty dialogue and vivid description. If handled respectfully, it would probably make a terrific movie. Although she makes some outright errors, the author provides the unusual courtesy among historical novelists of pointing out which principal features of the story are her conscious interpolations (xii-xiii). As far as the broad outlines of her narrative go, there is nothing to contradict any of the history I have read. [via]


Mysticism East and West

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Mysticism East and West: A Comparative Analysis of the Nature of Mysticism by Rudolf Otto.

Rudolf Otto Mysticism

This book was developed from Otto’s lectures presented at Oberlin College in 1923-4. It principally consists of a detailed attempt to compare and contrast two prominent mystics: Śankara from the Indian East and Meister Eckhart from the European West. In so doing, Otto proposes to demonstrate that there are distinct forms of mysticism which reach across boundaries of religion, culture and geography, and also that any mysticism will be essentially inflected by its particular religious basis—the soil in which it grows, to use Otto’s recurrent metaphor.

“Part A” of the text emphasizes similarities between Śankara and Meister Eckhart, and Otto manages to detail many of these. First, he points to their shared orientation to ontological ideas, and develops the technical and theological parallel
Śankara:Brahman:Isvara:Ātman::Eckhart:Godhead:God:Soul (14, 77-78). He also compares Śankara’s “Maya” to Eckhart’s “creare” (95). Otto emphasizes the religious, salvific, and theistic qualities of both thinkers’ systems, and points out that neither prescribes a “method” of attainment (29). He proposes a couple of idealized “schemas” of mystical experience, claiming that Śankara and Eckhart each engage both schemas (52).

In the process of comparing Śankara and Eckhart to each other, he distinguishes their type of (speculative) mysticism from other usual sorts: affective mysticism (72-73) and nature mysticism (73-74). Then, in the “Transition from Part A to Part B,” he uses specific schools of Indian mysticism to demonstrate the “differentiation of mystical experience in general,” showing that the similarities between Śankara and Eckhart are not common to all mysticism. Other individual mystics who play supporting roles for contrast include Plotinus and Hallaj.

Finally, in Part B, Otto provides some contrasts between Śankara and Eckhart. In these (generally shorter) chapters, the difference is usually expressed as a valuable quality or sensibility that is present in Eckhart but absent in Śankara. According to Otto, Śankara’s mysticism lacks dynamism, vitality, religious conscience, sense of righteousness, positive regard for the world, agape-love, and pastoral sensibility. In this portion, Otto remains engaged in the sort of “comparative religion” that he produced in Das Heilige (The Idea of the Holy, 1923) : he creates a basis for comparison in order to conclude which is better, and it is no surprise that a German Christianity is better on the scale of this theologian from the University of Marburg.

Otto notes that Mysticism: East and West presupposes ideas and positions that he advanced earlier in Das Heilige (vi). That work has become especially identified with “the discourse of sui generis religion,” which has been criticized (e.g. by Russell McCutcheon) for setting arbitrary boundaries between “religious” phenomena and other spheres of personal and/or social activity and ideas, as well as a tendency to abstract religions into essences. Such problems remain evident here, e.g. in the hypothesized/ hypostasized doctrinal conflict (82), the valuation “peculiar to all religion” (94), and the elision of economics and politics from caste doctrines (120).

The “soil” metaphor persists in this book’s efforts to characterize the source of differences between instances or types of mysticism—apparently, the “seed” is mystical capacity or aspiration, and the soil is the religious and cultural context. Otto claims, “the very different ground upon which mysticism rose in Europe also colors the highest mystical experience in a way which is Christian and not Indian” (162). But he does not demonstrate a relevant, describable difference between “the soil of Palestine” and “the soil [of the entire subcontinent!] of India” (206) I don’t doubt that this trope is either a conscious or an unconscious invocation of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23. Note also: Eckhart had been a poster-child of the ‘German mystique’ since the early 19th century, and Alfred Rosenberg called him a paragon of the “new, reborn Teutonic man” in 1938.

Otto insists, “The difference between [Brahman mysticism and Atman mysticism] is not to be reproduced in intellectual conceptions and is only comprehensible in the mystical experience itself.” (146) I find myself dubious that he has experienced all of these diverse mystical attainments among which he professes to discriminate for scholars! If “intellectual conceptions” cannot effectively communicate the differences between various mysticisms, what possibility is there for scholarship to assert or explain such differences? Ultimately, I must suspect Otto of using a globe-spanning erudition to reinforce his own metaphysical prejudices. [via]


A History of Pagan Europe

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, a 2000 reprint paperback from Routledge, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Prudence Jones Nigel Pennick A History of Pagan Europe from Routledge

“The first comprehensive study of its kind, this fully illustrated book establishes Paganism as a persistent force in European history with a profound influence on modern thinking.

From the serpent goddesses of ancient Crete to modern nature-worship and the restoration of the indigenous religions of eastern Europe, this wide-ranging book offers a rewarding new perspective of European history.

In this definitive study, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick draw together the fragmented sources of Europe’s native religions and establish the coherence and continuity of the Pagan world vision. Exploring Paganism as it developed from the ancient world through the Celtic and Germanic periods, the authors finally appraise modern Paganism and its apparent causes as well as addressing feminist spirituality, the heritage movement, nature-worship and ‘deep’ ecology.

This innovative and comprehensive history of European Paganism will provide a stimulating, reliable guide to this popular dimension of religious culture for the academic and the general reader alike.” [via]


Aristotle’s Children

Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages by Richard E Rubenstein, a 2003 hardcover from Harcourt, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Richard E Rubenstein Aristotle's Children from Harcourt

“The astonishing story of revelation and transformation in the Middle Ages. When Aristotle’s lost works were translated and available once again, the medieval world was galvanized, the Church and the universities were forever changed, and the stage was set for the Renaissance.” — back cover


Enchanted Feminism

Enchanted Feminism: Ritual, Gender and Divinity Among the Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco by Jone Salomonsen, part of the Religion and Gender series, the 2002 first edition paperback from Routledge, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jone Salomonsen Enchanted Feminism from Routledge

“Many today feel the need to restore a magical, spiritual ground to human existence. One of the most visible responses to this need has been the rise of contemporary pagan Witchcraft, and one of its most interesting voices, Reclaiming. This community was formed over twenty years ago, by feminist Witch Starhawk and friends, to teach others about goddess spirituality and reinvented pagan rituals. It has since succeeded in developing an independent spiritual tradition, fostered partly by the success of Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and other books, and now has sister communities throughout North America and Europe.

Enchanted Feminism presents the first in-depth study of this important community and spiritual tradition from a consistent gender perspective. In a unique interdisciplinary approach, Dr Salomonson adopts the perspectives of both social anthropology and theology to analyse the beliefs and practices of the Reclaiming Witches. Among many issues, she considers their spiritual search for the ‘Real’, their renunciation of patriarchal religions and attempts to build a new religious identity, their use of ritual and of feminine symbols for the divine, and their involvement with feminist-anarchist politics. The results of her research provide challenging and insightful reading.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church by Alexandre Faivre.

Alexandre Faivre The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church

This volume is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the idea and social phenomenon of church laity in the first half-millennium of the Christian era. For the first 40% of that period, according to author Faivre, the laity did not even exist as such, and it was only in the third century that the laity followed the clergy into being as a distinction within the larger population of Christians.

“The layman is a strange being, subject to mutation, born the prisoner of an analogy, conditioned by a climate of conflict and formed in a cultic environment. There is nothing to indicate that this mutating being should be called upon to become a species.” (21)

Early factors in the development of a concept of laity were the growth of church populations, official persecutions, and efforts to define the nature of the clergy. Other pressures came into play after Christianity was endorsed and subsidized by the empire. The rough arc traced in this book is one from the nonexistence of laity, to its presence as a virtuous subset of male Christians (from which clergy might be drawn), to its role as a mutually-exclusive and inferior complement to the clergy. Finally, the monk is introduced as a tirtium quid, drawing at first on lay aspirations alien to the administration of the church, but quickly becoming implicated with the clergy in a complex economy of holiness.

Faivre is a French Catholic academic, and he seems to handle his sources fairly. In his conclusion, he suggests that 20th-century concerns with the status and powers of the laity were paralleled by the tensions and mutations evident in the early centuries of the church, and he proposes that these are evidence of a major historical transition in the relationship of Christianity to society. [via]

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.