Muslim Intellectuals Please Join Us

MUSLIM al-Kindi




By the very nature of their critical endeavor independent intellectuals are often at each other’s throats. Figuratively speaking, of course, for intellectuals prefer metaphors and virtual battles to mayhem and murder.

I have on previous occasions called for an intellectual rebellion or jihad against the prejudices of brute ignorance. I was tempted to place my call under the motto, “Intellectuals of the World, Unite!” But nothing seemed more incongruous to me at the time than universal intellectual integration, since each independent intellect is disposed to be at odds with the others. However, on second thought there is due cause for unison in the mental field, the project and object of our enterprise; to wit, truth. Now we might question the nature of the truth; indeed, that is the good cause of our dissension; but I think we can agree on one thing: our project is the same although our methods slightly differ.

I say “slightly differ” because of one thing intellectuals can be certain, he who seeks the truth must have his all his doors wide open for it. The intellectual keeps his mind open with doubt, but he is not dogmatically skeptical; rather he is critical, and would resort to a criterion for criticism rather than regress to the blind faith of a beast. The criteria for physics and metaphysics, the scientific methods for the natural and “supernatural” sciences, differ in their destinies, for one has the object or world in mind, and the other has the subject or self in mind as the only available avenue to the supreme being that unites subject and object; yet both still proceed with an open mind and both must strive to keep it open to be worthy of the name, “science.” Of course there is always the divisive question as to whether the metaphysical subject exists and if so whether it is a projected personal unity of consciousness of the objective world, or whether it is an impersonal substance, and so on. Yet both the physician of the body and the physician of the soul agree on the virtue of a reasonable or logical approach to the matter or spirit or both at hand. Although there are different logics or efficient mental means, they agree in throwing away error until the truth be known.

Now my monologue may be crude, but the professional professors amused by my intellectual dilettantism know very well that I struggle to unite intellects in a common pursuit no matter what their various interests may be and even in spite of their variance. For if science is to make any headway intellectuals must struggle together no matter how independent their research may be. Whatever the source of knowledge, whether from friend of foe, we should be grateful for it and share it with our colleagues. Even if we consider our competitors as strangers and enemies, then we should praise them for their virtues even more than we overlook the vices of our familiars and friends. The first great philosophical enthusiast of Islam, al-Kindi (d. ca. 866) put it this way:

“We should not be loath to value truth and acquire it from whatever source it comes, even it were to come from races distant and nations different from us. For nothing is more worthy of the seeker after truth than truth itself; and no one is disparaged through truth or belittled by it. Rather does the truth ennoble all.”

Al-Kindi’s statement is now platitudinous, but it was revolutionary in his time, an era plagued by cultural xenophobia and anti-intellectualism. Expressing gratitude for foreign intellectual contributions could and did get intellectuals killed, especially if the intellectual treatment challenged the leading authority. For example, Christian and Muslim intellectuals exchanged ideas in Damascus, capital of the Umayyad caliphate. Two scholars, Ghailan of Damascus (d. ca. 743) and Ma’bad al-Juhani (d. ca. 699) among others rejected orthodox predestination in favor of free will; it is no coincidence they were both martyred, because if the doctrine of free will were true, then a caliph would be personally responsible for his bad deeds.

The intellectual Majid Fakhry, our contemporary, wrote about al-Kindi, “the only major Islamic philosopher of pure Arab stock”:

“For al-Kindi, the search for truth, however, is an arduous task, and without the assistance of other searchers is virtually impossible. Our gratitude to our predecessors should, for that very reason, be great; they have paved the way for us and thereby made our progression towards truth so much easier. It is indeed obvious to us and to those pre-eminent in the study of philosophy among nations of foreign tongues, al-Kindi (says), that no one has been able to achieve through his own individual efforts any significant progress towards truth. Aristotle himself confirms this when he writes, as al-Kindi has paraphrased Metaphysics: ‘We ought to be grateful to the fathers of those who have imparted to us a certain measure of truth, in so far as they have been the cause of their being, and the cause of our attaining truth.'”

As we know so well, Islam was unusually tolerant of foreign knowledge and adopted and developed Greek philosophy and natural science, Indian mathematics, Persian literature; by the ninth century, nearly the entire legacy of Greek philosophy and science had been translated into Arabic. Those works were later translated into Latin and became the basis for the European renaissance. Jacques Le Goff in his Intellectuals in the Middle Ages mentions the purely Arab contribution:

“And we must not omit the purely Arab contribution (to Western culture). Arithmetic with the algebra of al-Khwarizmi – while awating the first years of the thirteenth century when Leanardo Pisano would introduce the Arabic numerals, which were actually Hindu but brought from India by the Arabs. Medicine with Rhazi – whom the Cristians called Rhazes – and above all Ibn Sina or Avicenna, whose medical encyclopedia or Canon became the inseparable companion of Western doctors. And there were the astronomers, botanists, agronomists, and especially the alchemists who provided the Latins with the feverish research for the elixir. Finally, there was philosophy, which, beginning with Aristotle, created powerful syntheses with al-Farabi and Avicenna. In addition to the works themselves, the Arabs gave the Christians words such as “number”, “zero”, and “algebra”; at the same time they gave them the vocabulary of commerce; douane [custom house], bazaar, gabelle [a tax on salt], check, etc.” (translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan)

And we must point out that the Arabs contributed the intellectual foundation of modern science, the inductive method that, as Engels and many others have noted, was introduced into England via Roger Bacon. Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic science at Oxford; he repeatedly declared that the knowledge of Arabic and Arab science was the only way to knowledge in his day. The experimental method of the Arabs was widely cultivated in Europe. That is not to say that Christian and Muslim scholars were locked in loving embrace; traditional cultures tend to consider wisdom as communal property, and if someone does not give it up it is another’s duty to “steal” it – so Christians are quoted as urging their brethren to pirate and plunder the Arab knowledge just as the Hebrew god urged Moses’ crew to grab whatever goods they could carry and make a run for it. In any event, no doubt there was a greater rapport between the intellectuals themselves than the spiritual authorities cared to preach.

Fakhry briefly mentioned a curious secret society, “Brethren of Purity” (Ikhwan al-Sufa), in his essay, a group that flourished in Basrah, Iraq, in the tenth century – other scholars date the founding at 983. I gleaned further information on this group from A History of Muslim Philosophy, edited by M.M. Sharif and from Professor Boer’s The History of Philosophy in Islam. The Brethren, unlike the anti-rationalist believers often associated Islamist freedom fighters, somewhat analogous in the West to militant fundamentalist Christians who rely on faith alone and reject rational questioning of their faith, recognized no antithesis whatsoever between philosophy and religion:

“Its eclecticism was such that it adhered unconditionally to the maxim of the absolute harmony of all truth – Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Greek or Indian. The motto of its members was ‘to shun no science, scorn no religious book, or cling fanatically to no exclusive need; since their own creed encompasses all other needs and comprehends all the sciences generally,’ as the so-called Epistles of the Brethren have put it.” (Fakhry)

Philosophical eclecticism has appeared, beginning with the Greeks, several times throughout history. In philosophy a dogmatic period is usually followed by a skeptical rebellion; when skepticism itself becomes dogmatic, refusing to recognized truth anywhere, except in its claim that there is no truth, an eclectic period responds, recognizing a little bit of truth everywhere.

Eclecticism holds that there is some truth even in erroneous knowledge, hence the task of the eclectic is to use logic to discard error and by that means distil the truth. Those who deny that eclecticism is a legitimate philosophy say their claim is logically absurd because it is tantamount to equating error with truth. Furthermore, they insist, there must be a definition of truth before one begins the search. Of course that argument is rebutted by the eclectics, who claim that the criterion for finding the truth as set by their opponents – that it must first be defined – amounts to hiding prejudices in the premises, hence they find what they are seeking by ignoring contrary evidence; they beg their questions by answering them in advance.

Wherefore we see in the Arab philosophers an early adumbration of the “inductive”, bottom-up, pragmatic approach of empirical science, in contradistinction to the top-down deductive method. The contradistinction is analogous to that of democracy and tyranny in politics. Of course the methods can work well together. A possible symbol for the articulation of the two is the prehistoric emblem of David recently adopted by the secular state of Israel. The intellectual pilgrim ascends from the base of the mountain and approaches the summit, but he also descends from time to time for air that he may confirm his ascent with a clear head. The tyrant starts at any old peak and tries to coerce the mountain to conform. Be that as it may, some scholars have associated the Brethren’s concept of ascent with Darwinism; Professor Boer says not:

“They have been represented as the Darwinists of the tenth century, but nothing could be more inappropriate. The various realms of Nature, it is true, yield according to the Encyclopedia (Epistles) an ascending and connected series; but the relation is determined not by bodily structure, but by the inner Form or Soul-Substance. The Form wanders in mystical fashion from the lower to the higher and vice versa, not in accordance with inner laws of formation, or modified to suit external conditions, but in accordance with the influence of the stars, and, in the case of Man at least, in accordance with practical and theoretical behavior. For providing a history of Evolution, the modern sense of the term was very far from the thought of the Brethren. For example they expressly insist that the horse and the elephant resemble Man more that the ape does. In fact in their system the body is a matter of quite secondary consideration; the death of the body is called the birth of the soul. The world alone is an efficient existence, which procures the body for itself.” (Boer)

Eclecticism is obviously not a one-sided denial of spiritual pursuits. For example, during the early nineteenth century the eclecticism of the French philosopher Victor Cousin gained followers throughout the world including the New England Transcendentalists. The Transcendentalists were eager to select the spiritual truth wherever they found it including Oriental sources; the term “transcendentalism”, at first an epithet for unorthodox foolishness, was taken out of Kantian context and adopted to their own needs. Their version of transcendentalism was a protest against deadwood Protestantism and the Lockean rationalizations of its puritanically inclined authorities, who were predominantly Unitarians. Victor Cousin, however, like most eclectics was a moderate. He accepted the sensationalism (“sensualism”) of Locke and Condillac, but he synthesized it with the idealism of Kant and Hegel, leading Hegel to say his friend Cousin had swiped his soup. Hence Cousin’s rationalization of eclecticism was called Spiritualism. Eclecticism was attractive at that time to faithful people who wanted to be reasonable about their faith. And it was also attractive to Arab philosophers several centuries before Victor Cousin was born.

Instead of withdrawing to the woods to speculate and to write, and meeting in the chambers of a transcendentalist club in New England to discuss the subjects appearing in their periodical propaganda organs with American names such as The Dial and The Boston Quarterly, Muslim eclectics withdrew to secret societies and discuss esoteric subjects set forth in anonymous tracts such as those compiled in the still popular Encyclopedia of the Sciences of the Brethren of Purity – that encyclopedia of fifty treatises is known as Rasail Iwan al Safa (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity. The Brethren met once every twelve days in their respective localities. There were rumors of partying but that sort of behavior was frowned on. A primary purpose for meetings was to cultivate sufficient wisdom in this world to build a Utopia in the next. The Brethren recruited young people because they are more docile than adults. Celibacy was encouraged; marriage was purportedly for the procreation of the race only. Furthermore, the Brethren believed members must be free to choose their own religion and to change their religion at will, providing one person did not belong to contradictory religions at the same time. Islam however was considered superior by the Arab philosophers for the same reason it is considered the highest form of monotheism by impartial students of comparative religion in the West – particularly in respect to its simplicity and singular devotion.

The Brethren of Purity believed thinking begins in the senses and continues in the mind. Since man is a microcosm of the cosmos, he may better know the cosmos by knowing himself; the only means available to know thyself is the mental faculty: the Brethren therefore were more fond of Psychology than Astrology, albeit they dearly loved both. Above all subjects they loved numbers, for they were frustrated Pythagoreans. They believed that every soul is potentially learned. Knowledge gained by the intellect from the senses must be reflected upon, confirmed by the senses, and imparted to students by learned teachers. The educational scheme proceeds with Grammar, Poetry and History, continues with Mathematics, Logic and Physics, ascends to Metaphysics, and culminates in the Godhead as the body dies and the soul is born into to the pure spiritual life.

“Praiseworthy is the free act of the soul; admirable are the actions which have proceeded from rational consideration; and lastly, obedience to the Divine World-Law is worthy of the reward of being raised to the celestial world of spheres. But this requires longing for what is above; and therefore the highest virtue is Love, which strives after union with God, the first loved one, and which is evinced even in this life in the form of religious patience and forbearance with all created beings. Such love gains in this life serenity of the soul, freedom of hear and peace with the whole world, and in the life to come ascension to Eternal Light.” Furthermore, “Our true essence is the soul, and the highest aim of our existence should be to live, with Socrates, devoted to the Intellect, and with Christ, to the Law of Love. Nevertheless the body must be properly treated and looked after in order that the soul may have time to attain its full development.” (Epistles)

Wisdom is normally obtained by the devoted student after the age of fifty, at which time the learned man does not rest on his laurels but should participate as a leader of his community. In any case, he will behave as divinely as he can:

“… love for science as added to knowledge of the essence of all beings, gained as best as one can, together with profession and public behavior in harmony with that.” (Epistles)

We cannot overstate the importance of the Arab philosophers’ insistence that religion and philosophy are not enemies. This emphasis shocked medieval European intellectuals as they translated the Arabic texts into Latin, and the controversy that ensued gradually resurrected the dignity of reason for the theologically disposed thinkers as they pored over Aristotle’s propositions that the Muslims had so carefully preserved and commented on both for and against. Arab intellectuals, as I have noted, had serious problems with the synthesis of faith and reason, or rational theology, with the caliphs and their supporters. Fakhry recapitulates the Arab philosopher’s position:

“After all, religion is not a commodity to traffic in; by setting themselves against the study of philosophy in the name of religion, the proved their added irreligiousness. Rather, philosophy is the most secure avenue to truth, and he who opposes its study is actually opposing the acquisition of the knowledge of truth, which is the primary function of religion. Hence, to brand the study of philosophy as unbelief kufr is the highest form of unbelief – nor, as the previous argument implies, downright hypocrisy.”

Fakhry concluded his particular essay with the following important remarks, after which I will conclude mine with a pointed question to all Muslims:

“…neither in the field of translation nor in commentary have contemporary Arab philosophers and scholars achieved the same pre-eminence as their ancestors during the classical period. The profound intensity and seriousness with which Greek philosophical and scientific texts were translated, studied, and commented upon by those ancestors remain unequaled in modern times. This is a great tribute to that contingent of Arab scholars who not only kept the torch of ancient learning alive during Western Europe’s darkest hours, but also pushed the frontiers further than any other nations had in antiquity since the Greeks.”

Dear Muslim intellectuals, we are forever grateful for Islam’s medieval contributions to “our” Western intellectual culture. We thank Muslim philosophers and scientists for acquainting us with the founding principles of the European renaissance, for introducing us to the humanist movement, the historical sciences, the inductive scientific method, and, most importantly, the harmony of faith and reason that shocked medieval Europe to its senses. But where are you now when we so urgently need you? Intellectuals of the World, Unite!


Majid Fakhry’s essay appears in Arabic Philosophy and the West, edited by Therese-Anne Druart, Washington: Georgetown University, 1988

A History of Muslim Philosophy, edited by M.M. Sharif, published in Karachi by the Royal Book Company, is an excellent resource, supported by ample citations.

Intellectuals in the Middle Ages by Jacques Le Goff, published by Blackwell in Cambridge. Of special interest is the chapter, ‘The Birth of the Intellectuals’

The History of Philosophy in Islam by T. J. de Boer, translated by Edward R Jones, London: Luzac, 1970, p.81 ff. ‘The Faithful Brethren of Bazra’

Sunnis, Sufis, Jihads, Our Differences

Execution of Mansur Al-Hallaj







“Look at the travelers on the Path of Love, how each has a different spiritual state. The one sees in each atom of the world a Sun radiant and imperishable. Another directly witnesses in the mirror of existence the beauty of the hidden archetypes. And a third sees each one in the other, without veiling or defect.” Jami

Many Americans had never heard of Sunnis and Shiites until neoconservative Christian regressives seized executive privilege in the United States and led what its commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush, openly referred to as a “holy war” on Islamic extremists or Islamists in Afghanistan, in retaliation for Al-Queda’s retaliatory attacks on installations of the military-industrial-oil complex in the States, a complex that the President’s forebears had been instrumental in establishing, and then employed pretexts – in accordance with Carl Schmitt’s dicta that one must lie to a democracy to overcome its factious nature and get something done – to dupe frightened and angry people into participating in a preconceived, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, to destroy its sovereign government, incorporate its oil fields, and establish a Western-style, democratic-capitalist bulwark against Islamism in the Middle East. Both military actions were in direct contradiction to the professed neoconservative ideology of not participating in “regime change.”

Until the other side of the “holy war” had been brought home to them, a majority of United States citizens could not place Afghanistan or Iraq on the map, let alone the several states and cities of their own country. Still almost every American had a general notion of what Islam stood for, as opposed to Christianity, and mature Americans had studied some of its history before such studies had become increasingly irrelevant to making a living in America; of course histories were still read by history buffs, usually for entertainment, as if they were novels. A few people interested in current events followed the Iran-Iraq war instigated by Saddam Hussein, who was aided by President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan had also supported jihadist Osama bin-Laden in Afghanistan. Sunnis controlled Iraq, where some of the holiest sites of Shiites are located, while the Shiites were dominant in Iran, so the Iran-Iraq war was viewed as a sort of religious or ethnic conflict between the two main Islamic cults. Still, few people knew much, if anything at all, about the religious difference between Sunnis and Shiites, especially since the difference was confused by regional politics.

As the United States was waging war in Iraq, newspaper columnists tried to distinguish between Islam’s two main branches because the difference had something to do with what was perceived as an unjust imbalance of power in Iraq. For example, Bill Tammeus, news editor and faith columnist for the Kansas City Star, wrote a useful article entitled, ‘Centuries of strife split Sunnis and Shiites.’

It is indeed important for the public to understand that, despite Islam’s professed universalism and the apparent superiority of Islam’s monotheism in that regard, compared to the feel-good faith of Christianity that fosters international strife in the name of its own one-god, Muslims are not all of a piece or at peace with one another nor have they ever been. Neither are we, for that matter, and our own differences are so similar to their differences and to other people’s that we have good reason to hope to resolve them via a universal global accord with a common political-economic religious theology posing as ideology. The wars fought until then shall increasingly be revolutionary wars and civil wars, instead of world wars between powerful states – that is not to say that World War III is impossible. Iran’s totalitarian regime has most lately set itself up for a fall – a push from the Great Satan i.e. the United States shall not be required – and perchance an Islamic state shall arise despite that being a contradiction to the religion.

Mr. Tammeus did not support the difference he drew, with examples of the strife between the two main Islamic branches, so that we could compare the divisions with our own. He might have pointed out that the Shiite faith, given its expectation of the appearance of the Hidden Imam, and its hierarchical structure, is more ‘compatible’ with apocalyptic and catholic Christianity than the Sunni faith, which has its similarities with protestant and secular Judeo-Christianity.

To further our confusion, the Kansas City Star’s faith commentator brought Sufism into his discussion, parroting the widespread notion that “Sufism is the small but influential mystic branch of Sunni Islam.” But Sufis worship saints – the various schools or paths were founded by various holy masters – and holy places and relics, which is anathema to orthodox Sunnis, the grossest infidelity as far as iconoclastic Muslims are concerned. That is not to say that the average Sunni cannot be tolerant, and submit to Allah’s judgment as to whether or not He is properly worshiped by someone or the other, or that the Sunni cannot at least be pragmatic whenever Sufis can be useful to them, especially in politics and war.

Sufis themselves have a reputation for tolerance wherever tolerance suits their purpose. They are famous for their professed love of God and their fervent desire for unity with the deity. The godhead is one thing if not no-thing or Nothing, and the religious forms of worship are something else, something secular or worldly. When in Rome we might do as the Romans do yet not lose our essential faith. The Romans required lip-service to the state religion, and a person could maintain his personal faith on his homely hearth. Christian martyrs, however, sacrificed themselves to be identified as bearing witness; yet Christians ultimately took up many of the Roman ways and became the state religion.

Why should not Sufi mystics be good Pythagoreans and observe whatever exoteric religion prevails while maintaining their esoteric preference? Indeed, Sufis have dared to claim that their mystical cult predates both Islam and Christianity. Classical Sufi author Moulana Nuruddin Abdorrahman Jami (Hakim Jami) of Herat, in his Alexandrian book of wisdom, identified esoteric Sufism with Western thinkers, naming Hermes Trismegistos, Pythagoras, Hippocrates and Plato as Sufis. As for that intelligence and learning from which we draw so many differences between ourselves, Jami said it is nothing to boast about, nor should people boast of their humility. He noticed that people have been taught to declaim dishonesty, but what they really abhor is hypocrisy.

Americans have enjoyed a romantic perspective on exotic Sufism since it was imported into the United States. Popular Sufism is associated with love and god, and with poetic, musical, and dance rituals that purportedly bring the devotee into harmony with the cosmos and unity with the godhead. Surely, we think, if everyone were a Sufi at heart our world would be peaceful. Or a mystical Hindu, or Christian, or Buddhist, et cetera; for the essence of true religion is the Supreme Being. Well, we may sing the same song and dance the same dance, but movement requires the exertion of force and harmony is born of conflict. If we in our particulars were the One, we would not be at all in our particulars. Religion may worship absolute power, but politics is required for its distribution. Religion has its politics in its practices. Although the morality of religion may be virtual suicide if it aims at the annihilation of the striving self, the struggle for life naturally goes on, for we would all endure forever without resistance if only we could, but if there were no resistance to our will, we would not exist as we are.

Mysticism may help the mystic get along in the world, to be at peace even when moving, to be blissful momentarily, and to tolerate human evil, or to be, at least in attitude, beyond good and evil. Yet there is nothing moral about being at one with an indefinite or infinite One. You are at one with God and you feel great, as if you were God Almighty. So what? What are you going to do about evil? He who ignores evil by transcending it or saying it is nothing but the absence of good is no good to anyone.

To wit: a mystic is not inherently good. A mystic may be an angel or devil or both. Sufi masters are not inherently good or holy simply because they practice mysticism and conduct the rituals of their preferred paths. They remain human beings in the world, a world necessarily political in its power struggles, and their regions of the world may be awful trying. To illustrate that fact and its consequences, our faith columnist and news editor might have, before he identified Sufism with Sunni Islam, proceeded with an investigation of the then current official status of Sufism in Uzbekistan, and the official persecution of religious dissidents, most of whom are Sunnis, with the cooperation of the United States in the “war on terrorism”, i.e. highly organized, well-equipped, uniformed terrorism against loosely organized, ill-equipped terrorists who also think they are fighting for “freedom.”

The Sufi persecution of dissident Sunnis in Uzbekistan is derived from the old policy of the U.S.S.R. Our faithful columnist might study the history Samarkand, and examine, for example, Tamerlane’s slaughter of reputed infidels in India. And he will find a history of sectarian violence in the mountain regions, especially those of Afghanistan and the Caucasus, once Sufi strongholds. He might note that the current leaders of the Naqshbandi sect of Sufism brag of their origin near Samarkand, and claim that they have always been peaceful; but they have always been politically involved and extraordinarily deceptive; by the way, their missionaries led the Chechen jihad against the Russians.

If in his historical journals the faithful student journeys south and west from the mountains, he will see that Sufi dervish cells were formed as a reaction to Sunni theocratic domination, a reaction against universalism and imperialism. He could conclude that Sufi spiritualism has more in common with Shism than Sunnism, instead of stating, “Sufism is the small but influential mystic branch of Sunni Islam.” Sufis were tolerated for political reasons by both Shiites and Sunnis, but efforts were eventually made to stamp out their cells, which reacted with more secrecy. The cellular type of organization is well known to freedom fighters, regardless of their races and creeds, throughout the world.

Given human nature, we should not be at all surprised to hear that Sufis have enthusiastically fought on one side or the other. Of course they are better known for fighting against imperialism than for it. The fact that Sufis on the whole put themselves on the path of ‘tasawwuf’, the consciousness or spiritual state of being of the perfect man, in distinction to his outward actions and spoken laws (sunna), does not mean they will not, for instance, behead an infidel, and perhaps use his skin for their war drums – as was done with Russians in Chechnya, where the Sufi Death Song was still chanted by rebels in our time.

We might believe that Sufis are political quietists, but history loudly speaks otherwise. Just because someone abhors the existing human world and obtains direct loving access to god does not mean he must withdraw to a mountain or desert cave or monastery cell to chant the names of god and leave the world alone. No, in addition to withdrawing to constantly remember god, he may become a knight of god or Muslim ghazi and wage a holy war or jihad on the evil world he has renounced. The ghazis were closely associated with Sufi orders. Not only did Sufi dervishes follow the warriors around, banging on drums and eating live snakes to inspire and entertain the troops, they also led the warriors in battle. Sufi ascetic discipline inured the body and mind to suffering: fasting, a strict regimen of praying, single-minded concentration, and related practices are not only conducive to passive martyrdom at the stake or on the cross but also to martyrdom on the battlefield. Still today the adept dervish engages in practices, such as whirling, that render him impervious to pain, enabling his body to be cut and burned without flinching.

We recall that the ghazi institution developed from the association of Arab with Turkish warriors. During the seventh century, Islam penetrated northeast into Transoxiana, a region north of Afghanistan, on the old Silk Road to China used by the Romans. Islam was joined there in the eleventh century by the Seljuks, a branch of the Turkic peoples who dominated the Asian grasslands from Mongolia to Russia. The Seljuks were precursors to the Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish state, which descended from one of the ghazi principalities left after the fragmentation of the Seljuks by the invading Mongols who had followed the Seljuks south from Asia via the same gate.

After the Seljuks settled in Transoxiana, they converted to Islam and soon became masters of what revered Sufi Sheikh Kabbani, while attending a UNESCO conference in Uzbekistan, called the “Spiritual Heart of Islam.” (emphasis added). The Seljuks expanded southeast to capture Baghdad in 1050. The caliph obligingly appointed the Seljuk ruler sultan. The sultans thereafter became the temporal rulers of the Abbasid Empire, the caliphs remaining in office as mere puppets.

The Seljuks soon penetrated into Asia Minor and eventually prompted the First Crusade. They were joined by ghazis, frontier Muslim raiders and warriors. At first the ghazi bands had resisted the Seljuks, yet they eventually became closely allied with the Turks. Besides the prospect of ample material loot to be had from sedentary Christian settlements, the ghazis and the invading Turks had a common spiritual purpose under the one and only god. Nomadic warriors and the unemployed came from far and wide to wage jihad on Christians at the Byzantine frontier. The overall objective was political domination rather than conversion to Islam: it was more a case of your money (tax or tribute) or your life. Some people converted to Islam and argued that, since they were Muslims saved from Hell, they were therefore immune from the death penalty if they did not pay the tax; their arguments for immunity, however, fatally failed.

By the end of the fourteenth century, the ghazi ways had been adopted by the Turks and most of Turkish Asia Minor was ruled by ghazi groups. Each ghazi brotherhood had a spiritual leader, and most of the ghazis belonged to a dervish order. After the break up of the Seljuk Empire, the Ottoman Empire emerged from a small Turkish state occupying the border between Islam and Byzantine Christianity, ruled by Osman 1299-1326). An Ottoman ruler was thenceforth called a “border chief” or leader of the ghazis. A fourteenth-century saga calls ghazis “the instruments of God’s religion… God’s scourge who cleanses the earth from the filth of polytheism… God’s pure sword.” The principle and cornerstone of Ottoman political theory and the Ottoman state was the Sixth Pillar of Islam: Jihad.

The number of Sufi heroes waging war are legion. For instance, take Hasan al-Basri (642-728), who participated in the Arab conquest of eastern Iran in 663. His name is found in the genealogies of many Sufi orders. In the Sufi classic, ‘Nourishment of the Hearts’ (c. 970), he is acknowledged as “our imam in this doctrine… and we walk in his footsteps.”

Hasan was known for his puritanical piety. He rejected the world he described as a “venomous snake”, and he made the gnostic claim that creation was a bad mistake instead of something the creator was pleased with after making it. His gnostic views greatly influenced the kind of Sufism which had its ascetic roots in Arab displeasure with the Persian luxuries that perverted the Arabs as they swept north, creating a vast gap between rich a poor, a tiny, enormously wealthy minority in contrast to the desperately impoverished majority.

Hasan denied that a man can excuse himself by saying god caused his actions. He preached humility and the sort of self-scrutiny that became a cornerstone of Sufism. He extolled altruism. He scorned the pedantic reconstruction and transmission of lines of authority. He is well known for the depiction of antitheses, famous for his vivid, masterful images of heaven and hell. Muhammad’s promise of Paradise to martyrs and Hell to infidels was vital to his jihads.

Of course Sufis are not best known for either/or thinking. Usually, after engaging in antithetical thinking on fear and hope, hell and paradise, and the like, Sufis masters discounted the divisive process in favor of union with the god beyond relative good and evil; by way of example, here are two excerpts, one from the female love-mystic Rabiah al-Adawiah (d.801), the other from the male poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131):


O my lord, if I worship thee from fear of hell, and if I worship thee in hope of paradise, exclude me thence, but if I worship thee for thine own sake, then withhold not from me thine eternal beauty.


Nobody, heart, has seen heaven or hell,
Tell me, dear, who has returned from there?
Our hopes and fears are of something which,
My Dear, there is no indication but the name.

Hassan had numerous followers from a wide variety of backgrounds; they are described in the literature as Koran reciters (qurra) and pious warriors (mujahidun). They despised social injustice, luxury, and especially hypocrisy – that is, the contradiction between inner and outer jihad, thoughts and deeds.

Another freedom fighter was Abd al-Wahid bin Zayd (d. 750). Wahid provided vivid images of Judgment Day to his followers: he admonished them to prepare to meet their maker. Wahid informed his disciples that God bestows secret knowledge on His righteous friends.

Wahid admired Christian monks for their disdain of the world and its sinners. He reportedly founded the first Sufi cloister on the island of Abbadan, a military outpost which became a training station for Iraqi ascetics – Abbadan was a major attraction for jihad-minded Muslims. The post was manned by ghazis who combined military service with religious worship – the ‘dhikr’ or constant citing of God’s name was practiced there.

We should also mention Ibrahim Ibn Adham, a native of Balkh (a city in today’s Afghanistan). He was said to have given up a kingdom in order to go out West to live as a vagabond and farmer. When there was nothing to reap, he fasted, meditated, practiced sadness, engaged in gnosis and divine friendship with God. He eventually settled in Syria, on the border with Byzantium. He died waging outer or “lesser” jihad: he was killed in the second of two navy battles he participated in.

Fahad Ansari, a specialist in anti-terror legislation, a researcher and spokesperson for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, posted an informative article on the Web about Sufi Jahidis: ‘Remembering the Great Tradition of Sufi Jihadis in Muslim History.’

Mr. Ansari complains that even those Muslims who fight against injustice and oppression are labeled “extremists.” Only “moderate” Muslims are acceptable, that is, only those who are willing to compromise their values, to be assimilated into the Western culture, keep their religion to themselves, and otherwise embrace Western and secular values. He points out Westerners believe that Sufis, whose mystics have a reputation for universal tolerance, are moderates with whom alliances against extremism can be forged. But they neglect the fact that Sufis established a reputation for fighting both Eastern and Western imperialism. He refers to three modern Sufi jihadis:

Omar Mukhtar aka the ‘Lion of the Desert,’ a Sufi member of the Sanussiyah tariqah or path, “led the jihad against the Italian military occupation of Libya for over twenty years beginning in 1912. Although a teacher of Quran by profession, Mukhtar was not one of those about whom Allah says, ‘Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget to practice it yourselves, and yet ye study the Scripture.” Mukhtar said, “We fight because we have to fight for our faith and our freedom until we drive the invaders out or die ourselves.” He was captured in 1931 and shackled despite his old age (70). He recited sacred verses while tortured, and was finally hanged.

And Abdul-Qadir al-Jazairi, an Islamic scholar and Sufi member of the Qadiri tariqah, led the jihad against the French invasion of Algeria. “Abdul-Qadir showed himself to be a leader of men, a great soldier, a capable administrator and a persuasive orator. He ultimately failed to defeat the French because of the refusal of the Berber tribes to unite with the Arabs against the French….” He was forced into exile, died in Damascus in 1860, and was buried next to the famous Sufi, Ibn Arabi.

And Imam Shamyl aka ‘The Greatest Imam’, a Sufi follower of the Naqshbandi tariqah, imparted Islamic law to the pagan tribes of the Caucasus and led them against the Russian invaders. Shamyl was a powerful man and great warrior himself. He taught his followers war chants, some of them still used by Chechen rebels, including the famous Death Song. The Russians admired him, sparing his life and allowing him to retire – he died in Medina in 1871.

“Mukhtar, Abdul-Qadir, and Shamyl,” states Mr. Ansari, “are just three examples of how tasawwuf was not regarded as an obstacle to armed jihad but as an inspiration for it. There are countless other examples.”

After referring to so many Sufi heroes of so-called Lesser Jihad, it would only be fair to mention the philosophical heroes of greater jihad; several notable spiritual fathers of Sufism were unwilling to fight the external albeit “lesser” jihad for militant Islam, preferring instead the internal or “greater” spiritual struggle. Despite Islam’s early predilection for militant jihad, mystically inclined Sufis still insist that jihad is unqualifiedly and essentially an internal struggle to put down the selfish self or internal enemy that craves mundane existence. The mystical revolutionary should direct animosity towards the real enemy within; he should meditate or enlist God’s help with virtual suicide; and, if action is absolutely necessary, then he might whirl about the non-dimensional point he wants to make, chasing his own tail instead of hastening towards specific goals. One becomes properly centered in or becomes the One: the cosmic dance provides a thrilling feeling of bliss, somewhat like a spinning top would feel if only it were alive.

The outward revolution of the whirling dervish is obvious, but the inner struggle, called the greater jihad, of the devotee to conquer himself, is invisible and does not appear to be revolutionary at all. Having thus conquered himself, the proudest man is the most humble man of all, a man purportedly more powerful than any worldly king, for he does not need a king to rule himself: he has submitted to the greatest sovereign of all, and is thereby saved from Hell and even the Paradise that makes Hell a hell by comparison.

If only everyone would comply and become the Holy One, peace, if not law and order under a theocracy pending the Last Day, would prevail in the outer world: for as it is in heaven so it should it finally be on Earth – that Earth would no longer be inhabited by warring human beings if their particulars or differences disappeared in the One. Ironically, only a violent revolution could impose a kingdom of God over every man as we know him. Each monotheistic person secretly believes his or her one-god is better than all the other one-gods put together. A lesser or militant jihad may be required to reconcile them all, but still the pacific struggle is preferable to war, hence it remains the greater jihad.

Sufi theorist al-Qushayi (d.A.D. 1074) provides us with insight into psychological jihad in his ‘Treatise on the Knowledge of Mysticism’:

“Al-Sulami said that his grandfather heard Abu ‘Amr ibn Janid say, ‘Whoever is generous with his Self attached no importance to his religion.’ Know then that the basis of striving and possession of it is weaning the Self from what it is accustomed to, and bearing the Self contrary to its desires generally, for the Self has two characteristics which prevent it from the good; indulgence in lusts, and abstinence from obedience.”

Furthermore, here is an excerpt from the great Baghdad Sufi saint, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Quadir al-Jilani’s (d. A.D. 1166) sermon ‘The Opening of the Unseen.”

“Each time you struggle against your lower self and overcome it and slay it with the sword of opposition, God restores it to life and it contends with you again, and demands of you your desires and delights, whether forbidden or permissible, so that you must return to struggle and compete with it in order to carry off the everlasting reward. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s saying – God bless him and give him peace – ‘We have returned from the lesser jihad (war) to the greater jihad (self-control).”

Also worthy of mention is the famous Baghdad mystic and martyr, Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, who was born in 857. He lived alone for twenty years, and was trained by several great Sufi masters of the time, but he broke away from them to do his own thing as an itinerant preacher. He wandered far and wide, from Arabia to the Indian subcontinent. His famous ecstatic exclamation “I am the divine Truth!” was the ultimate heresy to Muslim monotheists, who did not even believe the prophet Jesus was a divine incarnation let alone this mere vagabond. Hallaj also violated a vital principle of the great Sufi masters of his time and of mystics from immemorial: to keep one’s mouth shut about such incomprehensible experiences; the secrets of mystical union should only be divulged to sworn initiates.

Hallaj was flogged, mutilated, exposed on a gibbet and decapitated. Thus was he victorious as a martyr to love, as one who fought the inner fight or “greater” jihad. He had written:

Kill me, my trusted friends,
for in my death is my life!
Death for me is in living, and
life for me is in dying.
The obliteration of my essence
is the noblest of blessings.
My perdurance in human attributes,
the vilest of evils.

According to tradition, the severed head of Hallaj repeatedly said, “I am God.” The drops of blood on the ground spelled out the same statement.

Finally, to arrive at a balance between the inner and outer struggles, or the greater and lesser jihad, we should mention a much later Sufi, a poet of a love with all its cruel anger besides its tender affection: Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273). Almost everyone knows that Rumi loved to dance, that he was a great poet, and that his son founded the ever popular Mawlawiyah Sufi order of Whirling Dervishes. Rumi was born in Balkh but his family removed to Konya, Anatolia (Turkey) to avoid the advancing Mongols. The family was warmly received by the Seljuk authorities. Rumi’s father continued his career as teacher and sheikh, and Rumi was educated in the religious sciences. When his father died, he assumed his father’s teaching post.

In 1244 Rumi met Shams al-Din (Sun of Religion), a wandering dervish, to whom he became the Moon, living with him for two months while Shams revealed the occluded Mysteries. Rumi’s family was reportedly jealous and scandalized by the intimate relationship, and Shams was sent away. Rumi was naturally disconsolate. Shams was recalled but disappeared shortly thereafter; he may have been murdered, perhaps with the knowledge of Rumi’s brothers. Rumi had two subsequent spiritual lovers, but Shams, his first love, was the inspiration for his poetry. In his nearly 40,000-verse work, Divan-i Shams-i Tabriz, he signed Sham’s name to the poems.

Inside a lover’s heart
There’s another world,
And yet another.

Rumi’s other masterpiece, Mathnavi-yi ma-navi, or Spiritual Couplets, is sometimes referred to as the Persian Koran. The Mathnavi consists of mystical teachings in the form of long poems, fables, stories, proverbs, anecdotes, and allegories. It is basically an extended commentary on the Koran and the Hadith (traditional sayings of Muhammad). The Mathnavi was a virtual Bible to Sufi-guided ghazi warriors. Therein, Rumi speaks of the tension between the inner and outer jihad.

In one Mathnawi story, a vain Sufi who is flattered by widespread praise of his spiritual conquests and who has contempt for the lesser jihad of war, joins soldiers in order to demonstrate his outward virtue as well. During his lesser jihad of actual combat, the arrogant Sufi is exposed as a coward, giving the lie to his former spiritual claims.

On the other hand, in another story Rumi portrays a military hero who flees from the ardors of spiritual struggle to the relative comfort of the bloody battleground.

We understand this lore because the tales are all too human. The difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘us’ and the ‘others’ is very little and is artificially contrived. Obviously, given the crucial crisis underlying mind and body, given the crux of thought or symbolic action and deed or actual action, there is much room for hypocrisy on both the mental and material stages; but for the mystical actor those stages are one, and hypocrisy is resolved by the holy spirit.

The more we inquire into the differences between the people far from our peaceful shores, the better shall we understand ourselves, and the better we understand ourselves in our likenesses to them, the better we can serve the world by sharing with them the better things of life, instead of behaving like self-centered automatons. Sufi masters have considered the universe as a web of mutually supporting systems: a Kurdish Sufi reportedly said in ancient times, “Everything that exists maintains and is maintained by other existences.” Whether or not we are willing to give Sufis credit for discovering this law of reciprocal maintenance, we have an opportunity to pay down the debt of our existence, for we cannot progress on the spiritual path until we fulfill our obligation to our being on this planet. The least we can do after testifying to our good intentions with fine words is avoid the appearance of hypocrisy in our deeds.

Kansas City 2004


Sunna: custom, the words and practices
Shia: following, or sect
Suffi: suf or wool, safa or purity, sophos or wisdom?


Islam’s Last Stand On Judgement Day






Maulana Muhammad Ali, since age 25 “a soldier for the literary service of Islam”, translated verse 99 of Chapter 18 of the Quran as follows:

“And on that day We shall leave a part of them in conflict with another part, and the trumpet will be blown, so We shall gather them all together.”

Muhammad Ali explains: “There is a change here from the historical to the prophetical. The Gog and Magog of the old days were to have their representatives in the latter days. The only other reference to Gog and Magog in the Holy Quran is contained in 21:96, where they are stated as taking possession of all places of advantage and eminence. This would identify them clearly with the European races; and the Slavs (settling as they do in Russia, the land of Magog) and the Teutons may therefore be suggested to be the modern representatives of Gog and Magog, and the verse prophetically refers to some mighty conflict of the European nations and to their ultimate gathering together in Islam which alone can settle their ideological differences.” (The Quran, 1948 edition).

The other Quranic reference to Gog and Magog in Chapter 21 (The Prophets), verse 96, appears under Section 7. – ‘The Righteous shall inherit the Earth.’ Muhammad Ali translates the verses 94-105 of the section as follows:

“So whoever does good deeds and he is a believer, there is no denying his exertion, and We write (it) down for him. And there is a ban on a town which We destroy that they shall not return. Until when Gog and Magog are made to overcome (the world), and they break forth from every elevated place. And the True Promise draws nigh, then lo! the eyes of those who disbelieved will be fixedly open: O woe to us! We were heedless of this: nay, we were unjust. Surely you and what you worship besides Allah are fuel of hell; to it you will come. Had these been gods, they would not have come to it and all will abide therein. For them therein will be groaning and therein they will not hear. Those for whom good a already gone forth from Us will be kept far off from it; they will not hear its faintest sound, and they will abide in what their souls long for. The great fearful event will not grieve them, and the angels will meet them. This is the day which you were promised. The day when We roll up heaven like the rolling up of the scroll for writings. As We made the first creation, (so) shall We reproduce it – a promise (binding) on Us; surely We shall bring it about. And indeed We wrote in the Book after the reminder that the earth – My righteous servants will inherit it…”

“Those for whom good has already gone forth from Us”, namely people who believe in God, will be kept at a distance from the hellish horrors. Further, the Prophet said that whosoever believes in God and future life and acts righteously, “on him shall come no fear.” Most importantly, the Prophet’s official policy on religion is “There is no compulsion in religion.” Many historians have remarked at length on the international character of Islamic law and its applicability even to enemies, in contrast to the frightful persecutions carried out by crusading Christians. However that may be, we should keep in mind the different historical circumstances of Jesus and Muhammad, and try to understand why, on the one hand, Jesus ordered the Sword sheathed in favor of the Word, pending Constantine’s vision of the Holy Cross on the battlefield, and why, on the other hand, Muhammad could not wait for a Constantine to defend Islam.

We do have evidence of glaring breaches in the Prophet’s official policy of tolerance. Nevertheless, whether Islam’s success is by Word or by Sword or by both Word and Sword, the phenomenal growth of Islam in its infancy seemed to prove that the whole wide world would on the Last Day recognize one deity. Muhammad Ali makes note of that view as follows:

“The Qu’ran has repeatedly stated that Islam would ultimately be made triumphant in the world. The righteous servants of God, we are here told, would one day be masters of the land. The words no doubt contain a prophecy of the possession of the Holy Land by the Muslims, which was fulfilled in the caliphate of Umar. Compare Ps.37:29. But, we are further told that the whole earth would be a Holy Land in the end.”

The Quranic story of the end time, of Gog and Magog, presages the Final Conflict between Good and Evil, the Dualism arising in Paradise with human knowledge of the difference between the two. Man is accordingly booted from the primeval garden, endowed with free will to make the prerequisite choices so that he may return to the virginal womb in heaven if not on Earth – special virgins await martyrs in Paradise. If man in rebellion will not return from evolved complexity to ultimate simplicity, then to Hell with him – as if Earth were not already hellish enough from the consequences of the original sin of being born into the wicked human world in the first place.

On Earth, pain has always had a slight edge on pleasure – bliss is death, for in bliss there is no motive to move. Yet in the final analysis, Good shall win over Evil, thus we may argue that there is a universal good, or a good God over all. In the interim, some sort of objective division between Good and Evil is required, no matter how arbitrary, something clear and concrete to protect us from the roving forces of Evil. A wall might suffice to protect sedentary folk and their precious utensils from bandit bands, hence they would do well to give thanks and kiss the wall protecting them from the curse of evil invaders.

An army might sally forth from behind the walls of one of civilization’s centers and make war in pre-emptive self-defense or simply for the sake of revenge, – then who is the evil barbarian? The world is conquered by the militant force: the defenders are killed or enslaved, settlements burned or exploited. Thus civilization is grounded in crime, and Good arises from Evil; otherwise there would be no Progress to Good. But now we are on the horns of a dilemma, even confronted with the gnostic heresy that the old god who kicked us out of Paradise may have horns, may be a fallen angel, the Devil himself.

The Quran informs us that the two-horned hero named Dhulqarnain, during his travels far and wide, was asked by a certain people whose speech was almost incomprehensible to protect them from the Gog and Magog, whereupon he built them a barrier or wall of iron – an Iron Curtain. The Gog and Magog were typical “barbarians from the north” at the time – Scythians, Cimmerians or other ancestors of later barbarians. There are various accounts of the original event in folklore, handed down with related historical sketches and other fragmentary evidence. Opinions vary as to where the Iron Curtain was built, and, for that matter, who Dhulqarnain really was. The popular position is that Dhulqarnain was Alexander the Great – one of Christianity’s adopted, virtual saints – that it was no less than he who built the wall at Derbent by the Caspian Sea. We may believe otherwise and take the minority view that the two-horned hero was Cyrus the Great – savior of the Jews – and that the prototypical event took place near what is now known as northern Afghanistan, the traditional home of Zoroaster, the hater of nomads who recognized Evil and its roving demonic bandit hordes as distinctly divided from Good and its attendant court of settled virtues. The final score between Good and Evil might then be settled not in Iraq or Israel but in that ancient region.


Camel Woman

Camel Woman Espanola
Camel Woman of Espanola Way South Beach




I. Woman is a camel…

I LIKE TO PULL A WOMAN’S LEG once in awhile just to get her goat – by that I do not mean her behorned husband. Of course I do speak figuratively: ballerinas with jammed joints have asked me to literally pull their legs to unjam their joints as they held on to a post or to the barre.”You know, women were traded like cattle in the old days, as a sort of basic barter or unit of exchange,” I casually stated to Joanne, my favorite bartender at the Hi Life cocktail lounge on Amsterdam Avenue.

“Just goes to show you how smart those men were to know how valuable women really are,” she retorted without pause.

As wise as I deemed myself to be at the time, I was suitably impressed by her sagacity. To enlighten her further, I went on to explain, in simple terms of shoe shiners exchanging shoe shines, why a dollar bill is a shoeshine debt given to shoeshine creditors who have faith in its value as an instrument of exchange: thanks for the shine; I owe you one; here’s a buck; when your shoes get scuffed; you can get a shine anywhere. Joanne was awed by my intellectual prowess, or maybe she was just a good bartender and actress – she had in fact finished her first Hollywood movie but there was some doubt as to whether it would ever be released. Incidentally, her Halloween costume one year was the popular Dumber than Dumb fellow – I treasure my photograph of her disguised as same.

In retrospect I knew how rude I had been on that evening, likening women to cattle, then assaulting her with crude economics! Which gave me cause to wonder, What sort of creatures are men?

Anyway, I thought of Joanne while I was reading The Sabres of Paradise by Lesley Blanch many years later – last night – wherein women are likened to camels. As we know, camels are so highly valued by nomads that camels have served as exchange barter. For instance, a male slave was once valued at 10 camels, while a female slave was worth 20 camels; a dowry would cost the bridegroom at least 50 camels. Furthermore, camels have been used to settle blood feuds as follows: a death is paid for with 100 camels; testicle injuries were also once avenged with 100 camels; a broken arm or leg was valued at 25 camels, whereas a broken finger was worth only 10 and a broken molar maybe 8 – the incisor was worth only 5 camels.

Of course camels are more valuable than dollars since a dollar may get you nowhere when inflated – still, a camel can be like a white elephant to a humble city dweller who cannot maintain her even in the sparse manner she was accustomed to.

Be that as it may, and assuming there is no accident where Allah presides, I am moved to discuss the context provided by Lesley Blanch for her brief mention of the comparison of women to camels.

According to the Prophet, “Paradise is under the shadow of swords.” Lesley’s book is about the jihad carried out by the fierce warriors of Dagestan and Chechnya against the Russian “civilizers” in the Caucasus. The old conflict in that region between mountaineers and would-be “civilizers” goes on to this very day. The early eighteenth-century jihad was organized by Sufi fundamentalists of the Naqshbandi order. I was reading Lesley’s romantic portrait of the great hero Shamyl, third Imam of Dagestan, who had been gravely wounded in battle. He was recuperating in the mountains, where he was visited by his slim and graceful wife Fatimat.

“Like all Caucasian women,” Lesley wrote, “Fatimat was very slim and graceful…It was the custom for Caucasian girls to be laced into a tight corselets of deerskin which constricted and formed their narrow bodies… The corselet was put on, with ceremony, around the age of eight, and it was never removed until their marriage, generally at the age of fourteen, or thereabouts, when it was the bridegroom’s privilege to rip open the seams with his kindjal.” Or, he might ceremoniously untie knot after knot, and be ridiculed for any apparent impatience.

Now Fatimat’s husband Shamyl was a preacher of Shariat, strict Muslim law, which was the Islamic demonstration of Caucasian unity against the Russian infidels. As a Sufi shaykh, Shamyl was committed to the disciplined ascetic life which fits in rather nicely with the life of a ghazi, warrior for the Faith. While he was nursing his wounds in the shepherd’s hut, his sister visited him adorned with jewelry, treasure salvaged from the destroyed village where he was wounded; the sight of opulence caused his wounds to burst open. A few authors attribute the outrageous reaction to an old superstition among the mountain folk, that precious stones prevent wounds from healing, but Lesley tells the more popular story, that is, the politically correct one most probably insisted on by Shamyl himself:

“Later (after he suffered his relapse), when Shamyl insisted on miraculous powers and divine support, he used to declare his wounds had reopened in a protest directed by Allah against his sister’s jewels, against her wanton display of earthly treasures wholly unacceptable to the Lord. And there was no one who cared to dispute it.”

But apparently Shamyl was not altogether opposed to a modicum of luxury or lust where his beloved wife was concerned. Lesley says no doubt he loved to visit Fatimat between his campaigns. She was a Daghestani gentlewoman: Lesley describes her customary attire as rather elegant: “…loose, flowered silk trousers, almost hidden by a full-skirted, tight-wasted surcoat with wide, flowing sleeves and elaborate silver-braided fastenings. A great many gold and silver coins hung from the end of the long black braids… Fine muslin veils and coloured silk kerchiefs were wound round her head and across her face when she left the privacy of her quarters; and on gala occasions she wore a tall pointed cap or head-dress, from which more veils flowed. In summer, she went barefooted; in winter her slippers were protected from the mud and snow by high wooden clogs or pattens. Instead of the bourka which men wore against the piercing Caucasian winters, she was wrapped in an embroidered felt cloak lined with fox skins, or sables even.”

I believe Fatimat’s appearance at Shamyl’s rude mountain hospital must have had a more beneficial effect on his wounds than that resulting from his sister’s visit. Our author supposes that the respite the couple had together was a virtual paradise despite their spartan quarters: a hut made of rough stones piled together on the stark, barren mountain side, unchinked gaps open to the weather, with a thatched roof of twigs and boughs dragged up from a lower, vegetated elevation; upon the roof are cheeses patted into rounds, and bricks of dung used for cooking which impart to food its delicious Caucasian flavor.

Before Fatimat arrived at the hut, she was believed to have wandered around the mountains looking for her wounded husband, and to have been captured or killed by the Russians.

“After a while Fatimat was forgotten,” Lesley reports. “Women were of little consequence, to the Faithful. They were chattels, scarcely held to have souls. Yet Shamyl loved his wife with so consuming a passion that once, during a battle, learning she lay at death’s door, he abandoned everything to go to her.”

Now we should know that a man does not have to be a Muslim to consider women and even men for that matter as chattels. In fact, if we pay close attention to the early history of Islam, we shall see Muslim women were actually treated relatively better than than they were previously handled according to Arab tribal law. Of course their status eventually deteriorated to virtual enslavement when men became frightened by their own desires, blaming women for their own lust and jealousy: the double standard certainly came in handy while elaborating stringent laws regarding adultery, polygamy, concubines and instant divorce for men. Unsold single women or those who had not been given away were by law relatively free, perhaps to starve or to be kidnapped pursuant to the ancient custom of wife-snatching.

Even the pre-Islamic Persian veil became ignoble evidence of male jealousy and fear of women’s power rather than a sign of noble decency or at least discreet indecency. The veil once screened the decent gentlewoman or discreet concubine who did not have to work like a bare slave or a poor woman. Even today the head-to-toe purdah is fashionable in some quarters where women prefer to be judged as equals rather than as sex objects. For example, before the men of Afghanistan were recently frightened into fundamental totalitarian unity to save their identity, women wore purdahs over their miniskirts and high heels – one never knows when an atavistic warrior might ride by. Yet when all women became slaves to fearful fundamentalism, the purdah becomes mandatory garb everywhere, even for slaves laboring in the field. As for the concubines of the rich man’s harem (“sacrosanct”) which he secluded behind a tall curtain or wall (purdah) instead of sharing them at the central temple as was the custom elsewhere, he could treat them as well as his four wives differently according to divine revelations.

But never mind, after reading what Gandhi once referred to as a “sewer inspector’s report” of particular short-comings, we should also keep in mind that men in general have always loved women more than they have hated them. Moreover, men seem to wind up in the long run as slaves of their slaves.

As for Shaykh Shamyl’s piety, Lesley does not believe he was a fanatic about Sufi renunciation when it came to enjoying his wife; after all, the Koran states: “Woman is thy field, go then to thy field and till it.” On the other hand, Lesley does not appreciate the following quote as much as the first one:

“Woman is the camel to help man though the desert of existence.”

II. First Things First

I PREFER THE SECOND FIGURE of speech over the first one, and I know my favorite bartender at the Hi Life cocktail lounge would approve of my evaluation. Mind you, I do not believe the fertile ground of existence is any less important than the camel thriving on it, but a nomad must get to it over barren desert and bleak mountain trails. For that purpose his camel is indispensable, and, when he gets to where he is going, he looks forward to leaving.

Furthermore, I take the fundamental dirt for granted, at least more so than I do the romantic camel. In my romantic mood I have good company. Inspired by the camel, Lawrence of Arabia shifted from prose to waxing poetic, giving the lie to the notion that heroes love their horses but have no similar affectionate bond with their camels. Forsooth, ‘camel’ is rightfully a term of endearment for ordinarily docile creatures who will, in season, fly into fits of rage and spit in your face if their love is impeded – the males enjoy legendary notoriety for such fits: Aristotle said an enraged camel bit a man’s head off. By the way, for those who are interested in courting, female camels flirt then resist, sometimes getting banged up pretty bad in the process.

Be that as it may, Muhammad enjoins men to treat camels well: “He said: Behold this she-camel. She hath the right to drink at the well and ye have the right to drink each on an appointed day; and touch her not ill lest there come on you retribution. But they hamstrung her, and then were penitent.”

It is wrong to mistreat any animal including the human animal, but it certainly is no insult to camel or to woman to favorably compare woman with the camel, a creature even more sacred than the holy cow. The life of Arabs living in the desert steppes once depended on her milk as their primary food source: the scientific student shall find higher concentrations of intestinal lactase in Arabians whose ancestors relied on milk for generations. Muhammad himself had 20 milch camels acquired in a raid; he prized them for their daily production: two large skins of milk – the yield per milch camel ranges from 1 to 7 litres per day. In drought-stricken environments other animals bred for meat and milk die, but the camel survives and continues to produce calves and milk. Now taking into account the millions of people who starve annually, the camel is in fact capable of carrying man across the existential desert in more ways than one.

With that in mind, It certainly behooves us to briefly extend our cursory examination of the camel – time and space do not permit a thorough discussion of the camel’s 40,000,000 years on Earth.

The attentive reader may notice I occasionally refer to the camel in general as a “her.” I do so not only because I am weary of using “he” for humans, but because she is the mother ship, the “ship of the desert”, the “land ship”; like all ships, the camel deserves a feminine pronoun. Of course man and woman share most qualities; there are distinctions to be made; the male/female division is arbitrary to a degree, yet we enjoy sex too much to dispense with it on the whole. In any event, please do keep the affinity of the sexes in mind instead of their battle when examining my camel, knowing full well no blatant sexism inheres in my descriptions. After all, Muslims say “Muhammed was a camel, loved the camel, and praised the camel.” Furthermore, before proceeding with our little sketch, we should note that camels have not had their French Revolution, hence male camels have permission to dress just as gorgeously as females. That being said, we continue apace.

Camels originated in North America. Knowing that mankind would eventually need them in Asia, they embarked on the Great Camel Exodus across Alaska – completed nearly a million years ago – and familiarized themselves with the desert and mountain terrain of Asia. Their smaller kin – llamas, alpacas, guanacos, vicunas – headed south on missions to South America. Camels did not return to North America until just before the Civil War, to join the U.S. Camel Corps – camels were also introduced to Australia where 15,000 now run wild. Alas, despite their virtues and credentials including military service under the likes of Cyrus the Great, Hadrian and Napolean, certain exigencies and the development of the railroad caused the U.S. Army to desert them; a few ran wild in Arizona until 1910; domesticated camels now living in Texas will be glad to entertain your family.

The prehistoric Bactrian camel populated Turkistan; one was eventually sighted there drinking water from the river Bactrus in Bactria, an ancient area roughly corresponding to the province of Balkh in northern Afghanistan where Zarathustra (Golden Camel) eventually settled. The Bactrian camel developed two humps in anticipation of Zarathustra’s religious Dualism, the Good and Evil Twins especially celebrated by Zoroastrians who love mountainous regions and pure Fire.

The Arabian or dromedary (dromus = running) camel developed a single hump for desert dwellers who prefer the one and only god. Of course the Arabian camel settled in Arabia and awaited man’s convenience; ancient dumps reveal man was eating wild camels in southern Arabia around 3,000 B.C., where the transition from hunting to taming camels is believed to have occurred. No less an Asian despot than Solomon was once said to have fully domesticated the camel to expand trade and therefore advance civilization East and West. But Solomon, if priests told the true story, has rivals: Abraham, the father of Jews and Christians, allegedly traded his lovely wife Sarah to Pharaoh for some camels amongst other goods. Well, no doubt Solomon exploited the amazing prehistoric creature who was already becoming according to God’s providence man’s nourisher, means of transportation and medium of exchange.

Recall how the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon with treasure-laden camels to find out if he was as great as he was reputed to be, whereupon they held a royal potlatch to see who could outgive the other. Solomon apparently won: Sheba left with more than she arrived with – the gold she came with was alone worth millions of current dollars. Her legendary camel-riding career is certainly not to be ignored in any good camel essay. She was claimed by Ethiopa and, based on the rumor that she had a son with Solomon, whom Solomon made King of Africa, the emperors of Ethiopia from 1270 B.C. to 1975 A.D. have claimed descent from Solomon’s father, David – curiously, the genuine Ark was supposedly secreted out of Jerusalem and taken to Ethiopia. Nigerians also lay claim to the Queen and her famous camels. Yet now it appears from excavations of the 3,000 year-old Mahran Bilqis (Temple of the Moon) in southern Arabia that the famous queen of Bible, Talmud and Koran presided over the cradle of Arab civilization, its capital being Marib in Yemen, on the main caravan route beside the Red Sea.

Still, only camels know for sure who the Queen of Sheba was or who was first to domesticate them – and do forgive me for virtually ignoring the Bactrian camel here, as I do so not from racial prejudice but from ignorance. Anyway, for Solomon’s sake, suffice it to say the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet is gimel, representing the three-fold or holy mount. Yes, another letter of the alphabet symbolizes the bull – but never mind that, or the defamed ones who invented the alphabet.

As we know, nomadic Arabs depended on the camel for their existence. They also knew she would come in handy in the afterlife. It was customary to tie a camel to a man’s grave – but not for long, since she might be stolen. The camel is one of the Prophet’s ten animals in Paradise.

Allah was Muhammad’s most important spiritual concern; however, according to one allegation, there was only one thing on Earth more valuable to Muhammad than a fine camel: the head of his worst enemy. A man must put first things first; for example, one must first live in order to love, and when his worst enemy is hiring assassins to interrupt his loving, he must attend to the priority. At the time of the Prophet’s First Jihad, one of his worst enemies, Abu Jahl, was immediately available for execution at the battle at Badr.

According to Ibn Ishaq (85-151) who recorded the early allegations about the Prophet’s life, on Friday morning, the 17th day of Ramadan (624), in the valley of Badr, the Apostle ordered his companions to attack, and retired to his hut. After two Muslims were killed, he came forth from his humble headquarters to encourage his men, promising Paradise for martyrs.

As the warriors on both sides advanced, Abu Jahl was hear to cry: “O God, destroy this morning him (Muhammad) than more than any of us hath cut the ties of kinship and wrought that which is not approved.” Furthermore, as Abu fought that day, he was heard to say:

“What has fierce war to dislike about me,

A young he-camel with razor like teeth?

For this very purpose did my mother bear me.”

Muhammad was overheard praying: “O God, don’t let him escape me!”

Towards the end of the battle, the Prophet ordered his men to search for Abu among the slain. Some time prior, Muadh had fought Abu and cut off his leg. Then Abu’s son nearly cut off Muadh’s arm, but he went on fighting, dragging his arm behind him until he eventually stood on it with one foot and tore it off – he survived the battle. Another Muslim, Muawwidh, smote Abu and left him for dead – Muawwidh was then slain. Yet another Companion, Abdullah, complying with the Prophet’s order to find Abu’s body, found Abu nearly dead, cut off his head, and presented it to Muhammad:

“This is the head of the enemy of God, Abu Jahl,” said Abdullah.

“By God than Whom there is no other, is it?”

“Yes,” affirmed Abdullah, and threw Abu’s head before Muhammad, who then gave thanks to God.

Now, then, where is the camel in this story? It is in another version of the story related by R.F. Dibble in his 1926 book MOHAMMED (Viking) and by several others such as Sir William Muir. Exulting over the victory, Muhhamad saw Abdullah approaching with Abu’s head, and exclaimed:

“The head of the enemy of God! God! there is none other God!”

“There is none other!” agreed Abdallah, dropping his gory prize before Mohammed’s feet; and Abdallah almost fainted from bliss when the Prophet continued, “It is more acceptable to me than the choicest camel in all Arabia!”

Thus has the legend been elaborated over the centuries. Incidentally, it is said that the first blow rendered by a Muslim on behalf of Allah was delivered during the 13 years of persecution that led up to the first jihad: infidels were throwing stones at praying Muslims; one injured man, As’d ben Abi Waqqas, seized the jaw-bone from a camel’s carcass and beat his attacker with it.

III. Camel Characteristics

I AM INSPIRED TO SAY MORE about the camel’s personal characteristics. Arab poets have owned her as a precious gem, the most beautiful woman of all, with silken cheeks, shapely falcon ears, and a long neck which is slender as a minaret. She has long, slender legs to boot – she rocks smoothly from side to side when she strides, making inexperienced men feel quite giddy. She admittedly enhances her stature with an illusion: she is not as tall as she looks. She has great lips and a large mouth full of teeth, hence Chesebrough Ponds might sign her for a Pepsodent commercial; be careful, camels bite! By the way, the camel’s eyebrows are a bit bushy and her ears are cute and fuzzy.

Oh, yes, when she is really thirsty, Camel Woman can drink people under the table; although she is sure-footed, she has not been seen dancing on one – much to her credit in conservative lands. She is docile, but as we have seen, despite the legend that camels keep their affairs secret, she and her partners act up when feeling salacious.

Furthermore, she might eat you out of house and home, devouring both your blanket and your tent if you don’t eat her first – only a fool would abuse a camel. She has keen vision and can spot a man at a distance; she can be skittish of men or pigs if she has not seen one for a long time or if a strange one approaches – a camel does tend to wander off in search of her original home -; nonetheless, she has remained calm under gunfire and beside speeding locomotives and automobiles even when she has not seen or heard them before.

In fact, her hearing is acute, although she tends to ignore commands. She is a very hard worker half the time. If worked over six months, she might have a breakdown. Every man gives different figures for how much weight she can carry and how far she can carry it in a day – I use “she” for all camels, so speak to a nomad before loading up your camels equally – say, to be safe, 330 lbs. for 8 hrs. at 3 mph; others say more. When the load is heavy, she will complain, groan and bawl when getting up to go to work; if she had her druthers, she would rather not work up a sweat, and would instead like to lay around in the shade.

This might surprise you: she always needs a new fur coat each winter. Kings and Penitents wear her old coats in sheer admiration of her royal and dignified bearing. St. John the Baptist wore with distinction his camel-hair dress. Long before the appearance of Jesus, those in the know knew the camel is the Ark of Civilization who carries the Seed from Oasis to Oasis. Occultists know her as the Desert Dragoness, the Eternal Chariot and Throne who bears the Sun Dragon from occlusion to occlusion across the desert of existence.

IV. Noble Camel Nomads

CAMELS ARE THE PRIDE AND JOY of the distinguished nomad. The noble nomad is fiercely independent and is free of urban foibles because of his confidence in God’s greatest gift, the camel, a divine creature whose vigorous endurance is unmatched by any other creature; a creature not only beautiful but who, in accord with the old maxim “Handsome is as handsome does”, went so far under heavy loads in desert and mountain terrain as to replaced the wheel, man’s foremost progressive invention. For instance, by the seventh century A.D. carts and wagons were almost completely replace by the camel in North Africa. Not to mention that the Arabs would not have been able to save the world from the Dark Ages without the utilitarian camel.

In any case, if the nomad follows the camel’s natural inclination to preserve the ecological balance by cooperating with it, he shall survive along with her. Of course the Iron Rod of Allah is not suspended, a case in point being the fate of the Lost Caravan of 1805: nearly two thousand people and a like number of camels missed the route between Timbuktu and Taoudent – they perished of thirst. Of course romantic people love a challenge, hence it is no wonder the shiek progeny of nomads who settled down for capitalism and its laborious divisions still have camels kept; they love to drive to their summer tents in a Mercedez; some keep a nice tent next to or on the roof of their palaces. Unfortunately, as eloquently revealed by the professor of jurisprudence Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) in his authoritative introduction to history, THE MUQADDIMAH:

“…Sedentary life constitutes the last stage of civilization … the last stage of evil and remoteness from goodness … Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people (who are) … accustomed to luxury and success in worldly occupations and to indulgence in worldly desires. Therefore, their souls are colored with all kinds of blameworthy and evil qualities…”

We know sedentary men would walk a mile in expensive boots over burning sands for a camel. They would go much farther than that in the good life if they were not chained down to jobs and were not so short of breath from chain smoking – something Muhammad never did. But a hardy nomad who emulates his camel will upon occasion walk about for three months searching for his beloved camels, taking with him nothing more than a skin of water and faith in God’s providence.

Alas, again I have given short shift to the two-humped Bactrian camel, perhaps because of my one-humped monotheistic conditioning – I shall do penance elsewhere and at length. Before closing, I must address a sensitive “issue” (i.e. a problem) of concern to camels in general, one that is problematic to the politically correct; namely, the camel’s alleged stupidity.

V. Camels Ain’t Stupid

HORSEMEN PREFER HORSES and insist their steeds are far more worthy, both as friends on the trail and in battle, than camels, whom they call – and it pains me to say this – “unresponsive and stupid.” Yet the pride and prestige of “people of the camel” far exceeds that of horsemen. A few words of caution here: one must be careful about speaking highly of horses around camels, for camels hold grudges; a camel owner might throw down his shirt for the camel to trample on first so normal relations can be resumed.

To each his own prejudices and species. Still, I believe the objective man, taking everything into consideration, would favor the camel over the horse. I know some men who actually favor camels over women; they say they do so because women are more intelligent than camels, hence a discriminating man must take his camel and leave his wives and concubines at home – if he can afford their upkeep. You see, he discriminates between intelligence and wisdom, giving a greater weight to a camel’s native wisdom than to a woman’s cultivated intelligence – he does not deny intelligent women have some camel wisdom, a sort of homing instinct associated with Water.

Camels travel to return to the original Well, the Font of wisdom and Source of life across the existential desert. Herds will run towards distant rains. More mysteriously, the Arabs say a foal knows the well its mother drank from before it was born – camels will take off and show up where they were foaled, say, 30 miles or more away; nay, camels have been known to somehow arrive at their point of origin 1,000 miles away.

Our Ship of the Desert is a celestial vehicle as well, a flying camel no less adept than Airvarta, the Hindu god’s flying white elephant. She is the sign of God’s creative power. Sure-footed and calm in the valleys of death and on the mountain sides, she carries the spiritual seeker to his goal, the Divine Presence. If a pious Muslim builds a mosque, then, after he dies the mosque will transform into a white camel to carry him across the Bridge over Hell.

Finally, a story about Muhammad’s favorite camel aptly illustrates the spiritual significance of the camel. I believe the foregoing along with the evidence hereafter shall finally prove it is no insult to compare woman with a camel and to say:

“Woman is man’s camel across the desert of existence.”

The Prophet had managed to escape from Mecca. A posse was on his tail: the Quraish had issued a Wanted Dead or Alive warrant with 100 camels as bounty. After hiding in the cave where he and his companion Abu Bakr were saved by a spider and a dove, they continued their Flight to Medina. Once Muhammad had arrived in Medina and rested, he mounted his white camel Al Kaswa and let go of the reins. Al Kaswa wandered about the streets as the crowd cheered Muhammad’s safe return. Al Kaswa stopped and knelt under some date palms over an old burial ground, indicating the place where Muhammad built Islam’s first mosque.



Patriotism, The Third Race, The Third World War

The Devil's Manifesto HEADER
911 by Darwin Leon


The Third World War on Terrorism declared by President George W. Bush was no doubt patriotic in the sense it was motivated by “love of one’s country.” The Bush rhetoric, mimicked by the U.S. Congress and the majority of Americans, is jingoistic. Moreover, the Bush administration was blatantly war-mongering; indeed, it came into existence as a continuation of the previous Bush administration’s mongering of war on Iraq. However, the administration’s attempt to associate the war with Christianity, i.e. as a holy war under god or a war somehow defending the Christian faith, was politically motivated, self-serving rhetoric. President Bush did not represent fundamental Christianity although he and other “well-meaning” people may have been deluded into thinking they did. Fundamentally, the president represented the secular economic interests of the wealthy, beginning with those of his own family, whose domestic and offshore corporate wheeling and dealing and political machinations are well known.

The more property one owns the more he will love his country and need its police force to defend his holdings. And those who hold much less may very well agree with him, but not for religious reasons. President Bush’s effort to identify the political-economic interests of the United States with the religious interest in god would be absurd unless one equated religion with the political theology of secular private capitalism. As far as most faithful and unfaithful people are concerned, the World Trade Center was not a spiritual temple nor was the Pentagon. Although some Muslims and Christians insisted they were are involved in a religious conflict of crusade versus jihad, and that president Bush was a Christian fanatic behind the scenes, we think not: the issue was material not spiritual.

On Independence Day 2002, President Bush said patriotism is a “living faith.” The god of Christianity must be really dead then, or the president had lost touch with his Christian roots, for faith in nations is anathema to original Christianity. Therefore, not only was the patriotism of the Bush administration war-mongering and jingoistic, it had an anti-Christian agenda as well. Patriotism as “living faith” worships the primitive land-god of fear and hate rather than the man-god of love and forgiveness.

To advance this thesis, we refer to Edward Westermarck’s The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas (1917). He discusses the Stoic cosmopolitan philosophy of a universal or world state, then states:

“But the Roman ideal of patriotism, with its utter disregard for the foreign nations, was not opposed by philosophy alone: it met with an even more formidable antagonism in the new religion. The Christian and the Stoic rejected it on different grounds: while the Stoic felt himself as a citizen of the world, the Christian felt himself as a citizen of heaven, to whom this planet was only a place of exile… Indeed, in the whole Roman Empire there were no men who entire lacked patriotism as the early Christians. They had no affection for Judea, they soon forgot Galilee, they cared nothing for the glory of Greece and Rome. When the judges asked them which was their country they said in answer, ‘I am a Christian.'”

However, “Christianity was not hostile to the state.” He notes the scriptural injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to obey the authorities as god’s ministers, and cites Tertullian: “… but the emperor should be obeyed only so long as his commands do not conflict with the law of God – a Christian ought rather to suffer like Daniel in the lion’s den than sin against his religion, and nothing is more entire foreign to him than affairs of State.”

Of course religious people differ as to the true nature and the right applications of the laws of their god. The early Christians were generally opposed to killing, and rejected military service. Origen would not have Christians serve in the imperial armies, but he approved of Judith murdering Holofernes, hence he condoned tyrannicide. War was further justified in defense of the faith. Clement condemned war as contrary to the faith. In the West, militarism and bloodshed was altogether abjured. Lactantius took the injunction “Thou shalt do no murder” in its absolute sense, drawing no distinction between criminal “murder” and legal “killing.”

“For when God forbids killing, He not only prohibits us from free-booting, which is not permitted even by public laws, but He also advises that those things also, which are regarded as lawful among men, should not be done. So, neither will it be permitted a just man, whose service is justice herself, to enter military service, nor can he accuse anyone of a capital crime, because there is no difference whether you kill a man with a sword or word, since the killing itself is prohibited. Therefore, in this command of God, no exception whatsoever must be made. It is always wrong to kill a man whom God has intended to be a sacrosanct creature.” And, “One of the greatest reasons for which Christianity was considered a civil offense was this, that the Christians refused to take part in state wars.” (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, translated by Sister Mary Francis McDonald, O.P., in The Fathers of the Church, Catholic University of America Press: Washington)

However, Professor Latourette of Yale arrives at a different conclusion after examining the records: “For years many Christians regarded service in the army as inconsistent with their profession. Some held that for them all bloodshed, whether as soldiers or executioners, was unlawful. At one stage in history the powerful Church of Alexandria seems to have looked askance upon the reception of soldiers into the membership and to have regarded enlistment in the army as permissible in only in exceptional circumstances. Tertullian argued against Christians taking part in the army, on the ground that such service brought one under another master than Christ, that it was out of accord with the Christian obligation to the family, that it involved taking the sword, and that it made necessary inflicting punishment, when to a Christian was forbidden all revenge… To most Christians, however, at least in the first three centuries, the ethical problem involved in military service was not an issue. Jew and slaves were legally disqualified from membership in the legions and, therefore, such Christians as were drawn from these groups were ineligible. The state could nearly always obtain as many soldiers as it wished through voluntary enlistment without recourse to conscription. Then, too, as time passed, the legions were filled chiefly with barbarians from the fringes of the Empire, where Christianity was late in obtaining a large following. After Christianity was adopted by the state, the Church expected those of its members who served in the army to remain there.” (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Volume II, The First Five Centuries, New York: Harper, 1932)

Thus people disagree on whether or not militarism was an issue; if it was not, considerable discourse on the non-issue had still been handed down to us from antiquity. Christians did agree on practicing the Jewish virtues, especially those of the Pharisees: caring for orphans and for the sick, giving alms to the poor, visiting prisoners, burying the dead, and loving their brethren. And they agreed their god, the Creator and Lawgiver, was the one and only god for humankind. Early Christianity had no class discrimination or castes and outcastes; it was a universal religion recognizing everyone including laborers and slaves as brothers. Christians were “a third race”, an “antisocial” or alternate society opposed to both Jew and Roman in its obsession with personal salvation – a feature which made it popular. Calamities and hardships visited upon the Greco-Roman world were blamed on the Christian refusal to recognize the national gods. Christians were adjudged guilty of high treason, punishable by death. They could recant and be spared, or persist and be given to the beasts – those who were Roman citizens could be mercifully beheaded. The persecution of the “criminals” in those trying days when works proved faith, served to strengthen their bond:

“Every Christian rejected with contempt the superstitions of his family, his city, and his province. The whole body of Christians unanimously refused to hold any communion with the gods of Rome, the empire, and of mankind.” Also, “The personal guilt which every Christian had contracted in thus preferring his private sentiment to the national religion was aggravated by a very high degree by the number and union of the criminals.” Furthermore, “The new converts seemed to renounce their family and country, that they might connect themselves in an indissoluble bond of union with a peculiar society, which everywhere assumed a different character from the rest of mankind.” (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of he Roman Empire)

W.H.C. Frend’s The Rise of Christianity affirms fundamental Christianity’s antipathy to patriotism. Whereas Romans identified religion with the state, Christians separated politics from religion, hence they were atheists, traitors who were wont to declare: “I do not recognize the empire of this world. Rather, I serve that god whom no man has seen.” Therefore they must be punished, for their refusal to participate in religious nationalism made them responsible for the wrath of the gods. Christian martyrs refused to pledge allegiance to emperor or to empire. The martyr Polycarp said, “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar… you are ignorant who I am… Listen plainly… I am a Christian.” (No doubt Polycarp would also refuse to pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of American, and to the Republic for which it stands, or to its Commander-in-Chief).

Whereas Westermarck’s stated, “Christianity was not hostile to the State,” Frend provides information that for some Christians it was a religion of protest. For instance, the convert Peregrinus Proteus, famous for committing suicide by throwing himself onto a pyre at the Olympian games, had made several absurd attempts to stir up trouble between Greeks and Romans, and was at one point expelled from the empire for insulting the emperor. But he was a “backslider”, reverting to Cynicism. Therefore consider the convert Tatian (fl. 160). Tatian despised what he perceived as the emptiness, pride and injustices of the Greco-Roman world, which at the time was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity: “I reject your legislation, for there should be common polity for all,” declared Tatian.

Christian, Cynic and Stoic were all disgusted by the luxurious corruption of good times; Christianity waited for troubled times to flourish. Celsus considered the Christians a revolutionary cult bent on subverting the establishment; he said Jesus was an impudent quack who learned magic in Egypt. In his view, Christianity was an illegal association, an introverted sect solely interested in its own members, having the blind faith conducive to revolt. As for Christian rejection of the things of this world, Lucian explained: “Their first lawgivers persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another, after the have transgressed once and for all by denying the Greek gods, by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately, and consider them common property….”

Eventually troubled times fell upon the empire, Christians were gladdened by the opportunities provided for their church to flourish; Constantine took up the cause for reasons of his own; the state become Christianity’s friend instead of foe. Alas, thus far a new religion has required state force to become a world religion instead of sinking into obscurity. Constantine’s son Constantius took up the cross where his father left off. Not only did zealous Christians pray for the troops, they exhorted them to do their duty under god and inspired them to bloodshed. The Eastern and Western bishops argued over the fine points of the Christian creed, those points being symbolic of their regional political differences. The Eastern Caesar would force a particular creed upon the whole empire; he wanted to be pope as well as emperor, just as the old pharaohs were gods incarnate, a Jesus and a Christ at once. Thus the schism in attitudes, and the Eastern and Western churches evolved from the difference – the separation was a bloody one.

Whether historically informed people are religious or not, they understand the importance of separating church and state. The separation releases each from the embrace that tends to hamper them both if not destroy one or the other. After all, which cult, if any cult at all, would the state favor? Which creed, if any creed at all, would be the official creed? Would it be, for instance, the cult and creed of right-wing fundamentalists politically represented by born-again Christian George W. Bush? But he does not represent all Christians, nor does Christianity represent all people. In fact, the exclusiveness of a cult and its creed is bigotry – bigots are those who swear “By God” to justify their own opinions.

To those of other “bigoted” (by god) persuasions, Christians appear on the whole to be a “bigoted” Jewish cult. The ancient Romans, tolerant of 40,000 gods, saw them as such. But the most radical bigots have certain virtues in common, and we should know what they are. For instance, still today a few Christians recognize that genuine fundamental Christianity is hostile to much of our commercial activity and thought. These few remnants of the true faith still have hope for the brotherhood of the whole human race under a single father. They believe war is an outrageous crime against humanity. They know courageous Christians (faithful Christians) can no more burn incense to the modern nation or take oaths of allegiance to flags under national gods than could the early Christian pledge allegiance to Roman gods and the empire those gods stood for. There is no true faith when a “one and only god” is exchanged for many gods and then the religious go on to make war against each other to see which nation is most favored by the “one and only god.” How absurd, immoral and repugnant that is to fundamental Christianity; behind its lip-service to god is the barbarian standard: “My country right or wrong.”

Of course the barbarian standard is a national idol or an emblem of god – a term with a barbarian origin. J.B. Bury recounts what happened in the fourth century when triumphant Christianity lost their grip over a certain German frontier: “With the exodus of bishop Wulfilas and his company, Christianity had not died out in Gothland, and the pagan chiefs, especially one of the most prominent, named Athanaric, were intent upon killing it. It made them indignant to see men of their folk withholding sacrifices from the national gods, insulting the images, even burning the sacred groves. And to the blood of martyrs flowed in Dacia. A religious test was instituted. On feast days statues were carried around the wooden dwellings in every village, and whosoever refused to worship was burned alive. You may read about this persecution in the Acts of the Martyr Saint Sabas, which preserve a general picture of its character.” (J.B. Bury, The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians)

Now, then, modern patriotism is nationalistic and appears to be a relatively new social phenomenon associated with the rise of nationalism coincident to the rebellions against the authority of the Church and its anointed princes. But loyalty to one’s own native group or “nation” as well as dissidence is older than the hills of Rome. Edward Westermarck recapitulated patriotism in The Origin and Development of Moral Ideals:

“The citizens of Alexander’s huge empire had in a way become citizen of the world…. There is also an obvious connection between the cosmopolitan idea and the Stoic system in general. According to the Stoics, human society has for its basis the identity of reason in individuals; hence we have no ground for limiting this society to a single nation…. The Roman ideal of patriotism, with its utter disregard of foreign nations….met with a formidable antagonist… The Christian felt himself as a citizen of heaven…. There were no men who so entirely lacked patriotism as the early Christians…. The Church became a positive enemy of national interests. In the seventeenth century a Jesuit general called patriotism ‘a plague with the most certain death of Christian love.’

“With the fall of the Roman Empire patriotism died out in Europe and remained extinct for centuries…. In the Middle Ages ‘his country’ meant little more than the neighborhood in which he lived. Kingdoms existed but no nations. The first duty of vassal was to his lord…. The cause of a distressed lady was in many instances preferable to that of the country to which he belonged…. In the code of Chivalry, true patriotism had there no place at all…. It is strange yet undeniable that no trace of this feeling displayed itself in the medieval history of France before the English wars…. To make use of the native dialect was a sign of ignorance, and to place worldly interests above the claims of the Church was impious…. In England the nation feeling developed earlier than on the Continent, no doubt owing to her insular position…. In France the development of the national feeling was closely connected with the strengthening of the royal power and its gradual victory over feudalism….

“The key-note of the great movement which led to the Revolution was the liberty and equality of the individual, not the glory or welfare of the nation. Men were looked upon as members of the human race rather than as citizens of any particular country…. According to Voltaire patriotism is composed of self-love and prejudice, and only too often makes us the enemies of our fellow men…. Lessing writes… ‘Love of Fatherland (is) at best an heroical weakness’ … Gradually the interest in other countries grew to be more selfish; the attempt to emancipate was absorbed in the desire to subjugate…. When Napoleon introduced French administration in the countries…the resistance was popular…and it was national…. It was stirred by the feeling of national rather than political unity; it was the protest of race over race…. The French people were regarded by it (the resistance) as an ethnological, not as a historic unit…. Ever since, the racial feeling has been the most vigorous force, and has gradually become a true danger to humanity….”

Leo Tolstoy defined patriotism as the principle that justifies the training of wholesale murderers. The wholesale man-killing trade requires more and better equipment than that required for the making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses. And the murderous occupation guarantees far better returns and greater glory than that obtained by the average workingman.

Gustave Hervé called patriotism a superstition – one far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion. Religious superstition originated in man’s inability to explain natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard thunder and saw lightning, he could not account for either; therefore he concluded that there must be a force greater than himself operating behind the scenes. Similarly, he assumed there existed a supernatural force in rain and various other natural phenomena. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of deliberate lies and falsehoods; patriotic superstition robs man of his self-respect and dignity, vastly increasing his arrogance and conceit.

Emma Goldman, the great anarcho-communist who averred that patriotism is “a menace to liberty,” liked to quote Dr. Johnson as saying, “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels.” Incidentally, Dr. Johnson did not use the term, “resort”. Rather, the word “refuge” is what appears in Boswell’s entry of Friday, 7 April 1775:

“Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintained that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged (not by Johnson) to name one, I mentioned and eminent person (Burke) whom we all greatly admired. Johnson: ‘Sir, I do not say that he is NOT honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political conduct that he is honest. Were he to accept a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of place in a year. This ministry is neither stable, nor grateful to their friends, as Sir Robert Walpole was, so that he may think it more in his interest to take his chance of his party coming in.”

When taken in context, the famous quote does not support the argument that patriotism per se is a menace to liberty, at least not as strongly as Emma Goldman and others wanted it to. Yet, even when the forceful maxim is watered down by the text, we remain wary of anyone who wraps himself in the flag lest we sink in his ship. As Rochefauld cynically said, after experiencing the absurd Wars of the Fronde, “Virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.”(Maximes)

When Dr. Johnson spoke of the patriotic refuge, many Englishmen had good cause to openly distrust patriotism and to have malice for government and its alleged justice: the sacrifice of lives and property under patriotism’s bloody banner soon appeared to be for the sordid gain of a few at the expense of many. Yet, in the 1790s, when France’s Revolutionary forces threatened to liberate its neighbors including English subjects from the monarchical patriotism oppressing them, Pitt’s government successfully cracked down on civil liberties – dissenters were driven underground. British patriotism was back in vogue with a vengeance, as was the patriotism of other peoples. Patriotism eventually found its object in the People around the Flag instead of the King on his Throne. Whatever the form of sovereignty, whenever a people is threatened by dire circumstances, it often embraces its domestic oppressors in self-defense and roots out anyone who sympathizes with the enemy. As we recall, the greatest English conservative of all time, Burke, led the patriotic English bandwagon against the dissonant dissidence of English radicals, including Christian Dissenters, who were corresponding amicably with their Jacobin brethren in France. The United States chimed in across the Atlantic: a number of English radicals were idolized.

More than a century prior, just after the English civil wars of the 1640’s, Thomas Hobbes rendered his opinion on malicious dissent, considering it to be a high crime:

“It belongeth to the Office of the Soveraign, to make a right application of Punishments and Rewards. And seeing the end of punishment is not revenge, and discharging of choler; but correction, either of the offender, or of others by his example; the severest Punishments are to be inflicted for those Crimes, that are of the most Danger to the Publique; such as those which proceed from malice to the Government established; those that spring from contempt of Justice; those that provoke Indignation in the Multitude…”

Hobbes believed rebellion was frequently caused by the reading of political and liberal books. Young men are misled by the classic accounts of popular uprisings and wars successfully waged by ancient democracies. They wrongly attribute the successful exploits to the form of government rather than to the imitation of particular strong men. “From the reading, I say, of such books, men have undertaken to kill their Kings, because the Greek and Latine writers, in their books, make it lawfull, and laudable, for any man so to do; provided before he do it, he call him Tyrant.”

No doubt Hobbes would have approved of William Pitt’s crackdown on dissidence in the 1790s, and he might have recommended severer measures, for, after all, as he wrote elsewhere in Leviathan:

“For the Lawes of Nature (as Justice, Equity, Modesty, Mercy, and in summe) doing to other, as wee would be done to,) of themselves, without the terrour of some Power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our naturall Passions, that carry us to Partiality, Pride, Revenge, and the like. And Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.”

The American colonists begged to disagree, not so much with the form of the tyranny but with its exercise from afar: some thinkers see the American Revolution not so much as a revolution but as a changing of the guard resulting in local autonomy under an elected king, aristocratic senate, and house of commoners. Gustave Le Bon commented on institutional conservatism of some revolutionaries:

“They may be desirous, it is true, of changing the names of their institutions, and to obtain those changes they accomplish at times even violent revolutions, but the essence of these institutions is too much the expression of the hereditary needs of the race for them not invariably to abide by it. There incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficial matters. In fact, they possess conservative instincts as indestructible as those of all primitive beings.” (Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd)

In any case, the liberty that United States citizens so valiantly wrested from the clutches of British tyranny helped inspire European radicals. And the English radicals were, conversely, much admired in the new United States; they were effectively suppressed by Pitt’s government when England embarked on its long war against Revolutionary France. The English radical movement, driven underground, re-emerged forcefully in 1830; in France, of course, mother of a genuinely democratic revolution, and of one reactionary “terrour” after another designed to enharness liberty unleashed. In retrospect, the war against France denounced by the English radicals seems like a just war: not only had France moved on Holland, but she had declared war on England. As for the sordid gain of scoundrels who take refuge in patriotism; there was plenty of hard-won booty, but only after the nobler principles of patriotism were laid down by loyal lords.

Just what are the noble principles of patriotism? Let us not take our own word for it, but rather turn to Francis W. Coker’s study in the 1934 Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.

‘The word patriotism has no precise definition and there are vague and varying ideas as to the psychological springs, historical origins and characteristic manifestations of the sentiment of patriotism. All may agree that patriotism is love of one’s “country.” There is little agreement among equally intelligent and public spirited men as to what is meant by one’s country, who one’s fellow countrymen are, what services and sacrifices one owes them and what sort of social conduct follows naturally from the patriotic attitude… What some have regarded as the most characteristic and ennobling virtue of civilized man, others have execrated as “the passion of fools” or “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Sir Robert Walpole, when he was the active political head of England in the eighteenth century, declared, in referring to the political group opposed to him who called themselves “patriots” that he could create fifty patriots overnight merely by “refusing to grant an unreasonable or insolent demand.” ‘

Professor Coker further observed that patriotism reaches its height in divisiveness and hostility. He reminds us that radical and revolutionary doctrines are antithetical to patriotism; he quotes the Communist Manifesto: “The proletariat has no fatherland.”

Furthermore, Christians fundamentally rejects patriotism in favor of the salvation of all persons – in fact, patriotism is regarded as anti-Christian by many fundamental Christians.

We should add here that fundamental Islam is no lover of nations, and would treat all persons, regardless of nationality, according to one law. All those who are opposed to universal law and order are referred to as “the Party of War.” And of course all monotheistic world religions espouse universal peace for those who nod, bow, bend their knee, or otherwise submit to their one-god – infidels who don’t, as St. Louis said, should be run through with a sword.

Patriotism, whatever its correct definition may be, is hard to put down, and it often takes on a religious tone when it faces and makes an idol or god of death; witness this current regression to religious nationalism or state religion by the administration of the United States government: “Patriotism is a living faith. We love our Motherland, and we love her even more when she is attacked,” said the commander-in-chief on Independence Day 2002, avoiding the Germanic implications of the term “Fatherland.” The asexual term, “Homeland”, was finally settled upon as the most appropriate term. Nonetheless, the President of the United States did say that he consulted a “father” higher than his own “father” for authority to wage a pre-emptive war to destroy a sovereign nation, which plunged its people into chaos, thus returning them to their fundamental faith in Allah.

Setting aside the question of whether or not the so-called Third World War on Terrorism, the highly organized terror led by “this great Nation of Ours”, the “Leader of World Civilization, upon whom an attack is an attack on civilization itself”, is a Just (Holy) War, or whether or not the ultimate goal for which the administration ran for office, the continuation of the war against Iraq, is a sane and righteous agenda, we are correct in saying that the patriotism of the Bush administration is war-mongering and jingoistic. And it is an anti-Christian as well, for patriotism as “living faith” worships the primitive land-god of fear and hate rather than the man-god of love and forgiveness. On the other hand, some Muslims and Christians insist the underlying cause of the antipathy is religious: a continuation of Crusade versus militant jihad on behalf of, purportedly, the same one-god.

Patriotism has its positive side. Coker refers to idealists who have managed to synthesize, at least in their own minds, patriotism and pacifism; thus we find, for instance, a world of states that have a liberal attitude towards their social obligations. Each state would be a responsible member of global society, or a nation subject to international law, and so on. We are familiar with the various ideas proposed, monistic or pluralistic, to achieve world peace and harmony. In all social spheres, we dream of unity in diversity even though it defies the fundamental principle of “rational” logic.

Patriotism involves affection for and loyalty to one’s own group. When writing about “group mind” and “herd psychology”, Freud pointed out that sociologists had derived their theories about the pernicious aspects of collective mental life from the behavior of revolutionary groups, particularly those of the French Revolution. Nevertheless, the researchers admitted that groups, despite their low average intelligence and susceptibility to suggestion, have a potential for ethical conduct surpassing that of any individual taken alone. Loyalty and self-sacrifice, after all, may have worthy goals.

Freud criticized sociologist Gustav Le Bon’s immortal little book, The Crowd

Freud’s negative criticism was itself unoriginal. At least in regards to morality, which always implies mentality, Solomon was right when he said there is nothing new under the Sun. Professional criticism of human behavior presents a scientific or objective facade for praise and blame, and is really an elaboration of subjective prejudices associated with pleasant and unpleasant feelings.

“That the moral concepts are ultimately based on emotions either of indignation or approval is a fact which a certain school of thinkers have in vain attempted to deny,” noted Westermarck.

“A crowd may be guilty of murder, incendiarism, and every kind of crime,” wrote Le Bon, “but it is also capable of very lofty acts of devotion, sacrifice, and disinterestedness, of acts much loftier indeed than those of which the isolated individual is capable. Appeals to sentiments of glory, honour, and patriotism are particularly likely to influence the individual forming part of a crowd, and often to the extent of obtaining from him the sacrifice of his life. History is rich in examples analogous to those furnished by the Crusaders and the volunteers of 1793. Collectivities alone are capable of great disinterestedness and great devotion. How numerous are the crowds that have heroically faced death for beliefs, ideas, and phrases that they scarcely understood!”

The psychologist William McDougal believed groups could be raised to a higher ethical level under certain conditions: a continuous existence (in contrast to a ephemeral crowd); a definite idea of the group’s nature – its composition, capacities and functions; association with other similar but different groups; possession of traditions, customs and habits; possession of a definite structure. In retrospect, however, we might wonder what conditions are sufficiently humane and ethical for the fulfillment of higher aims: consider the worst case of patriotism or fatherism, the Nazis. But conditions are not in themselves human and ethical – only people are humane and ethical. One might say that fatherism and its father-principle is no better than the fuehrers (fathers) at its head; that is, no better than what they have in mind, whether they are conscious of it or not. An intelligent individual might not want to be led by a moronic (foolish) father, or a father who is unconscious of the virtues and vices of his motives.

“Unconscious phenomena play an altogether preponderating part not only in organic life, but also in the operations of the intelligence,” wrote Le Bon. “The conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The most subtle analyst, the most acute observer, is scarcely successful in discovering more than a very small number of the unconscious motives that determine his conduct. Our conscious acts are the outcome of unconscious substratum created in the mind in the main by hereditary influences.”

Le Bon dwelled on the fact that when individuals come together as a crowd, the crowd has an average mind, a mind of its own, one of low intelligence: “From the intellectual view an abyss may exist between a great mathematician and his boot maker, but from the point of view of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.” Hence we might expect that a democratic-republican assembly of experts from different walks of life might be best to direct vital public affairs; but Le Bon lowers that expectation: “(The) fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles…. In crowds it is stupidity and mother-wit that is accumulated.”

Most interesting is Le Bon’s assertion that crowds are lousy witnesses subject to a heightened suggestibility which can lead to collective hallucinations: “Their collective observations are as erroneous as possible…. most often they merely represent the illusion of an individual who, by a process of contagion, had influenced his fellows. Facts proving that the most utter mistrust of the evidence of crowds is advisable might be multiplied to any extent.”

Said facts are accumulating to this day. For instance, the interpretation of the “evidence” and the “facts” used to justify the inevitable Second Bush War against Iraq was faulty, as was the trust placed in the Great White Father, His Vice President of War, His Cabinet, His Intelligence Agencies, His Congressional Court, and His People’s Intuition. War was a foregone conclusion the day He was elected. After 9/11, collective fear turned to rage and lust for revenge. Thanks to presidential guidance of base instinct, fearful self-defense was converted to belligerent offense: retaliation was diverted to a target with greater spoils for the power elite, who had their contracts drafted long before the war began.

“The violence of the feelings of crowds is always increased, especially in heterogeneous crowds, by all sense of responsibility,” reads The Crowd, “An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations. To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings.”

The lone wolves who howl warnings are shouted down: “Being in doubt as to what constitutes truth or error, and having, on the other hand, a clear nothing of its strength, a crowd is disposed to give authoritative effect to its inspiration as it is intolerant,” Le Bon observed. “An individual may accept contradiction and discussion; a crowd will never do so. At public meetings the slightest contradiction on the part of an orator is immediately received with howls of fury and violent invective, soon followed by blows and expulsion should the orator stick to his point.”

Our blows and expulsions and secret investigations and interrogations are more subtle and civilized today, our legal mass murders are more “humane”, but we are just as vicious. If patriotism can be a good thing for nations and the world, we had better cultivate better fathers at home.


Muslims Question Infidel Knight







December 20, 2005

Sir Infidel Knight of the Round Table:

My students keep asking me these questions:

How can President Bush and his people be followers of Jesus Christ, God’s great messenger; how can they claim to respect human rights; how can they present the United States Empire as a model for world civilization and claim to be working towards a unified international community or Empire of God over which Christ will be the emperor and the virtuous people of the Earth as his obedient subjects; how can they announce their opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass devastation; how can they make their slogan, “World War on Terrorism’; how can they claim all that as their agenda, yet, at the same time, engage in mass organized terrorism and have whole countries attacked and destroyed with their massive means of destruction?

How can they believe in the natural right to life, liberty, and property, and then have the lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed on the chance of the presence of a few criminals in a village, city, and country?

How can they claim to be Christians or good people, and then occupy and destroy a sovereign nation and plunge its people into chaos and civil war on the pretext of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, which they themselves possess enough of to destroy the world several times over, having themselves killed hundreds of thousands of people with nuclear bombs against even the advice of some of their best generals?

How can they claim to be defenders of human rights after having killed with sanctions, according to the Red Cross and the Catholic Church, nearly one million men, women and children and infants of Iraq?

How can they say they are spreading world peace by most recently killing one hundred thousand more Iraqis, putting nearly two hundred thousand invading troops on the ground, and systematically breaking the sanctity of private homes?

How can they with a clean conscience justify rebuilding the infrastructure of a country whose infrastructure they deliberately destroyed, charging their own people for the reconstruction monies diverted to their friendly contractors, like Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton?

How can they accuse one tyrant of killing and impoverishing his own people while they themselves put their own troops, many of whom joined the military service not to fight wars on flimsy pretext but to relieve themselves of grinding poverty, in harm’s way, taking them away from the loved ones who need their support and having them killed, maimed, and psychologically traumatized, squandering hundreds of billions of dollars in the process?

How can your beloved president be, as he claims, a follower of Jesus Christ, his “political hero” (may Allah have mercy on the great messenger’s soul); how can he genuinely respect human rights; how can he honestly present liberalism as a civilization model; how can he truly oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; how can he dare to make “the Global War on Terror” his slogan; how can he sincerely work for the establishment of a unified international community which Jesus Christ (Allah has mercy on his soul) and the virtuous of the Earth will one day govern; – how can he do all this with good intentions, yet, at the same time, spit in the face of the international assembly three times and then preemptively attack on flimsy pretexts other countries that have done his countrymen no harm; command the military organ of mass terrorism to destroy a sovereign state and the infrastructure of a country, destabilizing its people, killing a hundred thousand of them, and plunging the country into the horror and terror of constant chaos; violate the sanctity of private homes, kicking down doors at all hours of the day, dragging people out of their beds, blindfolding them and forcing them to their knees, and sometimes murdering men, women and children in their homes; kill hundreds of innocent people in their homes with bombs because a few criminals might be hiding among them; hold suspects in prisons for years without charge or counsel in violation of standards of human decency and international justice; take his own people’s children away from their homes and send them into harm’s way on the basis of a pack of lies, in effect, psychologically and physically maiming and killing his own people; waste trillions of dollars of his people’s resources on the commission of evil and consequent chaos, while reducing taxes on his rich supporters and diminishing the welfare programs guaranteed by the Preamble to the Constitution of his country; – yes, how can he do all this in contradiction to his formerly stated intentions?

How can he call Saddam Hussein a murderous dictator, yet have the same effect?

What do we call a man whose deeds fly in the face of his stated principles?

These are the questions my students ask, over and over again, as the situation grows more intolerable, and they think it’s best to have nuclear weapons to protect their country from your country because it is advancing world terrorism.

All I can say is that I will ask you for answers, knowing that Allah is merciful and shall redeem those who repent and do their best to undo wrongs and bring their actions into line with good words.

We are looking forward to your reply in peace.

Yours Faithfully in Peace,
Dajen Doomah
School Teacher

Thank God Our President is a Hypocrite

bush bush








Our noble President’s actions have contradicted almost every ideological principle he declared during his political campaigns. And now I am pleased to take this opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

Before President Bush was elected, I wrote, “This is one of the greatest hypocrites who ever ran for office.” Although I had written a scathing indictment to prove it, I looked in the mirror, then deleted my essay. When the President was inaugurated, I said, ” This progeny augurs ill for the world, poverty and war are sure to follow.” His adulators certainly seemed like fools to me; who needs a god in heaven when their arbitrary President is in the Oval Office? But I was told not to worry; he is a puppet, I was informed, just look at the strings. After the President held office for awhile and had changed his mind several times , swinging around to what was almost my own position on the issues, I had very little left to complain about; one day I actually publicly exclaimed:

“Thank God our President is a hypocrite!”

Because we love ourselves, we tend to ignore the hypocrisy of those we vote for. And during war, even if it is a war of our grand civilization led by the most powerful nation on Earth against a minority who violently object to being civilized, to call our illustrious Commander-in-Chief the chief hypocrite seems traitorous to that blessed unity confirmed by the polls, a unity even Adolf Hitler would envy even if it were for a good cause. Hopefully, after scanning the transcript of my unprivileged conversations with my lawyer, the military tribunal will accept my plea behind closed doors than I meant it as a compliment.

Yes, hypocrisy. And I shall not bore you with a tedious list, but shall speak to the most recent case in point. Oil candidate Bush spoke eloquently against Nation Building, yet now the President is doing just that for stateless Afghanistan. Granted, at first it was an half-hearted, foot-dragging sort of Nation Building. That is, with the exception of his military support of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, whose past atrocities, including the rape and murder of women, led to the Taliban clamp-down welcomed by the beleaguered population so desperate for any kind of order at all.

But we should not blame the President for his initial reluctance, for Nation Building was contrary to his ideology. What was he supposed to say? that the terrorist attack was a golden opportunity for neo-liberal capitalism to gather military forces and exploit the world in the united name of Civilization? to admit China into the WTO and to build that Oil Hub for pumping black gold to India and China in the glorious name of Free Trade? After all, plenty of Russian and Persian oil is available to diminish the importance of the Arab exporters who export not only oil but fund violent resistance to allied exploits.

No, no matter how dumb our President looks, looking that dumb would be stupid. He was quick to call for a popular war instead of a police action. It is a self-defensive war in response to “the attack on civilization itself.” But, true to his campaign ideology, there was to be – read his lips – no Nation Building; hence some prejudiced folks were pleased to infer that the people of Afghanistan are uncivilized therefore are not to be defended. Nonetheless, to make his propaganda more effective, the President used the persecution of the people of Afghanistan as ammunition for wiping out their oppressors, knowing full well that would only restore them to worse oppressors unless the rich and powerful leader of the world’s greatest civilization engaged in Nation Building.

When he pounded the war drum from his bully pulpit in Congress, the President spoke highly of democracy; he vehemently denounced the brutal suppression of women by the Taliban; but when he came to his conditions, he did not include civil and human rights for the people of Afghanistan, yet notable women surrounding him applauded vigorously with eyes glazed by his former eloquence.

Now that the Taliban is almost out of the way, the President has put his wife on the radio to spread the word about the abuse of women and children in Afghanistan; she asks for our Thanksgiving commitment to achieve “dignity and opportunity for women and children of Afghanistan.” But no remedy is prescribed, and one should be prescribed by the First Lady of the leader of our most advanced civilization, for the status of women is the barometer of civilization. Now Great Britain’s First Lady follows in Lady Bush’s footsteps. The first ladies are evidently paving the path for the first men, perhaps preparing us to put 50,000 peacekeepers or more on the ground for a generation or so. And now Colin Powell is on television extolling Free Trade and our Second Priority: Nation Building in Afghanistan.

Well, now, the President has reversed himself to my position again, to accomplish what two competing universal ideologies, Islamism and Communism, have failed to accomplish in Afghanistan: enduring social justice. But is Organized Greed willing to pay the price? For whether Greed likes it or not, its organizations must pay or eventually perish.”Your money or your life,” is poverty’s caravan creed. Wallow in your wealth and pay only lip-service to God if you will, provided sufficient poor tax is paid.

Now I pray for a Sufi miracle in Afghanistan, because, you see, the President’s original position against Nation Building had some merit, merit amply supported by the history of the human race. In this case of Afghanistan, where people have been living for 50,000 years, modern and ancient problems reside. Fundamental Islam is theocratic, and owes no absolute allegiance to secular political authority. And it hates with a passion infidel troops between its Muslims and God, the one and only god. Before universal Islam united tribes in jihad against infidels, tribes and their branches were loyal to themselves only; intertribal affairs were regulated by complicated laws of blood feuding. In many cases in the rugged mountains, Islamic comrades fought together as brothers, but when the battle was over they could be seen fleeing from one another lest some old score be settled. After one great jihad organized by the Naqshbandi Sufi order in Dagestan and Chechyna during the nineteenth century, the mountaineers reverted to the traditional ways of original “group feeling” abhorred by fundamental Islam, and spoke of the jihad period as “the Time of Shar’ia,” of Muslim law.

Yes, indeed, we are playing with holy Fire in Afghanistan, where Zoroaster is said to have realized the difference between Good and Evil as he gazed into Fire and concluded Evil is not simply the absence of Good but is the twin and independent enemy of Good. He who ignores Evil is good for nothing.

Hypocrisy is the underlying crisis of human existence found in every abode including my private Faustian study. Empirical existence demands a pragmatic approach to changing circumstances, and resists a universal order except in times of war; for such an order is a response to fear and can only be imposed by force or the threat of same, say the wrath of God which is quite hellish in fact. But we have high hopes for the reverse side of hate. I mean Love, and in all its multitudinous forms. May each have their own love and be content. Therefore once again I pray for a miracle in Afghanistan and say:

“Thank God our President is a Hypocrite.”


On Stretching The Law






Laws are made to be stretched if not broken. Fundamentalists may keep their commandments exactly as written, but almost everyone else stretches their own rules as far as they can, even to the breaking point. This is hardly surprising inasmuch as we legislate against our natural inclinations. Being born individual is the original sin, for the individual would satisfy its will to live forever without impedance if only it could, but it cannot. The individual rebels in vain against the very collective that it needs for self-preservation. Forged by resistance to its will, the individual human becomes a social person. The god within the individual wants total freedom even unto self-destruction; but the far more powerful society needs individuals; thus Jacob fought with god and became Israel.

American settlers protested against the arcane common law principles of the judicial priesthood. They wanted their laws in written simply in stone, but they cannot get rid of the common law for its essence is hidden in their hearts. Once positive laws are written down, every effort to wiggle out them is made: A relevant statute is read. Written briefs are filed, and oral arguments are duly recorded. Judgments are made, to be upheld or overturned. Precedents are established and recorded to be duly pondered upon; their applicability to other cases is subjected to further argument.

The death penalty was legislated in the United States for capital crimes, and then lawyers deliberately made it difficult to execute the offenders after they were convicted. Perhaps after the death penalty is abolished in all the states because it is deemed uncivilized, the history books will deny it every existed after two thousand years have passed, except as a threat, as some Jewish teachers have claimed of their history of capital punishment.

Christians may defame the Pharisees unto Doomsday, but we should confess that, without the Pharisees, there would be no Christianity. Our law is the ‘living law’ of the Pharisees who believed in resurrection and eternal life: a criminal has every chance to be forgiven and saved. Our law is not the ‘dead letter’ law of the Sadducees who did not believe in salvation, not even in an afterlife, but rather thought that the individual is free to break the law and to be punished exactly as prescribed, without possibility of pardon or parole.

Whatever is written down as law in our ‘free’ country is a fulcrum for perpetual controversy. We have our Sadducean torah, but the lawyers are standing by with the Pharisaic torah, and they may not only stretch the law but go so far as to claim their interpretation of the written law and their principles contradicting the statutes are superior to the recorded law. Given the political power of the Pharisees, the Sadducees recognized the living law, but they do not consider it as binding, hence the controversy continues ad infinitum.

The foremost legal fulcrum for the United States is its Constitution, mistakenly said by some scholars to be the “ground” of the law. The writing itself is superfluous because it is based on the sense of justice; the Greeks had Zeus declare that any adult without that sense of justice should be put to death or banished. Once things are written down, people tend to forget them. We should have a copy in our pocket just in case our memory fails us. It would behoove everyone to memorize the Constitution, the logical elaboration of our sense of justice. Few people today can remember even five of the Ten Commandments in right order; for instance many people do not know the commandment proscribing murder is in the bottom half of the list.

When we read the Constitution and examine the opinions of the highest judicial authorities, we discover that our founding fathers did not get rid of the ‘common’ law after all; indeed, many of the poorer colonial Americans counted on the English Common Law for civil rights not afforded to the Original Americans or to the slaves. Nor did our founding fathers rid America of the high priesthood interpreting those freedoms for society’s own good. Jefferson’s effort to use the impeachment process to smother the independent Supreme Court in its crib failed, as did the later efforts of the Radical Republicans to mock the English parliamentary system. We find both Pharisees and Sadducees on that high court. We are sometimes given to wonder at its apparent hypocrisy, and to think that our beloved English law is illogical or unjust after all, until the rabbis appear to smooth over the differences between reality and ideality. Of course some explanations must remain apocryphal or ‘hidden’ in the true sense of the word: they must never be written down.

When Moses said, “Write this law down,” did he mean that law should be limited to whatever was written down? Not according to some rabbis. The law itself existed before it was written down, and was preserved by oral tradition, gradually recorded in writing. The living law hidden behind the writing still has authority over the language petrified on the page. The oral law must always have precedence. Moses was not a priest or a scribe, he was a prophet having direct access to the Almighty; his word was law. Moses may have been illiterate, although it is usually supposed that he was educated as an Egyptian hence familiar with the language of the New Kingdom and not with that of the Hebrew tribes. In either case he needed a scribe to write down the Torah for literate priests to recite to the illiterate public.

The apparent contradiction between the static Jewish written law and the dynamic oral law, sometimes called ‘the Two Torahs’, is being resolved over the centuries by ‘casuistic stretching,’ which promotes the organic, living integrity of our dynamic order. The conjunction of freedom and order may seem oxymoronic or patently absurd at first glance, but upon reflection it can be viewed as ethical and effective.

‘Casuistry’ is the application of general principles to particular cases; it is a process that members of the legal profession, representatives of the litigious human, are involved in every day. Needless to say, sometimes the process gets a bad reputation. We suspect the casuists have distorted or stretched the law and the truth. The sophists might be as dishonest as their clients and witnesses. More lies are told in court than anywhere else on Earth even though such lies might be punished by fine and imprisonment.

Kenneth Burke defined ‘casuistic stretching’ at length in ‘Dictionary of Pivotal Terms’, a chapter of Attitudes Toward History (1984):

“By casuistic stretching, one produces new principles while theoretically remaining faithful to old principles. Thus, we saw the church permitting the growth of investment, in a system of law that explicitly forbade investment. The legalists ‘took up the slack’ by casuistic stretching’, the ‘secular prayer’ of ‘legal fictions….'”

In a another chapter, ‘Protestant Transition’, Burke speaks of “the ways in which individualistic enterprise, stimulated by colloquial translations of the Bible, whereby every man could become his own interpreter without training in the collective body of interpretation accumulated by the church, served to intermingle material ambition with high moral motives…

“Sincerity and guile were hopelessly interwoven as enlightenment and stupidity. The men who enunciated the doctrine of the ‘poor church’ probably meant just what they said: that the church should not be rich, like a Babylonian whore, but poor like Christ… the sovereign used the doctrine to justify the appropriation of church lands for themselves and their clique…. In the feudal pattern, the casuistic fictions had tended to confine ‘investment for profit’ to a comparatively small class of rulers and big churchmen. In Calvinism, this ‘salvation device’ was ‘democratized’ – as Calvin discarded the legalistic subterfuges and placed positive sanction upon the taking of ‘interest’ in general. His notion of Providence ‘transcended’ the conflicting clutter that amounted to demoralization, since the reality of a monetary practice was being sentimentally denied. And his spiritual symbol was ‘economically implemented’ by the ambivalence whereby the spiritual futurism of ‘providence’ could be equated with the worldly futurism of ‘investment.’ (Later on, instead of separating ‘interest’ from ‘usury’, Bentham came right out with his formal ‘Defense of Usury.’) This move, so necessary for the development of business enterprise, was further backed by a new philosophy of justification, with more modern connotations of ‘ambition.'”

We add in this interpretative vein that the Reformation, as far as the Church was concerned, was an atheistic movement: the protesters were really ‘atheists.’ Some leftists identified Protestants with the Jews, claiming the question of Jewish civil rights was moot because the Protestants were for all intents and purposes Jews themselves. The selling out of Christ, the tucking away of god in heaven, the death of ‘god’ on Earth, dovetailed with the fall of monarchs and the rise of nation-gods, the general commodity fetish, and the demoralizing worship of money. It takes an economic determinist to know one. Nonetheless, scientific materialism is a spiritual or mental form, and, like Luther, we progress by aid of linguistic stretching, from doing our natural duty on the privy in the tower to the most sublime considerations thereupon.

Burke does not condemn casuistic stretching; to do so would bring the progress of history to a halt. It is an underlying dialectical process at the very crux of existence and being, a critical juncture for which we should ‘enunciate a methodology’ rather than try to eliminate it. That is, we should be conscious of ‘casuistic stretching’, and control it for the good of everyone concerned.

Now the legal stretching of the Jewish law is represented by the Midrash and the Mishnah, bodies of Jewish law derived from oral tradition. The Midrash (‘Exposition’ or ‘Investigation’) is deductive: the scholars begin with scriptural law and deduce applications to present cases therefrom; the stretching process often involves a considerable amount of twisting. Besides that ‘Halakha’ (legal statement) content, the Midrash also includes edifying homilies and stories called the ‘Haggada.’ On the other hand, the Mishnah (‘Teaching’ or ‘Repetition’), employs the inductive method: the scholars consider the case and induce general principles, rarely referring to particular scripture, and render a finding in accord with their principles. The Mishnah, then, is separate from the Midrash, but the Mishnah often quotes the Midrash.

The Mishnah as we know it was written down along with commentary, called the Gemara, during the third century of the Common Era. Mishnah plus Gemara (rabbinical teachings subsequent to the destruction of the Second Temple) constitutes the Talmud. Other writings believed to be recordings of old oral law or mishnah have been found, dating a century or so prior to the appearance of Jesus Christ. Of course oral traditions preceded the invention of writing. Some rabbis trace the Mishnah back to Moses. Other scholars attribute it to Ezra the scribe and his contemporaries, who returned from the Babylonian exile and built the Second Temple: this thesis involves the rise of a scholarly elite at the time of the Maccabean Revolt, the Pharisees, in contradistinction to the Sadducean priesthood purportedly descended from Sadoc, the chief priest of King David. Since the oral law was not written down then, there is a great deal of conjecture and controversy appended thereto as to what relation it might have to the Mishnah in the Talmud—the Talmud literally saved the Jewish culture after the revolts and the ensuing Roman destruction.

Many laws appearing in the Mishnah are not referred to or authorized by the Pentateuch. No provisions are made in the Pentateuch for the Jewish court known as the Bet Din. The Pentateuch does not dictate when the Shema (daily prayers) should be read or that it should be read at all. Prayers, the marriage contract, the ritual reading of Esther and the Pentateuch and the Prophets, are not mandated. It knows nothing of a New Year, or of interrogating witnesses prior to proclaiming the New Moon. There is no Pentateuchal warrant for the Mishnaic procedures in respect to Yom Kippur. The core teaching of the Mishnah is the dogma of the resurrection and the world to come, yet we do not find that in the Pentateuch, and if we insist that resurrection and the hereafter is not in the Pentateuch, the Pharisees can rightfully exclude us from the world to come in case it does exist, therefore the Oral Torah is superior to the Written Torah. And we have only mentioned a few discrepancies the rabbis will be glad to reconcile for us after consulting the Talmud.

Daniel Jeremy Silver, in The Story of Scripture, From Oral Tradition to the Written Word (1990), identifies the Talmud as “Israel’s Second Scripture…. The Mishnah quickly became the foundation stone of a reshaped Torah tradition.” According to Silver, the Mishnah structure was new, and set forth on the authority of the rabbis alone formulas not in the Pentateuch.

“Everyone admits that the Mishnah represents something new under the Jewish sun, but the rabbis would have argued that things have not been so much changed as reorganized, a matter more of style than of substance. Laws supplementing the written Torah had existed since Sinai, and the Tannaiam (teachers of the Mishna) believed they had merely drawn together what had always been present. Religious reformers almost always claim that they are not breaking new ground but going back to the original revelations and providing a fuller understanding of it.”

Silver quotes the Mishnah: “R. Zeria said in the name of R. Yohanan: ‘If you come across a Halakha (a statement of God’s law by the rabbis) and if you do not know its scriptural source, do not set it aside for many laws were dictated to Moses on Sinai (independently of Scripture) and all of them are embodied in the Mishnah” (j. Hag. 1:8; j. Peah 2-4)

On the other hand, Ellis Rivkin, in A Hidden Revolution, supports the rabbis who argue for an older origin of the Mishnah. He posits that, during the Maccabean Revolt, the scribes deliberately usurped power from the Aaronite line of high priests (Aaron, Eleazar, Phinehas, Zadok) using every means at hand, including segments of the Written Torah cited out of context, to support the elevation of Oral Law over Written Law, and the Pharisaic scholarly elite over the Sadducean priests.

Due to the lack of convincing evidence, we are left to speculate on whether we have old or new wine in our new skin. We turn to The Jews, Their History, Culture, and Religion, edited by Louis Finkelstein, (1949) for a further explanation of the process of casuistic stretching, wherein Gilbert Murray’s study of Greek religion is quoted:

“When change does come and is consciously felt we may notice a significant fact about it. It does not announce itself as what it was, a new thing in the world. It professes to be a revival, or rather an emphatic realization, of something very old…. This claim of a new thing to be old is, in varying degrees, a common characteristic of great movements. The Reformation professed to be a return to the Bible…. The tendency is due in part to the almost insuperable difficulty of really inventing a new word to denote a new thing. It is so much easier to take an existing word, especially a famous word with fine associations, and twist it into a new sense.”

Not only did the Mishnaic scholars twist the meanings of old words into new meanings, they cited segments of the Pentateuch out of context, invented new laws, devised a special Mishnaic Hebrew dialect that included Persian and Greeks words, and coined technical terms unheard of in the Written Torah. And they did not say, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

The liberal application of the Mishnaic law to penal cases seems to give the lie to the strict Pentateuch. Circumstantial evidence is not allowed by the Mishnah. There must be two witnesses to the crime, and those witnesses cannot be relatives: Moses and Aaron would be disqualified as witnesses. The witnesses must give a warning to the person about to commit a crime, and that warning is invalid if given more than a few seconds prior to the crime: the time it takes to say, “Peace be upon you, my teacher, my master.” For the warning to be valid the potential criminal must acknowledge the warning and indicate he or she is intentionally ignoring it. And that is not all.

How absurd! Casuistic stretching must be called upon if we are to make any sense of it at all. How is this absurdity explained today?

Aaron Kirschenbaum, in Jewish Law and Legal Theory (1994) states: “The impracticality of the classical Jewish law and its helplessness in coping with social problems involving crime and punishment are proverbial.” He quotes the view of the fourteenth-century rabbi, Nissim of Gerondi (the Ran), that “the non-rational commandments” of the Torah “have nothing to do with maintaining the political stability of society—they have their justification solely in bringing down the Divine Effulgence… The civil laws of the Torah are directed more to that elevated purpose than to the maintenance of our society, for this latter purpose could be achieved by the king whom we shall appoint over us.”

Kirschenbaum clarifies the medieval position: “Thus, the king’s administration of criminal justice is practical in nature, created to cope with the everyday ordering of society; it is parallel to the criminal codes of other nations. But the classical code is above considerations of societal utility. ‘Inherently just’, it is nothing less than a body of ritual whose mystical effect is to bring down the Divine Effulgence upon the Chosen People. Indeed the criminal code of Scripture is no less a ritual than the sacrificial offerings of the Holy Temple and, like them, is no-pragmatic in purpose and non-utilitarian in nature….”

Furthermore, “The rabbis of the Talmud and their medieval successors regarded the criminal law of the Torah as primarily a mighty instrument of character training, religious indoctrination and spiritual edification, and only secondarily (and sometimes not at all) as of practical import.” Moreover, as far as the teachers were concerned, “Teaching was uppermost in the mind of the divine legislator, the penalties of minor significance…. Punishment was thus rarely meted out, but the serious nature of the infraction was duly impressed on the people.”

He goes on to say that, when the situation got out of hand and punishment was warranted, the king’s law was exercised. Besides, the rabbinical courts had sufficient emergency provisions in the Talmud to deal with exigencies. Finally, there was always God’s punishment to count on.

Some authorities believe the absurd conditions set forth in the Mishnah alongside descriptions of the manner of executions, say, the pouring of molten lead down the criminal’s throat while being careful not to hurt his neck while pulling it backward, are merely the pipe dreams of rabbis who had no penal authority. That is, since the Romans took away the Sanhedrin’s jurisdiction over capital crimes, the so-called obsolescence of capital punishment was merely utopian wish fulfillment, perhaps projected in memory of large numbers of Jews being slaughtered by the Romans. Furthermore, testimony exists in the New Testament that the Sanhedrin, when it was in session, was executing people right and left. Even in the Mishnah we have a dissenting opinion from a rabbi who said he saw a criminal one day and stood on his grave the next.

However, Professor Kirschenbaum believes the supposed obsolescence of capital punishment was not merely a later, ‘utopian’ fiction, but a longstanding reality. In favor of his hypothesis, he recalls a member of the Tannaiam, Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph (50-132), who inspired the rebel, Bar Kokhba, to revolt. Akiva was an illiterate shepherd who was encouraged by his beautiful wife Rachel to study the Torah at the late age of 40. In short order, Akiva became the most prominent Tanna and Jewish leader of his day. He advocated democratic procedures among the scholars, urging them to rely on majority decision rather than personal authority, and was responsible for the canonization of some of the books of the Hebrew Bible. When he was tortured by his executioners for fomenting rebellion, he recited the ‘Shema’ calmly without sign of pain. When asked by a Roman if he was a magician, he replied, “I am not a magician, but I rejoice at the opportunity now given to me to love my God with my life.” Then he uttered “One” (god) and died.

It was Rabbi Akiva, who, together with his colleague Rabbi Tarfon, made the famous declaration that, by ingenious tactics in the examination of witnesses, he would abolish capital punishment. Kirschenbaum, in his article, ‘The Role of Punishment in Jewish Criminal Law,’ asks how those pious rabbis could say such a thing, since they of all people knew of the biblical injunction, “and he shall surely die.” “What are we to make of all this?” asks Kirschenbaum. “The explanation usually proffered for the ‘romanticism’ that characterizes the rabbinic (i.e. tannaitic) penology is the historical setting in which the Rabbis found themselves. The Jewish community had been deprived of its jurisdiction over criminal matters approximately one hundred years before Akiva and his colleague made their famous declaration. Hence, since ‘the dirty work’ of criminal punishment was in the hands of the Roman authorities, or so the argument goes, these rabbis could allow themselves the luxury of irresponsibility in matters of law and order.

“This explanation, however, ignores the great piety of the Rabbis and their extreme conservatism when it came to preserving traditional teachings. It also ignores the feverish activity with which R. Akiva sought to achieve the restoration of Jewish independence. Surely, had he succeeded he could ill-afford the luxury of irresponsibility in matters of law and order.”

Perhaps the archeologists will uncover more evidence in favor of the Jew’s virtual abolition of the death penalty. We return to the jurisprudence of the question in Rabbi Benjamin Blech’s Understanding Judaism, The Basics of Deed and Creed (1991). He quotes the written law:

‘And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’ (Exodus 21:15)

“Isn’t it obvious that Judaism is a strong proponent of the death penalty? What needs to be addressed is the almost incredible contradiction to this view, which is found throughout the Talmud…. There is a Mishnah that teaches us: ‘A Sanhedrin that issues a death sentence once in seven years is considered a murderous court. Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah said it is a murderous court if it pronounced a death sentence once in seventy years.’ (Makot 7a) How could the Sages call a Sanhedrin that carries out the will of God a ‘murderous court’? If the Torah says ‘yes,’ how could the Mishnah say ‘no’?”

Good question. Rabbi Blech instructs us to consider the opening verse of Exodus in order to understand the apparent contradiction and to have insight into the purpose of Jewish law: “And these are the ordinances which you will set before them.” (Exodus 21:1)

“Legal systems,” advised Rabbi Blech, “are set up to tell us what to do after crimes have been committed…. Every Jew must know the law because ‘These are the ordinances which you shall set before them’—before, not after. Jewish law is meant to be studied by everyone because the essence of Jewish law is preventative rather than punitive.”

Our rabbi admits that the Torah often states ‘mot yumat’, and that is usually translated, ‘He shall die’, but he says the proper translation is ‘He should die,’ because “that is what he deserves. But God does not really want him to be executed.” Rather, the purpose of the severe injunctions of the Written Law is educative:

“Judaism found a remarkable alternative to capital punishment. Indeed, gather the people into the town square…. Let the people hear the words of God Himself. He who does such and such shall surely be put to death. Imagine a child who from the earliest days has heard in the name of the Almighty that cursing or smiting parents is a capital offense. Whoever does these things should die. Hard to imagine that such a child would treat lightly the commission of these offenses.” Moreover, the goal of knowing these laws “is not that they know legal consequences, but rather than legal consequences – absorbed almost with mother’s milk and continuously part of our spiritual nourishment – will, we hope, ensure that our people are immunized against perpetrating any of those acts we have so carefully studied.” As for the death penalty, yes, it is in the Torah, “but it is only there to make us aware of how much we ought to make us aware of how much God detests every crime – and therefore how much we ought to make certain to avoid them.”

The Talmud allows emergency measures to be taken against criminals; however, Rabbi Blech believes that a world vaccinated with the teachings of the Torah would not require emergency measures since it would not sink into the “depraved depths of our days.”

Now what is the moral of our controversial story about the development of the law? A moral education will result in a moral society.

The mores of cultures are said to be relative; almost any sort of behavior can be mandated or prohibited according to the various folkways people embark on. But most of us believe human beings despite their differences have a common nature best preserved if certain rules of behavior are observed. For example, almost all cultures believe children should respect their parents. Children had better believe it, they had better learn to love or else. And since children will get out of hand, especially when their parents, because of love or neglect, are too liberal, a commandment might be posted in every home enjoining all children to respect their parents or else. Or else be dragged out of the house and stoned to death. When the child learns to read, this commandment would be in his first grammar book. Nevertheless, children will revolt; they will fight the angel of the Lord just as Jacob did.

Yes, the naive individual would have god-like freedom from all restraints. And it is that will to lawlessness that empowers the society at large to love itself, to protect that rebellious god from total destruction by his kind, thus he is sheltered by the universal human god. Otherwise there would be no god in the form of man. The world does not need humankind, and can do very well without us, but our gods need us. We do our best to express the law written in our existence, but our words, whether spoken or written, shall never be that perfect Being.


Stretching the Truth for The Terrorist Almighty

Painting by Darwin Leon





May the Terrorist Almighty forgive the Devil’s Advocate, for the Devil loves the Terrorist Almighty most of all. The Manifesto of the Devil’s Advocate presented Beloved David as a liar, thief and mass murderer. David’s god is identified as the Almighty Abusive Father of Terrorism, a terrible model emulated to this very day by those Judeo-Christians who project their vices upon him; vices that are, with all due respect to our respective races and creeds, those of the entire human race. However, notwithstanding the protests of protestant conservatives, and despite the liberal’s occasional backsliding on the conservative slime into the loathsome muck, the creative process is a progressive evolution; hence history is constantly being rewritten to bring history up to speed/

According to certain Talmudic revisionists, King David allegedly said, “This nation (Israel) is distinguished by three characteristics: They are merciful, bashful, and benevolent.” (Yevamot 79a). As for David’s god, the phrase ‘merciful and gracious God’ does appear nine times in the Bible, therefore there is some justification for loving revisionism when it comes to the Terrorist Almighty and those who fear him or else doom, and even then doom. As we have seen from the Psalms attributed to David, crushed people are closest to his god, and his god helps him crush enemies for good measure:

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect… I pursued my enemies and crushed them… I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I pounded them and trampled them like mud in the streets…” (2 Samuel 22:33-43). Yet his god is merciful to Jews: “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let us fall into the hands of men.” (2 Samuel 24-14). Indeed!

Fellow Jews must not be hated in any event: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but have your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

From such glimmers of mercy in the Old Text, history advances to universal love. Hillel the Great (b. 70 B.C.E.), founder of the lenient school which accommodates the strict law to current progress, reportedly said, “Whatever is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man; this is the whole law; the rest is commentary.”

Yes, human history advances. If it were not an advance, history would be irrelevant, of no more significance to us than the virtually infinite number of grains of sand in the desert is to a camel in want of water. Then the sacred scriptures, made sacred because man is endowed with progressive reason, would serve us better as cooking fuel than as enlightening reading material. And on the last day of the regression to the original golden age, man would no longer be man whose essence is ‘ma’, or he who “measures out” thought or conceives conceptions after his mother issues him forth; he would instead be an innocent beast again, a brute beyond the moral or thoughtful distinction of good and evil. Thank God then for the Devil in Paradise, or vice versa, for without the dialectic of the sacred Adversaries, we might be brutal chimpanzees, or better yet, pacifically inclined bonobos, for whom sexual intercourse is a mere handshake, so to speak.

In any case we should take history in the context of its times and circumstances. Crude times have crude gods. The Devil’s Advocate took evil out of context, ignoring the good he secretly loves. Wherever evil is found, there some good is also located, wherefore there would be no good god without the Devil. Furthermore, present and future good is the progress from prior evils which were goods at the time. But now the Devil would persuade us that the archaic god is the Devil himself by illuminating the creator-god’s destructive aspect. But we should keep in mind that the Devil or Satan loves his god above all; he refuses to love man, hence he is the one and only truly faithful monotheist. The Devil does not slander the true god, he denounces the faults human beings project onto their false idol. Indeed, his hidden love for god is hate-based love: he must have something to hate in order to love something else; he hates man to love god; he hates others and their kind in order to love himself and his kind; he loves himself to hate himself; in his self-consciousness he is a self-negating nihilist who has faith in Nothing.

We may trace the Devil’s diabolical development in the psychological genesis of the individual human being: he falls from the womb with an oceanic feeling of omnipotence but is soon confronted with the resistance against which he righteously rages when he does not have his way; but when his hate gets him nowhere or worse in the face of overwhelming forces, his fear teaches him to love the world in order to save himself from the struggle defining him. In other words, human life is a willing relation between a would-be omnipotent subject and its natural object, the world that includes other omnipotent subjects with whom compromises must be made in order to survive. In plain language, the rule is simple: love people and their god or get your ass kicked – the Devil is god’s Golden Ass.

In his personal capacity the almighty Jewish lord is not only violent and abusive: he is loving, forgiving, merciful, charitable; and his people aspired to his virtues and thought they deserved the abuse as punishment. The awesome Hebrew god certainly had a violent self-loving disposition, but that violence was tempered by other-love; love at first for “his” tribe, then his nation, and then for all who obey a few commandments whether they are obeyed in his name or not. Judaism, in contradistinction to other world religions, believes that a non-Jew who obeys the seven commandments given to Noah shall attain heaven whether or not he believes in the Torah. That “righteous Gentile” (1) believes in one god, not necessarily Jewish, (2) establishes courts of law, (3) does not steal, (4) does not commit adultery, (5) does not worship idols, (6) does not curse god, (7) does not eat certain parts of animals. Therefore the Jew has no ‘altruistic’ need to proselytize in order to ‘save’ Gentiles. The Devil’s Advocate made much of the Jewish god’s hateful personal characteristics. This advocate is really a Persian or Christian advocate, since Jews recognize that their god is fully responsible for both good and evil. In any case, Satan’s complaint really appertains to man’s faults, for the fallen angel loves his god. Be that as it may, Judaism’s god is ineffable and cannot really be defined by language or properly denoted to by means of any particular form or name. The most that can be said is “I AM.” The “He” is an anthropomorphic figure of speech cited by way of example for personal convenience, But no person can be YHWH; even posing that position would be a slanderous and blasphemous imposition, Jesus being a case in point. Neither could Jesus be the Messiah, for Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of universal peace and universal recognition of one god, hence he was a “false” prophet.

Now we can employ the ambiguity and hypocrisy of the ancient texts for good or ill, or we can simply discard them as hopelessly contradictory. The Jews have taken some ancient provisions literally, as immutable traditions; for instance, the prohibition against eating “unclean” pork is observed even though modern science declares pork to be safe for consumption if properly prepared. But the doctrine of immutability does not apply to moral perceptions. Morality evolves or improves over time. The prophets protested many of the old injunctions; for example, Ezekiel (18:4) annulled the barbaric biblical doctrine (Exod. 20:5) prescribing punishment of children for the sins of their fathers – it appears the remnants of the Canaanites and other Palestinian descendents of Noah have been excepted from the annulment. Children in ancient Jewish schools were encouraged by corporeal punishment to ask questions, to participate in critical discussion of the Torah, and to give answers accordingly. Down through the centuries the rabbis and scholars kept up the debate over the right practice of morality; Jews are “of this world”, hence good works are the way to love one’s neighbors and to beautify and glorify god. To condemn the Jews because of the barbaric incidents recorded in their ancient history would be to condemn the entire human race along with a culture considered by many objective observers to be morally and intellectually superior to any Western culture; it is a culture that should be more famed for its love than infamous for its hate; it is an Eastern culture that may have done more to inspire Western civilization than the ancient Greeks. If only Jews could love others more than they love their own brothers, perhaps the Messiah would return pacific instead of militant, and Earth would be the temple of universal peace.

Yet love alone is not the panacea we want but is rather like Pandora’s Box – Pandora the All-Giver let loose from her amphora all ills upon the world but the one deemed to be the best ill of all because it made the rest tolerable and induced humankind to expect more than its foolish lot may obtain; that is, Hope. To be-lieve is to be-love: In fact the ancients found love to be the cause of many ills including madness, and therefore set reason against it as a restraint. But reason was all too often a dog tied behind love’s cart. When reason did take the lead from time to time, it received a rather bad name for killing love, and its detractors plead ignorance as a religious virtue. On the other hand, dogmatic skeptics suspended judgment and claimed that the ignorance of ultimate matters obtained by the reasoning power is a secular instead of a religious virtue. Love moves us to want All or Nothing, liberty or death, which is to say the same thing.

What is love? Love, for example, is your life, which by all means would endure forever if it could. Love is not fond of any impediment to the satisfaction of desire. On the whole love wants absolute freedom, but in individuals it craves particulars, that the individual may persist as a particular individual. Thus it is said that he who loves all loves nothing in the incomprehensible identity of Being and Nothing, Creation and Destruction. He who loves everybody loves nobody. Reason may restrain the affections and divert attention from particulars towards the abstract universal; the ultimate diversion to the unknown may be called the love of god universal, an operation some thinkers have identified with an instinctive counter-will or death instinct unconsciously tending to the dissolution of the willing, suffering, divided in-divid-ual. Hence those who love god the most may seem to hate the world and to love death so much that they are moved to devote their lives preparing for death instead of loving the particulars of life. In fact, the loving holy man may be viewed from the antipathetic perspective as the most arrogant and hateful man of all men.

In any case it seems that love and hate are Siamese twins, and that gods or demons who preach one to the exclusion of the other are fools or fanatics. Jews for example have certainly evolved, but not to blind, unconditional love. Love without law is perverse and immoral. The moral majority hates evils and loves goods, whatever they might be. Ecclesiastes 3:8 informs us that there is a time for everything including war and hate. The Talmud (Taanit 76) allows us to denounce arrogant people as evil and to hate them. Psalm 139:21-22 sets this tone to set the universal above its inimical particulars: “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them. I count them as my enemies.” The Talmud (Pasachim 113b) allows us to hate sinners. Furthermore, the Talmud (Yoma 22b) specifies that any Torah scholar who does not take revenge is not a real Torah scholar. After all, to defame the Torah is blasphemy. As for the Leviticus injunction against revenge, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge,” the Talmudic scholars point out that the injunction appertains only to Jews, because the vengeance of Jew against Jew would be an assault upon one’s own body, which is absurd. However, Numbers 25:19 clearly states, “The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.” But the courts took over capital punishment, and the death penalty was rarely handed down. Death, by the way, was prescribed for violation of any of the Commandments; but kids, for example, were rarely dragged to the gate and stoned to death for disobeying their parents. Moreover, the biblical “an eye for an eye” was seldom enforced in the courts; damages were paid in the form of money or goods instead of an eye.

Returning to our enemies, whom we should not hate by rejoicing at their fall, the Mishnah explains that we should not hate them at the exact moment of their fall, but we can hate them before the fall and we can be happy they fell after they have fallen. Nonetheless, it is all right to rejoice at the moment when non-Jewish enemies fall. We note that most of the Judeo-Christian world, not to mention a goodly portion of Islam, exulted at the thud of Saddam Hussein’s body made at the end of the rope. On the subject of hating sinners, we learn Jewish sinners are only hated in order to get them to repent.

We might ignore the nitpicking casuistry which excuses deeds we originally thought were prohibited, and sum up by simply saying it is quite alright to hate evil people. But no, we need casuistic stretching to refine the differences between right and wrong and to bridge the gap between good and evil. We would introduce principles suiting our present purposes while seemingly remaining faithful to the old principles. For example, after careful consideration of the texts, we might argue that missionaries should be hated because converting a Jew is one way to murder him; therefore, it stands to reason that missionaries are murderers. We are commanded to stone murderers to death, but that is carrying the metaphor too far. Neither do we take the commandments literally and stone to death all those who do not observe the Sabbath, who steal, blaspheme, commit perjury, covet wives and other property, have some god before the almighty god, worship idols, commit adultery, dishonors parents, and who actually murders someone. In fact, if only we would give ourselves greater latitude and use our freedom to stretch the old narrow truths far enough, even to the breaking point in some cases, the world might be a much better place to live in. Thus sayeth the Devil’s Advocate.


Shinwa Dance Myth

Shinwa Tree

Interpretation of a Dance Myth
Created and Choreographed by Keiko Fujii
by David Arthur Walters


It is the year 3,000 AD. A two-hundred-year-old man is telling some children a story that has been handed down for many generations as a myth about events that had happened in Japan over a thousand years before, some time after World War II.

“On the first day of spring, in the countryside near Ashiya, there was once a innocent young girl who was dancing with the cherry trees at the edge of a lovely meadow. She was glad because the spring that she had longed for had finally begun. As she danced, she was singing and talking to the trees, the birds and the cherry blossoms in sign language, for she had lost her voice because of a terrible fever she had suffered as a baby. Losing her voice had also made her very shy. When other people came near the meadow, she would run and hide until they had passed by.

In fact, there were so many people interrupting her on this first day of spring that she decided to go home and return the next day. “As the girl was playing in the meadow on the next day, she was surprised by three young ruffians who snuck up behind her and surrounded her. At first, they just teased her, but then the bullies began to get rough. One of the boys started to break off a branch of the girl’s favorite cherry tree. She tried to stop the boy from hurting the tree she loved, but he finally managed to break off the branch. He began to beat the tree with it just to upset her. She placed herself between the bully and the tree to protect it, but he then struck her repeatedly with the branch, knocking her down. The boys saw that she was badly injured, so they decided to run away, leaving the girl for dead, lying on the ground at the foot of the tree with cherry petals blowing around her, and clutching to her breast the branch she had been beaten with.

“At the end of Autumn, one hundred years later, a party of three men had a very strange experience. They were tourists attending the Buddhist celebration of Shakya Muni in Saga, Kyoto. They had decided to view the maple leaves, which were changing color, on their walk home. It unexpectedly got dark as a cold blanket of fog and drizzle covered them. They became quite confused and began to shiver in the cold. But a woman appeared and told them that they could stay at her house until the next day.

“The tourist felt warm and welcome in the nice woman’s old house, especially after they had feasted and drank plenty of Sake. Later in the evening, the woman told them she was going up the mountain to get some good firewood to make sure her guests kept warm all night, She refused to let them help her, but she made them all promise not to go into the woodshed behind the house, or even to look into it, while she was gone.

“After she left, one of her guests became very curious, wondering why the nice old lady would have asked them to stay out of the woodshed. He asked his friends to go with him and take a look into it. They refused and warned him not to break his promise. But when they had fallen asleep, he decided to sneak out and peek into the woodshed anyway.

“The curious tourist went to the shed and slid open its door. He heard weak moans coming from inside. He hesitated, then stepped slowly into the shed. What he saw there was a vision of Hell. The shed was filled with zombies who were only barely alive, almost too dead to move except to fall and stagger and wriggle around the best they could with their rotten bodies all twisted out of shape. Many of them were missing one arm. Some of them were sticking their hands into horrible gaping wounds on their bodies. Many of their faces looked like they had been smashed with a club, with noses and teeth badly broken, swollen cheeks, bloody and broken eye sockets, some with eyes missing, and mouths and jaws caved in. The zombies seemed to be begging the frightened tourist for some life.

“Well, the tourist was paralyzed with fright. His knees weakened and he had to lie down on the floor. But after a moment he raised his head and saw a strange light coming from the corner of the shed. He felt attracted to the light, crawled towards it, struggled to his feet, and saw that the light was coming from a coffin made of clear glass. A girl was laid out inside the coffin. Some strange power pulled the man towards her. He looked all over her body for some sign of life. He noticed that she was clutching a cherry tree branch, holding it close to her bosom.

“The curious tourist then got control of himself and was able to run out of the woodshed and back into the house, where he woke up his friends and shouted that he must have found a witch’s den in the shed. Of course, they did not believe him, so they went out to see for themselves. Sure enough, there were the zombies, the walking-dead people, in a living Hell, just as he had told his friends.

“At that very moment, the nice old lady appeared. When she caught them in the woodshed, she became angry and her body changed shape, taking the form of a terrible witch who was one-half woman and one-half spider. This ugly monster blamed the three men for breaking their promise not to look into the woodshed, and she promised to kill them then and there.

“The poor tourists fought to get away. The witch’s hair had turned into threads that spiders use to trap their food alive, and she threw those strings of spider hair towards the men, trapping the curious one first. As she began to choke him with her hair, the other two men escaped, scrambling over each other to get away. When she started after them, the curious one got away, and they all disappeared into the woods outside. She screamed after them that she would get them all someday soon. Then she changed back into an ordinary woman.

“The woman was really someone who was very sad and angry about how good changes into bad in the world. She had warned the three tourists not to look into the woodshed because the secret of her loneliness was inside, a secret she wanted to protect forever.

“After all that had happened, a fine snow started to fall. The woman began dancing slowly with the snow. She wanted to tell a story with her dance, the sad story of karma. But as she danced, the snow and her thinking became deeper, and she became young again, just like a girl dancing and whirling with the petals of cherry blossoms.”