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...and that it is very, very old, indeed, and deeply rooted, way back in the 5th century--the original sin of the Church-as-institution.
It was a specific crime that led to all the others and that sent the Church down the wrong road into woman-hatred from which it has never recovered.
In the 5th century, a woman named Hypatia, a mathematician and philosopher, who was the beloved teacher of bishops and other clergy, was skinned alive on the streets of Alexandria by a mob of monks under the direction of a very evil man, Bishop Cyril, who went on to cause a riot and sword fights at a Church synod over the weird subject of the virginity of Jesus' mother. The man was sick, but became a "Father of the Church"--the first to call himself a "patriarch"--and was later canonized as a "saint," by which the Church means that he is in Heaven with God.
What had Hypatia done? She was a brilliant, powerful and highly respected figure. She was a Pagan but that does not explain the horror of her death at the hands of allegedly 'christian' monks. Alexandria was famous for its learning and its tolerance of all religions, philosophies and cultures. It was a haven for the Jews, especially the Alexandria Library, when she headed at that time. She was friends with Orestes, the Roman governor of Alexander. Like the rightwing of today in the U.S, Cyril was trying to undermine the civil government and subject it to Church rule. He sent his mobs against the Jews, confiscated their property and drove them out of Alexandria. Orestes opposed him, and they clashed several times. But neither does this explain the particular horror of Hypatia's murder.
Skinning alive in those days was intended to prevent the soul from going to Heaven. It was worse than death. It was eternal damnation.
Why did Hypatia merit eternal damnation, in this truly terrible form of murder? (--not to mention how Cyril ended up presumed into Heaven by Church "sainthood"; he is called Saint Cyril to this day.)
None of her works survived the crumbling of the Roman Empire. Probably they were burned. (Cyril's monks also attacked the Library.) An index indicates that she wrote several mathematical works. The only thing that remains are the letters of Bishop Sinesius of Ptolemais TO Hypatia. Sinesius had been her pupil and worshiped her. How is it that a Christian bishop considered Pagan Hypatia to be his greatest teacher? Interesting question.
There are hints in his letters to her (and also in certain other events that occurred around that time) that what she may have been embarked upon was peace between, and possibly even a synthesis of, Pagan and Christian teachings--the wedding of Pagan learning (which, in Hypatia's case, was embedded in highly ethical and high-minded neoplatonism) and Jesus' message of love for all, across tribal, religious and class lines.
Another feature of Paganism is worship of the Goddess--a particular target of "Fathers of the Church" like Cyril who took control of Church doctrine, or rather, established that there would be Church doctrine--rigid doctrine from which no one was permitted to deviate. This notion gained ascendance with the cementing of the Church with the power of the State, around the same time. One doctrine (all others anathematized), one Church, enforced by the brutal powers of king and emperor, with particular emphasis on casting out any group, leader or set of ideas that included the Goddess (such as the Christian neoplatonists of the time--the Gnostics) or anything remotely connected to the Goddess (such as the nature worship of the Pelagian Christians) or anything human (such as Jesus being born of a normal mother).
What seems to have seized this sick man Cyril's mind was loathing of women. He is the main force of that era for infecting the Church with this original sin. Jesus didn't hate or loathe women. In fact, in the Gnostic gospels he basically designates Mary Magdalen as head of the apostles. He says she is the only one of them who really understands his teaching. Cyril and his ilk burned those gospels, and somebody during that era grabbed a whole bunch of them, in willy-nilly fashion, as if in a hurry, and buried them in a cave in sealed jars in a desert near Alexandria (where they remained, undiscovered, until the 20th century). So there was obviously an underground movement, at the time--the same period as Hypatia's death--to preserve that which the Cyrils of the newly doctrine-ridden Church were trying to extinguish.
There is an underground Church that runs all through Church history--driven underground by people like Cyril--in which there is no such conflict with half the human race and no such loathing of women and rejection of the Goddess. This is the real Church--the Church of the People, not of the Prelates; the Church of the washing of feet, not the swishing of red robes and the crowning of kings. The washing of feet is a womanly act, a motherly act, a loving act. In doing it, Jesus made himself like a woman and made women (who were often the servants performing tasks like this) equal.
The male hierarchy, with its 1,500 years of misogyny dating back to "Saint' Cyril, turned that act into yet another exclusive male ritual. Pope Francis seems to have sensed its true origin and meaning. I doubt that this will result in reversal of the misogyny of Church doctrine or policy any time soon but it might start the process of bringing the underground Church--the real Church--aboveground. I think that Hypatia was an early activist in that underground Church, earnestly trying to direct bishops and monks onto a higher path of learning and tolerance, and she paid for it by an intolerant, woman-hating dogmatist trying to destroy her very soul, with the particular torture that he subjected her to.
To cleanse such a profound sin will take time. We obviously have quite a lot of sick male descendants of Cyril, quite abominably in positions of religious and moral authority. There is no easy cure for this. But I have to say that symbolism is a good way to begin. Symbols and symbolic acts can be very powerful in bringing about the deep, psychic change that is needed to overcome such a history of error, sin and crime. These men--bishops, cardinals, many priests--are deeply attached to the notion of their superiority--their primacy before God, their self-worship. They are also very, VERY attached to symbols, and need the help of symbols to overcome it. Maybe Pope Francis was intentional in this, or maybe only intuitively or dimly aware of it. Hard to say. But he seems to have good instincts.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Fri Mar 29, 2013, 05:04 AM (7 replies)
Very good article. I'm quoting its opening and its conclusion. It's a long article, well worth reading...
MARCH 06, 2013
Not One Step Backward, Ni Un Paso Atrás
Preparing for a Post-Chávez Venezuela
by GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER
Hugo Chávez is no more, and yet the symbolic importance of the Venezuelan President that exceeded his physical persona in life, providing a condensation point around which popular struggles coalesced, will inevitably continue to function long after his death. It’s not for nothing that the words of the great revolutionary folk singer Alí Primera are on the tip of many tongues:
Los que mueren por la vida
no pueden llamarse muertos
Those who die for life
cannot be called dead.
In 1959, Frantz Fanon declared the Algerian Revolution irreversible, despite the fact that the country would not gain formal independence for another three years. Studying closely the transformation of Algerian culture during the course of the struggle and the creation of what he called a “new humanity,” Fanon was certain that a point of no return had been reached, writing that:
“An army can at any time reconquer the ground lost, but how can the inferiority complex, the fear and the despair of the past be reimplanted in the consciousness of the people?”
In revolution, there are no guarantees, and there’s no saying that the historical dialectic cannot be bent back upon itself, beaten and bloody. The point is simply that for the forces of reaction to do so will be no easy task. Long ago, the Venezuelan people stood up, and it is difficult if not impossible to tell a people on their feet to get back down on their knees.
George Ciccariello-Maher, teaches political theory at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, May 2013), and can be reached at gjcm(at)drexel.edu.
I don't entirely agree with the following article, but its passion is so extraordinary and so heartfelt, that it surely deserves to be passed along. It likely expresses the feelings of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have poured into the streets to mourn Chavez, and many people around the world who received the gift of hope from the Bolivarian Revolution.
I agree that Chavez was a great leader--and probably the greatest in the world, in this era--but I believe that the Venezuelan people are the chief actors in the Bolivarian Revolution and that it was THEIR actions in re-writing their constitution, in electing Chavez, in rescuing Chavez from the Bush Junta-supported coup, in reelecting Chavez--in correctly reading the Corporate anti-Chavez propaganda and ignoring it, and so much else--including their creation of an honest, transparent election system (which Jimmy Carter recently called "the best in the world") and their awesome grass roots organization--that empowered Chavez to implement a "New Deal"-type revolution for Venezuela.
We must beware of deification of Chavez because the opposite of a god is a demon--and Chavez haters were and are good at playing that game. They created a demon--a bogeyman "dictator" to knock down. Both sides of the god/demon notion are phantoms. Chavez was neither god nor demon--he was just a man with certain great qualities including charisma and luck that enabled him to ride the crest of a profound revolution and help direct it, in so far as such great political waves, comprised of so many people and actions, can be directed. It's not only a mistake to equate the man with the revolution--as if it could not have occurred without him--it leads to wrong predictions. Venezuela's leftist democracy revolution was created by its people--a truth that the Corporate Media has tried so hard to obscure--and thus it is going to survive and even get stronger, and will likely spread farther than it already has, maybe, even to...here?
MARCH 06, 2013
Long Live Revolution...Damn It!
by ANDRE VLTCHEK
When we lose people that are indispensible to us, nothing may change on the surface: we are still walking, eating sleeping, working, even fighting. The void, the gaping hole is what dominates our hearts and our souls.
Yesterday, the President of Venezuela and one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of mankind – Hugo Chavez – passed away, and the world is still moving by inertia. Buildings did not collapse, continents did not sink, and the wars and misery ravaging many parts of the world did not stop.
Yet something changed. Three beautiful muses that have been inspiring so many millions all over the world, turned into widows, at least for one day or two. Their names are: Love, Faith and Hope.
Some ask: is it really wise to make an entire country, an entire revolution dependent, and reliant on one single man?
My answer is simple: people like Chavez are born infrequently, too rarely. It would be a historical anomaly for two giants of his size to live in the same period of time, in the same city, and even in the same country.
* * *
Yet his words and deeds were simple and pragmatic: poor people have to be housed, fed, educated and given medical care, and above all, they have to be armed with dignity. And the wealthy world, which became rich through plunder, colonial expansions and unmatchable brutality, has to stop terrorizing and looting; the countries of Europe and North America have to be forced to behave like members of the international community consisting of states with equal rights, instead of what they have been accustomed to for decades and centuries: a bunch of thugs living above the law.
Hugo Chavez was a man who appeared to come from a different era, where Western propaganda, indoctrination and surveillance had not yet broken the free spirit of men and women. He stood tall, spoke loudly and coherently, naming names, and pointing fingers. He was not afraid of his own people: he drank gallons of coffee and talked to them from the balcony of the Presidential Palace, and at street corners.
The following article captures one of the intangibles about Chavez's personality and leadership--he really loved to talk, and he said what he really thought--unusual in a politician--and he said it amiably and politely to most people and audiences, but sometimes spoke bluntly to the powerful and with exhilarating rudeness to oppressors. He must have been the most talkative president ever to hold office.
I really liked this quality about Chavez. He loved to communicate. And he seemed to have none of cloaking devices, slyness or masks of other politicians. He believed what he said. He said what he thought. And he had a lot of thoughts--he bubbled with ideas, and very much wanted others to understand his ideas and policies not passively but actively--to engage with him in the creation of social justice and democracy.
It's difficult to assess the importance of Chavez's talkativeness. I mean, a leader can be taciturn and still feed the poor and do other good things. I've never been to Venezuela but I've had reports that people talk politics a lot--street vendors, bus drivers, shopkeepers, any and all; some carry copies of the constitution in their pockets and pull them out and argue about that; it's "in the air" that ordinary people exchange political opinions and info, and have a right and duty to do so, and that what they say is meaningful and can have influence. Maybe that's the importance of Chavez the Talker--he opened up discussion of public affairs. Not only was change possible, but one and all had to argue out what the changes would be.
In addition to his jokes, his songs, his friendly demeanor and his bright smile, in casual conversation, he engaged the public frequently with serious matters of government, in extemporaneous lectures on his TV show, and in long speeches full of detail--not 'talking points" or "sound bites" or vague platitudes, but saying how things actually work and what a proposal actually means in the real world. His speech was straightforward and practical, like your Dad explaining to you how to mount a bicycle wheel and going through the tools you will need. Useful political speech. Not the blather we are used to from politicians.
Our leaders talk that way--practical, useful--to banksters and war profiteers. They don't talk to us that way. We get degraded, meaningless speech, for people who are not expected to be actors in public affairs, who don't have influence, whose opinions don't count. There you go. Chavez spoke to ordinary people as active participants in government whose opinions and actions matter a great deal. The kid trying to mount the bicycle wheel might get restless at his Dad's notions about tools, or his admonition to "read the manual," but would absorb some of it and eventually benefit in doing things on his own. Chavez wasn't particularly paternal or top-down in his speech, though. He just really, really wanted people to see how things work, now that they had a government working FOR them, now that, through his eyes, they could see it from the inside.
The Venezuelan people created their own revolution and demanded their "New Deal" and were gifted with a leader who was determined to do their will and anxious for them to understand the particulars and talked them up incessantly.
Maybe this is just a native quality of Venezuelans--political talkativeness--but, if so, Chavez was surely the top exemplar of it.
The Corporate Media accused Chavez of suppressing "free speech." Ha-ha-ha! What really bothered them, I think, was that street vendors had free speech and the government was paying attention to them, and not to the billionaire media moguls. Oh, yeah, there was RCTV and all that--long overdue denial of the right of coup to media monopolists. (I wish we had some of that here.) The real problem, for them, was that Chavez was talking over them, around them, under them, to everyone else; not accepting their terms of discussion; not accepting their limited venues; flouting them; and talking USEFULLY to the real sovereigns of the country, the people. It was a blow to their mighty egos--and they determined to shut him up.
Do you know what these media moguls did during the 2002 coup attempt? They not only hosted those who had kidnapped the president and had suspended the constitution, the courts, the national assembly and all civil rigths; they also banned all Chavez cabinet members from the broadcast airwaves--wouldn't let them speak to the people. That's your Corporate "free speech." Only they get to speak!
MARCH 06, 2013
The Spark That Lit the Fires in Latin America
The Convictions of Hugo Chavez
by CHRIS GILBERT
Hugo Chávez, who died yesterday afternoon, was something of an Emersonian hero. “Speak your latent conviction,” said the sage of Concord, “and it shall be the universal sense.”
Chávez said things that other people thought, or at least recognized that they thought after he said them.
One could say that he expanded the notion of the political. He sang and recited poems during his innumerable hours of television… he talked incessantly.
Chris Gilbert is professor of Political Science at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.
My thanks to the writers of these articles for helping me to pull together some of my own thoughts about Chavez.
And my thanks to all Venezuelans, for producing such a leader! The Bush decade would have been unbearable without him. Now we've all got work to do to protect existing social justice revolutions and create more of them, and the neverending, difficult work of being sovereign, self-governing peoples.
I won't say, "Rest in peace, Hugo Chavez," because that implies quietude. I hope his soul is swirling around joyfully somewhere in active discussion with the angels and telling God a thing or two about how to improve the Universe. I'd love to hear that discussion!
Posted by Peace Patriot | Thu Mar 7, 2013, 03:48 PM (1 replies)
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