Culture

 

Jan 06, 2017
Kahlil Gibran : Spirits Rebellious
by Rene Wadlow

At a time when armed conflict and strong socio-economic tensions cover much of the Middle East holdings of the old Ottoman Empire (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey) , it is helpful to recall the birth anniversary of a native son of the area and a positive voice for humanity. Kahlill Gibran, born 6 January1883, is one of the most quoted prose poets, especially his 1923 work The Prophet. In The Prophet, we are told that Almustafa, a holy man, has been living in exile, in a city called Orphalese for twelve years. A ship is coming to take him home to the island of his birth. People gather and ask him for his final words of wisdom - on love, on work, on joy, on children. The book has become bedside reading for all those who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious".

But there is also an earlier Gibran writing in Arabic, a critic of the political and religious conditions of his day - a set of four short stories bound together as Spirits Rebellious. (1) Soon after the publication of the original Arabic version ofSpirits Rebellious in 1908, considerable agitation developed. The book was publicly burned in the Beirut market place by Maronite Church and Ottoman State officials who judged it fiercely dangerous to the peace of the country. Gibran's bitter denunciation of both religious and political injustice brought his anticipated exile from the country. As he was already living in Paris to study art at the time, it meant not returning to Lebanon rather than having to leave. However, he was also excommunicated from the Church, which can be considered serious in a country where much civil identity and justice was based on religious membership - not to mention the popular idea that God did not allow excommunicated souls into his Heaven.

It was the short story "Khalil the Heretic" that set off the religious and political authorities. It is not easy when reading the story today, to see why the authorities got upset, but all book burning needs to be seen in the context of the day. Even today, writings or poems which would pass unnoticed in one country can provoke jail in another. So "Khalil the Heretic" is worth reading today, both as an example of the early Arabic writing of Gibran and of what attacks on church and state at the same time may cost. It is better to attack one at a time, not both together.

"Khalil the Heretic" has some of the same structure as the later and better-known The Prophet: a person asks questions of the key figure who replies. In The Prophet, the answers are those of a mature man who reflects on his life experience in a calm voice. In "Khalil the Heretic", the heretic figure Khalil is first asked by a young women, Rachel, why he has left the monastery where he was working, and later is questioned by a Sheik in a hostile confrontation. The spirit of the exchanges is more heated and bitter than in The Prophet but follow the same pattern:

Rachel "How ventured you, brother, to leave the convent on such a terrible night, when even the beasts do not venture forth?"

Khalil "The animals have their caves, and the birds of the sky their nests, but the son of man has no place to rest his head".

Rachel retorted "This is what Jesus said about himself."

And the young man resumed "This is the answer for every man who wants to follow the Spirit and the Truth in this age of falsehood, hypocrisy and corruption."

Rachel "Is there any light, other than the sun, that shines over all the people? Are human beings capable of understanding the Truth?"

Khalil returned, "The true light is that which emanates from within man, and reveals the secrets of the heart to the soul, making it happy and contented with life. Truth is like stars; it does not appear except behind obscurity of the night. Truth is like all beautiful things in the world; it does not disclose its desirability except to those who first feel the influence of falsehood. Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness...Vain are the beliefs and teachings that make man miserable, and false is the goodness that leads him into sorrow and despair, for it is man's purpose to be happy on this earth and lead the way to felicity and preach its gospel wherever he goes. He who does not see the kingdom of heaven in this life will never see it in the coming life. We came not into this life by exile, but we came as innocent creatures of God, to learn how to worship the holy and eternal spirit and seek the hidden secrets within ourselves from the beauty of life."

In the short story, Sheik Abbas is the symbol of the political authority and Father Elias the Church. They are united to share power among them for, as Gibran writes "In Lebanon, that mountain rich in sunlight and poor in knowledge, the noble and the priest joined hands to exploit the farmer who ploughed the land...Since the beginning of the creation and up to our present time, certain clans, rich by inheritance, in cooperation with the clergy, had appointed themselves the administrators of the people. It is an old gaping wound in the heart of society that cannot be removed except by intense removal of ignorance."

Of this State-Church alliance, he said "Through their wickedness we were divided amongst ourselves; and the better to keep their thrones and be at ease, they armed the Druze to fight the Arab, and stirred up the Shiite to attack the Sunni, and encouraged the Kurdish to butcher the Bedouin, and cheered the Mohammedan to dispute with the Christian. Until when shall a brother continue killing his own brother upon his mother's bosom? Until when shall the Cross be kept apart from the Crescent before the eyes of God?"

Khalil ends his speech to the Sheik with a call for liberty. "Oh Liberty, hear us, and speak in behalf of but one individual for a great fire is started with a small spark. Oh Liberty, awake but one heart with the rustling of they wings, for from one cloud alone comes the lightning which illuminates the pits of the valleys and the tops of the mountains."

By the time Kahlil Gibran died in 1931, he had lived most of his life in the USA in Boston and then New York, and wrote in English. The Prophet had been first published in 1923 and has always remained in print - read at countless weddings and funerals and translated into some 50 languages. By 1931, the Ottoman Empire had been broken, and its Middle East areas divided between France and England under the League of Nations Mandates system with Turkey becoming a separate State. The French who had the mandate for Syria broke off part of the coastal area that had a Christian minority and created the state of Lebanon. Gibran had been taken back into communion with the Maronites who did not want to leave the best-known Lebanese poet out in the cold. But Gibran was never a very orthodox Catholic. He was attracted to the person and sayings of Jesus but not to the organization. He had a knowledge of Arabic Sufi literature. He also knew Buddhist literature and appreciated it for the same reason: useful advice on how to live.

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.

Notes

Quotations from Spirits Rebellious are from the translation by A.R. Ferris and published by Philosophical Library (New York, 1947, 121pp.)
For a biography, see: Barbara Young This Man from Lebanon, A Study of Kahlil Gibran (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945

 

Maurice Béjart: Starting off the Year with a Dance

Rene Wadlow

 

January first is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, a innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences.  He was a world citizen of culture and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture.  His death on 22 November 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation.  One of the Béjart's most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

 

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future.  Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis de Sénegal, with a French mother and a Sénégalese father. Sénégal, and especially Leopold Sedar Sengore pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a "native son" - and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger.  Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us "to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together."

 

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years.  Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle.  Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière.  Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theatre-dance-music.

 

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opera de Paris and then with the well known choreographer Roland Petit.  Béjart's talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

 

Béjart also continued his father's interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration.  He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia.  The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment.  The teaching and movements of G.I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character.  Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart.  The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follow of Gurdjieff.  Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart's milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

 

It was Béjart's experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought - a path he continued to follow.

 

Béjart also followed his father's interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne.  While there is not a "Béjart style" that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes.  He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

 

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures.  An inspiration for world citizens to follow. 

 

Rene Wadlow: President, Association of World Citizens


Destruction of cultural heritage condemned by the International Criminal Court

 August 24,

By Rene Wadlow

On 22 August 2016, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi pleaded guilty to
organizing and helping to carry out the destruction of nine tombs of
Sufi saints in Timbuktu, northern Mali.  This is the first trial of the
International Criminal Court in which the destruction of
UNESCO-designated cultural heritage of humanity sites is a major element
of the accusation.  The trial is an important milestone in the
protection of cultural goods in times of armed conflict.

The evidence against Al Faqi Al Mahdi was overwhelming as originally
he was proud of his iconoclastic reputation and spoke openly in public
meetings and in his talks to the "moral police" of which he was the
intellectual guide. Much of Islamic practice in northern Mali is
Sufi-influenced, a devotional current with an emphasis on personal
practice rather than communal worship.  Sufi leaders are considered
"saints" − the Roman Catholic terminology being the closest equivalent.
At the death of certain Sufi saints, a mausoleum is built. In the case
of north Mali, the mausoleum is of dried mud and brick, rather easily
destroyed if that is one's aim. The mausoleum of a saint becomes a
pilgrimage goal for members of the Sufi order of which the saint was a
member. Some tombs of saints with a particular reputation become
pilgrimage sites for ordinary people in the area, the site is often
considered to have healing qualities or to provide protection.

For most of Malian history, Sufi practices co-existed with little
tension with other Islamic practices.  However, the iconoclastic and
anti-Sufi positions of Saudi Arabia have been spread both by Saudi
preachers going to preach in other countries and by people going to
study Islam in Saudi Arabia. Al Faqi Al Mahdi was trained in both a
non-Sufi Koranic school in north Mali not far from Timbuktu and in Saudi
Arabia. He was also trained in a Mali Government school for teachers,
and Al Faqi Al Mahdi had been the chief teacher of a primary school in
north Mali.

In March 2012, Mali was effectively divided into two by an armed
uprising in the north.  The two half were of roughly equal size, each
half about the size of France.  Of the 9 to 10 million inhabitants of
Mali, about 90 per cent live in the south. In the northern half of the
country, there is 10 per cent of the population. The majority of those
in the north are Songhoy who are settled agro-pastoralists growing rice,
wheat and sorghum. Also in the north but a minority in contrast to the
Songhoy are the Touareg, some 850,000, originally a nomadic
cattle-herding people also found in southern Algeria and Niger.  They
refer to themselves as "Kel Tamacheq" − those who speak  the Tamacheq
language. Touareg was first a derogatory term. However the term Touareg
was so widely used that they have taken to using it for themselves.

In March 2012, the northern half of Mali came under the control of
two rival Touareg groups with additional non-Toureg fighters coming from
other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria.  The larger Tourareg
faction was the "Movement national de liberation de l'Azawand" (MNLA).
It was larger than its rival but less well armed. Its main aim was to
create an independent State, to be called Azawad.

The Touareg rival was the "Ansar Dine" − defenders of the faith − a
more Islamist group which wanted to apply Islamic law to all of Mali. 
Many of the Ansar Dine fighters had been trained in Libya. A portion of
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libyan army and militias was made of Touaregs
who returned to northern Mali  with weapons on Quddafi's fall from
power.

Although Al Faqi Al Madhi was not at first a member of Ansar Dine, he
drew increasingly close to the movement and its vision of an Islamist
Mali.  From March 2012 until January 2013 when French troops were sent
to Mali under a mandate of the UN Security Council, much of northern
Mali was under the control of Ansar Dine which tried to impose its
understanding of Islamic law in all its most narrow and repressive
forms.  Music, smoking, and alcohol were banned, and the Sufi tombs were
destroyed.

There has been growing international concern about the wanton
destruction of cultural heritage. On 27 February 2015, the UN Security
Council condemned "the deliberate destruction of irreplaceable religious
and cultural artifacts housed in the Mosul Museum and burning of
thousands of books and rare manuscripts from the Mosul Library."  A few
days earlier, thousands of books from the Mosul, Iraq, University
Library had also been burned.  The Mosul Museum had a large number of
statues from the pre-Islamic Mesopotamian civilizations as well as
statues from the Greek Hellenistic period. The spokesman for the Islamic
State (ISIS) faction which carried out the destruction maintained that
the statues represented gods which had been worshiped, while only the
true god should receive worship. This approach to pre-Islamic faiths and
their material culture is the same as had led to the destruction of the
large Buddha statues in Bamiyam, Afghanistan − monuments that attested
to the rich culture along the Silk Road.

However, the destruction of the Sufi tombs in Timbuktu highlights new
and dangerous currents of division within the Islamic community itself 
− anti-Sufi actions which need to be watched and countered.

There have been earlier efforts to preserve cultural heritage in
times of armed conflict in particular the Pan-American Roerich Pact of
1935 and the Hague Convention of 1954. The International Criminal Court
trial of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is the first case of an international
court dealing with the deliberate damage of UNESCO-designated cultural
sites.  Although the Sufi tombs have been rebuilt, largely by the
efforts of the local population, the concept of the criminalization of
deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is slowly become part of
world law. A trend to be encouraged.

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an
international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC,
the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and
problem-solving in economic and social issues.


Turkey: Whom the gods would destroy

By Rene Wadlow



"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad" Attributed to Prometheus, the bringer of fire to humanity


The Greek gods have been working overtime since  15 July 2016 and the
failed military coup in Turkey. It must be admitted that the gods of
Olympus have never fully admitted that areas once part of Greek
civilization have been overrun by Turks. Thus the Greek gods are not
fully objective evaluators of Turkish politics.  Nevertheless, the
Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made the
task easy for the Greek gods by opening the door to irrational actions
even before the gods stopped thinking of sexual pleasures and looked
down on what mortals were doing in Turkey.

Since the days following the 15 July
coup, the Turkish government has been arresting people, closing down
newspapers and university faculties suspected in some way of being
related to Fethullh Gulen, an Islamic leader who wants a return to some
form of Islamic culture in Turkey. Gulen was once a supporter of
Erdogan, but the two men fell out. Gulen has been living in exile in the
USA.  For Erdogan, it does not take much to be considered as a
"supporter" of Gulen - having lived in one of the student centers that
Gulen built around Turkish universities is enough.

Now, in these first days of November, the most recent expression of
the revenge of the Greek gods has been to urge Erdogan to arrest elected
officials of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) both municipal and
members of the national parliament. The ability of persons elected to a
parliament to exercise their responsibility by speaking out without fear
of arrest is considered as a cornerstone of parliamentary government.
One can have a vision of a broader definition of participatory
democracy, but the ability of elected members of a parliament to defend
their views is the strict minimum of parliamentary (even presidential)
government.

The HDP is considered as a pro-Kurdish party. The party advocates a
pluralistic Turkey, taking into consideration the different ethnic and
religious groups in the country. The party has no known relation to the
Gulen brotherhood. However, as the Kurds are the largest minority and
there have been armed conflicts with the Kurds, the Turkish government
claims that the HDP is related to the Kurdish militia - the Kurdish
Workers Party (PKK). The HDP maintains that it is not a PKK "front" and
it works for non-violence and negotiation in good faith to deal with
Kurdish social and political aspirations.

At a time when the armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq become ever more
complicated - conflicts in which Syrian and Iraqi Kurds are playing
important role  - the last thing that is needed is an increased
repression on the Kurds within Turkey, especially not on elected leaders
who stress the rule of law and dialogue. Officials of the European
Union have expressed on 4 November their concern with the arrests of the
HDP parliamentarians. However, given the geopolitical importance of
Turkey, verbal expressions of concern are likely to be all that the
official European Union will do. Non-governmental organizations
concerned with human rights, such as the Association of World Citizens,
have been calling attention in the United Nations to the oppressive
currents in Turkey but without any notable change in Turkish government
policy and without great response from  "Great Power"  diplomats who
need Turkish government support on a wide range of issues.

It is likely that the Greek gods have returned to their banquet table
and the lovely maids who pour the wine. Madness has taken hold in
Turkey.  The gods have only to glance down from time to time to see what
is happening. Thus, it is up to us mortals   to act. Prometheus is said
to have brought fire to mortals, much to the anger of the gods.  Fire
is also a symbol of intelligence and insight. We will have to watch
closely as to how we mortals use it now.


 

Maurice Bejart: Starting off the Year with a Dance
by Rene Wadlow
 

January first is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, a innovative master of modern dance.  In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences.  He was a world citizen of culture and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture.  His death on 22 November 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation.  One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future.  Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis de Sénégal, with a French mother and a Sénégalese father. Sénégal, and especially Leopold Sedar Sengore pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger.  Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years.  Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle.  Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière.  Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theatre-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opera de Paris and then with the well known choreographer Roland Petit.  Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration.  He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia.  The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment.  The teaching and movements of G.I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character.  Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart.  The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follow of Gurdjieff.  Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne.  While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes.  He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures.  An inspiration for world citizens to follow. 

 **************************************************

Rene Wadlow: President, Association of World Citizens

 

 

The World, Its Protection, Its Citizens

    On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I would like to send you best wishes for 2016.
May it be a year that brings peace and harmony closer to our world.   Progress in the world is based on the emergence of ideas, their acceptance, their transformation into ideals, and then into programs of action.

    2015 Has seen within the United Nations system two major frameworks of ideas and suggested plans of action. The first was the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and the second was the Paris COP 21 goals and treaty to deal with climate change.  These guideline require close cooperation among national governments, the United Nations and other multilateral government institutions such as the European Union, and the wide range of non-governmental organizations including business and agriculture associations.  We need to move from fragmented efforts to strong partnerships.

    However, these positive goals need to be seen against the background of current armed conflicts and violent extremism often rooted in a deadly mix of exclusion and marginalization, mismanagement of natural resources, oppression and the alienation arising from a lack of jobs and opportunities. The World is in need of protection, both of people and Nature.  As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of responsibility to participate fully in the emerging world society where disputes among States are settled within the framework of world law and through negotiations in good faith so that common interests may be found and developed.

    As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of compassion for Nature, and thus we unite to safeguard the delicate balance of the natural environment and to develop the world's resources for the common good.

    Today, we all face a choice between those forces that would drive us apart, forces and attitudes such as racism, narrow nationalism and the aggressive pursuit of self-interest on the one hand, and on the other hand, those forces which promote an emerging world society that is equitable and harmonious. I am sure that you also will choose to work for wholeness, harmony and creativity.

    René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

 

 

 

The Active Defense of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity
by Rene Wadlow
2015-04-15

    15 April is the anniversary of the signing of the Roerich Peace Pact at the White House in Washington D.C. in 1935.  Henry A. Wallace, then the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President signed for the USA saying "At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity.  It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs.  Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contribution of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith."

    Professor N.K. Roerich wrote from Tzagan Kure, Inner Mongolia where he was "This significant date should instill in all co-workers of the Pact still greater vigilance and perspicacity. Precisely perspicacity is necessary in the matter of safeguarding culture...We shall not tire of repeating that in addition to recognition by the government, active public participation is needed. Cultural values adorn and elevate all life, from small to great.  Therefore an active care about them must be evidenced by all."
    There are periods in the history of humanity when some great new ideas are introduced, beneficial for all.  Such ideas mark the beginning of a new era with far-reaching effects, creating new conditions for cooperation.  The Roerich Pact for the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity signed by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony is such a sign of a new era which transcends all obstacles, prejudices and intolerances.
    However, we must not overlook the obstacles. In looking at the book "The Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace published in New York in 1947 which lists most of the newspaper articles written on the 1935 signature as well as the list of the members of committees working for the Pact, we see the absence of articles and committee members from Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union − States which would soon be involved in the Second World War during which many cultural treasures were destroyed.
    Today, we also face the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.  We have seen in Afghanistan, the destruction of large Buddha statues − monuments that attested to the rich culture along the Silk Road. In northern Mali, we have seen the deliberate destruction of manuscripts in Timbuktu,dating from a time when Timbuktu was an important center of learning and communication between North and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Even more recently, we have seen in Iraq the destruction of irreplaceable religious and cultural artifacts housed in the Mosul Museum and the burning of books and rare manuscripts.  Archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria have also been deliberately destroyed.
    Thus in our efforts to build an active defense of the cultural heritage of humanity we must make a concerted effort to reach the public and all those of good will in the Arab-Islamic world.  For the moment, this is a zone going from Afghanistan through the wider Middle East to North Africa and then West Africa where the greatest dangers exist.  There are persons of good will in all these countries working to protect cultural heritage, often working in conditions which put their lives in danger. We must build a wave of support for these protection efforts, especially so that people in war-torn areas are aware that others are concerned with their fate.
    After the destruction of the Second World War, the newly created UNESCO continued these efforts to protect the cultural heritage of humanity, in particular the 1954 Hague Convention − "The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict".
    Both the Roerich Pact and the Hague Convention hoped to have a universal symbol for protection of cultural heritage sites: the three magenta spheres on a white flag - a Banner of Peace − for the Roerich Pact and a double blue triangle representing a shield for the Hague Convention.  The model in both cases was inspired by the red cross which the International Committee of the Red Cross and then national Red Cross societies have used to protect medical establishments and personnel. Neither the Banner of Peace nor the Blue Shields have become as widely known or used as the red cross.
    Today, it is especially the spirit of the active defense of the cultural heritage of humanity which counts and which we must actively promote.  Yet symbols are important as signs of a spirit and values, as the red cross has shown.  For Nicholas Roerich the three-circle Banner had a deep significance. His hope was that "This sign, unfurled over all treasures of human genius, will say: Here are guarded the treasures of all mankind, here above all petty divisions, above illusory frontiers of enmity and hatred, is towering the fiery stronghold of love, labour and all moving creation." As he wrote on 15 April 1935 "Let the Banner wave over the hearth of Light, over sanctuaries and strongholds of beauty.  The Banner is raised. In the spirit and in the heart it will not be lowered.  By the luminous fire of the heart, the Banner of Culture will flourish. Light conquers darkness."

*******************************************************************************

René Wadlow, president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives.


  Navroz: The Recurrent Renewal
by Rene Wadlow
2015-03-21 13:01:56

            May the soul flourish;
            May youth be as the new-grown grain

Navroz, usually celebrated on 21 March in Iran and Central Asia, is the "New Day", the end of the old year with its hardships and deceptions and the start of the New Year to be filled with hope and optimism.  It is a day for spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation and is usually a time for reciting devotional poetry, presenting food with symbolic meaning to guests, and visits among family and close friends.

Navroz, which coincides with the Spring Equinox, is related to myths focused on the sun and thus symbolizes the connections of humans to nature.  In some of the myths, Navroz is considered as symbolizing the first day of creation  − thus a time when all can be newly created. It is a day between times − old time has died; new time will start the day after Navroz.  In this one-day period without time, all is possible.  The seeds are planted for a new birth.  Among some who celebrate Navroz, real seeds are planted, usually in seven pots with symbolic meanings of virtues.  Their growth is an indication of how these virtues will manifest themselves in the coming year.  Among those influenced by Islam and Christianity, Navroz is the day when God will raise the dead for the final judgment and the start of eternal life.

Navroz has an ancient Persian origin, related to Abura Mazda, the high god who was symbolized by the sun and manifested by fire. Navroz is also related to the opposite of fire, that is, water.  However water can also be considered not as opposite but as complementary, and thus fire-water can become symbols of harmony.  Fire - as light, as an agent of purification, as a manifestation of the basic energy of life − played a large role in Zoroastrian thought and in the teachings of Zarathoustra.  Thus we find fire as a central symbol and incorporated into rituals among the Parsis in India, originally of Iranian origin.
From what is today Iran, Zoroastrian beliefs and ritual spread along the "Silk Road" through Central Asia to China, and in the other direction to the Arab world.  As much of this area later came under the influence of Islam, elements of Navroz were given Islamic meanings to the extent that some today consider Navroz an "Islamic holiday". Navroz is also celebrated among the Alawits in Syria, the Baha'i, the Yezidis, and the Kurds, each group  adapting Navroz to its spiritual framework.

In Turkey, for many years, Navroz was officially banned as being too related to the Kurds and thus to Kurdish demands for autonomy or an independent Kurdistan. I recall a number of years ago being invited to participate in a non-violent Kurdish protest in Turkey on Navroz to protest the ban. I declined as the idea of going from Geneva to be put in a Turkish jail was not on top of my list of priorities.  Fortunately, for the last few years, the ban has been lifted, and Kurds in Turkey can now celebrate openly Navroz.

The celebration of Navroz in the Cental Asian Republics has had an uneven history during the Soviet period and since − ranging from a ban because it was too Islamic, to being promoted as of Zoroastrian origin and thus anti-Islamic, to being "nationalized" as a holiday of national unity.As armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, "Kurdistan" and Afghanistan and strong tensions in Iran and Central Asia continue, we must hope that 2015 Navroz will purify the old and plant the seeds of a new harmonious regional society.

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René Wadlow, president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

 

Humanitarian Ceasefire for Palmyra

Association of World Citizens calls for a humanitarian ceasefire as fighting intensifies between ISIS and Syrian Government forces near Palmyra − a UNESCO Heritage site.
    In a 15 May 2015 message to Madame Irina  Bokova, UNESCO Director General, the Association of World Citizens highlighted its Appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in the area of Palmyra − a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity site.  18 May is the UNESCO-proclaimed International Museum Day devoted to the contribution of the past to the present and the future.
    While there has been some fighting around Palmyra and looting of its museum in the recent past, the current intensification of fighting places in danger all of Palmyra with its important Hellenistic and Roman edifices.
    Palmyra is a rich contribution to the cultural heritage of all the Syrian people, no matter to what political faction they may now belong.  Moreover, Palmyra is for all of humanity a moving example of trade routes and cultural exchange through the centuries.
    The Association of World Citizens is strongly supportive of efforts to protect the cultural heritage of humanity, going back to the 1935 Roerich Peace Pact signed at the White House in Washington, DC.
    Today, as citizens of the world, we must build upon these pioneer efforts to protect the testimonies of humanity's constant evolution toward beauty, harmony and peace.

 

 

18 May: International Museum Day. The advancement of learning and culture


 

By Rene Wadlow

18 May has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Museums to highlight the role that museums play in preserving beauty, culture, and history. Museums come in all sizes and are often related to institutions of learning and libraries.  Increasingly, churches and centers of worship have taken on the character of museums as people visit them for their artistic value even if they do not share the faith of those who built them.

Museums are important agents of intellectual growth and of cultural understanding.  They are part of the common heritage of humanity, and thus require special protection in times of armed conflict.  Many were horrified at the looting of the National Museum of Baghdad when some of the oldest objects of civilization were stolen or destroyed.  Fortunately many items were later found and restored, but the American forces had provided inadequate protection at a time when wide-spread looting was predicted and, in fact, was going on. More recently, we have seen the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in the museum of Mosul by ISIS factions. Today, there is deep concern for Palmyra as ISIS and government troops battle near Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Conserving a cultural heritage is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities, lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.  On the other hand, the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets.  These forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.  Involving people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.

Knowledge and understanding of a people's past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage.  This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives and enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully.  It is important to retain the best of traditional self-reliance and skills of rural life and economics as people adapt to change.

Traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down; they are implicit,  continued by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word.  They continue to exist as long as they are useful, as long as they are not supplanted by new techniques.  They are far too easily lost. Thus is is the objects that come into being through these systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important.

Thus, museums must become key institutions at the local level . They should function as a place of learning. The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them. Culture must be seen in its entirety: how women and men live in the world, how they use it, preserve and enjoy it for a better life.  Museums allow objects to speak, to bear witness to past experiences and future possibilities and thus to reflect on how things are and how things might otherwise be.

Early efforts for the protection of educational and cultural institutions were undertaken by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen.  Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution and saw how armed conflicts can destroy works of art and cultural and educational institutions.  For Roerich, such institutions were irreplaceable and their destructions was a permanent loss for all humanity.  Thus, he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict.  Thus he envisaged a universally-accepted symbol that could be placed on educational institutions in the way that a red cross had become a widely-recognized symbol to protect medical institutions and medical workers.  Roerich proposed a "Banner of Peace" − three red circles representing the past, present and future − that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture and education to protect them in times of conflict.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace.  Henry A. Wallace, then the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official treaty introducing the Banner of Peace − the Roerich Peace Pact − signed at the White House on 15 April 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony.  At the signing, Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said "At no time has such an ideal been more needed.  It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity.  It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs.  Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in additions the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith."

As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact "The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era.  We deplore the loss of libraries of Lou vain and Overdo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims.  We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.  But we do not want to inscribe on these deeps any worlds of hatred.  Let us simply say : Destroyed by human ignorance − rebuilt by human hope."

After the Second World War, UNESCO has continued the effort, and there have been additional conventions on the protection of cultural and educational bodies in times of armed conflicts.  The most important is the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Museums help to build new bridges between nations, ethnic groups and communities through values such as beauty and harmony, that may serve a common references.  Museums also build bridges between generations, between the past, the present and the future.

Therefore, on this International Museum Day, let us consider together how we may advance the impact of beauty upon the world.

 

Syria: ISIS Iconoclasts leave a bloody trail of destruction
by Rene Wadlow
2015-08-25

 
 

On 18 August 2015 Dr Khaled al-Assad, retired director of the Palmyra museum and an officer of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, had his neck cut and his body hung from a traffic light pole.  The 83 year-old archaeologist had been held in seclusion (and probably tortured) for three weeks. In the public square of Palmyra an accusation was read out that he was "the director of pagan idols".  Khaled al-Assad had been born in Palmyra and had spent most of his career there, writing numerous articles as well as directing archaeological sites.  He had few rivals in his knowledge of the ancient crossroad city of Palmyra, an important link on the trade routes between Asia, North Africa, and Europe.

The public killing of Khaled al-Assad renewed concern for the historic sites.  It was widely believed that many of the sites had had explosives placed in them to provoke their destruction.  Sites in Palmyra had already been damaged during the fighting in the Spring as the soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) took control of the city and the surrounding area.  Then on 23 August, some of the explosives were set off, damaging the important Temple of Baal, one of the most visited sites in Palmyra.  Baal - the Lord of the Heavens - was represented by an eagle. He was also a storm god shown holding a lightning bolt in his hand.

From a distance it is hard to know what elements within ISIS are responsible for the destruction and what are the motivations.  ISIS has attracted fighters from a good number of countries, and it is impossible to know the chains of command or the motivations.  Many Syrians are proud of the vestiges of pre−Islamic civilizations, proof that the area was an important actor and in some ways a rival of Rome.  The Directorate General of Antiquities has some 2,500 employees with a record of preserving Syria's cultural heritage.  In addition, some Syrian citizens, risking their lives, have tried to defend heritage sites or to hide away cultural objects. Moreover, ISIS agents as well as persons belonging to other armed factions have been looting objects to sell outside the country either for personal gain or to finance their political faction, rather than destroying them.

Thus it is not clear who wants to destroy works of art and cultural heritage.  Are there sincere iconoclasts for whom any object that recalls pre-Islamic worship is an insult to the Islamic faith?  Are there people who just want to destroy and will blow up most anything?  Are there people who believe that public killings and destruction of heritage will facilitate military expansion and control of the population?  Is there any possibility of rational discussion and good-faith negotiations with ISIS authorities to preserve cultural sites in Syria and Iraq?

Conserving a cultural heritage even in times of peace is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities, lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.  On the other hand, the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity are impressive assets.  These forces should be enlisted, enlarged and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.

Are there ways that those of us on the "outside" can reach those in Syria and Iraq who wish to preserve cultural heritage and to defend the lives of those who work to preserve protect and inform?

My belief is that the current military action against ISIS, either with ground troops or bombing from the air, will have little positive impact.  Armed force may lead some of the ISIS forces to a "burned earth" policy, destroying as much as they can before retreating.  I think that there needs to be initiatives taken by those currently living under ISIS rule but who do not share ISIS values.  They need to take actions to show ISIS leaders that their policies are an error and will lead to greater divisions within the population.

There is always a certain irony for someone in a safe area to encourage others to take actions which can put their lives in danger.  Therefore, the least that we can do is to have a loud outcry from cultural workers throughout the world so that those in Syria and Iraq who will act positively know that they are not alone.

 ***************************************************************

 Rene Wadlow, President, and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens

 

 

 

Palmyra: ISIS-wanton destruction

October 05, 2015

By Rene Wadlow

On 4 October, 2015 Maamun Abdulkarim, the Syrian Director General of Antiquities and Museums, confirmed that the 2000 year old Arch of Triumph in the ancient city of Palmyra had been blown up by ISIS forces which control the city and the surrounding area. He said " It is now wanton destruction; their acts of vengeance are no longer ideologically driven because they are now blowing up buildings with no religious meaning."

On 23 August, the temples of Baalshamien − Lord of the Heavens − and Bel, a goddess often associated with the moon, had been largely destroyed by ISIS (Daesh in Arabic). This iconoclastic approach to pre-Islamic faith and their material culture is the same as had led to the destruction of the large Buddha statues in Afghanistan - monuments that attested to the rich culture along the Silk Road.

Masmun Abdulkarim called upon the international community to find a way to save Palmyra. His cry comes from the heart as he is the nephew of the long-serving director of the archaeological sites of Palmyra, Dr Khaled al-Assad. On 18 August, Dr al-Assad had his neck cut and his body hung from a traffic light pole. The 83 year-old archaeologist had been held in seclusion (and probably tortured) for three weeks. In the public square of Palmyra an accusation was read out that he was the "director of pagan idols."

From a distance, it is hard to know what elements within ISIS are responsible for these destructions and what are the motivations. ISIS has attracted fighters from a good number of countries, and it is impossible to know the nationalities within the chains of command. Many Syrians are proud of the vestiges of pre-Islamic civilizations, proof that the area was an important actor and in some ways a rival of Rome. Thus, it is not clear who wants to destroy works of art and cultural heritage. It is impossible to know at this stage if there are possibilities of rational discussion and good-faith negotiations with ISIS authorities to preserve cultural sites in Syria and Iraq.

Syria and Iraq are home to some of the world's first cities, a complex and unique meeting of states, empires, and faiths. The protection of works of art and cultural heritage is an aspect of world law in which UNESCO is playing a leading role. There is also a need to build an awareness and then action on the part of non-governmental organizations, especially those in consultative status with the United Nations as well a cultural institutions. One of the difficulties with appeals to the "international community" is that the international community has no street address, and so appeals are rarely delivered. Too often, governments and people react after events rather than affirming a position from a deeper level of awareness and a legal basis in world law.

The protection of cultural heritage owes much to the vision and energy of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947). Roerich's desire to make known the artistic achievements of the past through archaeology, coupled with the need to preserve the landmarks of the past from destruction, led to his work for the Banner of Peace to preserve art and architecture in time of war. Roerich had seen the destruction brought by the First World War and the civil war which followed the 1917 Russian Revolution. He worked with French international lawyers to draft a treaty by which museums, churches and buildings of value would be preserved in time of war through the use of a symbol − three red circles representing past, present and future - a practice inspired by the red cross to protect medical personnel in times of conflict.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace. Henry A. Wallace, the US secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President of the United States, was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official treaty introducing the Banner of Peace − the Roerich Peace Pact − signed at the White House on 15 April 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony. At the signing, Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said "at no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity. It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contribution of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and the truly religious of whatever faith."

As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact "The world is striving toward peace in many ways and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era. We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims. We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities. But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of hatred. Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance - re built by human hope."

The Roerich Peace Pact is the world-law basis for an expression of concern from the governments of what was the Pan-American Union (In 1948 it was reestablished as the Organization of American States). There is also the Hague Convention of May 1954 which was signed by a wider geographic range of States. The Roerich Peace Pact and the Hague Convention are rarely cited by governments. Therefore, leadership must come from non-governmental organizations and the cultural sector to work unitedly and creatively to prevent the wanton destruction of humanity's cultural heritage.
Rene Wadlow

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.

 

 

Anatoly V. Malafeev and Vladimir I. Ionesov (Eds.)

                    Social Innovations in Cultural Process: Strategies for Development and Survival
                    (Samara: Branch of Moscow State University of Service in Samara 2005,528pp.)

 

The present world is becoming more flexible, dynamic and changing with a transition to democracy accompanied by a diversity of cultures, intercultural conflicts, and a search for identity. The article by Vladimir Ionesov on "Paradigms of Cultural Changes: Phenomenological Clarifications" analyses cultural change in social transformation process, its adaptation, renewal, and further development. Culture in the transition process is based on past traditions; the future is expressed in innovations and the construction of cultural values which leads to the transformation of present cultures. During the transition process, the validity and viability of values, norms and principles of culture are scrutinized, reshaped, and later a new culture is constructed. The emerging ritual practices expressed in myths, rituals, symbols, music, jokes, and celebrations fill in the empty spots in culture. According to the author, the highest embodiment of symbolism and mythology is expressed in music, i.e. hymns and songs which help to bring harmony into culture, wholeness and unity in diversity.

 

The process of cultural transformations is accompanied and influenced by the process of globalization with its extensive process of interconnection and interdependence of nations and states at the beginning of the 21st century. The industrial revolution, new transport systems along with the formation of the world market, migration, international contacts and exchanges laid the foundation for a new quality of life. The world is becoming a single and common space whereby world affairs create a global space, which does not take into account borders and distances and demands reaction from many governments.

 

Along with the development of the global system in economic, social and political fields, a similar process in the cultural sphere is possible. The author S.E. Chichyova in her article "Anthropological Borders of Culture in Age of Globalization" questions whether civilizations loose their cultural identity and uniqueness swallowed by the global economic system. The benefits of globalization reach only a small number of people and only a few developed countries. Some countries of the world oppose their languages and values to the western "cultural imperative". Islamic, Chinese, Indian civilizations preserve their viability and originality as self-expression. Today, there is a purposeful effort to preserve traditional material and spiritual cultures. The pattern of preservation of culture in the world is different. For example, in Latin America, traditional culture is mostly preserved by the middle class, while in Asia (except Japan where biculturalism is observed) city populations and the upper class of the society adapt to the world culture.

 

The article by Anatoly Malafeev "Russian Symbolism as Paradigm of Culture" gives insights into the culture-philosophy outlooks of the main representatives of symbolism such as Andrei Beliy. The author points out that the Russian symbolists are less represented as culture-philosophers even though one of the most important discoveries of symbolism of the XX century is the idea of culture. Beliy advocates the study of culture in its different aspects because of its interconnection of different flows of thoughts - philosophy, history, ethnography, religion. He considers culture as a whole configuration of knowledge where individual creativity is important.

 

Beliy criticizes culture by saying that "it does not know life, does not want life, and cannot live". He considers culture's "moldering head" where everything died, and expects an explosion in which everything will be destroyed. The new culture with a freedom for human beings from issues of locality, existence, nationality, state will belong to the world. Thus, the aim of the culture is to recreate culture. Beliy emphasizes the role of studying the coexistence of cultures through visiting different countries in order to "expand our conscious."

 

Fear is a wide spread phenomena known to all varieties of human existence. Fear is driven by the need for self-preservation and self-protection of the individual in front of negative forces of the world. The author Leonid Nemtsev of the article "The Culture of Fear/ The Identification of Art and Evil in the Search of the Sane" considers hat 'pure' art does not adapt to the negative forms of life like conciliatory art but rather is more proactive. Art changes consciousness. The consciousness developed in a right way is able to resist wrong forms of life.

 

The second section of the book, introduced by Garry Trompf ,deals with historical-anthropological thinking with the focus on traditions and innovations in cultural process. The article by Nona Avanesova "Sign Recordings of Indo-Aryan Myths (Sacralized Artifacts of Ritual Practice)"explores the mythical rituals of the population, carriers of the early Bactrian civilization, located in the Amu-Darya oasis at the end of the second century BC. The soil burial gounds of Buston VI are located 60km of Termez on the right shore of the dried Bustonai river-bed which had been one of the tributaries of the Amu-Darya river. The civilization was functioning during the Molali and Buston periods, the final stage of the Sapalli culture. The Buston culture created complex mythological compositions through sign symbols. The articles made of mud were used for conducting rituals. The population of Bactria tried to reflect a complex worldview by creating myths with accessible means.

 

Alexander Rastoropov explores the origins of Hungarian people in "The Questions of an Early Ethnic History of the Hugarians". Hungarian ancestors lived near the Don river at the end of the IX century. The closest lanuage of Hungarian is of the people of western Siberia, Khants and Mansi (Ugr-Hungarians, Jugra -Khansts and Mansi). The existence of the South-Ugrian in Tobolo-Irtysh forest-steppe was mentioned in the Sargatian archeological culture functioning in the middle of the first millennium BC to the second century AD. The author's hypothesis is that, probably, in that time the center of the Hungarians-Magyars appeared. The majority of them like other ethnicities migrated to Eastern Europe. The seven tribes named "Magyars" also formed in the middle of the Podunavic at the end of the 9th century after its settlement in a southern part of East Europe. According to different sources the authors conclude that the Hungarians-Magyars lived on different territories from the Don river in the west to the southern Ural mountains and also in the east from Ciscaucasia in the south up to Oka and Kama rivers in the north. Part of the Hungarians-Magyars assimilated in the development of Chuvashs, Tatar-Mishars and the Bashkirs ethnic groups.

 

In the same spirit, there is a useful article by Rama Krishna Pisipaty on the formation of traditions and customs of the Sindh region of India-Pakistan.

 

The third section of the book deals with State approaches to culture and social policy. To conduct social policy the state usually applies the idea of "state socialism". The author Sergei Folomeev in his article explores German social democracy at the turn of the 20th century and the influence of "state socialism" on the working class. The author analyses the views of F. Lassal, the leader of the Universal German Working Union, A.Vagner, a thinker of the 'state socialism' school and Otto van Bismark, the chancellor of Germany. The ideas of these leaders and thinkers shaped both the right and left wings of social policy in Germany. To eliminate the exploitation of the working class which exists in society through the establishment of salaries to cover only what is necessary to sustain life and for having children, some proposed to make the working class its own entrepreneur where the state will provide necessary assistance by giving credit and assisting the association of workers. The free private association of workers should be connected between each other by 'credit and mutual aid unions'. The program of the national democratic party of Germany used the theoretical concepts of F. Lassal.

 

Different ideas of "state socialism" existed in German social democracy. The right wing of the social democracy of Germany considered that it is possible to implement the policy, while the left wing, the radical part of the social democracy, rejected the idea of "state socialism". Hitler made use of the idea of "state socialism" in his policy. Different political leaders such as Bismark, Lenin, Hitler and other leaders showed an interest in the idea of "state socialism" which still has an influence today.

 

The development of a market economy led to the formation of intellectual property rights in Russia on the lines of similar processes in western European countries. The author Vyacheslav Paramonov of the article "Law's Defence of Innovations: Historical Experience in Soviet Perid" gives insights on how innovations during the Soviet period were formed based on the materials in scientific-technical archives. The first trade mark on the goods of artisans appeared in 1667 in connection with the New Trade Charter. The first law on privileges regarding innovations, art and crafts were introduced in 1812; later, the law on innovation and its improvement in 1896.

 

The Patent Law enacted in 1896 was formally recognized in the 1917-1919 period. However, in the period of "military communism" the creator was not allowed to use her/his technical innovation in private production. In Soviet times, the first legislative act on innovations came into force on June 30, 1919. This law rejected all laws and acts on the privileges of innovations that came into force before the law of 1919. Moreover, the state could alienate any innovation to its benefit upon the approval of the Committee of the Innovation Affairs. The information about all the innovations except secret ones was disseminated among people and organizations taking into account each particular case.

 

In Soviet times, laws regarding innovation underwent several changes. All of them have common features such as protection of authors' rights, the expertise of the applications, the regulations regarding patents made overseas, the possibility of the state to purchase a patent by forced means. The changes in laws usually referred to the criterion on the protection of the innovations, rights of innovators and the procedure of conducting expertise of applications.

 

One of the factors that inhibited the development of the legal protection of innovations was the legal nihilism of the government headed by I.V. Stalin. At this time more than 105 academics and corresponding members were repressed in the Academy of Science of the Russian Federation. The process was also accompanied by the shortage of access to innovations abroad. The current laws on innovations in Russia are in the process of formation but its guidelines were laid in the Soviet period.

 

The interpretation of laws has different understandings. Some authors consider that interpretation is the clarification of the content of legal norms; others think that interpretation is an explanation of legal norms, and the majority view is interpretation as a process of clarification and explanation. Oleg Belonosova, the author of "Succession and Innovations in Interpretation of the Legal Norms in Russian Law" states that the process of interpretation of legal norms is a subjective process of clarification of the content of legal norms as well as internal mental process and activity of individuals and bodies which enact official acts or informal recommendations and advice given by organizations and individuals. The purpose of interpretation is to apply correctly and consistently the legal norms and to avoid vagueness and mistakes in realization.

 

Morals and ethics play important roles in the interpretation of laws even though they are regarded as unstructured elements of society and state. The jury makes a decision by applying the rule of law and also taking into account ethics, morals, humanism, and concepts of good and evil. However, the correct interpretation of laws enhances law and contributes to the stability of the state. In cases where the laws have errors or deficiencies, the interpretation has a role in regulating relations to the public.

 

The present world has been subject to terrorist acts whereby thousands of innocent people are being wounded or killed. Individuals and groups have used terrorist acts to meet their goals especially in times of social-economic transformations, and in clashes of political interest, ideas and values. Terrorism originates from the word "terror" (in Latin -fear, horror) which means threat, pursuit, violence accompanied by cruelty. Authur Bezverkhov and Sergei Krasnov, the authors of "Law Analysis of the Content of Terrorism" state that the issue of terrorism has been intensified. In Russia in 2004, a series of events took place: military operations in Ingushetia and in Grozniy, the explosion of two airplanes, explosions at a subway station in Moscow and the taking of hostages in the city of Beslan.

 

Up to now, the definition of the notion of terrorism has not been agreed upon. The laws in Russia define terrorism, its acts, forms and actors. The authors of the article consider that toughening of state, especially criminal policy is an effective measure against increasing terrorism.

 

A fourth section of the book is devoted to ideas of peace and non-violence in cultural process. Today, nationalism, nationalistic confrontations and xenophobia have become typical phenomena. Xnophobia comes from the Greek words: xenos meaning "foreigner" and probos "fear". The term is used to express dislike and fear of foreigners or people of other nationalities which is based on the dichotomy "we-they" or "our-stranger". The author Anastaslya Ippolitova explores the role of anecdotes used in creating stereotypes about nationalities and cultures. The societies may create positive images in anecdotes as well as negative by which they demonstrate their attitude to a particular group or nationality. The author gives examples of anecdotes about Jews, Estonians, Finnish, Chinese, Indians, Africans, and Americans where the features of particular nationality are associated with calmness, slowness, cunningness, and uncivilized nations. The anecdotes can demonstrate the dynamism of nationalistic attitudes and tolerance of people to each other. The most dynamic are negative images which are the result of the demonstration of negative emotions and hostile reactions in the form of xenophobia.

 

Innovations in social-cultural management service and education are the theme of the fifth section of the book. Social innovations in the service sector and education have undergone significant changes in terms of quality and culture of service. Service management is successful as Z.F. Kondrasheva states in the article "Service Management in Social-Cultural Space: Discourse of the Innovative Interdisciplinary Study" if it is oriented to meet clients' needs. On one hand, the organizations delivering services analyze the clients' preferences, and on the other try to affect the behaviour of customers and market. Service management is a new paradigm in socio-cultural space formation, which was influenced by such areas as marketing, operational management, the psychology of management , human resource management and quality management. Service management is based on combinations of such elements as a service product; place, cyberspace and time; process; productivity and quality; the price of a purchase and other expenses of the consumer.

 

The number of services offered increased rapidly in Russia and were transformed in content and essence to satisfy the needs of clients. Based on observations, interviews, survey and experiments, Evgeniya Tikhomirova the author of "Social Innovations in Culture of Contemporary Service" revealed that citizens of Russia trust the service sector. However, people prefer to use particular services upon someone's recommendations rather than by advertisement. Almost 40% of the population of Russia is frustrated by advertisement.

 

Dissatisfaction with the quality of the product and/or the way it is delivered to the customer can lead to conflict between customer and service provider. The conflict can be resolved if the service provider can put himself/herself into the position of the customer by trying to understand what the person thinks and feels; and after that, considering the motives that prompted the conflict and the goals. Another method that is being introduced in the culture of service is the method of empathy. The method is based on listening to the feelings of another person and showing empathy. One of the most successful methods is logical analysis based on building positive attitudes to the client, imagining the situation the client is experiencing, exploring what and why the client is behaving in a certain way, and how the client is trying to meet his needs and wishes. The aim is to consider how to build communications to the client's interests in order to provide services and avoid conflict. The improvement of the culture of service is based on the respect of individuals. The quality of services determines the content of social innovations in the culture of services.

 

Valentin Mikhelkevich, the author of the article "Socio-Cultural Bases of Innovative Pedagogical Technologies" explores the definition of the term "pedagogical technology" given by Russian and foreign scientists, and UNESCO. The author considers that pedagogical technology has the following characteristics: it is based on methods and means of teaching to meet learning goals; answers the question how to teach effectively; helps to optimize learning outcomes (quality, volume, and so on) at minimum labor, time and material resources; foresees the possibility of making corrections in the process of teaching; provides opportunity to reproduce and share with other teachers. The delivery of pedagogical technologies depends on the application of teaching methods. The social needs such as formation of civil responsibility, tolerance, non-violence, human rights can be done through dialogue of cultures of people of the world, the study of cultures, making case studies and so on.

 

These essays in their diversity make an important contribution to the study of social change and the role of culture.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures building on the efforts in the UNESCO General Conference which had called for "the development of a universal global consciousness" based on dialogue and cooperation in a climate of trust and mutual understanding and for a "new humanism for the twenty-first century". Thus we look at the creative efforts of individuals who built bridges of understanding over the divides of cultures, social classes, and ethnicity and created a foundation for the New Humanism - Rene Wadlow

 

 

 

 

Aimé Césaire: (1913 - 2008) A Black Orpheus

Rene Wadlow*

 

My negritude is not a stone,

nor deafness flung out against the clamour

of the day

my negritude is not a white speck of dead water

on the dead eye of the earth

my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral.

Return to My Native Land

 

On 6 April 2011, Aimé Césaire was honoured by the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Pantheon, a monument in Paris where persons who have contributed to French political culture are honoured. Aimé Césaire, the Matinique poet and political figure, was a cultural bridge builder between the West Indies, Europe and Africa. A poet, teacher, and political figure, he had been mayor of the capital city, Fort-de-France for 56 years from 1945 to 2001, and a member of the French Parliament without a break from 1945 to 1993 - the French political system allowing a person to be a member of the national parliament and an elected local official at the same time. First elected to Parliament as a member of the Communist Party, he had left the Party in 1956 when he felt that the Communist Party did not put anti-colonialism at the center of its efforts.

 

The Communist Party's position was that colonialism would end by itself once the workers had come to power. Césaire went on to form a local political party which existed only in Martinique and was largely his political machine for creating municipal jobs. Césaire faced a massive rural to urban migration on the 400,000 person West Indian department of France. One answer to unemployment was to create municipal posts largely paid for from the central government budget - a ready pool of steady political supporters. Césaire also did much to develop cultural activities from his mayor's office- encouraging theatre, music and handicrafts.

 

Aimé Césaire's wider fame was due to his poetry and his plays - all with political implications, but heavily influenced by images from the subconscious. Thus it was that André Breton (1896-1966) writer and ideologue of the Surrealists saw in Césaire a kindred soul and became a champion of Césaire's writing. Breton had been interested in African art and culture, by its sense of motion, color and myth. Breton often projected his own ideas onto African culture seeing it as spontaneous and mystical when much African art is, in fact, conventional and material. Nevertheless, Breton, who spent some of the Second World War years in Martinique, was able to interest many French writers and painters in African culture. It was Breton who encouraged Jean Paul Sartre to do an early anthology of African and West Indian poetry -Black Orpheus- and to write an important introduction stressing the revolutionary character of the poems.

 

Aimé Césaire's parents placed high value on education - his father was a civil servant who encouraged his children to read and to take school seriously. Thus Césaire ranked first in his secondary school class and received a scholarship in 1931 to go to France to study at l'Ecole Normale Supériéure - a university-level institution which trains university professors and elite secondary school teachers. He was in the same class with Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and Leon Damas. They, along with Birago Diop also from Senegal, started a publication in Paris L'étudiant noir (The Black Student) as an expression of African culture. One of Césaire's style in poetry was to string together every cliché that the French used when speaking about Africa and turning these largely negative views into complements. Thus he and Senghor took the most commonly used term for Blacks ,Nègre, which was not an insult but which incorporated all the clichés about Africans and West Indians and put a positive light upon the term. Thus negritude became the term for a large group of French-speaking Africans and French-speaking West Indians - including Haiti - writers. They stressed the positive aspects of African society but also the pain and agony in the experience of Black people, especially slavery and colonialism.

 

In 1938, just as he finished his university studies, Césaire took a few weeks vacation on the coast of Yugoslavia. There he wrote in a burst of energy his Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Notebook of the Return to My Native Land), his best known series of poems. In 1939, he returned to Martinique having married another teacher from Martinique who was also trained in Paris. Both started teaching at the major secondary school of Martinique and started being politically active. However, by 1940, Martinique was under the control of the Vichy government of France and political activity was firmly discouraged. Thus Césaire concentrated on his writing. He met André Breton who spent the war years in the USA. Breton encouraged an interest in the history and culture of Haiti. While Haiti is physically close to Martinique, Haitian history and culture is often overlooked - if not looked down upon - in Martinique. Césaire wrote on the Haitian independence leader Toussaint L'Ouverture as a hero, and later a play in 1963 La Tragédie du roi Christophe largely influenced by the early years of the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier.

 

With the end of the Second World War, the French Communist Party had one third of the seats in the Parliament of the newly created Fourth Republic. The French Communists were looking for potential candidates from Martinique where the Party was not particularly well structured. They turned to young, educated persons who had a local base. Césaire, with his Paris education and as a popular teacher at the major secondary school fitted that bill. He was elected the same year both to Parliament and to the town hall. When in Paris, he took an active part in cultural life, especially with African students and young intellectuals. In 1947, along with the Senegalese Alioune Diop and Senghor, he founded the journal Présence africaine which later became also a publisher of books and the leading voice of the negritude movement.

 

As the French Communist Party had a rule of tight party discipline, Césaire played no independent role in the French Parliament until he left the Party in 1956. However, his 1950 Discours sur le Colonialism, at the same time violent and satiric became the most widely read anti-colonial tract of the times, calling attention to the deep cultural roots of colonial attitudes. After 1956, most of his efforts in Parliament were devoted to socio-economic development for Martinique. His strong anti-colonial efforts were made outside Parliament, especially in the cultural sphere. Nevertheless, as a member of Parliament he could open doors that poets do not usually enter.

 

Césaire, who read English well, was interested in the writings of Langston Hughes whose poems were close in spirit and style. He translated into French some of the poems of the Negro poet Sterling A. Brown.

 

In the 1960s, Césaire turned increasingly to writing plays, especially on the history of Haiti, as the earliest independent State of the West Indies. These were verse plays as the actors' dialogue were nearly poems. As the French African colonies became independent in the 1960s, he stressed that the end of colonialism was not enough but that colonial culture had to be replaced by a new culture, a culture of the universal, a culture of renewal. "It is a universal, rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars that are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all."

Within the framework of the UN Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, with UNESCO as the lead UN Agency, we are highlighting individuals who have enriched culture and built trans-frontier bridges of understanding. Lalon Shah, a Baul of Bengal, is such an artist. The avenues of inner peace of the Bauls merit being more widely known.

Lelon Shah: Men are vessels made for holy uses.

 

Why do you keep looking for the Man of the Heart

in the forests, in solitude?

Turn your attention this time

to the grace and beauty within your soul.

 

So begins one of the songs of Lalon Shah, also known as Lalon Fakir among the Hindus of Bengal − Shah being a Muslim Sufi title. His date of birth is not recorded, but he died in 1890 as an old man having composed thousands of short songs (often four or eight lines) passed down orally from disciple to disciple. Only a small number of his songs have survived as such, as many Baul singers add to or modify songs by intuition or in response to current events. More of Lalon's songs are known through the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengal's great poet and social reformer. Lalon Shah lived in a village on land which belonged to the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore as a young man spent time visiting villages on his family's estates to understand better village life. Later in 1922, Tagore created a center for rural development and reform Sriniketan along side an innovative school Santiniketan started in 1901 where Tagore hoped that "the young and the old, the teacher and the student, sit at the same table to take their daily food and the food of their eternal life." Bauls were always welcomed to sing in the courtyard of Santiniketan, and the students spread knowledge of Baul rural culture to more elite and urban Bengali society.

 

Who are the Bauls? The Bauls are a class − some would say a sect − of ministrels, wandering singers of mystic songs, though today with the socio-economic changes in Bengal (both West Bengal, India and parts of Bangladesh) many Bauls have settled rural homes and a minority have followed the rural to urban flow of populations. The Bauls today number around half a million persons living usually on the edges of larger settlements. Those who continue to follow a Baul way of live together under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor and are initiated into their function of singer-teacher-mystic through rituals of initiation.

 

However, the Bauls, other than this original initiation, do not have set rituals, temples or priests. Those who are active ministrels (many drop out in order to follow more conventional ways of living) have no personal possessions other than a single garment, often saffron in color, a reminder of a period, prior to the 13th century arrival of Islam. The Bauls represent an earlier pre-Islamic Bengali current of thought which later influenced Buddhism in Tibet and has many similarities with the Yin/Yang balance of forces found in Chinese Taoism.

 

Lalon Shah, by his talent and by the interest in his songs taken by Tagore, is the outstanding representative of Baul teaching. In his songs, he tears down the barriers of caste and creed, the walls that separate humans. As he sang:

If you circumcise him, he becomes a Muslim,

Then what is the rule for women?

I recognize the Brahman by his sacred thread,

Then how do I recognize a Brahmani?

 

For Lalon, as with the Baul tradition, the Kingdom of God is within. There are no temples but that of the body of each person. Life is a continuous interior search in which intuition awakens the Spirit. Within the body, especially the heart, the Laws of Nature are known. The Baul exercises are partly based on the concept of the Kundalini − a fire within the body which can be activated by the control of breath and dance-like motions. These exercises awaken the Spirit and become 'Living Wisdom' within each person. Wisdom aims at the good life. It involves intuition, feelings and conscience.

 

For the Bauls, what we may call the Divine (for lack of a better concept) is reflected in the beauty of Nature and all created things. The moon holds a special place. As the Lelon song states:

By great good luck one may see that moon.

It has no dark spots.

In it lies the golden abode of the Unknowable.

In the world of the moon there is no play of day or night.

 

Today, the Bauls are looked down upon by the more legalistic Muslims of Bangladesh or thought of only as "folk singers". However, their search for the inner person, for the indwelling light has a message for each of us.

 

Notes

For anthropology studies based on field work see:

Jeanne Openshaw Seeking Bauls of Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

 

June McDaniel The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal (University ofChicago Press, 1989)

 

Edward Dimroch The Place of the Hidden Moon (University of Chicago Press, 1966)

 

For translations into English of Baul songs and their philosophical context see:

Deben Phattacarya Songs of the Bards of Bengal (Grove Press, 1989)

 

Charles Capwell The Music of the Bauls of Bengal (Kent State University Press, 1986)

 

******

 

René Wadlow

Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) The Highest mountains stand as the witnesses of the Great Reality
Rene Wadlow*


Nicholas Roerich, the Russian painter, explorer, and cultural activist, stressed throughout his life the role of beauty and culture in bringing humanity together in unity. "True art is the expression of the radiant spirit." Art is the manifestation of the coming synthesis of the spiritual and the material.The gates of the sacred source must be opened wide for everybody, and the light of art will ignite numerous hearts with a new love.At first this feeling will be unconscious, but after all it will purify human consciousness.Bring art to the people "where it belongs.We should have not o­nly museums, theatres, universities, public libraries, railway stations and hospitals, but even prisons decorated and beautified."

His inspiration is still at work today in many efforts to preserve the art of the past and to create an art of the future which speaks to the highest aspiration of the person.


Roerich gained recognition at a young age in St. Petersburg art circles.His paintings of early Russian life, inspired in part by his archaeological excavations of tumuli " a reminder of the Vikings in Russia" were popular among those who were looking for inspiration in the Russian past.


There were some among the Slavophiles of the early 1900s who felt that Russia had a unique culture and thus a special role to play in the salvation of humanity.They rejected anything coming from Western Europe.However, Roerich, while close to some of the Slavophiles, especially Princess Maria Tenisheva and her efforts at the experimental village Talashkino, was never hostile to artistic creation from non-Russian cultures.As he said "The chief significance of an artistic education lies in opening up wide horizons to the pupils and in inculcating the conception of art as something infinite." Roerich believed that o­ne had to preserve and develop what was best in local culture as a contribution to a world culture in which the best of local cultures would be preserved. "Culture is a constant becoming, a dynamic evolution of a living world."


Probably the most influential aspect of Roerich's Russian period was his cooperation with Igor Stravinsky for the theme and the music of the SacreduPrintemps and with Sergei Diaghilev for the ballet, costumes and scenery of the Sacre in Paris in 1913, a music and dance which revolutionized ballet at the time.As Roerich wrote of Le Sacre "The eternal novelty of the Sacre is because spring is eternal, and love is eternal and sacrifice is eternal. Then in this new conception, Stravinsky touches the eternal in music. He was modern because he evoked the future; it is the great serpent ring touching the great past -the sacred tunes that connect the great past and the future."


The Sacre is the most Dionysian of Roerich's inspiration. His painting of 1911 "The Forefathers" at the time of Roerich's collaboration with Stravinsky might almost be a sketch for the opening of the Sacre, whose early pages quiver with the sound of pipes.Here Dionysus-like, primitive man charms with his piping a circle of wild beasts, in this case, bears, reflecting the Slavic tradition that bears were man's forefathers.


Stravinsky was presented to Roerich by Sergei Diaghilev, the Russian with a holistic vision of art: music, painting, dance, and the publisher of The World of Art magazine.Roerich had already designed some of the sets for Borodin's Prince Igor produced by Diaghilev in Paris in 1909.Roerich produced the outline and the theme for Le Sacre and later designed the sets and the costumes.


In 1901, Nicholas Roerich had married Elena Ivanovona who shared his interest in art, music and the philosophy of China, Tibet and India. Later, in the West she wrote her name as Helena and also published under the pen name Josephine Saint-Hilaire On Easterm Crossroads (1930). The Russian composer Moussorgsky was her uncle. The young couple cooperated with the Buriat Lama Dorzhiev in building a TibetanBuddistTemple in St. Petersburg.


Dorzhiev saw the possibility of an alliance of the Buriats, Kaimyk and other Buddhist tribes living in the eastern part of Russia with the thirteenth Dalai Lama, who was the most politically aware of the Dalai Lamas.The alliance was to be headed by the Tsar Nicholas II and would have been a counter weight to English and Chinese influence in Tibet.

From Dorzhiev, the Roerichs learned of the Tibetan text and ritual, the Kalachakra


(The Wheel of Time) and of the coming of a new historical-astrological cycle "The New Age" to be marked by a new Buddha, Maitreya. (1) Nicholas II, however, was not to become "the Bodhisatva Tsar". He was soon caught up by the 1917 Russian Revolution.By 1918, the Roerichs left Russia foreseeing the Soviet policy of controlling all art forms for narrow political purposes.


After a short stay in Western Europe, the Roerichs moved to the United States where his paintings had already been shown.With American friends, he created the MasterSchool of the United Arts in 1922 in New York City, where music, art and philosophy were taught. Students were advised to "Look forward, forget the past, think of the service of the future.Exalt others in spirit and look ahead."


In 1924, the Roerichs left for India and travelled especially in the Himalayan areas. For Roerich, mountains represented a path to the spiritual life. "Mountains, what magnetic forces are concealed within you. What a symbol of quietude is revealed in every sparking peak. The highest knowledge, the most inspired songs, the most superb sounds and colors, are created o­n the mountains. o­n the highest mountains there is the Supreme."


The Roerichs undertook a number of expeditions to Central Asia and the Altai Mountains of Russia (1923-1928 and 1933-1935) along with their son George, who became a specialist of Tibetan culture and language. George Roerich's Trails to Inmost Asia (Yale University Press, 1931) is a good and unsentimental account of these trips, George being assigned the hard work of running the logistics.Nicholas Roerich always remained convinced of the need to preserve local culture. He put an emphasis o­n collecting folk tales and traditional practices of medicine, especially the use of herbs. "In every encampment of Asia, I tried to unveil what memories were cherished in the folk memory.Through these guarded and preserved tales, you may recognize the reality of the past. In every spark of folklore, there is a drop of the great Truth adorned or distorted."


Roerich's desire to make known the artistic achievements of the past through archaeology, coupled with the need to preserve the landmarks of the past from destruction, led to his work for the Banner of Peace to preserve art and architecture in time of war.Roerich had seen the destruction brought by the First World War and the civil war which followed the 1917 Russian Revolution. He worked with French international lawyers to draft a treaty by which museums, churches and buildings of value would be preserved in time of war through the use of a symbol - three red circles representing past, present and future- a practice inspired by the red cross used to protect medical personnel in times of conflict.


Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace. Henry A. Wallace, the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President, was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official treaty introducing the Banner of Peace - the Roerich Peace Pact - signed at the White House o­n 15 April 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony.At the signing, Henry Wallace o­n behalf of the USA said "At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity.It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs.Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contribution of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in o­ne fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith."


As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact "The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era.We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheins. We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.But we do not want to inscribe o­n these deeds any words of hatred. Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance -rebuilt by human hope."


After the Second World War, UNESCO has continued the effort, and there have been additional conventions o­n the protection of cultural and educational bodies in times of conflict, in particular The Hague Convention of May 1954 though no universal symbol as proposed by Nicholas Roerich has been developed.


Today, the need to bring beauty to as many people as possible is the prime task of developing a culture of peace. As Nicholas Roerich wrote "The most gratifying and uplifting way to serve the coming evolution is by spreading the seeds of beauty.If we are to have a beautiful life and some happiness it must be created with joy and enthusiasm for service to art and beauty."


(1)See Alan Sponberg and Helen Hardacre Maitreya: The Future Buddha (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, 304pp.)

Citizens of the World Welcome the Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures

 

 

Building on efforts in the UNESCO General Conference of October 2011, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, with UNESCO as the lead Agency.

 

The Decade is part of a strong momentum created by the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) which called for peace and non-violence at every level of society.

 

The 2006 UNESCO General Conference in its resolution on Promotion of dialogue among peoples had called for "the development of a universal global consciousness" based on dialogue and cooperation in a climate of trust and mutual understanding and for a "new humanism for the twenty-first century".

 

The year 2010 had been designated as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures "to promote universal respect for, and observation and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms." Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions.

 

It is true today that, to an unprecedented degree, people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe. However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogue and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer-range view, and creativity.

 

For any UN-sponsored Year or Decade to have a real impact, there must be wide initiatives and actions by civil society: non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and the media.

 

As Citizens of the World have been in the lead in efforts to create a new humanism for the twenty-first century, they welcome this 2013-2022 Decade and will play their part to highlight the creative efforts of individuals who have helped to create bridges of understanding among cultures.

 

 

 

In Beauty, we are united

Rene Wadlow

 

Beauty creates unity and the deepest sense of love. Beauty gives birth within us to gratitude, harmony, and a sense of service. We sometimes limit beauty to the field of art, but real beauty can express itself in any avenue of life. It can express itself in politics, in education, in human relations and communication.

 

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions. Thus 2013 was the start of real opportunities for a continuing dialogue among cultures. We must build upon the projects developed during 2013 and go further to make the whole Decade one of creativity and mutual understanding.

 

It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe. However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogues and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer view and creativity. It is to reach this deeper level of understanding among cultures that we must work.

 

There is a growing realization that art reflects the emotional and spiritual state of the artist and that a work of art vibrates with the energy of the person who created it. An artist is often sensitive to the historical-social situation in which he finds himself. Art is a kind of mirror making visible what is invisible in us and the life of our time. Art is an unfailing source of increasing human awareness. This past century of often violent conflicts and nightmares is also reflected in art — an art which can be death ridden, pathological and sadistic. Viewing such art we may say “never again”, but we do not grow in stature or greatness. We recognize that such art is a reflection of our time of transition, that it is impermanent, but it rarely helps us to move to the next stage of spiritual growth which should reflect beauty, meaning and spirit. Art is a vital medium of the coming world culture. It will bring joy to the hearts of the world.

 

Julian Huxley, the first Director General of UNESCO, stressed that a new cosmopolitan spirit requires respect for the freedom, dignity and integrity of the person. Huxley said “By working together, we must lay a conscious basis for a new world order, the next step in our human evolution.” Today, more than ever before, we live in a emerging world society. We need first to be aware of these world-wide links and then we need to use such links consciously so that there are positive outcomes. These trans-national networks for positive action are building a world society. As we develop this emerging world society, we also grow in awareness of all previous cultures which make the building blocks of the world society. We must be open to the literature, the music, the art of the whole world. It is through sharing that each individual grows, and it is by sharing on a world scale that we create a world society of harmony.

 

Therefore, we need to encourage the use of literature, music, dance, painting, and the creation of gardens as ways to develop a consciousness of world unity and beauty. This is an ongoing process, and we hope that many will join in. Evolution and progress depend on the continually increasing power to respond to beauty and to create beauty. Clarity and simplicity are what the heart is waiting for, and the efforts of world citizens are directed to sharing such expressions of beauty.

 

 

Rapprochement of Cultures and Creative Education

Rene Wadlow*

 

 

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures building on the efforts in the UNESCO General Conference which had called for “the development of a universal global consciousness” based on dialogue and cooperation in a climate of trust and mutual understanding and for a “new humanism for the twenty-first century.” The Rapprochement of Cultures is a positive aspect of the process of globalization.

 

Globalization is an empirical process of world integration driven by a variety of economic, cultural, political, and ideological forces as seen in such areas as market expansion, a global production pattern as well as cultural homogenisation. In the fields of economics, politics, technology, environment and health, we see greater collaboration and interdependence. Now, international conferences, common trade agreements and multinational projects are striving to find solutions to long-standing difficulties and to promote development in areas where the problems have become too great to be resolved by a single State. We are learning, out of necessity, that competition has its limits. To give one example, many of the issues in trade negotiations which go on in Geneva where I am an NGO Representative to the United Nations are about labour standards, environmental policies and human rights (such as products fabricated by child labour). These are all deeply domestic matters which have now become part of international affairs.

 

Has education been changing as quickly as the world economy? How are we preparing students to meet the demands of the world society? What role are schools playing in the formation of active world citizens able to make real contributions to the creation of a more peaceful society? Are we building the foundations of a New Humanism?

 

Education is uniquely placed to help deal with the major problems facing the world society: violent conflict, poverty, the destruction of the natural environment, and other fundamental issues touching human beings everywhere. Education provides information, skills and helps to shape values and attitudes.

 

It is true that education is not limited to the formal school system. There are many agents of education: family, media, peers, and associations of all sorts. Nevertheless, schools play a central role, and people expect schools to be leaders in the educational process. Unfortunately, there are times when schools are left alone as the only conscious instrument of education. Therefore, teachers need to analyse how other agents of society contribute to the educational process or, more negatively, may hinder the educational process or promote destructive attitudes and values.

 

Education has two related aims. One is to help the student to function in society, be it the local, the national, and the world society. The other aim is to help in the fullest development of the individual’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual capacities.

 

There are three related ways to help prepare students for a fast-changing world in which people, ideas, goods and services increasingly cross State frontiers. These ways are related to:

  1. skills,

  2. content,

  3. values and attitudes.

 

There is a need to teach those skills needed to be able to function effectively in the world: skills of goal setting, analysis, problem solving, research, communication, and conflict-resolution skills. We need to place more emphasis on communication skills in our schools with an emphasis on personal expression through language and the arts. Children need opportunities to acquire skills in writing, speech, drama, music, painting and other arts in order to find their own voices and expressions.

 

The second area of importance concerns the content of education with an emphasis on modern history and geography, ecology, economics, civics, and the history of science and technology. There is also a need to organize a curriculum through the use of broad themes such as interdependence, change, complexity, culture and conflict.

 

The third area concerns values and attitudes needed for living in a global society: self-confidence in one’s own capacity, concern and interest in others, an openness to the cultural contributions of other societies. There needs to be a willingness to live with complexity, to refuse easy answers or to shift blame to others. In practice, a good teacher makes a personalized combination of all these elements.

 

One must be realistic in evaluating the difficulties of restructuring educational systems to make them future oriented and open to the world. We all know the heavy structures of educational systems and the pressures to conform to the status quo. We must not underestimate the narrow nationalistic pressures on the teaching of social issues or the political influences on content and methods.

 

In order to understand the limits and the possibilities of change, teachers must be prepared to carry out research on the local community. They must be able to analyse their specific communities. It is always dangerous to make wide generalizations on the role of the family, the media, of religion as if it were always the same in all parts of the country or the same in all social classes and milieu.

 

Thus, teachers should be able, with some sociological training, to carry out studies on the formation of attitudes, values and skills of their students by looking at the respective role of the family, the content of the media, and student participation in associations. Such studies can be carried out in a cooperative way among several teachers so as to be able to go to greater depth. Teachers could look for information to help answer such questions as “Are any groups excluded from participating in the community?” “How can possible marginalisation be counteracted?” “How can one study environmental and ecological issues locally?” “What is the significance of different role models such as peers, parents, and educators?” “In what ways can non-formal and informal learning environments be furthered?”

 

There are more and more teachers who realise the direction of current world trends. Migration puts other cultures on one’s door step. Thus, the importance of creative efforts for the Decade of the Rapprochement of Cultures. We all need to be encouraged by the advances being made. We can help one another so that we may develop the culture of peace and active world citizenship together.

 

 

Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907): The Buddhist Bridge

Rene Wadlow*

 

 

There is, in a period of transition, a need for individuals with the specific talents of organization and the ability to translate doctrines into social policy. Henry Steel Olcott was such an individual.

 

The last quarter of the 1800s was a period very much like our own — a period of transition with no firm guidelines as to the shape of the period to come. It was a period, like ours, of cross currents, of strong positive and negative movements.

 

In America and Europe, there was a growing interest in the contribution of Asian thought to the eternal questions of man’s nature and destiny. Yet at the same time others wondered what relevance these Asian doctrines had to the growing social and political problems of the period. Were religions more than the opiate that some suggested they were?

 

In Asia, where Olcott had moved in 1878 and was most active during his later life, there was the start of the cultural nationalism that has taken a cultural-economic-political form today. But was the intellectual revival of Hinduism and Buddhism only the manifestation of energy displaced from a political area — then under control of colonial powers — which would abandon the cultural sphere once the political realm was open? Would Hinduism and Buddhism be able to translate their doctrines into social policy: projects such as the Christians had been able to do with the creation of schools, hospitals, and social services in Asia, often for the most neglected strata of the society?

 

The leadership of Henry S. Olcott and the work of the Theosophical Society in quickening cultural life among Buddhists is important as a historical precedent — one which merits attention, not only because of its significance in the past, but also because Buddhist-influenced Southern Asia, from Sri Lanka to Japan, is currently trying to deal with many of these issues.

 

Colonel Olcott was a distinguished lawyer from a prominent American family, and he remained primarily a lawyer, with a great gift for organizing, throughout his life. The title of Colonel he kept from his war service as an investigator of fraud in the American Civil War. It was a war service that he had undertaken prior to his becoming a Theosophist and Buddhist, but he never renounced the title, for, as with most of his generation who had fought for the Union in the Civil War, he considered the war as a fight against slavery. After 1878, when he had settled in India as President of the Theosophical Society, he worked strenuously against all forms of killing — war, capital punishment, and animal slaughter.

 

In Ceylon, his legal mind helped him see the inequalities of the colonial system. He believed that British imperialism maintained itself through cultural hegemony. He intervened with the British Governor for better treatment of the people and helped create a Buddhist Defense Committee. At a time when people were interested in colonial areas only if they were professionally involved, he helped to create an interest in the situation of the people of Ceylon with his book, The Government and Buddhists of Ceylon (1884).

 

It is, however, in the field of social policy that Olcott is best known in Ceylon. From 1886 on, he was active with David Hewavitarane (1865 -1933) in setting up a Buddhist educational fund and the first modern Buddhist-sponsored schools. Until then, all formal modern instruction had been run by Christian missionaries, many of whom were, unfortunately, both aggressive and narrow in the understanding of any faith but their own. These Buddhist-sponsored schools were important factors in the cultural renewal of Ceylon, for they combined modern technical training with a deeper understanding of the religious and cultural heritage of the land. In fact, Olcott was concerned with the cultural life of all in Ceylon. He worked closely with the Hon. P. Ramanathan, a respected leader of the Tamil-speaking Hindus in connection with the possibility of founding a Hindu-Buddhist college that would serve both communities. For financial reasons, the college was never begun. Today, when there is an even greater need for understanding between the two communities, it is important to look at how education can build bridges.

 

One of the most lasting instruments of this educational concern was the publication of Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism (1881). In many ways a catechism is not a Buddhist way of teaching, which is based more on the interplay of master and student, and the use of ritual. But the Catechism is a noteworthy attempt to accomplish two separate tasks. The first is to present in a simple form the basic teachings of Buddhist thought to the faithful, many of whom had never studied the Dharma in a systematic way. The second and more difficult aim was to translate basic Buddhist doctrine into social policies that could serve as guidelines and recommendations for modern society. One chapter of the Catechism is devoted to the similarities between the Dharma and Western science. This is probably the weakest chapter, and today a good deal more would need to be said on the relationship between traditional Asian philosophies and Western science. In writing the other chapters of the Catechism Olcott depended on the advice of learned Buddhist scholars in Ceylon, but neither they nor Olcott were scientists.

 

The Buddhist Catechism was widely used. By 1889 it had been translated into 15 languages, mostly those of Asia. It was used as a textbook in many schools. Today, it has gone through forty-five printings, translated into over twenty languages. The success of the Catechism came as a surprise to Olcott himself, for the writing has none of the literary value of Sir Edwin Arnold’s earlier The Light of Asia (1876). Olcott was interested in philosophy, though he was not a philosopher in the formal sense. He saw the need for an improved, widely-accepted teaching tool, and he created it. Olcott also helped to design the five-colored Buddhist flag in 1885: blue for universal compassion, yellow for the Middle Path, red for the blessings of practice, white for purity and orange for liberation.

 

The same direct approach was used in his work for cooperation among the various traditions of Buddhism. From his extensive travels in India, Ceylon, Burma, and Japan, he saw the need to bring together various schools of thought in the Buddhist world around a certain number of essential points. For nearly the whole month of January 1891, Olcott had brought together representative Buddhist scholars from Japan, Ceylon, Burma, and one representative from Chittagong (then eastern Bengal) to draft a fourteen-point platform of agreement and mutual sympathy. In the same year, the Maha Bodhi Society was created by Olcott’s former student David Hewavitarone, who became the monk Anagarika Dharmapala, carrying much further this worldwide task of teaching, of harmonizing, and of cultural renewal. Anagarika Dharmapala was a leading participant in the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, a first of the major interfaith efforts. He and Olcott had written for the Parliament a book The Kinship between Hinduism and Buddhism (1893) and in preparation for the Parliament, Olcott wrote The Common Foundation of All Religions.

 

It is likely that today, when contacts among different schools of Buddhist thought are more common than in 1891, the area of agreement would be greater. But what characterized the life of Henry Steel Olcott was the ability to see a crucial problem and then to organize with others to solve it.

 

 

Velimir Khlebnikov : The Futurian (1895-1922)

 

 

My soul is a seer

Who has seen in the skies

The constellations beginning to rise.

And the thunderstorm fly like a bird.

 

So wrote the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov on the eve of his death in 1922. Khlebnikov was part of an active avant-garde circle of writers. Khlebnikov called himself a “futurian”. Khlebnikov had a strong sense of what Russia could bring to the modern world despite the hardships that the 1917 Revolution and the First World War brought to the avant-garde. In 1920 he wrote:

Russia, I give you my divine

white brain. Be me. Be Khlebnikov.

I have sunk a foundation deep in the minds

of your people. I have laid down an axis,

I have built a house on a firm foundation.

We are Futurians.

 

The Futurian group produced most of its work from 1910 until the start of World War and then was scattered by the War and the Revolution. The group which included the spiritually-inclined painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) who was inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse which existed in private collections in Moscow, but basically the group found its inspiration in the native art of Russian folklore — folklore which had a wisdom beyond intellect. In his essay “On Poetry” Khlebnikov wrote “If we think of the soul as split between the government of intellect and a stormy population of feelings, then incantations and beyondsense language are appeals over the head of the government straight to the population of feelings, a direct cry to the predawn of the soul.”

 

Yet Khlebnikov does not fit into any one school or trend. His work explores a unique broad terrain. He was among the great innovators of literary modernism. He blurred the distinction between verse and prose. He made use of patterns from folklore and chants, incantations and shamanistic language. In addition to poems and plays, stories and essays, he wrote political and artistic manifestos, essays on history, architecture, and social problems, literary theory, and journalistic pieces on current events. His passion for internationalism in politics and the arts prompted him to envisage a world-wide brotherhood of creative scientists, writers, and thinkers dedicated to understanding nature and to counteracting all the social evils fostered by political leaders.

 

Khlebnikov, who died when he was 36, is in many ways a short-lived Walt Whitman whom he much admired. “Attentively I read the springtime thoughts of the Divinity in designs on the speckled feet of tree-toads, Homer shaken by the awful wagon of a great war, the way a glass shakes at the passing of a wagon. I have the same Neanderthal skull, the same curving forehead as you, old Walt.”

 

Khlebnikov’s “O Garden of Animals” is directly influenced by Whitman:

“O Garden of Animals,

Where iron bars seem like a father who stops a bloody fight to remind his sons they are brothers; Where a clean-shaven soldier throws dirt at a tiger, all because the tiger is greater.

Where a camel knows the essence of Buddhism, and suppresses a Chinese smile; Where I search for new rhythms, whose beats are animals and men.

 

Like Whitman, Khlebnikov was an innovator of language and form. At first sight, his poetry was considered anarchic and destructive of accepted rules. Khlebnikov wanted a clear break with the past. As he wrote in 1916 as the war ground on “Old Ones, you are holding back the fast advance of humanity; you are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.” He saw himself as a creator of new forms that would penetrate below the surface of phenomena and give a new art that might change the human condition. As we look more deeply at his writings, we see the metaphysical structure of order behind the innovative lines. His break with the past was to discover the true laws of nature. This passionate belief in the sovereignty of a lawful nature gave Khlebnikov a great intellectual freedom in the pursuit of its boundless variety, in poetry and in the various languages he devised for poetry. It removed the constraints of common forms and opened words to the wide prospects enjoyed by natural objects, while making them subject to the deep scrutiny of analytic dissection. Khlebnikov was thus able to proceed to the work of the poet with the methodological precision of the scientist and to partake of the passion of both. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe — that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretence, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency. He wanted to transform the World through the Word. As he wrote “I solemnly urge all artists of the future to keep exact spiritual records, to think of themselves as the sky and to keep exact notes on the rising and setting of their spiritual stars.”

 

Khlebnikov’s metaphysics are largely Taoist, more likely a rediscovery of the workings of yin and yang than a conscious influence of Chinese philosophy although he had a wide knowledge of Slavic and Indian mythology and a general interest in Asia.

In a wry little poem of 1914, he describes concisely the underlying principle of his view of history, the idea of an equilibrium produced by the shift from positive to negative states:

The law of the see-saw argues

That your shoes will be loose or tight

That the hours will be day or night,

And that the ruler of earth the rhinoceros

Or us.

 

We find the same sense of the working of equilibrium in a section of “The Song of One Comes to Confusion”:

 

These tenuous Japanese shadows,

These murmuring Indian maidens,

Nothing sounds so mournful

As words at this last supper.

Death — but first life flashes past

Again: unknown, unlike, immediate.

This rule is the only rhythm

For the dance of death and attainment.

 

Death came too soon. 1913 had been a high point of cooperation among the Cubo-Futurists when they staged the opera “Victory over the Sun”. The music was by Mikhail Matiushin (1861 -1934) with the sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich and the prologue by Khlebnikov. War, revolution, civil war and exile broke up these creative groups. Although they were unable to create the future they had envisaged, the ideas are powerful beacons and can still reach a wider audience. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe is still central to the world citizens goals.

 

See: Raymond Cooke. Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Paul Schmidt’s translations The King of Time (1985) and Collected Works (1987 and 1989) both published by Harvard University Press.

 

 

Rapprochement of Cultures

Khalil Gibran : Spirits Rebellious
Rene Wadlow

Khalil Gibran (1983-1931) is one of the most quoted prose poets, especially his 1923 work The Prophet. In The Prophet, we are told that Almustafa, a holy man, has been living in exile, in a city called Orphalese for twelve years. A ship is coming to take him home to the island of his birth. People gather and ask him for his final words of wisdom - on love, on work, on joy, on children. The book has become bedside reading for all those who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious".

But there is also an earlier Gibran writing in Arabic, a critic of the political and religious conditions of his day - a set of four short stories bound together as Spirits Rebellious. (1) Soon after the publication of the original Arabic version of Spirits Rebellious at the turn of the century, considerable agitation developed. The book was publicly burned in the Beirut market place by Maronite Church and Ottoman State officials who judged it fiercely dangerous to the peace of the country. Gibran's bitter denunciation of both religious and political injustice brought his anticipated exile from the country. As he was already living in Paris to study art at the time, it meant not returning to Lebanon rather than having to leave. However, he was also excommunicated from the Church, which can be considered serious in a country where much civil identity and justice was based on religious membership - not to mention the popular idea that God did not allow excommunicated souls into his Heaven.

It was the short story "Khalil the Heretic" that set off the religious and political authorities. It is not easy when reading the story today, to see why the authorities got upset, but all book burning needs to be seen in the context of the day. Even today, writings or poems which would pass unnoticed in one country can provoke jail in another. So "Khalil the Heretic" is worth reading today, both as an example of the early Arabic writing of Gibran and of what attacks on church and state at the same time may cost. It is better to attack one at a time, not both together.

"Khalil the Heretic" has some of the same structure as the later and better-known The Prophet: a person asks questions of the key figure who replies. In The Prophet, the answers are those of a mature man who reflects on his life experience in a calm voice. In "Khalil the Heretic", the heretic figure Khalil is first asked by a young women, Rachel, why he has left the monastery where he was working, and later is questioned by a Sheik in a hostile confrontation. The spirit of the exchanges is more heated and bitter than in The Prophet but follow the same pattern:
Rachel "How ventured you, brother, to leave the convent on such a terrible night, when even the beasts do not venture forth?"
Khalil "The animals have their caves, and the birds of the sky their nests, but the son of man has no place to rest his head".
Rachel retorted "This is what Jesus said about himself."
And the young man resumed "This is the answer for every man who wants to follow the Spirit and the Truth in this age of falsehood, hypocrisy and corruption."
Rachel "Is there any light, other than the sun, that shines over all the people? Are human beings capable of understanding the Truth?"
Khalil returned, "The true light is that which emanates from within man, and reveals the secrets of the heart to the soul, making it happy and contented with life. Truth is like stars; it does not appear except behind obscurity of the night. Truth is like all beautiful things in the world; it does not disclose its desirability except to those who first feel the influence of falsehood. Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness…Vain are the beliefs and teachings that make man miserable, and false is the goodness that leads him into sorrow and despair, for it is man's purpose to be happy on this earth and lead the way to felicity and preach its gospel wherever he goes. He who does not see the kingdom of heaven in this life will never see it in the coming life. We came not into this life by exile, but we came as innocent creatures of God, to learn how to worship the holy and eternal spirit and seek the hidden secrets within ourselves from the beauty of life."

In the short story, Sheik Abbas is the symbol of the political authority and Father Elias the Church. They are united to share power among them for, as Gibran writes" In Lebanon, that mountain rich in sunlight and poor in knowledge, the nobel and the priest joined hands to exploit the farmer who ploughed the land…Since the beginning of the creation and up to our present time, certain clans, rich by inheritance, in cooperation with the clergy, had appointed themselves the administrators of the people. It is an old gaping wound in the heart of society that cannot be removed except by intense removal of ignorance."

Of this State-Church alliance, he said "Through their wickedness we were divided amongst ourselves; and the better to keep their thrones and be at ease, they armed the Druze to fight the Arab, and stirred up the Shiite to attack the Sunnit, and encouraged the Kurdish to butcher the Bedouin, and cheered the Mohammedan to dispute with the Christian. Until when shall a brother continue killing his own brother upon his mother's bosom? Until when shall the Cross be kept apart from the Crescent before the eyes of God?"

Khalil ends his speech to the Sheik with a call for liberty. "Oh Liberty, hear us, and speak in behalf of but one individual for a great fire is started with a small spark. Oh Liberty, awake but one heart with the rustling of they wings, for from one cloud alone comes the lightning which illuminates the pits of the valleys and the tops of the mountains."

By the time Khalil Gibran died in 1931, he had lived most of his life in the USA and wrote in English. The Prophet had been first published in 1923 and has always remained in print - read at countless weddings and funerals. By 1931, the Ottoman Empire had broken, and Lebanon was part of greater Syria. Gibran had been taken back into communion with the Maronites who did not want to leave the best-known Lebanese poet out in the cold. But Gibran was never a very orthodox Catholic. He was attracted to the person and sayings of Jesus but not to the organization. He also knew Buddhist literature and appreciated it for the same reason: useful advice on how to live.

(1) Quotations from Spirits Rebellious are from the translation by A.R. Ferris and published by Philosophical Library (New York, 1947, 121pp.)

 

 

Chinua Achebe : A Reflection of When Things Fall Apart

Rene Wadlow

 

The death in a Boston hospital of Chinua Achebe, on 21 March 2013, the Nigerian novelist about whom it was said that his writings were “concerned with universal human communication across racial and cultural boundaries as a means of fostering respect for all people” came just at the start of the UN-sponsored 2013-2022 International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Chinua Achebe as a novelist, professor of African literature in US universities and editor of cultural journals was an important figure in the efforts to share African culture with others and to advance the multiple currents of contemporary African life.

 

His quartet of major novels Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, and A Man of the People were largely planned as a reflection of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial life in the Ibo (now more usually written as Igbo) area of southern Nigeria. The novels, however, were to reflect wider African trends, and the novels have been widely appreciated in other parts of Africa, especially in East Africa where Achebe taught at the University of Kenya.

 

As is common in much modern African writing, the source of his novels is autobiographic. He was born of Christian parents whose paternal family had held important village posts both political and religious — the two functions often combined. For Things Fall Apart the title is taken for W.B. Yeats’ poem Second Coming “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.

 

The novel is a picture of pre-colonial village society on the eve of colonization and the introduction of Christianity. Achebe paints an over-idealized picture, underplaying the tensions, struggles for power, and family conflicts that existed in southern Nigerian society. There is no mention of the impact of either the Atlantic or Saharan slave trade on the society. However, the picture of a stable, largely harmonious village society is to serve as a sharp contrast to the changes — largely seen as disintegration of what is to follow. Achebe’s basic view is one of a society (which also represents the whole world) steadily disintegrating, falling apart by the impact of centrifugal forces in the political-economic world.

 

The Arrow of God reflects the early years of British colonialism in southern Nigeria. Following the First World War, Lord Lugard was the chief theorist of colonial policy in Nigeria as expressed in his book The Dual Mandate. Lugard who knew well northern Nigeria where there were strong Islamic chiefs who controlled the population suggested the extension of “Indirect Rule” with chiefs who would be responsible for order and thus made responsible for colonial administration. The problem with “indirect rule” arose in southern Nigeria where there were no powerful chiefs, especially among the Ibo, a highly independent people, with only clanic chiefs. Thus the British had to create chiefs. The villagers often proposed “straw men” as chiefs, people who held no local power, but since the English wanted a chief, they would be given a village chief even if he had no authority. However, some of the straw chiefs took their new role seriously and wanted to have authority. Arrow of God paints the portrait of a man who had been a religious leader without political power and who is suddenly appointed village chief. The novel deals with the predictable conflict between the village members, its new chief, and the local British administration — all of whom fail to communicate.

 

No Longer at Ease takes its title from T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi “We returned to our places,…but no longer at ease here…with an alien people clutching their gods.” The Magi, the sages of a passing world and the harbingers of a new, feel themselves torn by the conflicting pulls of both. Likewise in Africa, Achebe notes, there will be no new golden age but no return either to an age of traditional empires and kingdoms symbolized by the newly chosen names of the states of Ghana and Mali, names of 11th and 12th century African empires.

 

The last of the quartet, A Man of the People, is the weakest from a literary point of view. It is a satire of the Chief, the Honorable M.A.Nanga, M.P., a school teacher become minister of an unnamed African state with official residences each having seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, one for each day of the week.

 

At the end of the novel, there is a change of government. “Overnight everyone begins to shake their heads at the excesses of the last regime, at its graft, oppression and corrupt government; newspapers, the radio, the hitherto silent intellectuals and civil servants — everybody said what a terrible lot, — and it became public opinion the next morning.” Manga, M.P. is both corrupt and unprepared for the highly complex obligations in a modern State.

 

Achebe’s own participation in politics and its tragic complexities came with the May 1967 –January 1970 Biafra-Nigeria civil war. Achebe was both the editor of the cultural journal of Biafra with some ill-defined responsibilities for cultural activities within the break-away state and an informal ambassador-spokesperson for Biafra in the USA and Western Europe where his novels were known.

 

At the end of the war, he reintegrated academic life in Nigeria but spent more and more time abroad. After 1990, he was permanently in the USA as professor first at Bard in New York and later at Brown in Rhode Island — thus his final days in a Boston hospital. Achebe knew the value of “speaking truth to power” but also the value of not pushing too hard. As one of his characters says to his son “It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless, my son, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live.” Achebe waited until nearly the end of his life to write his account of his experiences during the Biafra war: There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra.

 

His work as a novelist, a writer of books for children and as an editor made him an important agent of understanding between Africa and the USA and Europe. His writing was innovative, drawing upon traditions of myth, song and proverbs as well as on oral history of his area and his personal experiences. He has set out a path which others can follow creatively.

 

 

Albert Camus : Stoic Humanist and World Citizen

Rene Wadlow

 

Albert Camus (1913-1960) would have been 100 in November 2013 had he lived beyond the car crash which took his life in 1960 as he and another editor from the Paris publishing house, Gallimard, were driving too fast from a Christmas vacation in the south of France toward Paris. Camus, who had been the youngest writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, had chaired the committee of support for Garry Davis’ world citizen efforts in Paris and had contributed his writing skills to the statement which Garry Davis and Robert Sarrazac read when interrupting a session of the UN General Assembly meeting in Paris in 1948 in a plea for the UN to promote world citizenship. A month later the UN General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which many saw as a reply to Garry Davis' request as the Declaration sets the basis for world law directly of benefit to each individual.

 

Camus, in 1948, was still a highly regarded editorial writer for Combat which had begun life as a clandestine newspaper in 1941 when France was partly occupied by the Nazi troops, and half of France was under the control of the anti-democratic regime of Vichy. Although the Germans occupied Paris, they allowed publishing, theatre and films to continue if the German censors found nothing too overtly oppositional in them. Thus, Camus’ novel L’Etranger (The Stranger) was published in 1942 by the leading publisher, Gallimard. This short novel is written in a style which owes something to the early style of Hemingway. L’Etranger is a cry of revolt against man-made standards of absolute morality — a theme he develops more fully in his political-philosophical book on the use of violence L’Homme révolté (1951) translated asThe Rebel. (1). As he said in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Stockholm “the nobility of our calling will always be rooted in two commitments: refusal to lie about what we know and resistance to oppression.”

 

Albert Camus was born in Algeria, the son of a French father killed in the First World War when he was only one and an illiterate Spanish mother who raised him while working as a cleaning woman. Camus was intellectually stimulated by his father’s brother who read books of philosophy and was active in the local Masonic lodge. Camus’ intelligence was spotted by a secondary school teacher who helped him get a scholarship to the University of Algiers where he studied history and philosophy, writing a master’s thesis comparing the Gnostic ideas of Plotinius and the Christian ideas of St. Augustine.

 

Camus was faithful to his Mediterranean roots, and his thinking is largely that of the classic Greek and Roman Stoics, the first to call themselves “citizens of the world.”

 

Camus is the champion of the “now” rather than the “later”. He is critical of Christian thought which he interprets as “putting up with the injustice of the now in order to be rewarded in heaven later” along the lines of the satirical song based on a Salvation Army hymn “there will be pie in the sky by and by”. He was particularly opposed to the “Christian” policy of Franco’s Spanish government. He had been strongly influenced by the struggle of Republican Spain and the Spanish civil war writings of André Malraux.

 

The same refusal to sacrifice the present for a potentially better future made him a strong opponent of the Stalinist Soviet Union. For Camus, there was no difference between dying in a Soviet camp and dying in a Nazi camp. We should be neither executioners nor victims (the title of one of his most quoted essays.) It is madness to sacrifice human lives today in the pursuit of a utopian future.

 

Camus is perhaps more memorable as a great journalist and an editorialist than as a novelist. He had put his reputation on the line in defense of Garry Davis, even being put in jail for a short time for having joined Davis in a street protest in front of a Paris prison where Davis was protesting the conviction of a young man who had refused military service — a man working to “satisfy the hunger for freedom and dignity which every man carries in his heart.”

 

As Camus expressed his world citizen ethos at the end of The Rebel “The earth remains our first and last love. Our brothers are breathing under the same sky as we; justice is a living thing. Now is born that strange joy which helps one live and die, and which we shall never again postpone to a later time.”

 

Notes

 

  1. Albert Camus.The Rebel (New York : Vintage Books, 1956, 306pp.)

 

 

Citizens of the World Welcome the Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures
 
 
            Building on efforts in the UNESCO General Conference of October 2011, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, with UNESCO as the lead Agency.
 
            The Decade is part of a strong momentum created by the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) which called for peace and non-violence at every level of society.
 
            The 2006 UNESCO General Conference in its resolution on Promotion of dialogue among peoples had called for “the development of a universal global consciousness” based on dialogue and cooperation in a climate of trust and mutual understanding and for a “new humanism for the twenty-first century”.
 
            The year 2010 had been designated as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures “to promote universal respect for, and observation and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions.
 
            It is true today that, to an unprecedented degree, people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe.  However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogue and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer-range view, and creativity.
 
            For any UN-sponsored Year or Decade to have a real impact, there must be wide initiatives and actions by civil society: non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and the media.
 
            As Citizens of the World have been in the lead in efforts to create a new humanism for the twenty-first century, they welcome this 2013-2022 Decade and will play their part to highlight the creative efforts of individuals who have helped to create bridges of understanding among cultures.
 
            Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

 

 

Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907): The Buddhist Bridge

Rene Wadlow*

 

 

There is, in a period of transition, a need for individuals with the specific talents of organization and the ability to translate doctrines into social policy. Henry Steel Olcott was such an individual.

 

The last quarter of the 1800s was a period very much like our own — a period of transition with no firm guidelines as to the shape of the period to come. It was a period, like ours, of cross currents, of strong positive and negative movements.

 

In America and Europe, there was a growing interest in the contribution of Asian thought to the eternal questions of man’s nature and destiny. Yet at the same time others wondered what relevance these Asian doctrines had to the growing social and political problems of the period. Were religions more than the opiate that some suggested they were?

 

In Asia, where Olcott had moved in 1878 and was most active during his later life, there was the start of the cultural nationalism that has taken a cultural-economic-political form today. But was the intellectual revival of Hinduism and Buddhism only the manifestation of energy displaced from a political area — then under control of colonial powers — which would abandon the cultural sphere once the political realm was open? Would Hinduism and Buddhism be able to translate their doctrines into social policy: projects such as the Christians had been able to do with the creation of schools, hospitals, and social services in Asia, often for the most neglected strata of the society?

 

The leadership of Henry S. Olcott and the work of the Theosophical Society in quickening cultural life among Buddhists is important as a historical precedent — one which merits attention, not only because of its significance in the past, but also because Buddhist-influenced Southern Asia, from Sri Lanka to Japan, is currently trying to deal with many of these issues.

 

Colonel Olcott was a distinguished lawyer from a prominent American family, and he remained primarily a lawyer, with a great gift for organizing, throughout his life. The title of Colonel he kept from his war service as an investigator of fraud in the American Civil War. It was a war service that he had undertaken prior to his becoming a Theosophist and Buddhist, but he never renounced the title, for, as with most of his generation who had fought for the Union in the Civil War, he considered the war as a fight against slavery. After 1878, when he had settled in India as President of the Theosophical Society, he worked strenuously against all forms of killing — war, capital punishment, and animal slaughter.

 

In Ceylon, his legal mind helped him see the inequalities of the colonial system. He believed that British imperialism maintained itself through cultural hegemony. He intervened with the British Governor for better treatment of the people and helped create a Buddhist Defense Committee. At a time when people were interested in colonial areas only if they were professionally involved, he helped to create an interest in the situation of the people of Ceylon with his book, The Government and Buddhists of Ceylon (1884).

 

It is, however, in the field of social policy that Olcott is best known in Ceylon. From 1886 on, he was active with David Hewavitarane (1865 -1933) in setting up a Buddhist educational fund and the first modern Buddhist-sponsored schools. Until then, all formal modern instruction had been run by Christian missionaries, many of whom were, unfortunately, both aggressive and narrow in the understanding of any faith but their own. These Buddhist-sponsored schools were important factors in the cultural renewal of Ceylon, for they combined modern technical training with a deeper understanding of the religious and cultural heritage of the land. In fact, Olcott was concerned with the cultural life of all in Ceylon. He worked closely with the Hon. P. Ramanathan, a respected leader of the Tamil-speaking Hindus in connection with the possibility of founding a Hindu-Buddhist college that would serve both communities. For financial reasons, the college was never begun. Today, when there is an even greater need for understanding between the two communities, it is important to look at how education can build bridges.

 

One of the most lasting instruments of this educational concern was the publication of Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism (1881). In many ways a catechism is not a Buddhist way of teaching, which is based more on the interplay of master and student, and the use of ritual. But the Catechism is a noteworthy attempt to accomplish two separate tasks. The first is to present in a simple form the basic teachings of Buddhist thought to the faithful, many of whom had never studied the Dharma in a systematic way. The second and more difficult aim was to translate basic Buddhist doctrine into social policies that could serve as guidelines and recommendations for modern society. One chapter of the Catechism is devoted to the similarities between the Dharma and Western science. This is probably the weakest chapter, and today a good deal more would need to be said on the relationship between traditional Asian philosophies and Western science. In writing the other chapters of the Catechism Olcott depended on the advice of learned Buddhist scholars in Ceylon, but neither they nor Olcott were scientists.

 

The Buddhist Catechism was widely used. By 1889 it had been translated into 15 languages, mostly those of Asia. It was used as a textbook in many schools. Today, it has gone through forty-five printings, translated into over twenty languages. The success of the Catechism came as a surprise to Olcott himself, for the writing has none of the literary value of Sir Edwin Arnold’s earlier The Light of Asia (1876). Olcott was interested in philosophy, though he was not a philosopher in the formal sense. He saw the need for an improved, widely-accepted teaching tool, and he created it. Olcott also helped to design the five-colored Buddhist flag in 1885: blue for universal compassion, yellow for the Middle Path, red for the blessings of practice, white for purity and orange for liberation.

 

The same direct approach was used in his work for cooperation among the various traditions of Buddhism. From his extensive travels in India, Ceylon, Burma, and Japan, he saw the need to bring together various schools of thought in the Buddhist world around a certain number of essential points. For nearly the whole month of January 1891, Olcott had brought together representative Buddhist scholars from Japan, Ceylon, Burma, and one representative from Chittagong (then eastern Bengal) to draft a fourteen-point platform of agreement and mutual sympathy. In the same year, the Maha Bodhi Society was created by Olcott’s former student David Hewavitarone, who became the monk Anagarika Dharmapala, carrying much further this worldwide task of teaching, of harmonizing, and of cultural renewal. Anagarika Dharmapala was a leading participant in the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, a first of the major interfaith efforts. He and Olcott had written for the Parliament a book The Kinship between Hinduism and Buddhism (1893) and in preparation for the Parliament, Olcott wrote The Common Foundation of All Religions.

 

It is likely that today, when contacts among different schools of Buddhist thought are more common than in 1891, the area of agreement would be greater. But what characterized the life of Henry Steel Olcott was the ability to see a crucial problem and then to organize with others to solve it.

 

 

Velimir Khlebnikov : The Futurian (1895-1922)

 

 

My soul is a seer

Who has seen in the skies

The constellations beginning to rise.

And the thunderstorm fly like a bird.

 

So wrote the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov on the eve of his death in 1922. Khlebnikov was part of an active avant-garde circle of writers. Khlebnikov called himself a “futurian”. Khlebnikov had a strong sense of what Russia could bring to the modern world despite the hardships that the 1917 Revolution and the First World War brought to the avant-garde. In 1920 he wrote:

Russia, I give you my divine

white brain. Be me. Be Khlebnikov.

I have sunk a foundation deep in the minds

of your people. I have laid down an axis,

I have built a house on a firm foundation.

We are Futurians.

 

The Futurian group produced most of its work from 1910 until the start of World War and then was scattered by the War and the Revolution. The group which included the spiritually-inclined painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) who was inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse which existed in private collections in Moscow, but basically the group found its inspiration in the native art of Russian folklore — folklore which had a wisdom beyond intellect. In his essay “On Poetry” Khlebnikov wrote “If we think of the soul as split between the government of intellect and a stormy population of feelings, then incantations and beyondsense language are appeals over the head of the government straight to the population of feelings, a direct cry to the predawn of the soul.”

 

Yet Khlebnikov does not fit into any one school or trend. His work explores a unique broad terrain. He was among the great innovators of literary modernism. He blurred the distinction between verse and prose. He made use of patterns from folklore and chants, incantations and shamanistic language. In addition to poems and plays, stories and essays, he wrote political and artistic manifestos, essays on history, architecture, and social problems, literary theory, and journalistic pieces on current events. His passion for internationalism in politics and the arts prompted him to envisage a world-wide brotherhood of creative scientists, writers, and thinkers dedicated to understanding nature and to counteracting all the social evils fostered by political leaders.

 

Khlebnikov, who died when he was 36, is in many ways a short-lived Walt Whitman whom he much admired. “Attentively I read the springtime thoughts of the Divinity in designs on the speckled feet of tree-toads, Homer shaken by the awful wagon of a great war, the way a glass shakes at the passing of a wagon. I have the same Neanderthal skull, the same curving forehead as you, old Walt.”

 

Khlebnikov’s “O Garden of Animals” is directly influenced by Whitman:

“O Garden of Animals,

Where iron bars seem like a father who stops a bloody fight to remind his sons they are brothers; Where a clean-shaven soldier throws dirt at a tiger, all because the tiger is greater.

Where a camel knows the essence of Buddhism, and suppresses a Chinese smile; Where I search for new rhythms, whose beats are animals and men.

 

Like Whitman, Khlebnikov was an innovator of language and form. At first sight, his poetry was considered anarchic and destructive of accepted rules. Khlebnikov wanted a clear break with the past. As he wrote in 1916 as the war ground on “Old Ones, you are holding back the fast advance of humanity; you are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.” He saw himself as a creator of new forms that would penetrate below the surface of phenomena and give a new art that might change the human condition. As we look more deeply at his writings, we see the metaphysical structure of order behind the innovative lines. His break with the past was to discover the true laws of nature. This passionate belief in the sovereignty of a lawful nature gave Khlebnikov a great intellectual freedom in the pursuit of its boundless variety, in poetry and in the various languages he devised for poetry. It removed the constraints of common forms and opened words to the wide prospects enjoyed by natural objects, while making them subject to the deep scrutiny of analytic dissection. Khlebnikov was thus able to proceed to the work of the poet with the methodological precision of the scientist and to partake of the passion of both. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe — that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretence, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency. He wanted to transform the World through the Word. As he wrote “I solemnly urge all artists of the future to keep exact spiritual records, to think of themselves as the sky and to keep exact notes on the rising and setting of their spiritual stars.”

 

Khlebnikov’s metaphysics are largely Taoist, more likely a rediscovery of the workings of yin and yang than a conscious influence of Chinese philosophy although he had a wide knowledge of Slavic and Indian mythology and a general interest in Asia.

In a wry little poem of 1914, he describes concisely the underlying principle of his view of history, the idea of an equilibrium produced by the shift from positive to negative states:

The law of the see-saw argues

That your shoes will be loose or tight

That the hours will be day or night,

And that the ruler of earth the rhinoceros

Or us.

 

We find the same sense of the working of equilibrium in a section of “The Song of One Comes to Confusion”:

 

These tenuous Japanese shadows,

These murmuring Indian maidens,

Nothing sounds so mournful

As words at this last supper.

Death — but first life flashes past

Again: unknown, unlike, immediate.

This rule is the only rhythm

For the dance of death and attainment.

 

Death came too soon. 1913 had been a high point of cooperation among the Cubo-Futurists when they staged the opera “Victory over the Sun”. The music was by Mikhail Matiushin (1861 -1934) with the sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich and the prologue by Khlebnikov. War, revolution, civil war and exile broke up these creative groups. Although they were unable to create the future they had envisaged, the ideas are powerful beacons and can still reach a wider audience. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe is still central to the world citizens goals.

 

See: Raymond Cooke. Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Paul Schmidt’s translations The King of Time (1985) and Collected Works (1987 and 1989) both published by Harvard University Press.


 

 

Citizens of the World Welcome the Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures
 
 
            Building on efforts in the UNESCO General Conference of October 2011, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the Decade 2013-2022 as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, with UNESCO as the lead Agency.
 
            The Decade is part of a strong momentum created by the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) which called for peace and non-violence at every level of society.
 
            The 2006 UNESCO General Conference in its resolution on Promotion of dialogue among peoples had called for “the development of a universal global consciousness” based on dialogue and cooperation in a climate of trust and mutual understanding and for a “new humanism for the twenty-first century”.
 
            The year 2010 had been designated as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures “to promote universal respect for, and observation and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions.
 
            It is true today that, to an unprecedented degree, people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe.  However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogue and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer-range view, and creativity.
 
            For any UN-sponsored Year or Decade to have a real impact, there must be wide initiatives and actions by civil society: non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and the media.
 
            As Citizens of the World have been in the lead in efforts to create a new humanism for the twenty-first century, they welcome this 2013-2022 Decade and will play their part to highlight the creative efforts of individuals who have helped to create bridges of understanding among cultures.
 
            Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
 
 

 
 
Mundy and the Khyber Rifles
Rene Wadlow
 
He who would understand the Plains must ascend the Eternal Hills, where a man’s eyes scan Infinity. Be he who would make use of understanding must descend on the Plains where Past and Future meet, and men have need of him.
                                    Talbut Mundy Om-The Secret of Abbor Valley
 
            The current fighting on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier and the Khyber Pass which links the two countries brings to mind the theosophical novel King of the Khyber Rifles (1916).  The novel served as the basis of the two film versions, the 1929 John Ford King of the Khyber Rifles with Myrna Loy playing Princess Yasmini and the 1953 remake staring Tyrone Power.
 
            The novel was written by Talbot Mundy, at least in part, to express the workings of karma, that ancient law of individual responsibility which gives humans their dignity. “ We act and react, do and leave undone, think and refuse to think, stand firm or are seduced while karma- incorruptible and inescapable –inscribes our spiritual progress on the rolls of destiny.  The Law adjusts all balances and measures, the exact effort of every thought and deed, detecting each hidden motive.”
 
            Talbot Mundy (1879-1940) was born in England as William Lancaster Gibbon but used the name Talbot Mundy when he started to be published in 1911.  Probably, he also wanted to put his English past behind him as he became highly critical of British colonial policy, though he remained influence by the example and the writing style of Edward Bulwer-Lytton who tried to use the popular novel such as Zanoni (1842) as a way of shaping mass public opinion.  In Zanoi, Zanoni is an immortal sage and member of a secret brotherhood dedicated to helping humanity and holding esoteric knowledge.  Bulwer-Lytton was an early advocate of feminism with the idea that women are more spiritually advanced than men, a theme that Talbot Mundy develops in his books.
 
            Talbot Mundy left home when he was 16 to go to India, then Africa, the Middle East, and finally settled in the USA.  He took a different wife in each geographic area, perhaps as a way to understand the culture better.  The women characters in his novels are all a doorway to deeper understanding of spiritual insights and as keepers of the best of the specific culture. He went to India first in 1899 as a relief worker in Baroda and then in 1901 to report for newspapers on the fighting on the northwest frontier, which served as background for King of the Khyber Rifles.  He met his first wife, an Englishwoman living in India and married in 1903.  He developed a dislike for English colonial life in India with its contempt for Indian culture. He absorbed the Indian myths of spiritual masters and secret societies that were positive agents of world events — themes that he developed especially in his The Nine Unknown (1924) — a secret society founded by the Emperor Asoka around 270 BCE and which continued to the present,  helping social and political reforms but secluded from open view. It is a theme developed later in Black Light and for short stories which he wrote in the USA for Adventure, a magazine of popular fiction.
 
            Influenced by the example of Richard Burton (1821-1890) who combined experiences in India and Africa along with an interest in sexual practices — Burton having translated and introduced to Western readers the Kama Sutra, Talbot Mundy left India for Africa, where he met the woman who became his second wife.  Africa played a lesser role in his novels but served as background for many of his short stories. After his short stay in Africa, he moved to the USA, where he divorced again and married his third wife, who was a member of a religious movement with its roots in New England, Christian Science.
 
            From his Christian Science wife, he absorbed the idea of the power of positive thinking which fitted in with the thought power of Indian yogis.  Talbot Mundy became President of the Christian-Science-related Anglo-American Society Relief Effort for Palestine, a society that was focused on aid for the Armenians who had fled what had become Turkey and were now living in the Middle East, especially Lebanon and Palestine. In 1921, Mundy left the US to work in the Middle East, both to help administer the relief efforts and to write for the Jerusalem News.
 
            By 1922, he had again divorced and married his fourth wife, Sally, who had also been doing relief work in the Middle East. Mundy, who was already critical of British colonial policy in India, quickly came to dislike British policy in the Middle East.  He wrote a series of novels and short stories with Jim Grim, an English intelligence agent, as hero and as an avenue for Mundy’s cynical views on English policy-making.
 
            By 1924, he had moved back to the USA where he lived in San Diego, California at the Point Loma Theosophical Movement headquarters. There he wrote his best theosophical novel, Om, the Secret of Abbor Valley. For five years he was the editor of The Theosophical Path, and worked closely with Katherine Tingley (1847-1929), the head of the Point Loma movement.
 
            In 1929, he left Point Loma for New York City, where he took rooms at the Masters Building on Riverside Drive which had been created by Nicholas Roerich as a center for interaction among all the arts — music, painting, dance — . Mundy used some of Nicholas Roerich’s experiences in Asia, especially Tibet, and Roerich’s interest in Shambhala, a hidden city from which spiritual masters would send messengers to influence positively world events.  Much of the Shambhala myth is used in Mundy’s King of the World.  In New York, Mundy was active in theosophical and astrological circles, though none of his New York writings matched the power of Om, which merits being discovered by those who have not read it.  For his bread and butter, Mundy wrote the radio scripts for the popular youth radio program “Jack Armstrong: the All-American Boy” which continued until the late 1940s-early 1950s.
 
            Jack Armstong was the adventure side of Talbot Mundy without the spiritual dimension or the political critique.
 
            (1) For a fuller account of his life see Peter B. Ellis The Last Adventurer: The Life of Talbot Mundy (1984)