Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Bristol Anarchist Bookfair
A popular manifesto for Christian anarchism
Eleven years ago my beloved worked at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, Cymru. A colleague of hers, hearing about my specialism, shortened it to Christianarchy, which I thought a word worth keeping in mind.
In early 2000 I started the site, now closing down, with that name. After the grab of the piece of cyberspace I put the word christianarchy into the search engine (the proverbial engine at that time was for the experts only). It gave me the title of this book which I duly ordered.
It is a bit surprising to see that I kept more distance from Christian anarchism at the time of writing than later on - not much later in fact, when I became involved in the monastic rhythm of regular actions in the Spirit.
One for the silly season of summer - a review from early 2000....
An English fellow-reseacher in the field of christian anarchism expressed as his opinion to me not so long ago that the only future for Christianity lies in anarchism - and vice versa. A thesis which caused me to think hard, because it calls to commitment, nay identification with what I am researching. A writer from a most unexpected corner of Christendom nearly makes the choice attractive. Dave Andrews, who wrote Christi-Anarchy, is as far as I can see a reborn Christian, someone like Pat Robertson acts as a point of reference to him (in the negative sense, now, but that is after his new "conversion"). But his third birth looks clear, acceptable and sincere - and so the ingenious name of "Christianarchy" has been saved after being used earlier by an English neonazi whom we shall not mention.
The Australian Andrews is neither theologian nor historian, and his summing up against the fall of Christianity, as the Dutch theologian Heering calls it, sounds mainly emotional: fraud, violence, murder and manslaughter, all in the name of "the great loving anarchist from Nazareth" (as Dutch [and Jewish] christian anarcho-syndicalist S.v.d. Berg called Him). It is not all new, neither is his plea for looking for the anarchist undercurrent that Christianity has known from the beginning: it is so old that it looks new - to quote Peter Maurin. Andrews shows that he knows it is not new, but maybe because of his background he cannot make a choice in favour of Christianity because of the great names which should weigh against the vilains: does not one St. Francis outshine the murderous mob calling themselves Crusaders (certainly the Sultan thought so!); are not Jacques Ellul or Ivan Illich - yea, let us not forget this contemporary of ours! - much more important for the face of Christianity than mass murderer-cum-reborn-Christian Ríos Montt? Andrews makes a choice in favour of the small scale workings in the style of the Catholic Worker Movement, in the spirit of Christ, Whom he consistently treats as an actual historical figure.
Andrews deems the Spirit of Christ to be active in all religions, and he does not think Christianity to be the most important religion - and this humbleness might be called truly Christian indeed. Christian-anarchists of a century ago or later drew the line at Islam and the so-called Nature Religions, Andrews includes these as bearers of the Spirit of Christ, which looks fair enough. I shall forgive his mis-spelling of non-English names (Bartolomé de las Casas, Cesena etc.), his historicizing of Jesus Christ, and the s-word in his subtitle, because Andrews looks like a witness of the Spirit himself, and that is good news. Christian anarchism is a living reality, and now it has got what might be called a popular manifesto. Maybe the aforementioned English colleague is not right, but I am happy anyway that we can study something that is very much alive.
- Dave Andrews, Christi-Anarchy: discovering a radical spirituality of compassion. Oxford: Lion
Monday, 27 July 2009
A mere 45 pounds (or 68 US dollars)!
That's probably the way to announce it.
I am just informed that Religious anarchism - new perspectives is ready, a book with contributions of no less than three contributors of A Pinch of Salt!
A pdf with the introduction by Peter "Demanding the Impossible" Marshall and a teaser of the first chapter can be found here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE - vii INTRODUCTION BY PETER MARSHALL - xiii
Part I: Christian Anarchist Pioneers
Chapter One The Pelagian Mentality: Radical Political Thought in Fifth Century Christianity by Richard Fitch - 2 Chapter Two A Theology of Revolutions: Abiezer Coppe and the Uses of Tradition by Peter Pick - 30 Chapter Three Religious Dissenters and Anarchists in Turn of the Century Hungary by Bojan Aleksov - 47 Chapter Four A Dead Seed Bearing Much Fruit: The Dutch Christian Anarchist Movement of the International Fraternity by André de Raaij - 69
Part II: Christian Anarchist Reflections
Chapter Five Love, Hate, and Kierkegaard’s Christian Politics of Indifference by Richard A. Davis - 82 Chapter Six Responding to the State: Christian Anarchists on Romans 13, Rendering to Caesar, and Civil Disobedience by Alexandre J. M. E. Christoyannopoulos - 106 Chapter Seven Building a Dalit World in the Shell of the Old: Conversations between Dalit Indigenous Practice and Western Anarchist Thought by Keith Hebden - 145 Chapter Eight The Church as Resistance to Racism and Nation: A Christian, Anarchist Perspective by Nekeisha Alexis-Baker - 166
Part III: Buddhist, Daoist, and Muslim Anarchism
Chapter Nine Anarchism or Nihilism: The Buddhist-Influenced Thought of Wu Nengzi by John A. Rapp - 202 Chapter Ten Kenneth Rexroth’s Integrative Vision: Anarchism, Poetry, and the Religious Experience in Post-World War II San Francisco by Michael T. Van Dyke - 226 Chapter Eleven To Be Condemned to a Clinic: The Birth of the Anarca-Islamic Clinic by Mohamed Jean Veneuse - 249 Chapter Twelve Imagining an Islamic Anarchism: A New Field of Study Is Ploughed by Anthony T. Fiscella - 280
Contributors - 318
Index - 323
Seriously: books like this generally are destined for libraries of universities and comparable scientific collections. If you are in a position to ask for it at such a place, please do. It is the best bet to be able to read it...
(But perhaps you are wealthy enough to buy it yourself).
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Christianarchy.org has moved. I did not want to wait with the move whilst it is clear there will be no more new content on the old site - on the contrary.
Most pieces in English have been moved to Pinch, signposting on the new site will take place in the coming days or weeks. Priority must be given to the salvaging of pieces from the old site.
If you cannot read the language spoken by Spinoza, Erasmus and the girl with the pearl earring, the language written by Hadewych, Ruusbroec, Vondel, Gezelle, Ortt and quite a lot of modern theologians - you miss out on the story of tolstoyan Hans Paasche, author of Lukanga Mukara too.
Please be patient. Alles sal reg kom (oops!)
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
ASN member's new website
Judy writes on anarchism, feminism, nonviolence, and much else. So some useful resources for theological reflection.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Parallels or influence - the Dutch Christian anarchist movement 1897-1907 and the Landauer connection
This was my first ever lecture on Christian anarchism, Haifa 1998, incorporated by the grace of God in a series on mysticism.
Taken from the original christianarchy-site.
I noticed that neither Landauer's Aufruf zum Sozialismus (Call to socialism) nor Tolstoy's The end is nigh have been published as books in English. An omission that still should be rectified.
I now doubt whether it would be useful to advocate the expression "transcendental anarchism". (AdR)
One of the most beautiful articles written by Gustav Landauer - at least in my opinion - is "Brot", Bread, in which he gets carried away by a bakers' strike which would have been forgotten if he had not written about it. The baking of bread is a craft, common to all humanity throughout history, which should not be left to factories, and which in the socialism of the future would again be a common skill. Reading about this most essential craft my thoughts go back to remote villages in this part of the world, where you will be given freshly baked bread from the communal oven: the most wonderful product of a still most common craft, and according to Landauer's article, ovens in such villages spell the future in stead of being a relict of a vanishing past. Why not, indeed?
About twenty years ago anarchists in England used a slogan: "We don't just want more bread, we want the whole bloody bakery", which reflects the situation in a country where people have got used to bread being an industrial product. But Britain seems to be unique among West-European countries in this respect. In Amsterdam there still are lots of independent craftsman-like bakeries, although legislation on working at night leads to furthering centralisation: most bakers bake off dough already supplied by factories, in stead of going through the whole process themselves. But probably the two most famous bakeries in my home town, visited by people from all over town who do not mind making queues which would remind you of - say - Poland not so long ago, are remnants of anarchist movements: one (Paul Année, as a service for future visitors) was started in the days of the short-lived Kabouter Movement of around 1970, and although the founder is dead the bakery is still alive and well. The other one celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and I should have written a history about it probably, but this remark should do now: it is Bakkerij Hartog, known as "the pacifist bakery", and it advertised its products in the weekly of the christian anarchist movement, about which I will tell you more shortly.
Incidentally, just around the corner in my part of town there is a dairy shop (a trade which is on the verge of dying out in the Netherlands), and a cleaning company run by Moroccan immigrants, both called Nieuw Leven, New Life, which completely independent of each other still testify of the movement for worker's self-management and small industries run by the workers themselves, initiated by the aforementioned christian anarchists of a century ago. Ironically, that is where anarchist movements seem to end or where they survive anyway: in small cornershops. The Squatters Movement, which started in the Kabouter days about thirty years ago, but which lasted longer, also ended in quite a few small businesses - there is even a slogan going around: Make the world better, begin for yourself (Verbeter de wereld, begin voor jezelf). So after all it might seem, marxist critics were right about anarchism being a petty bourgeois ideology - it all ends in small cornershops. Maybe, but since we know now marxist socialism blew itself up with its own technology in the form of a nuclear power plant, there should be no argument about which kind of socialism has to be preferred and which still has a future ahead of it.
2. Christian anarchism
There may be some confusion about the name of the movement of which I am writing a history: the Dutch christian anarchists. In 1987 the American theologist Vernard Eller wrote a book called Christian anarchy. He included in his gallery of honorable christian anarchists Jacques Ellul, to whom he dedicated his book, which is fair enough since Ellul was both Christian and anarchist, and has written Anarchie et christianisme to explain his position on both, in 1986. Others mentioned by Eller are: Sören Kierkegaard, the Blumhardts, Karl Barth (at least the younger Karl Barth), and to some extent Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A remarkable and honorable list indeed, and Eller succeeds in convincing at least this reader of his book that the qualifications are justified. Unfortunately, Eller claims in his book that it is the first in history with such a title. It is not. I would not dare to say Eugen Heinrich Schmitt, a German gnostic teaching in Budapest, was the first to use this qualification, Christliche Anarchie, but since the word "anarchy" was still young in this sense, more than a hundred years ago, it probably was the first with such a title.
The Christian Anarchy Schmitt writes about is the socio-political consequence of Tolstoy's teaching in The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, which in its turn deems the Sermon of the Mount to be the essence of Christianity. Both Schmitt's and Tolstoy's messages hit home with some modern theologists of the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk), some of whom got acquainted with what was called "the social question", in their student days: poverty, long working hours, alcoholism, prostitution and the diseases attached to it, the oppression of women. Tolstoy's idea of non-violent revolution, on the duty of refusing conscription, of non-resistance against evil men, was the definitive ingredient of what was to be Dutch Christian anarchism. The most important minister of this movement, maybe the one who started it all (1893: first translation), was Louis Adrien Bähler, reverend in several villages in the already free-thinking northern part of the Netherlands.
Historiography of the Dutch worker's or socialist movement is still heavily dominated by social-democrats who love to denounce anarchism, let us say according to the cornershop syndrome as mentioned before. In their writings in the Netherlands suddenly "Tolstoyans" prop up, and disappear again with the growth of glorious social democracy, but do not be fooled: there was no such thing as a "Tolstoyan" movement in the Netherlands, as opposed to England, where there was, and maybe still is. The only Tolstoyan in the Netherlands I know of is J.K. van der Veer, the first to refuse conscription, celebrated by Tolstoy in The end is nigh (the end of militarism, of course...). Van der Veer venerated everything about the Russian master, even went so far as to propagate the contents of the Kreutzer Sonata, which makes one wonder, since he was and remained married, was thrown out of the Christian anarchist printshop where he worked, because his Tolstoyan zeal got on the nerves of his colleagues, moved to England where he met with some real deep Tolstoyan asceticism and came back as a converted social democrat - and that is the unfortunate story of Dutch Tolstoyanism.
The movement or tendency which by the social-democrat historiogaphers is called "Tolstoyan" called itself Christian anarchist, and is in this respect treated fairly by their contemporaneous non-christian fellow-anarchists. The name was coined in the Netherlands by waterstaatkundig ingenieur (civil engineer of hydraulics) Felix Ortt, who wrote a book called Christelijk anarchisme (Christian anarchism) in 1897, the second printing of the same year was called however Het beginsel der liefde (The principle of love). Putting it short: the main message of this and other religious writings of Ortt was that love is the unifying principle of the universe, the all-encompassing sign of God's incomprehensible existence. Propagating love in the Paulinian sense was the foremost aim of the fledgling Christian anarchist movement. Probably the longest lasting legacy of their workings has been the tradition of conscientious objection, which in the Netherlands has been very strong and after quite a few cases of young men refusing to wear a uniform eventually ended in legislation granting the right to have his own conscience - conscience, from a mystical standpoint, being the voice of God in the Self. The finest hour of Dutch Christian anarchism was the Objector's Manifesto, an initiative of the Rev. Louis Bähler I mentioned before, in 1915 - several ministers went to jail for signing the manifesto, and it was supported by people to the left of social-democracy in general. It did not have lethal consequences for anyone, since the Netherlands stayed out of the First World War.
3. Inland colonisation
For the beginning movement itself the striving for Inland Colonisation was definitely the most important aim in the early days. Theirs is a sad story, of too high-reaching hopes, asking too much of people who were not always willing to live up to the high standards raised by the Christian anarchists - and then again, starting an agricultural colony on poor soil in a poor part of the country may be daring, but if skill is lacking, it becomes torment. The worst part was the enmity with which the colony was judged by farmers and fishermen of the neighbouring villages of Blaricum and Huizen. In 1903 the Netherlands had its only strike movement which might have had a revolutionary momentum - were it not for the stifling division between anarchists and social democrats, which was successfully exploited by the christian coalition government. The strikes were crushed down, and a drunken mob besieged the colony in Blaricum which had supported the strike movement. One of the houses was put on fire. Our anti-militarist, non-resisting Christian anarchists had to be saved from the drunken proletariat by the military - which meant the end of the idealistic colony. One craft practised at the colony in Blaricum survived, though - it was the bakery, which existed 'til in the 1940's, the best known product being sportbeschuit, I think this must be translated as 'wholemeal crispbake' - it is a Dutch speciality anyway, and it was the object of utmost mockery by especially the social-democrats: baking bread is not making revolution, was their joke which apparently they thought extremely funny.
There were other colonies, some of them very short-lived, others struggling on for a few decades, none surviving. The most well-known is Walden, named after Thoreau's book and specifically led by one of the charismatic figures of the Dutch socialist movement of a century ago, author and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden - the fact that it was being led unequivocally was the main reason why there were very few working contacts between the main Christian anarchist colony and Walden; they were not far apart, geographically speaking. The one thing they did together oddly enough was a kind of festival during which the remainder of the strawberry harvest was finished together. The best working colony was probably that of the village of Nieuwe-Niedorp in Noord-Holland, the place where the rev. N.J.C. Schermerhorn preached, christian and anarchist, but not willing to be called christian anarchist (I will return to the matter of classifying all these different anarchists shortly). Nieuwe-Niedorp, small though it was, had the greatest number of conscientious objectors (relatively speaking, if not at one time absolutely) of the Netherlands. The colony fared rather well, but when colonists wanted to start small industries in the colony they were confronted with the non-colonising inhabitants of the village, who did not want competition under the flag of anti-capitalism - and who could blame them? This colony, though it did not face the internal and external problems the other ones had, saw just as well many people coming and going again, so eventually it became a private agricultural enterprise.
The Christian anarchist colonial undertakings were financed by their own Federatief Fonds (Federative Fund), and they were only loosely connected to the larger union Gemeenschappelijk Grondbezit (G.G.B.), which they supported cordially but which was not Christian anarchist: it aimed at uniting all willing to support the idea, irrespective of any attachment to religious ideals. The people this movement attracted were mostly socalled freethinking or atheistic anarchists, called vrije socialisten (free socialists) in the Netherlands, liberal-socialists as the supporters of the ideas of Henry George were called, and a special but important category, people attracted to or brought in by the writer Frederik van Eeden. It is with Van Eeden that the Landauer-connection might come in: they were corresponding, Van Eeden wrote several articles for Der Sozialist and he certainly admired Landauer very much (I do not think the feeling was mutual). Gemeenschappelijk Grondbezit (Common Ownership of Land) purported - in its own words - to create the Archimedal point from which capitalism could be abolished: by starting self-managed productive units, industrial or agriculural or both, on "liberated" land - liberated not by occupation or guerrilla warfare, which I do not think you would have expected anyway, but by buying it. You do not have to be a social-democrat to see some inconsistency here, but certainly they were very much propagating against this movement. There are still surviving production units, and the organisation continued in a different way after World War Two as a union of co-operatives, which the social-democrats had abandoned with their last surviving ideal of socialism. Frankly, I could not tell you in what way this union still works, it certainly is not propagating anything spectacularly. They are kept out of sight by the ideological onslaught about "market economics" which is sweeping across the world, and in the Netherlands probably worse than anywhere else.
A particularly interesting aim of the movement, which should have been integrated in the colonising movement, but came nowhere to completion, was the abolishing of the contradiction between city and countryside - the city being the main focus of capitalism. The colonies should take the form of garden cities, a model also propagated by the Christian anarchists. This was, and still is, the point all those not supporting the movement thought the laughing stock of it all: "you cannot go back to Nature" still is the catchword phrase against movements with such an aim, progress cannot be halted. Christian anarchists and members of G.G.B. simply did not think of following the logic of capitalist technological development as being Progress, or at least as the new kind of Nature passed beyond a point of no return.
The most outspoken ideologue at this point probably was S. (Sam) van den Berg, one of the Jewish Christian anarchists. (If you wonder about this: as modernist protestants the Christian anarchists did not think of Jesus as being God's only Son, but as the prophet whose main message was to love thy neighbour as thyself; so the movement attracted Jews who could agree with this). Van den Berg particularly argued against the introduction of grain elevators in the Rotterdam docks, where he was working (he was one of the very few proletarians in the movement, too). Machinery that would rob workers of their livelihood should not be introduced under capitalist conditions and the workers should fight against it - and so they did, but as usual in these cases, the social-democrats turned against their fellow workers who would stand in the way of Progress, which for them was and is symbolized by anything capitalist technology will come up with. So the Rotterdam strikes of 1905 and 1906 were crushed with "help from within the worker's movement" so to speak - and since Van den Berg actually did not get any backing from his fellow Christian anarchists he left the movement, after which it was declared dead anyway, in 1907.
The ideal of Christian anarchism of course survived, and after World War I it took a revived organisational form, being renamed religious anarchism - but I shall not go into that history here and now.
4. A new name?
Before coming upon the apparent point where Landauer comes into the story of the Dutch Christian anarchists I would like to dwell upon the question how to classify anarchists like Landauer, the Dutch Christian anarchists, Tolstoy and his followers, Buber, Kierkegaard, Barth, Ellul and all others, some of whom would either disagree with being called anarchists at all or who simply lived before this word was introduced in any language. Christian thinkers, be they protestant, Roman-Catholic or Eastern Orthodox probably will not mind being called Christian or Christian anarchists. I realize I have not mentioned any Roman Catholics yet - which is unfair, because the American Catholic Worker Movement, the De-fence Movement or Swords into Ploughshares, the Berrigan Brothers, some Franciscan activists I know in the Netherlands even, are proud of being called Christian and anarchists.
I already mentioned the fact that in the Dutch christian or religious anarchist movement there were Jews, who did not mind about the label of their organisation. But Martin Buber and Gustav Landauer certainly would not want to be called Christian anarchists, even though they looked with respect upon the Jesus of the Gospel. And how about for example buddhist or taoïst, or islamic anarchists? I admit having no knowledge about any of them, but still they are bound to exist. If we want to stress what they have in common with the Jewish or Christian anarchists, what name shall we give them? Mystical anarchists? But I doubt if this is what they really have in common - and for one, I know Jacques Ellul explicitly rejects both the concept of Christianity as a religion and mysticism, so to keep him aboard we have to do away with the term "religious anarchism" too. I know the Dutch Christian anarchists would not agree with being called "metaphysical" - and personally I strongly reject the label which probably comes to mind with most people, which reflects current fashions and quests, which will make these anarchists being sold to the millions maybe: "spiritual anarchism". Not only for this reason, because it tastes of the idiocies of consumer society - I would not like Dutch Christian anarchist to be labelled under a name which could be associated with alcoholic drinks, and quite a few others who would not agree with a name that could make them look as being spiritist or spiritualist.
But there is something, which actually should not be called something, but human language is not fit for adequately expressing it, which binds all these anarchists, with all their apparent differences and yet with more in common than the rejection of the wielding of and yielding for worldly powers. I propose the classification "transcendental anarchists" and the correspondending "transcendental anarchism". Or transcendental libertarians, for those who would still be afraid of the anarchist label, because in the language of the media "anarchism" is commonly associated with a disorderly collective shoot-out, as in Albania 1997.
Maybe it sounds awkward, maybe it would take time to get used to it so the awkwardness would vanish, and what I like about the classification is the built-in ambiguity. Does not what all anarchists have in common, the rejection of authority unwanted by any human being, transcend the existing order or disorder? Indeed, that is why I propose this seemingly pleonastic classification - maybe it is just another phrase for what Landauer saw as the religious message of anarchism in general - atheists, agnostics and others I cannot think of now can be welcomed under this label as well. I have forgotten to mention the spinozist Dutch anarchists, and those who wanted to be called "humanitarian anarchists" and who certainly had a tendency towards mysticism, like Jan Hof, who did much to popularize the study of nature in the Netherlands. They can be included under the label I propose, for example. In other countries other or comparable tendencies may be found. Anyway,, on the subject of atheism: Dutch Christian anarchists at one point spoke of Bakunin and Kropotkin as bearers of the Spirit of Christ, and I mention the phrase of Sam van den Berg, the Dutch Jewish Christian anarcho-syndicalist, about "the great anarchist of love from Nazareth", and leave the subject of classification with this quotation to think about.
5. The Eckehart connection
Now we got the possibility to classify philosophers, theologians and teaching masters this way, expanding back in time as far as we can, it should be of no relevance who was first with bringing in mediaeval mysticism in the anarchist movement, under its contemporary name. Indeed, quite probably it was Gustav Landauer, who took up the task of translating some homilies and treatises of the then recently rediscovered Meister Eckehart into modern High German. After all, he had already written Skepsis und Mystik, in which he celebrated Eckehart. But I shall grant the English Tolstoyans the benefit of the doubt: they started issuing a series on Christian mystics in the same year Landauer's translation came out, 1903.
After the traumatic experience of the besieged colony, of which they had expected so much, the Christian anarchists who never could organise a working group of any size (their journal had about two thousand readers, but these seem to have been happy with reading the message and did not want any organisation) were at a loss about what to do. They started schools which stressed individual development and universal love for all creatures, and which still exist today in a very watered-down way. But apart from syndicalist Van den Berg, whom I mentioned earlier, and some followers of the apparently charismatic professor Jacob van Rees, generally people around the journal Vrede did not feel like organising and even hated the idea. "Ours is a spiritual movement," wrote Lodewijk van Mierop, one of the members of the old colony, and Felix Ortt, leading figure in the colony and amongst many other things publisher and printer of "the movement" at that moment, declared, more or less in disgust, that he did not want to have to do with anything like "propaganda for the masses." Not joining a movement, but being converted to the real human ideal was what counted. Der Geist is entscheidend, as Landauer said, but you have to get this Geist individually, not collectively, because that would be of no value.
Amidst this "organisational" confusion rev. Louis Bähler, the most mystical christian anarchist and at that moment editor of the journal Vrede discovered both the series of Christian Mystics of W.P. Swainson from England, and through a translation by Dutch vrije socialist Joan Nieuwenhuis Landauer's version of Meister Eckehart. Apparently this struck the right chord: Bähler started reading what was then considered the original Eckehart text (we had to wait till about 1960 for a textcritical edition). A complete own series and a translation of Swainson's books was announced. Bähler was proud in offering the first of these translations, a Life of St. Francis, a most completely Holy Man (Bïählers sincere admiration still sounds remarkable from a Reformed minister). And there was the own series, dedicated to the Inward Word or the Inward Life: Geschriften van het ingekeerde leven. It opened with a catechism on the Inner Word by Johannes Tennhard, a second hand translation on The Presence of God by Berniïères de Louvigni and a Dutch treatise from the seventeenth century Dutch reformed mysticist Johannes Teellinck.
The Eckehart-effect had its own peculiar working within Dutch Christian anarchism, but we have to bear in mind that this switch to mysticism came in stead of any idea of reaching the masses, the working class or anyone striving for imminent change. Even the support of conscientious objectors had stopped, apparently after some bad experience with someone who did not have the right Spirit. So mysticism was not the starting point for something new, if I may use these words, it appeared as a dead end street - and it certainly hastened the downfall of the own publishing company the Christian anarchists still had. Mysticism as the spiritual guidance for a movement towards renewal of society did not get support in the Netherlands, and it took several decades until after Landauer's death that anything apart from his Eckehart-translation was translated into Dutch - so I must say his legacy has to be sought in the future, not in the past, as far as the Netherlands are concerned.
The reverend Bähler, who caused the "right wing" of the Dutch Reformed Church to organise separately within the Church, stopped being a minister in 1911, and became a theosophist. Van Mierop launched an idea of new spiritual communities in 1909, but this never came to be practised, and he and Ortt gave their energy to all kind of adjacent causes which were neither expressly anarchist nor Christian, let alone Christian anarchist, though never abandoning the original idea. Yet here are the issues where the workings of the Dutch Christian anarchists went far beyond their small numbers: apart from the movement for conscientious objection and the still radical Reformed peace movement, which would not have existed in this way without the christian anarchists, it is on humanitarian issues, like the protection of animal rights, the idea of abandoning criminal justice in general and jails in particular (although I must admit, this idea has been silenced at the moment) that the ideas of Christian anarchism have continued.
The religious anarchist movement which resurrected in 1919 hardly survived high mounting discussions on how to act against Spanish fascism, during the Civil War, and at the point where it could be revived Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands, the event that left little else but Hope. Van Mierop did not live to see it, I do not yet know about the fate of Van den Berg (I hope he emigrated as he had already planned in 1911), Bähler died of old age during the occupation, and Ortt kept writing and still had fourteen years ahead afterwards of spreading the message on his own, which he did. When he died in 1959 anarchism, Christian or not, seemed to be a thing of the remote past in the Netherlands - but here too is a legacy that is for the future even more than for the past, rich though it may be.
(Speech delivered at the University of Haifa, August 1998)
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Naked as the day you were born
Just when I thought prison abolitionism had died out with one of the very last important jurists dedicated to the Cause in NL, then my attention is drawn to this from Prison Abolitionist in Arizona:
Here he comes again, his hands covered in heavy black mittens, his head stuffed into a net that makes him look like a beekeeper, his legs and wrists closed in shackles.
Clark County Detention Center officers dress him this way because he has been known to spit, throw punches and kick.
The inmate shuffles through a sliding door, a large officer follows and, nearby, other members of the jail staff step back, as if sensing danger. The inmate, seemingly unaware, tells the officer, “I don’t want a plane crashing into me, you know.” The detention officer nods and nudges him toward an isolation cell, where the inmate will have to remove his clothes. He will be left with what’s known as a suicide blanket, which can’t be torn apart and used as a noose.
He is not yet 20, but he has been in jail three times, for 71 days, since coming of age last year...
The Cause of abolition of criminal law and prisons was given life by Christian anarchists who started experiencing life behind bars, especially during the First World War. Actually, it is amazing the Cause seems to have damped down for no rational reason...
It is fighting against the odds of politicians and the hoi polloi who want to look Tough On Crime, but fighting against odds is what it is all about, is not it?
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Radio Omsk interview on Christian anarchism
[Bas Moreel's Religious Anarchism Newsletter nr. 6]
Jakov Krotov: Especially by Prawoslav (“Russian orthodox”) Christians the Russian revolution of 1917 was seen as a victory of anarchy, chaos and lawlessness. In his book “The Philosophy of Inequality” written during around the time of this revolution the Prawoslav thinker Nikolai Berdyayev devoted a chapter to a critique of anarchism. Still, in his autobiography written shortly before his death he described himself as a Christian mystic transcendent anarchist. How to explain this? The anarchism that took shape in Russia in the 19th century, with such names as Bakunin, Tolstoy and Kropotkin was the most remarkable Russian contribution to the political culture of the Europe of those days. Especially the anarchism developed by Bakunin was clearly anti-Christian. God is a Lord, a master. How can a slave of God be free? Impossible, said Bakunin. That's why anarchists fight every religion, in particular Christendom. So, my first question to our guest is: how is it possible that, among the greatest Prawoslav thinkers of the 20th century, some embrace that once anti-Christian anarchism? Where is Bakunin's anarchism different from Berdyayev's anarchism?
Ignati Hanzin: The reason is that the word “anarchism” is often used incorrectly, too broadly. For, what is anarchism? Anarchism means “no power”, no violent power, no power over people not exercised by themselves, no State. A State is also an organisation of people, but of a group of people who have taken all the power in a society into their hands to the prejudice of the rest of society. Understood in this way anarchism is not at all incompatible with the Christian teachings.
We should not forget that Jesus Christ relied exclusively on the authority he had and on the free acceptance of the graces he had to offer. I can accept God's grace and thus be sanctified and live a holy life. But I can also reject God's grace because I have a free will.
In this sense the Christian concept of freedom as free acceptance of a gift is the complete opposite of submission to some outside power, to what are called laws. Remember what Metropolit Illarion wrote in his “A word about law and grace”. The law (meant was the Jewish law) prescribes to do this or to do that. If you don't do it you will be punished. Grace is accepted freely, nobody forces you. in fact, you go to it, you are happy with it, you may accept it or reject it, you have the right to be saved or to perish spiritually, but nobody threatens you with punishment. That is the true concept of Christendom as preached by Christ and the apostles. This concept was later perverted by the hierarchical, authoritarian, imperial Church of the Middle Ages. But it is totally identical with authentic, wise, mystical, humanist anarchism.
Jakov Krotov: I would like to observe that the French philosopher and political scientist Jacques Ellul, a prominent theoretician of 20th century Christian anarchism, was a Protestant who based his Christian anarchism on the Old, not on the New Testament. He pointed to the fact that the Old Testament describes the life of Israel as rather anarchistic, that is if we see anarchism as hostility to the State, which is clearly the only functional definition of anarchism, not violence or terrorism. What this means is another question. During many ages Israel was governed by judges, there was no monarchy. When God gave in and gave Israel a king he did this with the warning that he had given them a king and a big State because of their stubbornness, but that with a king they would be far worse off than without a king. Of the protagonists and godly persons of the Old Testament, Ellul (as a Protestant he gave great authority to the Old Testament) points out that strictly speaking only Joseph the Beautiful and the prophet Daniel collaborated with the State, with all the consequences this had. The vast majority of the prophets of the Old Testament were anarchists, that is people who were absolutely not prepared to submit to those in power. They were prepared to lay down their lives and wanted to tell only the truth to the king, nothing else.
And then there is the letter of the apostle Paul to the Romans, the famous chapter 13, in which he says that everybody should submit to those in power. Christian Statism was during the Middle Ages based on this text. Isn't that shameful, Father Ignati? After all, the apostle Paul spoke not only for the Middle Ages but he said at the very dawn of Christendom that we must submit to those in power. Where is the demarcation line, what is acceptable, what not?
Ignati Hanzhin: A very interesting question indeed. Jacques Ellul explored the origins of the anarchistic thinking in ancient Israel and in other ancient societies and saw this anarchistic thinking realised in the power of the judges.
I don't entirely agree here with Jacques Ellul because the power of the judges was an embryonic form of the later authoritarian monarchical power. The power of the judges was not based on the general consensus of the community but on the decision of some charismatic talented person who took all the power into his hands, and this resulted in power usurpation in general. Once there are people at the top of some more or less local community why not put somebody at the top of the biggest community, the people, in this case the people of Israel? And this happened. At that point religion took characteristics not of its own, it became authoritarian.
The authoritarian element in religion made the priest into a bureaucrat, a leader, a commander, that is to say somebody who is not only a distributor of God's graces, who not only calls, persuades and speaks about good and better, but who is a ruler, an expert in laws that have to be implemented and who makes people implement those laws. With the tragedy of religion in the State as a result.
(Question of a listener)
Jakov Krotov: Fyedor Dostoyevski was for many people of his days a symbol of a State worshipper, one has only to read his diary to understand this. But as a writer he was the author of the famous interpretation of "Jesus' temptation in the desert" describing how Satan offered Jesus power over all the kingdoms of the world if he worshipped him. Many Christian commentators, among them Jacques Ellul, stress that this means that State power comes from Satan because it is power usurpated with violence and coercion. The Gospels tell also of the unique miracle that happened when Jesus paid temple tax, a State tax due by all the Jews. Jesus asked the apostles to catch a fish and in its mouth they found a coin. By the ideas of those days this was a joke on the tax gatherers. It meant that the expression "give to the emperor what you owe to the emperor" doesn't mean that one should give the emperor more but that one should give to the emperor just what one owes to him, not one kopeike more.
In this sense the exhortation of the apostle Paul means only that one should obey those in power, not go to extremes, not refuse to obey, but "Brothers, you are called to freedom". Freedom is what it is all about for the apostle and his call to obey is made in the context of his sermon "On love", where love is ready to do much, even to humiliate oneself. This leads to the question: when got the authoritarian principle the upper hand in the Christian church?
Ignati Hanzhin: To answer to this question we must first look at the beginnings of Christendom. The first Christian communities had a charismatic hierarchy. This meant that somebody was elected from within a Christian community not because of his wealth, his influence or power but because his piousness and because of the esteem he enjoyed. He accepted to lead the community without special rights or privileges. He was responsible for the inevitable contacts with the authorities, collected donations, etc. He had no power in the classical sense but over time rich and influential people and people in positions of power joined the Church and started working in line with the Church.
From the times of emperor Constantine onwards the Church became practically part of the State structure with a fundamental change in the structure of the Church as a result. The head of a group of communities, the episkop, became a kind if governor. The priests obtained a certain power and the possibility to own some property - they became different from the common believers in everything: in dress, in remuneration as well as in other things which usually distinguish representatives of governments from the common people. This system got its definitive shape with the creation of a monarchical central power with popes, bishops, mitropolits etc. In a word, the church became a State in the State.
(Questions of listeners)
Jakov Krotov: I repeat that present day anarchism is very often close to Christendom and claims very good grounds. The anti-Christian anarchism of the 19th century, the violent and terrorist anarchism has been defeated. How came the fall of apartheid in 20th century South Africa? Nelson Mandela did not win when he used violence but when he moved to absolute non-violence. In the US not the Black Panthers achieved equal rights for the Black Americans but Martin Luther King, the Christian church minister. We seen practically everywhere the same. In India Gandhi's concept achieved independence. Hitler's and Stalin's violence were not victorious. So, terrorist anarchism is unacceptable, although its logic is, unfortunately, often very understandable. The logic of despair, of violence to tell what one cannot tell in the papers. The logic of the Russian anarchists: systematic violence and explosions can have an influence on the system: "If every governor general of Moscow is blown up, sooner or later there is nobody left who wants to be blown up and the post becomes vacant." But things did not go this way, the system proved too strong. Violence as a warning to society doesn't work either. There is one small difference, though: all those characteristics of terrorist anarchism exist also in the State, when anarchism becomes violent it uses things it wishes to destroy as weapons.
What answer gives Christian anarchism to the practical questions of life? Should we take part in elections or send our children to State schools?
(Question of a listener)
Jakov Krotov: The problem is, Christian anarchism says, that governments never obey their own laws. In that respect they are far more anarchistic than anarchists. Anarchists revolt in words but obey the laws. States, not only the Russian State, tend not to obey their laws.
Jacques Ellul stressed that, to the difference of 19th century anarchism, contemporary anarchism is not only politics, politics is even not its first thing, to-day's anarchists work in the first place non-politically. The alternative schools are an example. Anarchists don't send their children to State schools, nor do they keep their children at home because they see the dangers thereof. A famous alternative school was founded by Daniel Cohn Bendit's brother.
Of course, contemporary anarchism says, anarchist education is not meant to bring an ideal anarchist society, Christian anarchists do not believe in the possibility of an ideal society, they believe in God's Kingdom. Nevertheless, Christians ought to consider this education, this anarchist opposition to State totalitarianism and State pressure as obligatory, otherwise the State swallows everything. The anarchists of the 19th century saw man as good; if only the State as source of theft and murdering disappeared, if the police disappeared crime and bandits would disappear.
Looking at present-day Christian anarchism, Father Ignati, what, in your opinion, has changed, in which respect is the position of present-day Christian anarchism towards the State different from classic anarchism?
Ignati Hanzhin: Very much has changed. You mentioned alternative education. I'm rather in favour of individual home education. In my opinion educated Christian parents can educate their children far better than any school. But there is more. Christian anarchism builds free structures. You mention the free schools. It is also possible to build a community, a beautiful community, where people live together, where all decisions are taken by consensus on a basis of free agreement. It is even possible to build a group of people who work together in complete freedom on a basis of mutual aid without any government pressure, peaceful alternative structures such as Auroville in India. You probably have heard of this city. People of different races and nationalities live there together. They do not change the laws of the surrounding society, they are not communists, they do not reject private property nor any customs of the surrounding society. They built an entirely free city where everybody is free, where everybody takes part in the administration of society as she or he likes, the majority does not rule the minority as happens in classic democracies. If the minority doesn't agree with the decisions of the majority it can do things in its own way. All look what happens, which way was best.
Christian anarchism is in the first place an ethical movement which works for perfection, for perfection of the relationship of man with nature and of the relationships among human beings.
We have not yet spoken of ecology but in these days Christian anarchism and ethical anarchism in general are very closely linked with the ecological movement, with the protection and conservation of nature and of all living beings, in a word with a truly Christian relationship to all that lives. They reject violence, not just a priori but because there is absolutely no need for violence. Violence is an obstacle, it is detrimental, there is no place for it here.
(Question of a listener about the many religions)
Jakov Krotov: Why there are so many religions? Because of anarchism. Because man is totally free. God is the first anarchist. God doesn't impose himself, God calls people as children. If we say that we are slaves of God we are joking a little because we have been made children by Christ. In both the Old and the New Testament there is a lot of humor. I know of at least five monographs on this matter, it is just very old humor. If we don't understand the humour in the 19th century paper "Strekoza"; how can we understand two thousand years old humour? When Jesus says that the birds have nests and the foxes burrows whereas he has no place to rest his head he is, of course, joking, he is ironic, self-ironic, highly humoristic.
(Question of a listener)
Jakov Krotov: Take a very simple thing, a hot issue in Russia to-day: Should anarchists vote? Jacques Ellul felt they shouldn't. A Christian, as an anarchist and free person, should not vote. Why not? Because politics always means power and hierarchy. To the difference of our guest Father Ignati Hanzhin, Ellul rejected the ecological movement [I think: meant is: ecological parties. BM]: ecology yes, "Green" no. Where there is a movement, where there is a structure, be it the "Rainbow Keepers" [an ecological organisation with members in Russia, Ukraine and, possibly, other countries, BM] or whatever, there is power, which means that anarchists have no business there. Anarchists consciously reject everything containing elements of a bourgeois, socialist or communist society: vaccinations, taxes, obligatory education and even decentralised power, because a mayor can be worse than a Roman emperor - anarchists reject power tout court. Social life should begin at the bottom. Which is, of course, utopian, but, as Vladimir Solovyev said, only utopia is worth realisation.
(A listener thanks the organisers for the programme)
Jakov Krotov: Thank you. Anarchism started in France. Proudhon was the first to call himself an anarchist. His was a monarchic anarchism. Anarchism flowered in Russia but at the moment anarchism, I mean true, conscious anarchism is most developed in the U.S.
Often not anarchism proves to be a problem but whether one is a citizen of a given country or not. A classic example is the refusal of the Supreme Court of the USA in 1931 to grant American citizenship to a Canadian Baptist minister who taught theology at the U.S. Yale University. The minister refused to pronounce the usual oath of loyalty to the USA, in which loyalty to the American constitution comes first. The minister held that a Christian has to be more loyal to God, see Acts of the Apostles 5: 29: one should not be more loyal to people than to God.
The judge felt that this minister "gives his own interpretation of the will of God and uses this personal interpretation as his main point", contrary to the nation's need to keep things going. If the government decides to go to war and everybody decides for her or himself whether this pleases God we get total anarchy and chaos. The government must be able to rely on the unconditional loyalty of the citizens, which is why the oath is worded the way it is. From that day onwards critics of the Supreme Court of the United States say that the United States are no longer the theocracy they were, say, in 1789. So, long live anarchy (in the United States anarchists are usually called "anarcho-libertarians").
But then a question arises reminding of the collision that happened in Russia in 1927, when Pravoslav archieri and priests were asked to swear loyalty to the Soviet powers. Many did this, which resulted in post-revolutionary anarchism in Russia. Schismatics, people who left the womb of the Moscow patriarchat were accused of anarchism. The Old Believers, aren't they anarchists? [Old Believers: Pravoslavs who refused to accept the reforms introduced (imposed) by a Moscow patriarch in the 18th century. BM] Father Ignati, which place has anarchism in the history of the Russian Pravoslav church? Was there anarchism in it?
Ignati Hanzhin: Historical anarchism was sometimes an ally of Christendom and sometimes an adversary. The anarcho-communists were fierce enemies of Christendom and so in fact destroyed anarchist thinking in Russia. The same can be said of Bakunin and similar anarchists. But there was also Christian anarchism. Tolstoyism was true anarchism. Tolstoy followed the teachings of Christ, although he was not a church member.
To refuse to be a member of a church does not mean that one rejects Christendom. One can also wish to be a member of a church but reject, for instance, a church as represented by the present Moscow patriarchat. To take the oath of 1927, for instance, was gruesome treason to the spirit of Christendom as one promised unconditional loyalty to a power rejecting Christendom and religion in general.
Jakov Krotov: Does this mean that, in your opinion, the priests who refused obedience to the Moscow patriarchat in those days were anarchists in the best sense of the word?
Ignati Hanzhin: Undoubtedly.
Jakov Krotov: The Old Believers rejected the Pravoslav church from before the Soviet times because they never agreed with the archierei. Further, there are those who rejected the priestdom or people, whom we might call present-day Old Believers, who reject the Moscow patriarchat because it engages in oil and wodka trade and lobbies with he government. In the Old Believers' church on Rogozh cemetery or at the railway station Byelorusski in Moscow you won't see the people selling or consuming wodka or cigarettes, they have a very anarchist relationship to the authorities. Could we describe their attitude as a model of Christian anarchism?
Ignati Hanzhin: I wouldn't describe their attitude as a model of Christian anarchism. Christian anarchism is not a matter of simply rejecting links with authorities, godless or not. Power is always very far from Christian thinking. Christian anarchism means personal freedom, communities of entirely free and equal people, people who have their own opinion, who are able to disagree, to live as free people in their community. This means of necessity rejection of authoritarianism and of dictatorship in one's own community too. You won't find that among the Old Believers nor in any of the old Russian sects.
(Observation of a listener)
Jakov Krotov: Fortunately, God is a great anarchist, God's spirit is not a matter of labels. You may find God's spirit in the Moscow patriarchat, among Old Believers, among Protestants, among Catholics, but it is not necessarily in any of those circles. God is a great anarchist.
(Question of a listener)
Jakov Krotov: Many people in Russia to-day see anarchism as the cause of Russian totalitarianism. This may seem paradoxical but the master of paradox Boris Paramonov wrote that power hypertrophy and totalitarianism in Russia are a reaction to the anarchism and the ungovernability of the Russian people. In the Kremlin they must be happy with this idea. Unfortunately, the truth is in something else. Man fears freedom, it's easier under the yoke of the anti-Christ, of Statehood than under the sweet and light yoke of Jesus Christ, our Lord. One can, of course, not be an anarchist or a Christian anarchist but yet be a follower of Jesus Christ, provided one realises that, as followers of Christ, we are obliged to be free and to decide for ourselves and to not leave decisions to the State.
The Anglican Communion as an anarchist Church
[Bas Moreel's Religious Anarchism Newletter nr. 5, from pre-Jonathan Bartleydays...]
In her article “Autonomie et federalisme chez les anarchistes” [Autonomy and Federalism as seen by Anarchists, published in the anarchist quarterly “Refractions” No 8, Spring-Summer 2002] historian Marianne Enckell, who in daily life, among other things, runs, with help of other volunteers, the international centre for anarchist research CIRA in Lausanne, Switzerland, makes hers Francois Candebat’s conclusion that what is specific for anarchists is the interaction in their theory and practice between solidarity, autonomy and federalism.
If this is true, the Anglican Communion (with member churches such as the Church of England in England and the Episcopalian Church in the USA) is to be considered an anarchist church judging by the report of the recent meeting of heads of member churches published in the British daily The Independent of 17 October 2003. The meeting had been convened because of fear of a split in the Communion over the planned consecration as bishop of a gay man in the USA and the blessing of same-sex couples in Canada, things vehemently opposed by important groups and bishops in other member churches. (The article is reproduced after this introduction.)
Comparing the outcome of this meeting with the outcome of the discussion about alleged deviations from the rules by parts of the French and Italian sections at the XXth Congress of the anarchosyndicalist international IWA/AIT in Madrid in December 1996, I see more feeling for solidarity, federalism and autonomy among those church dignitaries than among those people who have, so to say, expressly vowed their commitment to those values. The theologians of anarchosyndicalism stopped their disruptive behaviour at that congress only when one of the presidents of the meeting had had enough if it and had stepped down and one of their kind had taken over and led the meeting to go with their demands after rejection of a suggestion by the German delegation to appoint a commission to investigate the conflicting claims. To the difference of the church people, the anarchosyndicalist theologians wanted to act precipitately, there was no time to lose to oust people whose views differed from theirs.
The anarchist touchstone words “solidarity”, “autonomy” and “federalism” don’t appear in the report about the meeting of the church people but my biblical background says “don’t’ look at their words, rather look at their deeds” (or was it the other way round and has Jesus said about the Pharisees: “Do as they say, not as they do”?). Anyway, I found the solution worked out by the Anglicans humane and sometimes brilliant, for instance the part reported in the following passage:
“But there were signs that the statement was also designed to avoid the disintegration of the Communion if Gene Robinson [the gay man nominated for a post as bishop] refused to stand down. "”If this consecration proceeds," it said, "many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of communion with the Episcopalian Church (USA)." But they would remain in communion with the Church of England, which might remain in communion with the US Church. "Communion means many things," said Dr Williams. "I'm not in a position as an individual to declare who the Church of England is and is not in communion with."”
Obviously, the feeling for solidarity, federalism and autonomy has enjoyed here the support of superior diplomacy, a quality sadly underexamined in anarchist (and anarchosyndicalist) theory with often the celebration of axes as symbols of superior wisdom or, at least, fidelity to truth as a result.
The paper version of The Independent carried a picture of the Archbishop of Canterbury (in a way the acting head of the Church of England and seemingly president of the meeting) Dr Rowan Williams with two other bishops at a press conference after the meeting. Dr Williams looked everything like a football coach sympathetically watching a match of his team from the bench, with nothing of the piosity of Alexis II (Moscow) or of the powerhungriness of JPII (Rome). The casual last two sentences in the previous paragraph signal this man for consideration for a black diary. In spite of his official (for conservatives: controversial) appointment as acting head of the Church of England this man looks rather like a senior member of his church. The adoption of this for me specific English word “senior” might help anarchist theoreticians out of the “We have no leaders” deadlock of unveracity. Because one cannot say that part of the people who call themselves anarchists do not follow the opinions or the advice or even the calls of other people who call themselves anarchists, some of whom find themselves often in that position, i.e. they would deserve the title (never given, of course) of senior militant.
Meanwhile the CIRA might have a look at Dr Williams’s writings to see whether some don’t deserve the A-in-a-circle quality stamp. As is shown by the outcome of the Anglican meeting, anarchist ideas are sometimes developed, enriched and practised in unexpected places. If, as Marianne Enckell says further on in her article, the anarchists have become more visible, it’s also because their surroundings have become more ready and willing to see them, and, probably, have become more anarchistic themselves. Could it be that the anarchists are just the voices of their masters, i.e. the public at large?
I reproduce the The Independent article as published in the paper version. The website version, probably prepared later, had a subtitle and a few paragraphs that were not in the paper version. They and an article contributed from New York on the next day reported that gay Gene Robinson and his prospective diocese actually refused to step back from the planned consecration. But in the conclusions of the meeting this possibility had already been foreseen, so that its materialisation is not important for the attitude the church people have developed at their meeting.
CLERGY AVERT SCHISM BUT SAY GAY BISHOP WILL DAMAGE CHURCH
By Paul Vallely, The Independent, London, UK, 17 October 2003. (paper version)
Contrary to predictions, the Anglican Communion stepped back from the brink of schism when its 38 primates issued a unanimous statement at the end of their emergency summit on homosexuality agreeing "not to act precipitately".
The outcome was a diplomatic victory for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. There are traditionally three outcomes to a church crisis: the Archbishop can crack down on rebels, capitulate to opponents, or offer a fudge. Yesterday Dr Williams did all three - and even drew a tribute from a leading anti-gay conservative, Drexel Gomez, the Primate of the West Indies, who praised "the inspired leadership given to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury". The lengthy statement offered something for everyone. There was an admonition to the US church for "short-circuiting" the procedures of the 70 million member worldwide Communion by electing an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and for the Canadian diocese which has instituted blessings for same-sex couples. Such moves, it said, "do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole and jeopardise our sacramental fellowship." But although saying that no province "has authority unilaterally to substitute an alterative teaching", it conceded that bishops must respect the autonomy of dioceses and provinces other than their own. Its chief practical measure was the establishment of a commission to consider the role of [the Archbishop of] Canterbury [as acting head of the Church of England and seen moiré or less of the Communion as a whole] in "maintaining communion within and between provinces when grave difficulties arise".
It will look, said Dr Williams, at "separation, new alignments and new jurisdictions. We need to look carefully at what our canons provide before we encourage such steps."
The primates also agreed for provision for anti-gay bishops to enter pro-gay dioceses to minister to dissenting minorities.
Intriguingly there were hints that pressure may be put on Gene Robinson to step down as bishop before his consecration on 2 November. His primate, Bishop Frank Griswold, was cagey on the subject. "All ordinations are provisional; it says 'God willing' on the invitations. Any number of things can happen," he said. "I am scheduled to be there on 2 November, I hope I will be there." But the statement, he added, would be "thought about very seriously by the people of New Hampshire and Gene Robinson".
Asked if he had betrayed Gene Robinson as he had Jeffrey John, who was pressurised to stand down as Bishop of Reading, Dr Williams said, "My primary duty is to the church whose unity I have to serve as best as I can."
But there were signs that the statement was also designed to avoid the disintegration of the Communion if Gene Robinson refused to stand down. "If this consecration proceeds," it said, "many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of communion with the Episcopal Church (USA)." But they would remain in communion with the Church of England, which might remain in communion with the US Church. "Communion means many things," said Dr Williams. "I'm not in a position as an individual to declare who the Church of England is and is not in communion with."
Pressed for clarification the three primates, from England, the US and the West Indies, were gnomic in their responses. But it became clear that the two-day summit was not so much a seminar on homosexuality as one on where authority lay in the Communion. "Talk of winners and losers is irrelevant," said Dr Williams. "Our understanding has been very hard won; that's what makes our work together all the more significant. We've grown closer together rather than, as many predicted, further apart." How long a respite the Archbishop of Canterbury has bought for his Communion is unclear. His commission has 12 months to do its work. Whether those hardline anti-gay conservatives who were not in the primates' meeting will stay their threat to walk away is unknown. But the split which loomed at the start of the week appears to have been averted.
Friday, 10 July 2009
The example of an Islamic or Muslim anarchist I present in this issue is pretty weak because the man in question, baptised in the Roman Catholic Church as Gustave-Henri Jossot (Dijon, France, 1866 - Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, 1951), didn't consider himself an anarchist and wasn't considered an anarchist by a knowledgeable person like Jean Grave, editor of the French anarchist weekly "Les temps nouveaux", to which Gustave-Henri Jossot contributed several caricatures. The problem is that to call somebody or oneself an anarchist (= somebody who rejects ruling others and being ruled by others) is something contradictory because, at least in practice, it means the person in question adopts or applies a set of ideas and models of behaviour fitting a certain pattern designed and, to a certain extent, checked by others. As Gustave-Henri Jossot once wrote to Jean Grave: "... you may as well admit that in your eyes true anarchists are people who think like you, isn't it?" (7 Oct. 1906).
For my purpose: to show the possibility of anarchism and religiousness going together in the same person, it's more convenient to consider whether the ideas, attitude and behaviour of a person fit the definition I chose for the notion "anarchist". One may object that a co-habitation of anarchism and Islam in the same person is contradictory and impossible from the outset as the word "Islam" means "submission". But religion is an expression of a person's view of reality, a very flexible and malleable thing, in the final instance something entirely individual. If a religion seems authoritarian it's because of the shape certain influential persons have chosen, and tried to impose on others. Other people may have other practices and attitudes and yet claim to adhere to the same religion. In the same way as somebody is an anarchist, a person is religious because s/he considers her/himself religious expressing her/his religiousness in certain acts or attitudes basically chosen by her/himself. Even if those acts and attitudes are imposed by others the person in question has chosen to submit to the diktat. Her/his attitude may be disapproved by other people claiming to hold the same beliefs and these may even exclude that person from their religious community but the person her/himself may still consider her/himself to be religious and, if s/he so wishes, to fit into a particular religious current.
In a first period of his life Gustave-Henri Jossot contributed caricatures and other drawings to several French publications, among them the anarchist publications "Les Temps nouveaux" and "l'Assiette au Beurre". Targets of his caricatures were the authoritarian family, the army, the courts, the police, the church, school. Michel Dixmier sees in this not a reflection of a coherent anarchist world view but a personal revolt against his upbringing in an authoritarian bourgeois family and a response to certain experiences. Nobody can deny, however, that his production as a whole reflected anarchist concerns.
In 1912, after the death of his only child, Jossot went through a mystical time during which he first turned to spiritualism and occultism, then back to the Roman Catholicism he had been brought up in, to end up as a Muslim in 1913 henceforth calling himself Abdou-l-Karim Jossot. Writing about the many reasons for his transition he mentioned among other things the falseness of Western civilisation and the simplicity of Islam: no mysteries, no dogmas, no priests, almost no ceremonies, the most rational religion in the world (in: La Depeche Tunisienne, 10 February 1913). What if he had read Maxime Rodinson's biography of Mohammed or Ibn Warraq's Why I'm not a Muslim? His transition to Islam doesn't seem to have been the outcome of a thorough study of the tenets and history of Islam and much a mere question of the heart. After his transition to Islam Abdou-l-Karim remained an enemy of the notion "fatherland" (although seemingly not on "anarchist" grounds: "to start Islamic fatherlands is betraying Islam"), he demanded equal incomes for all and continued to reject political action, violence and school ("school deforms the brain"); he also rejected social action considering that improvements were possible only on an individual level.
These elements do not constitute what one might call a complete set of anarchist ideas but they show at least that independent thinking and acting are possible in Islam, perhaps at the risk of one's life if powerful or otherwise influential Islamic theologians disagree with the outcome of such thinking. (My idea is not that anarchism can go together with orthodox forms of religion.)
"Submission to Allah", which is the essence of Islam, doesn't conflict with anarchism if one considers that in practical life submission to Allah is "to live one's convictions", which may or may not coincide with the convictions of other people claiming to be Muslims
. Sure, somebody who would have read and considered both Islamic writings and writings critical of Islam seriously and yet had stuck to Islam on explicit rational grounds and had equally consciously embraced anarchism would have served the purpose of my bulletin better. Perhaps this weak example will induce some reader to point me to the better example(s) s/he knows?
As usual, this issue of my Religious anarchism bulletin is not the fruit of thorough studies but entirely based on the book Jossot by Michel Dixmier (No 23 in the series Cahiers de l'art mineur published by the associations Limage and Vent du ch'min, Paris & Saint-Denis, s.d.). The book consists far more of reproductions of drawings and paintings than of text: of the 128 pages only 17 consist mainly or exclusively of text and out of them 4 pages just list works by Gustave-Henri / Abdou-l-Karim Jossot.
(Bas Moreel's Religious Anarchism Newsletter nr. 4, dated May 2003).
Issue nr. 3 of Bas Moreel's Religious Anarchism Newsletter.
Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self” — because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.
In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.
No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies — Communist included — into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta” — hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them. There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.
The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress — and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.
Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.
The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.” This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior — defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old” — the IWW slogan of fifty years ago.
The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation. In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.
GARY SNYDER, 1961
Comment by Ken Knabb
“Buddhist Anarchism” was originally published in Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1 (City Lights, 1961). A slightly revised version appeared in Earth House Hold (New Directions, 1969) under the title “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution.” I have reproduced the latter version, but have kept the original title.
Copyright 1969. Reproduced with permission from Gary Snyder (who informs me that any nonprofit reproduction of it is fine with him).
This little text is one of the first expressions of what later became known as “socially engaged Buddhism.” It meant a lot to me when I first read it in 1962, and it still seems pretty lucid 40 years later (within its carefully modest limits, which obviously leave room for considerable divergences of views regarding tactics and strategies). It is precisely because Snyder was so important for me at the time that one of my first “situationist” actions (1970) was a disruption of one of his poetry readings — my personal declaration of independence from heroes and leaders of any kind, even the most admirable. I went my own way from then on, but I still acknowledge Gary Snyder as one of the people who have contributed most richly to my awareness of life’s possibilities.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
Dating the fall of Christianity
Legend tells that Constantine, emperor of the Western part of the Roman Empire, had a vision of a cross with the text "In hoc signo vinces", which I prefer to translate as "this sign will make you win". Since Greek was the more common lingua franca in most of the Empire and Constantine came from the Eastern part of the Empire he actually saw "Ἐν τούτῳ νίκα" (Win in this), but this was later more or less translated to serve the Church of Rome which always has had a preference for Latin.
"He actually saw" - well, that is wat we are supposed to think, thanks to Eusebius' History of the Church. Constantine himself never said it, apart from to Eusebius - so Eusebius tells us. So why should we believe this story about an emperor who allegedly became a Christian on his dying bed?
Judit Herrin in her delightful Byzantium - the surprising life of a medieval empire writes:
Licinius, Emperor of the East [and Constantine] met at Milan in 313 and consolidated their joint administration by marriage alliances which united the empire. They also decided to issue an Edict of Toleration, which proclaimed that all religions could be celebrated freely, including Christianity, so long as adherents of every god prayed for the well-being of the Roman Empire and the emperors. Ever since, Christians have prayed for the well-being of their monarchs.
Apparently, it was Licinius' idea to issue this decree, but since Constantine later killed his rival and became emperor of the whole Empire, and became a Christian just like Tony Blair and Bono, it had to be Constantine who took the initiative. And so the story goes.
A fitting theme to the fall of Christianity, as remonstrant Chuch historian Heering called it. Lies, treason and prayers for a murderous dictator.
So let's date the Fall in 313 then. And let's celebrate - 1700 years of prayers for the powerful, for the plunder of the powerless, for the creation of poor.
There are some four years left to organise a grandiose party...
Monbiot: Direct Action is the conscience of the nation
Of course activists come in many different flavours but 'Yey!' for the kind Monbiot cheers today.