[ by <strong>Charles Cameron</strong> — the maw of Wrath open over Gaza ]
Via <strong>Remy Brulin</strong>, Research fellow at NYU, Shapiro fellow at GWU, this image of hell in action:
This goes nicely with Milton, I think, describing hell in <a href=”http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_2/”>Paradise Lost, Bk 2, 170-190</a>:
<blockquote>What if the breath that kindl’d those grim fires
Awak’d should blow them into sevenfold rage
And plunge us in the flames? or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? what if all
Her stores were open’d, and this Firmament
Of Hell should spout her Cataracts of Fire,
Impendent horrors, threatning hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we perhaps
Designing or exhorting glorious warr,
Caught in a fierie Tempest shall be hurl’d
Each on his rock transfixt, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk
Under yon boyling Ocean, wrapt in Chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unrepreevd,
Ages of hopeless end; this would be worse.
Warr therefore, open or conceal’d, alike
My voice disswades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view?</blockquote>
Hell, like Satan, is not without its beauty.
[ by Charles Cameron — more on the hopelessly interdisciplinary nature of reality, all the way to Amichai, to God, no God ]
In this post, I’ll offer another “entry” into the complexities of the situation in Gaza, drawing largely and gratefully on a post by Derek Gregory — presently the Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the University of British Columbia — at Geographical Imaginations two days ago under the title Darkness Descending:
First, Dr Gregory quotes Samuel Weber‘s book, Targets of Opportunity: On the Militarization of Thinking:
Every target is inscribed in a network or chain of events that inevitably exceeds the opportunity that can be seized or the horizon that can be seen.
Gregory then comments:
The complex geometries of these networks then displace the pinpoint co-ordinates of ‘precision’ weapons and ‘smart bombs’ so that their effects surge far beyond any immediate or localised destruction. Their impacts ripple outwards through the network, extending the envelope of destruction in space and time, and yet the syntax of targeting – with its implication of isolating an objective – distracts attention from the cascade of destruction deliberately set in train.
I’m not sure who Gregory is quoting here, but the “network” gets personal, while tending to remain impersonal to the targeters:
.. by fastening on a single killing – through a ‘surgical strike’ – all the other people affected by it are removed from view. Any death causes ripple effects far beyond the immediate victim, but to those that plan and execute a targeted killing the only effects that concern them are the degradation of the terrorist or insurgent network in which the target is supposed to be implicated. Yet these strikes also, again incidentally but not accidentally, cause immense damage to the social fabric of which s/he was a part – the extended family, the local community and beyond – and the sense of loss continues to haunt countless (and uncounted) others.
In fact, the only thing I can think of that’s arguably both universal and more richly personal than individual persons is poetry — so I’ll let the Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, have the last word, as Gregory does:
The Diameter of the Bomb
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.
Ripple image from Ripple Effect Kindness, a blog that hopes to see ripples of peace
[ by Charles Cameron — on the hopelessly interdisciplinary nature of reality ]
There really is no limit to the diversity of strands which go into a complex tapestry such as that of Gaza.
Jean-Pierre Filiu has written, and Hurst will shortly publish, his History of Gaza. Mark Levine, University of California, Irvine, sums up both the book and the timeliness of its publication in his blurb:
Anyone familiar with Jean-Pierre Filiu’s scholarship knows well his talent for taking complex historical processes and bringing their relevance for the present day to the front burner. Never have such skills been more needed than in addressing the still poorly understood history of Gaza. And Filiu succeeds admirably. Providing a wonderful synopsis of a century’s worth of history, his discussion of the more direct roots of the present violent dynamics, beginning with the “crushed generation” of the Six Day War and continuing through the travails of Gaza’s burgeoning hiphop scene, demonstrates just how historically and culturally rich remains this much abused land. A clear must-read for all those seeking to think outside the existing outdated prisms for studying history, and the future of Gaza and Palestine/israel writ large.
Considering the appalling reality of life in contemporary Gaza, a broader view of the current situation can only be taken from the perspective of history, with an attempt to set aside the disorientation, the horror and the hatred that the present situation has engendered. The ‘Gaza Strip’, as it is today, is not so much a geographical entity as the product of the tormented and tragic history of a territory where the majority of the population is made up of refugees who have already attempted to escape other torments, and other tragedies. Gaza’s borders have closed in on those who have fled there: the refugees born within the territory have been destined to remain confined within it, a fate they also share with all of those who have dreamed of leaving it. Neither Israel nor Egypt wanted the ‘Strip’ to exist: it is a territorial entity ‘by default’.
When Filiu wrote his earlier book, Apocalypse in Islam, he knew the realities of the situation demanded he research pop culture as well as classical sources in Qur’an and ahadith — and devoted 8 full-color pages to illustrations of 21 book-covers like these:
It’s not surprising, then, that he covers “the travails of Gaza’s burgeoning hiphop scene” in this one — but the point I wish to make is more general. If we are to grasp the complex realities of today’s and tomorrow’s trouble-spots, we need to be aware of trends that impinge on our disciplinary foci — “national security” and so forth — from an unprecenented array of other areas. Many of our nat-sec authors, bloggers and tweeters, bloggers, authors and pundits are aware of these areas — Dan Drezner, for instance,eploicates international affairs via a trendy meme in his — but it’s the use of such memes by those the analysts study that’s most significant.
Thus Daveed Gartenstein-Ross wrote a year ago regarding the Boston bombing:
Tamerlan listened to all kinds of music, including classical and rap, and used the email address The_Professor@real-hiphop.com. In fact, a few years ago he had planned to enter music school. AP (Apr. 23) shows that Tamerlan’s interpretation of Islam guided his eventual avoidance of music. Six weeks after Tamerlan had told Elmirza Khozhugov, the ex-husband of his sister, about his plans to enter music school, they spoke on the phone. Elmirza asked how music school was going. Tamerlan said that he had quit, and explained that “music is not really supported in Islam.”
and more recently in The Lies American Jihadists Tell Themselves on FP:
The first “homegrown” jihadist whom most Westerners learned about was John Walker Lindh, a young man who traveled to Afghanistan to join the Taliban prior to the 9/11 attacks. Lindh, before his turn toward radical Islam, used to post regularly on hip-hop message boards in the adopted persona of a racially-conscious black hip-hop artist (Lindh is white, from the wealthy northern California region of Marin County).
And thus also, Disney characters now show up in anti-Hamas propaganda… echoing an image of Samantha Lewthwaite we’ve seen here before:
The truth is, pop culture, high culture, scholarship, propaganda, truths, myths and lies are all hopelessly entangled in how we think about the world, and while our thoughts may prefer certain disciplines or “silos” to others, the world itself is no respecter of silos, but is interdiscipoinary to the core.
We had best get used to it.
Some while back, I put together some notes (a collection of quotes and a brief, informal bibliography) on the curious early Christian phenomenon of the Subintroductae for my friend Stephen O’Leary of USC — I thought they might be of interest in the case of Michael Travesser (see the second quote below) — and a little while later on Stephen’s suggestion, I made a shorter compilation of quotes regarding Mahatma Gandhi’s somewhat similar practice.
Recently another friend, William Benzon, has written a post about bundling, which in my view is a related phenomenon — and wishing to be able to point him to these materials, I decided to post them here…
> To The Pure All Things Are Pure
I had already gone to bed, and she made her way into my house and came into my bedroom. She told me that God had put it upon her heart very strongly to come and lie naked with me. I considered this for a time, and then asked the young lady to ask her parents if it was alright for her to do that. She went and asked her parents and came into my room again a couple of nights later after I had gone to bed, on July 31st. I asked once more if she had spoken with her parents and she told me then that her dad said that he trusted me. I took that to mean that he trusted me to do the right thing with her and not to violate her. So she took off her clothing and I held her, and placed my hand on her heart, and we spoke for awhile…
> Michael Trevasser, Lord Our Righteousness Church, Wayne and His Naked Virgins
For when physical affections are destroyed and tyrannical desire extinguished, then no hindrance will any longer stand in the way of men and women being together, because all evil suspicion will be cleared away and all who have entered into the kingdom of heaven can lead the politeia of the angels and the spiritual powers.
> St John Chrysostom, Adversus eos nqui apud se habent subintroductas virgins, 13, in Migne, PG [Patrologiae, Graeca], vol 47, 514, quoted in David M. Scholer, Women in Early Christianity: A Collection of Scholarly Essays, Taylor & Francis, 1993.
It seems that there was in the first full rush of the Church, an attempt, encouraged by the Apostles, to ‘sublimate’. But the experimenters did not call it that. The energy of the effort was in and towards the crucified and Glorified Redeemer, towards a work of exchange and substitution, a union on earth and in heaven with the love which was now understood to be capable of loving and being loved. In some cases it failed. But we know nothing – most unfortunately – of the cases in which it did not fail, and that there were such cases seems clear from St Paul’s quite simple acceptance of the idea. By the time of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the 3rd Century, the ecclesiastical authorities were more doubtful. The women, sub-introductae as they were called – apparently slept with their companions without intercourse; Cyprian does not exactly disbelieve them, but he discourages the practice. And the synod of Elvira (305) and the Council of Nicea (325) forbade it altogether. The great experiment had to be abandoned because of Scandal.
Tolstoy put the crude objection in the Kreutzer Sonata, and Cyprian more or less agreed. “But then excuse me, why do they go to bed together?” Both wise men were justified as against a great deal of sentimental lust and sensual hypocricy. But even Cyprian and Tolstoy did not understand all the methods of the blessed spirit in Christendom. The prohibition was natural. Yet it seems a pity that the Church, which realised once that she was founded on a Scandal, not only to the world, but to the soul, should be so nervously alive to scandals. It was one of the earliest triumphs of “the weaker brethren,” those innocent sheep who by mere volume of imbecility have trampled over many delicate flowers in Christendom.
> Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church,
But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.
> 1 Corinthians 7:36, 37
Individual saints, such as St. Scothine, St. Mel, St. Kentigern, the Anglo-Saxon St. Aldhelm and Robert of Abrissel, all recognized as saints by the very Church which condemned syneisactism, lived in consortio mulierum. Moreover, the fact that St. Patrick condemned the practice probably bespeaks its existence, and the great chastity of the Celtic saints certainly is not inconsistent with their living with women. Although Achelis overstates his case in saying that the early Celtic Church was characterized by the practice of syneisactism, the number of stories of the saints, clergy, and lay ascetics living with the virgines clearly demonstrates that the practice cannot have been as foreign to Celtic Christianity as is often presented.
> Roger E. Reynolds, Virgines Subintroductae in Celtic Christianity, The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 61, No. 4 (Oct., 1968), pp. 547-p 549.
Cyprian of Carthage offers a startling analogy calculated to frighten such couples into submitting to (his) episcopal authority: if a human husband saw his wife reclining next to another man, would he not take his sword in hand? What then will Christ think when he sees his dedicated virgin lying with another? Christ will use the “spiritual sword” of divine punishment against her on the Day of Judgment, Cyprian concludes.
> Elizabeth A. Clark, The Celibate Bridegroom and His Virginal Brides: Metaphor and the Marriage of Jesus in Early Christian Ascetic Exegesis, Church History 77:1, March 2008, 1 – 25.
VIRGINS ‘WITHOUT LICENCE’ – THE ‘SUBINTRODUCTAE’
Some took steps to make the daunting path easier to follow. The virgin who sinned with her ‘attendant’ may well have been one of a breed that aroused much ire and contention in the more severe Fathers: that of the virgins subintroductae or agapetae. These women set up a virginal lifestyle, lived in conjunction and cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex in what amounted to a partnership: ‘the cohabitation of the sexes under the condition of strict continence, a couple sharing the same house, often the same room, and sometimes the same bed, yet conducting themselves as brother and sister’ (Bailey 1959:33) – a situation understandably open to suspicion. These virgins have been accredited by historians of their phenomenon with ‘the earnest desire to keep [the vow of continence]’ (Achelis 1926:177) – but were all too frequently not so accredited at the time.
The advantages of such a system, if sincerely practised, are evident. Lone women shrinking from the rigours of fending for themselves could have, as well as a companion, an agent to carry out their business, thereby avoiding the need for the going abroad so much complained of in virgins. Frequently one of the pair would be better off and provide for the less fortunate partner, thus acquiring merit and making life easier for a fellow Christian. They could assist each other in material ways, inspire each other, and, ideally, avoid the pitfalls open to those who became tired or deceived or lonely through isolation in their struggle. [ … ]
The suspicions to which these partnerships laid themselves open are obvious; Chrysostom, though conceding that many of them were sincere in their beliefs and had retained their bodily purity, nonetheless was convinced that only sexual desire, however unacknowledged, could so permanently bind a man to a woman, for ‘why else would a man put up with the faults of a woman?
> Gillian Cloke, This Female Man of God: Women and Spiritual Power in the Patristic Age, AD 350-450, Routledge, 1995
AGAPETAE (agapetai, beloved).
In the first century of the Christian era, the Agapetae were virgins who consecrated themselves to God with a vow of chastity and associated with laymen. In the beginning this community of spiritual life and mutual support, which was based on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (ix, 5), was holy and edifying. But later it resulted in abuses and scandals, so that councils of the fourth century forbade it. The origin of this association was very probably that these virgins, who did not live in community, required laymen to look after their material interest., and they naturally chose those who, like themselves, had takes a vow of chastity. St. Jerome asked indignantly (Ep., xxii, ad Eustochium) after it had degenerated, Unde in ecclesias Agapetarum pestis introit? A letter St. Cyprian shows that abuses of this kind developed in Africa and in the East (Ep., iv., Ed. Hartel). The Council of Ancyra, in 314, forbade virgins consecrated to God to live thus with men as sisters. This did not correct the practice entirely, for St. Jerome arraigns Syrian monks for living in cities with Christian virgins. The Agapetae are sometimes confounded with the subintroductae, or woman who lived with clerics without marriage, a class against which the third canon of the Council of Nice (325) was directed.
The word Agapetae was also the name of a branch of the Gnostics in 395, whose tenet was that the relations of the sexes were purified of impropriety if the mind was pure. They taught that one should perjure himself rather than reveal the secrets of his sect.
> A’Becket, J.J. (1907). Agapetae, The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 4, 2008 from New Advent.
CHAPTER XV: THE MORES CAN MAKE ANYTHING RIGHT AND PREVENT
CONDEMNATION OF ANYTHING
576. Bundling. One of the most extraordinary instances of what the mores can do to legitimize a custom which, when rationally judged, seems inconsistent with the most elementary requirements of the sex taboo, is bundling. In Latin Europe generally, especially amongst the upper classes, it is not allowed that a young man and a young woman shall be alone together even by day, and the freer usage in England, and still more in the United States, is regarded as improper and contrary to good manners. In the latter countries two young people, if alone together, do not think of transgressing the rules of propriety as set by custom in the society. Such was the case also with night visits. Although the custom was free, and although better taste and judgment have abolished it, yet it was defined and regulated, and was never a proof of licentious manners. It is found amongst uncivilized people, but is hardly to be regarded as a survival in higher civilization. Christians, in the third and fourth centuries, practiced it, even without the limiting conditions which were set in the Middle Ages. Having determined to renounce sex, as an evil, they sought to test themselves by extreme temptation. It was a test or proof of the power of moral rule over natural impulse. “It was a widely spread custom in both the east and the west of the Roman empire to live with virgins. Distinguished persons, including one of the greatest bishops of the empire, who was also one of the greatest theologians, joined in the custom. Public opinion in the church judged them lightly, although unfavorably.” “After the church took on the episcopal constitution, it persecuted and drove out the subintroductae. They were regarded as a survival from the old church which was disapproved. The custom that virgins dwelt in the house with men arose in the oldest period of the Christian church.” “They did not think of any evil as to be apprehended.” “In fact, we have only a little clear evidence that the living together did not correspond in the long run to the assumptions on which it was based.” The custom was abolished in the sixth century. “Spiritual marriage” was connected with the monastic profession and both were due to the ascetic tendency of the time. “From the time when we can clearly find monastic associations in existence, we find hermits living in comradeship with nuns.” We are led back to Jewish associations. The custom is older than Christianity. The custom at Corinth was but imitation of Jewish “God worshipers” or “Praying women.” The Therapeuts had such companions. Their houses of worship were arranged to separate the sexes. Their dances sometimes lasted all night. In the Middle Ages several sects who renounced marriage introduced tests of great temptation. Individuals also, believing that they were carrying on the war between “the flesh” and “the spirit” subjected themselves to similar tests. These are not properly cases in the mores, but they illustrate the intervention of sectarian doctrines or views to traverse the efforts to satisfy interests, and so to disturb the mores.
577. Two forms of bundling. Two cases are to be distinguished: (1) night visits as a mode of wooing; (2) extreme intimacy between two persons who are under the sex taboo (one or both being married, or one or both vowed to celibacy), and who nevertheless observe the taboo.
578. Mediæval bundling. The custom in the second form became common in the woman cult of the twelfth century and it spread all over Europe. As the vassal attended his lord to his bedchamber, so the knight his lady. The woman cult was an aggregation of poses and pretenses to enact a comedy of love, but not to satisfy erotic passion. The custom spread to the peasant classes in later centuries, and it extended to the Netherlands, 527Scandinavia, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Wales, but it took rather the first form in the lower classes and in the process of time. In building houses in Holland the windows were built conveniently for this custom. “In 1666-1667 every house on the island of Texel had an opening under the window where the lover could enter so as to sit on the bed and spend the night making love to the daughter of the house.” The custom was called queesten. Parents encouraged it. A girl who had no queester was not esteemed. Rarely did any harm occur. If so, the man was mobbed and wounded or killed. The custom can be traced in North Holland down to the eighteenth century. This was the customary mode of wooing in the low countries and Scandinavia. In spite of the disapproval of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the custom continued just as round dances continue now, in spite of the disapproval of many parents, because a girl who should refuse to conform to current usage would be left out of the social movement. The lover was always one who would be accepted as a husband. If he exceeded the limits set by custom he was very hardly dealt with by the people of the village. The custom is reported from the Schwarzwald as late as 1780. It was there the regular method of wooing for classes who had to work all day. The lover was required to enter by the dormer window. Even still the custom is said to exist amongst the peasants of Germany, but it is restricted to one night in the month or in the year. Krasinski describes kissing games customary amongst the Unitarians of the Ukrain. He says that they are a Greek custom and he connects them with bundling.
579. Poverty and wooing. Amongst peasants there was little opportunity for the young people to become acquainted. When the cold season came they could not woo out of doors. The young women could not be protected by careful rules which would prevent wooing. They had to take risks and to take care of themselves. Poverty was the explanation of this custom in all civilized countries, although there was always in it an element of frolic and fun.
580. Night wooing in North American colonies. All the emigrants to North America were familiar with the custom. In the seventeenth century, in the colonies, the houses were small, poorly warmed, and inconvenient, allowing little privacy. No doubt this is the reason why the custom took new life in the colonies. Burnaby says that it was the custom amongst the lower classes of Massachusetts that a pair who contemplated marriage spent the night together in bed partly dressed. If they did not like each other they might not marry, unless the woman became pregnant. The custom was called “tarrying.” It was due to poverty again. Modern inhabitants of tenement houses are constrained in their customs by the same limitation, and the effect is seen in their folkways. The custom of bundling had a wide range of variety. Two people sitting side by side might cover themselves with the same robe, or lie on the bed together for warmth. Peters defended the custom, which, he said, “prevails amongst all classes to the great honor of the country, its religion, and ladies.” The older women resented the attempts of the ministers to preach against the custom. Sofas were introduced as an alternative. The country people thought the sofa less proper. In the middle of the eighteenth century the decline in social manners, which was attributed to the wars, caused the custom to produce more evil results. Also the greater wealth, larger houses, and better social arrangements changed the conditions and there was less need for the custom. It fell under social disapproval and was thrown out of the folkways. Stiles says that “it died hard” after the revolution. In 1788 a ballad in an almanac brought the custom into popular ridicule. Stiles quotes the case of Seger vs. Slingerland, in which the judge, in a case of seduction, held that parents who allowed bundling, although it was the custom, could not recover.
529581. Reasons for bundling. A witness before the Royal Commission on the Marriage Laws, 1868, testified that night visiting was still common amongst the laboring classes in some parts of Scotland. “They have no other means of intercourse.” It was against custom for a lover to visit his sweetheart by day. As to the parents, “Their daughters must have husbands and there is no other way of courting.” This statement sums up the reasons for this custom which, not being a public custom, must have varied very much according to the character of individuals who used it. Attempts were always made to control it by sanctions in public opinion.
> William Graham Sumner, Folkways: A Study of Mores, Manners, Customs and Morals, Courier Dover Publications, 2002.
There is also evidence from a variety of sources for women living continently with their husbands in marriage, apparently without suspicion. However, when virgins lived with continent men, as they did in large numbers throughout the early church, the practice came to be challenged and condemned by church fathers and councils alike. The earliest condemnation of virgines subintroductae, as the women were called, came in 268 at the Council of Antioch and was followed by restrictive canons produced in 300 at Elvira, in 317 at Ancyra, and in 325 at Nicaea. Basil and Cyprian both wrote epistles against the practice, and Jerome mentions “those women who appear to be, but are not, virgins” several times. The author of the two pseudo-Clementine epistles to virgins, dating from the fourth century, also condemns subintroductae, as do Eusebius of Emesa, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzius. But none of these condemnations is as rhetorically rich as those produced by John Chrysostom in his two pastoral letters against the practice of cohabitation of virgins and continent brothers. All of these attempts to proscribe the practice reinforce the conclusion that it was a practice to which many virgins (and brothers) adhered. Whether virgins broke their vows of chastity in living with men, as some church leaders claimed, cannot be ascertained from the evidence. Yet it is clear that women found it a desirable arrangement in which they continued to participate at least well into the seventh century.
Hie evidence for the ages of women devoting their chastity to God varies, though many appear to have done so early in life. Palladius tells of Talis, a woman who followed the ascetic life for eighty years, of Taor, who was a virgin for sixty years, and another virgin, unnamed, who was ascetic for sixty years as well. Macrina was twelve when she decided to remain a virgin; Olympias was widowed at nineteen and refused to remarry; Blesilla, Paulas daughter and Eustochium s older sister, began her ascetic life at her widowhood at twenty; Melania the Elder, widowed at twenty-two, pursued asceticism, and her granddaughter, Melania the Younger, renounced the world at twenty, after seven years of marriage. Such early marriages and widowhoods were quite common in the Roman period, as marriage, within the aristocracy at least, was the standard method of sealing pacts between families and assuring that a legitimate heir existed for the passing on of property. The marriage often occurred between an older man and a young girl, sometimes younger than twelve.
Despite the fact that girls were considered ready for marriage at such a young age, they were by no means thought to be capable of making decisions for themselves, and the decision to renounce the world and to guard one’s virginity was not often met with encouragement from parents and other family members.
> Castelli: Women’s Sexuality in Early Christianity 81 [need to verify pages]
Elizabeth Castelli, “Virginity and Its Meaning for Women’s Sexuality in Early Christianity,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 2:1 (Spring 1986): esp. 86–88;
Elizabeth A. Clark, John Chrysostom and the “Subintroductae”, Church History, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Jun., 1977), pp. 171 – 185
Elizabeth A. Clark, The Celibate Bridegroom and His Virginal Brides: Metaphor and the Marriage of Jesus in Early Christian Ascetic Exegesis, Church History 77:1, March 2008, 1 – 25.
Roger E. Reynolds, Virgines Subintroductae in Celtic Christianity, The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 61, No. 4 (Oct., 1968), pp. 547-566
Hans Achelis, Virgines Subintroductae: Ein Beitrag zum VII Kapitel des I. Korintherbriefs, Leipzig, 1902
Derrick Sherwin Bailey, The Man-Woman Relation in Christian Thought. London: Longmans, 1959 — may be the same as:
Derrich [sic] Sherwin Bailey, Sexual Relation in Christian Thought (New York, 1959)
Virginia Burrus, The Sex Lives of the Saints: An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Gillian Cloke, This Female Man of God: Women and Spiritual Power in the Patristic Age, AD 350-450, Routledge, 1995
Dyan Elliot, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock, Princeton University Press, 1995
David M. Scholer, Women in Early Christianity: A Collection of Scholarly Essays, Taylor & Francis, 1993
Roland H A Seboldt, Spiritual Marriage in the Early Church: A suggested Interpretation of i Cor. Cor. 7:36-38.
William Graham Sumner, Folkways: A Study of Mores, Manners, Customs and Morals, Courier Dover Publications, 2002
Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Longman, Green and Co., 1939, current ed Regent College
WOLPERT, GANDHI’S PASSION
Gandhi was testing the “truth” of his faith in the fire of “experience.” His had always been a practical philosophy, an activist faith. He appears to have hoped that sleeping naked with Manu, without arousing in himself the slightest sexual desire, might help him to douse raging fires of communal hatred in the ocean of India, and so strengthen his body as to allow him to live to 125 in continued service to the world.
[ … ]
He felt so troubled about Manu’s anxiety and listlessness that he wrote to his old Calcutta comrade Satis Chandra Mukerji, seeking his opinion. A young girl (19) who is in the place of a granddaughter to me by relation shares the same bed with me, not for any animal satisfaction but for (to me) valid moral reasons. She claims to be free from the passion that a girl of her age generally has and I claim to be a practised brahmachari. Do you see anything bad or or unjustifiable in this juxtaposition?” Mukerji chose not to answer that question. Manilal Gandhi, however, was shocked when he heard the news. “Do not let the fact of Manu sleeping with me perturb you. I believe that it is God who has prompted me to take that step,” his Bapu replied.
Stanley Wolpert, Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, Oxford University Press US, 2002, pp 228-9
BRAHMACHARYI OR A PRETENDER?
Brahmacharya is a common practice for the yogi who wishes union with the Divine. For, the sex impulse is understood to be one of Nature’s greatest impediments to attaining that Superconscious Bliss. Having this to aspire to makes it unlikely for one to return to prior indulgences in any form. Thus it was a shock to many when, a couple of years prior to his death, it became public knowledge that Gandhi was doing experiments related to the sex impulse, seemingly in order to determine whether he had any sexual desires left. The most controversial practice was his taking to bed – although sexual encounters were denied – of the younger women in his ashram, including his grandniece Manu. It was this practice with Manu that forced Gandhi to write to his son: “Do not let the fact of Manu sleeping with me perturb you.” His son was not the only one of his inner circle to become concerned by his practices. Gandhi also had to respond to colleague J.B Kripalani, sending a letter to convince him of his position:
Manu Gandhi, my grand-daughter, as we consider blood relations, shares the bed with me, strictly as my very blood…as part of what might be my last yajna. This has cost me dearest associates…You as one of the dearest and earliest comrades…should reconsider your position in the light of what they have to say…I have given the deepest thought to the matter. The whole world may forsake me but I dare not leave what I hold is the truth for me. It may be a delusion and a snare. If so, I must realize it myself. I have risked perdition before now. Let this be the reality if it has to be.
One of Gandhi’s followers, Nirmal Kumar Bose, discussed the matter in depth in his book, My Days with Gandhi, writing:
From a serious study of Gandhiji’s writings, I had formed the opinion, which was perhaps not unjustified, that he represented a hard, puritanical form of self-discipline, something which we usually associate with medieval Christian ascetics or Jain recluses. So, when I first learnt in detail about Gandhiji’s prayog or experiment, I felt genuinely surprised. I was informed that he sometimes asked women to share his bed and even the cover which he used, and then tried to ascertain if even the last trace of sensual feeling had been evoked in himself or his companion.
News of Gandhi’s experiments spread to other yogis, two of whom – Swami Anand and Kedar Nath Kulkarni – came to visit and discuss with him his methods, which they were opposed to:
Question: The irreparable harm, if you weaken the foundation of the moral order on which society rests and which has been built up by long and painful discipline, is obvious. But no corresponding gain is apparent to us to justify a break with established tradition. What is your defense? We are not out to humiliate you or to score a victory over you. We only wish to understand.
Gandhi: No moral progress or reform is possible if one is not prepared to get out of the rut of orthodox tradition. …The orthodox conception of the nine-fold wall of protection in regard to brahmacharya is in my opinion inadequate and defective. I have never accepted it for myself. In my opinion, even striving for brahmacharya is not possible by keeping behind it. … If you admit the necessity and desirability of reform, of discarding the old, wherever necessary, and building a new system of ethics and morals suited to the present age, then the question of seeking the permission of others or convincing them does not arise. A reformer cannot afford to wait till others are converted; he must take the lead and venture forth alone even in the teeth of universal opposition. I want to test, enlarge and revise the current definition of brahmacharya, by which you swear, in light of my observation, study and experience. Therefore, whenever an opportunity presents itself, I do not evade it or run away from it. On the contrary, I deem it my duty – dharma – to meet it squarely in the face and find out where it leads to and where I stand. To avoid the contact of a woman, or to run away from it out of fear, I regard as unbecoming of an aspirant after true brahmacharya. I have never tried to cultivate or seek sex contact for carnal satisfaction.
Gandhi was definitely right in his view that sometimes it is necessary to break with tradition, and that reformers are not ones to wait for others to follow them. But even if orthodox conceptions of nine-fold walls are not for everyone, Gandhi had still forgotten the higher purpose behind brahmacharya. His “enlarged” idea of brahmacharya was to put oneself in potentially sexual situations to see how much sexual feeling there was left in him, leading him to make this astonishing statement:
Thousands of Hindu and Moslem women come to me. They are to me like my own mother, sisters and daughters. But if an occasion should arise requiring me to share the bed with any of them I must not hesitate, if I am the brahmacharyi that I claim to be. If I shrink from the test, I write myself down as a coward and a fraud.
The ability to avoid sexual impulses while lying in bed with thousands of women – whether at once or one at a time – was not the original intent behind brahmacharya. Brahmacharya was not meant to be a continual negation (even though negation is needed at first); it was done to bring about a true transformation in nature, leading to that higher delight. And brahmacharya went further than the simple avoidance of the sex act, whether done by running away or in bed with a naked woman. The brahmacharyi was to remove the sexual urge not only in the physical act, but also within the mind as well, for as Lord Krishna said, “One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.”
Thus sex is to be removed from the mind as well as the elimination of the physical act and its mechanical impulses. To simply repress alone is not enough, because these urges can still remain subconsciously for some time. So Gandhi is on the right track when he denounces the tendency to run away, because life in the mountains may not by itself remove subconscious sexual urges. However, the ascetic life can present a better opportunity to transform the nature than what Gandhi chose to do, which was to sleep naked with a girl every night. Because even though – and this is if we take his word for it – there was no sexual interaction, Gandhi would admit to Swami Anand and Kedar Nath that the urges still remained:
I do not claim to have completely eradicated the sex feeling in me. But it is my claim that I can keep it under control.
To simply have it under control means that a lot more work is needed, because the brahmacharyi must eventually remove this lower attachment to realize the greater Truth.
Brahmacharyi or a Pretender?
Please forgive the multi-friend posting — I wanted to get this update out to a great many friends & colleagues old and new…
On Tuesday evening [15 June] I was released from hospital after a “very minor” stroke which occurred on Friday evening [11th]. It’s about as gentle a warning shot as one could hope for, and I intend to respond appropriately in terms of diet, exercise, etc.
The stroke itself sent my left arm into spasm, and I had the curious experience of my nervous system / phantom limb withdrawing from that arm like a very quickly receding tide — this was not painful, but being an innately curious fellow, I found it both intriguing and unexpected. I was pretty scared during the 40 seconds the spasm lasted, and again when it reoccurred as I was being brought into the hospital, but after a battery of EEG, EKG, MRI and CAT scans, the doctors decided I was fit to be loosed again on the unsuspecting American public, and I’m now back at home with the family of Chris and Ed Worden in Chicago, where I’m a house-guest while doing a bunch of writing.
Other things have been moving along, too.
Some while back, the Australian Federal Police’s top specialist in al-Qaida, Leah Farrall, opened an online dialog with an Egyptian Taliban strategist and frequent critic of bin Laden, Abu Walid al-Masri.
Leah then invited me to make my own comments to Abu Walid, which she posted on her All Things Counterterrorism blog, while Mark Safranski put it up on his blog, Zenpundit, where I’m a regular guest poster. I hope some of you will read this piece, which comes as close to a statement of my values — for myself and the planet — as anything I have written.
Abu Walid recently posted his response to me, in Arabic, and I now have a translation up at Zenpundit.
I hope you will read Abu Walid’s post, too, both because I find his emphasis on chivalry quite remarkable, and because as Leah observes:
These letters may not change anything, but they are important because in mass media sometimes only the most controversial and polarising views tend to make it into the news. I think person to person contact, especially via mediums like this, can go some way to providing opportunities for all of us to discover or be reminded that there is more than one viewpoint and along with differences there are also similarities. Contact like this humanizes people, and in my book that’s never a bad thing.
I’d encourage you to post your own comments on these exchanges if they interest you.
There’s more, too — the extraordinary generosity of my friends Chris and Ed Worden, with whom I am staying, my boys, Emlyn and David, who make me very proud, my work moderating online events for the Skoll Foundation’s SocialEdge website, poems, DoubleQuotes, some renewed stirrings of interest in the HipBone Games, and so forth.
That’s the update for now…
From the point of view of eschatology, it is interesting that the lead article of the first issue of the English-language Jihadist magazine “Jihad Recollections” from Al-Fursan Media should deal with the conquest of Rome — which is here interpreted to mean the United States.
Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in a fatwa cited by MEMRI, clearly views the relevant hadith as referring to the Italian capital — and, one might add, seat of the Bishop of Rome:
The Prophet Muhammad was asked: “What city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Romiyya?” He answered: “The city of Hirqil will be conquered first’ — that is, Constantinople. . . . Romiyya is the city called today “Rome,” the capital of Italy. The city of Hirqil was conquered by the young 23-year-old Ottoman Muhammad bin Morad, known in history as Muhammad the Conqueror, in 1453. The other city, Romiyya, remains, and we hope and believe [that it too will be conquered]. This means that Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor, after being expelled from it twice — once from the South, from Andalusia, and a second time from the East, when it knocked several times on the door of Athens.
But then this business of using one place-name as a metaphor for another is something we also meet in Christianity, where Martin Luther for instance declares “I know that the Papacy is none other than the kingdom of Babylon” identifying the latter city with Rome … while less classically and more recently, Gary DeMar (End Times Fiction, p. 128) identifies “mystery Babylon” with Jerusalem, Grant Jeffrey (War on Terror: Unfolding Bible Prophecy, p. 127) reads it as literally the Babylon that Saddam Hussein was, at the time of writing, rebuilding, and David Wilkerson holds Babylon to be the United States (cited by Michael Evans in The American Prophecies, p. 36).
So: does the conquest of Romiyya mean the capture of the Holy See — and thus the Islamic defeat of Christendom — or the conquest of Wall Street?
For a tangential comment on the presence of a distinguished naval historian’s work in the same article, see my blog post today at hipbone out loud.
The journal itself can be downloaded here
See Jarret Brachman’s page-by-page analysis starting here
In “Fear Factor”, his review of Amanda Ripley’s fascinating-sounding The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes, published in City Journal 21 June 2008, John Robb writes:
… in complex disasters, the biological-fear response can slow thinking so severely that it can kill you.
We can counter fear, however. The best method, FBI trainers say, is to get control of your breathing. “Combat breathing” is a simple variant on Lamaze or yoga training — breathe in four counts, hold four counts, exhale four counts, and repeat. It works because breathing is a combination of the somatic (which we control) and the autonomic (which we can’t easily control) nervous systems. Regulation of the autonomic system deescalates the biological-fear response and returns our higher-level brain functions to full capacity. So one of the best ways you can prepare yourself to overcome fear in a crisis is as simple as a meditation, Lamaze, or yoga class.
I find it fascinating and also sensible that yogic / meditative techniques are now taught by members of the law enforcement community:
Training under stress also will help officers learn to control their arousal level. As their physiological agitation escalates, so might their susceptibility to perceptual and memory distortions. Thus, learning to control arousal level can help reduce distortions. Therefore, officers should receive training in and regularly practice ways to control arousal levels in high-stress situations. One process, the combat breathing technique, has proven highly effective in this area.
Alexis Artwohl, “Perceptual and memory distortion during officer-involved shootings”, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Oct, 2002
This reminds me of Richard Strozzi Heckler’s In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets, now in its fourth edition.
What fascinates me even more, though, is the discovery that “combat breathing” is a term that was already in use before it was applied to breathing techniques for controlling one’s emotions in crisis conditions. Frantz Fanon coined the term, as far as I am able to determine, to describe the elevated level of frustration under which occupied peoples go through their daily lives.
In writing about Algeria in A Dying Colonialism, Fanon writes (p.65):
There is not occupation of territory, on the one hand, and independence of persons on the other. It is the country as a whole, its history, its daily pulsation that are contested, disfigured, in the hope of a final destruction. Under these conditions, the individual’s breathing is an observed, an occupied breathing. It is a combat breathing.
From this point on, the real values of the occupied quickly tend to acquire a clandestine form of existence. In the presence of the occupier, the occupied learns to dissemble, to resort to trickery.
We might do well to consider Fanon’s words in relation to the occupation of Iraq, as perceived by those who have no cause to welcome it.
Again I am reminded — and this is peripheral to the issue of breathing techniques in combat, but germane to that of religious sanctions for violence — of Gary North’s comment in an appendix (p. 846) to R.J. Rushdoony’s The Institutes of Biblical Law. North suggests that much of what Christ taught his disciples was intended to ease them through the Roman occupation, and would no longer have force once that occupation could be ended:
Nevertheless, this one fact should be apparent: turning the other cheek is a bribe. It is a valid form of action for only so long as the Christian is impotent politically or militarily. By turning the other cheek, the Christian provides the evil coercer with more peace and less temporal danger than he deserves. By any economic definition, such an act involves a gift: it is an extra bonus to the coercing individual that is given only in respect of his power. Remove his power, and he deserves punishment: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Remove his power, and the battered Christian should either bust him in the chops or haul him before the magistrate, and possibly both.
This “dominionist” strand of contemporary Christian thinking — of which Rushdoony’s book is the theological centerpiece, and which exerts some influence on the Christian right as a whole — thus holds Christianity to be a great deal fiercer and more intransigent than a reading of the Beatitudes might lead one to believe.
I somehow don’t think
Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who insult you and persecute you
makes a whole lot of sense if you tag on the words “and keep your fingers crossed” at the end.
Re: Obama for Mahdi?
I’d like to acknowledge here that, as my friend Dr. Timothy Furnish pointed out to me today, he already picked up on and addressed the “Obama for Mahdi” issue in a post on his MahdiWatch blog back on April 17th:
Mahd[i] about Obama
As we’re all painfully aware of by now, some of Barack Hussein Obama’s liberal legions of supporters harbor messianic expectations about him–and I’m not referring just to journalists. Over on the other side of the political spectrum, there are evangelical Christians who have seasoned their eschatological stew with Mahdist spices, and in fact kicked things up a notch by claiming that the Mahdi of Islam will be the Antichrist of Christianity. It was probably inevitable that these two ideological currents would eventually flow together, as evidenced by emails to this site recently:
“Barack HUSSEIN is probably Islam’s mahdi….. 1400 year old Islamic prophecy says this mahdi will be named HUSSEIN.. I have reference for this…The masses have called b. Obama the messiah… Say he walks on water, the chosen..etc..The entire world is for Obama…looks like anti Christ to me.. And the mahdi to muslims….
This 12th imam named HUSSEIN will promise peace, unity, brotherhood hood and the kingdom of god on earth.. OBAMA HAS PROMISED THIS TO AMERICANS… while he gives all America’s money to the u.n. And Muslim nations.. Obama plans for USA to enforce the U.N.s law forbidding defamation against religions.. This will stop the real truth about Islam lies and will cause persecution and death among Christians, etc… This man is not what he appears to be and America will know it soon.. Not to mention the fact Obama was a Muslim when he was 6 to 10 years old … and even took the shahada recently in the presence of a newspaperman…. Taking the shahada is the only requirement to become Muslim. And Obama knows this … He wears Muslim garb.. And.. His so called church is pro Islamic and and anti-white, anti-American and anti-Christian..”
There you have it. A vote for BHO is a vote for the Mahdi. Someone alert Ahmadinezhad — and the Clinton campaign!
Re: Literal and metaphorical hijackings
I’d also like to note that a commenter on a blog I follow recently used the word “hijack” to refer to the Sojourners trend within evangelical Christianity, writing of Rev. Tony Campolo:
Exactly what was the Lord’s reaction when faced with the mixture of warm and cold with regard to the Laodicean church? It’s about time we learned what the Lord was saying and stop allowing people like Campolo and his ilk to hijack Christianity.
And if that’s not enough, there’s always…
From the publicity materials:
The newest facet in the War on Terror involves a little known Islamic messianic figure ― ”the Mahdi.” A key earmark of this mysterious religious leader is “hiding” himself away.
Osama bin Laden, hidden away somewhere, directs worldwide terrorist operations against “infidels.” He has a seemingly endless army of Islamist followers. Likewise, the Iraqi Shi’ite rebel leader Muqtada al-Sadr calls his followers the “al-Mahdi Army.”
The Twelfth Imam, the Shi’ite Mahdi, is hidden, right? He’s in what is termed ghayba, or occultation. He has been in ghayba since 864 CE, and entered what is called the greater ghayba in 940 CE, a little more than a thousand years ago. And Osama bin Laden has been hiding, too, right? And he has an army. Therefore Osama must be the Mahdi…
Or might it be Muqtada al Sadr?
It helps to know the difference between Sunni (al-Qaida and bin Laden are Sunni) and Shi’ite (the Twelfth Imam and Moqtada are Shi’ite), and between hiding out (for a few years) in the Pashtun areas astride the Pakistan-Afghan border, and going into occultation (for more than a millennium) in the ‘alam al-mithal, a world not of this world…
Another diversion into the arcana of eschatology, with no particular violence implicated.
We’ve had discussions of Obama as Messiah:
and discussions of Obama as Antichrist:
That’s a nice “pair” of bookends, to be sure — but it by no means exhausts the possibilities. There are some legitimate concerns and more moderate positions that are intermediate between those two poles. And while the ones that seem perceptive to one group may seem obtuse to another, the territory they cover is worth examining through the lens of religious rhetoric.
There’s Paul Krugman in the New York Times suggesting that the Obama campaign back in February of this year seemed “dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality“(which is still quite far from a “messianic cult”). There’s Mark Morford’s recent San Francisco Chronicle article titled,perhaps by a whimsical editor, “Is Barak Obama an Enlightened being?” Morford suggests that “Barack Obama isn’t really one of us”, and indeed that “many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people” have been “blown away” by Obama’s “sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity” (which is coming a bit closer to the messianic cult bit).
What’s behind all this? There’s a para-religious phenomenon here, I’d argue, a translation of political content into religious vessels, perhaps — in a January news report in the Sacramento Bee, “one of the campaign’s key strategies” was described by an Obama team trainer as “telling potential voters personal stories of political conversion.” And that in turn reminds me of the remarkable description of working in the Obama campaign penned by Ginger Lapid-Bogda, which I received from Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute, a slightly different version of which can be found on the rio grand-i-o blog.
I wanted to share just a little of my experience working in the Obama campaign because it very much relates to OD [organizational development]. I don’t do anything so very important, yet there is a sense in the air that everything anyone does matters and is deeply appreciated. I do phone banking and help them with provisions for the West Los Angeles office. But anything I do is met with amazing gratitude from people there, and I feel deeply grateful for being able to contribute. This is a very resonant exchange: gratitude for gratitude with absolutely no fakeness or overly-sweet quality.
It is such a bottom-up system, essentially driven by the vision of what this country can be, much more than being centered solely around Obama, although his approach is deeply shared. It is an amazing example of a vision and principle-driven self managing structure and system in which everyone does whatever is needed. And what is needed can change every hour, yet nothing feels unfocused or chaotic. It is truly a self-organizing system. The big office provides some guidelines, a few protocols, some materials, a few suggested tactics that are highly strategic, but people in this office — and it is just one of many throughout the country — just figure out what to do and then do it amazingly.
Of course, it is a thrill but only because it feels important. Everyone is a volunteer, all supplies, furniture, etc, are donated, many are exhausted, but no one gets difficult or crabby. It is amazing what a sense of purpose does.
The volunteers are as diverse a group as I’ve ever seen working together — age, race, gender, social class, profession, education. That is a lot of what makes it so thrilling. It’s like experiencing the change we’re trying to create. We’re a virtual team in which parts of it are in one another’s physical presence, others are not, and the team members change from day to day. Most of the volunteers, no matter their age, have never been involved in any campaign before so this high-performance is not based on experience.
For me, the most important principle followed is that the end does not justify the means. It is akin to a transformation from the more Machiavellian era we have been operating in for many decades to one that is working from a high level of conscious awareness. They are very process oriented and believe that if the processes used (the means) are not consistent with the ends that are desired, the ends will never materialize because they will be too compromised and tarnished by the process.
Dr. Lapid-Bogda is describing the campaign in “organizational development” terms, but what comes across to me is the sense of what Victor Turner would call communitas — an exhilarating sense that hierarchy has been dissolved and that as a result the ideal is hovering in the atmosphere, in the room, so close as to be tangible. That feeling — and it is indeed a heady one — can be found in peace marches, in communes, it was present among the early Franciscans, and with it, great things are sometimes possible.
Having a leader also helps — someone who can plausibly be portrayed with a halo in an age that wears them lightly, a charismatic personality, to borrow Max Weber’s phrase.
And Obama is nothing if not charismatic… The London Telegraph introduced him to readers who might be unfamiliar with him in January 2007 as “the charismatic senator with near rock-star status” and “the new Jack Kennedy” — and short of messiah-status, JFK is hard to beat.
Still, it is important to note that Barack Obama acknowledges and makes light of this sort of thing himself — I’m assuming he spoke with a mixture of sophistication, self-deprecation and charm when he told and audience of Ivy Leaguers:
My job this morning is to be so persuasive … that a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Barack.
In summarizing the above, I’d say the “Obama is Messiah” and “Obama is Antichrist” memes are almost parodistic exaggerations of an insight that does ring true of Obama — that he is a charismatic leader attracting followers through the hope of major changes in the way the world goes about its business, an almost-apocalyptic hope of better things to come.
Which is not necessarily any more apocalyptic, however, than George Bush Sr’s comments about a “New World Order” — which horrified evangelicals in its own day” — and his “thousand points of light”.
That might seem like quite enough — but I have saved the richest irony for last. Because out there in the same clash of rival apocalypticisms which gave us Sheikh Safar al-Hawali writing a book based on Hal Lindsey style Christian apocalyptic about the Mahdi and Joel Richardson writing a book about the Mahdi as antichrist, we now have one further level of rhetoric to contend with.
We now have to consider the implications of Obama as Mahdi —
This image, blending Obama’s features in along with thise of Osama, is intriguing and, I suggest, more than a little confused.
The Twelfth Imam is one of the specifically (“Twelver”) Shi’ites’ titles for the Mahdi, the messianic figure in much of Islam – identifying him with Abu’l-Kasim Muhammad, born 860 CE, the twelfth in the line of Shi’ite Imams, who is supposed to have gone into “occultation” while young, and whose re-appearance is widely expected and indeed longed for, eg by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Osama bin Laden, on the other hand, like his erstwhile mentor Sheikh al-Hawali, would reject out of hand any Shi’ite Mahdist claimant to the role of Mahdi…
And so it goes.