Friday, September 30, 2011

Потап и Настя Каменских (Potap & Nastya)

Алты́нного во́ра ве́шают, а полти́нного че́ствуют.

Потап и Настя Каменских - "Cry me a river"
Visually stunning, and a very catchy tune.
(And here is a slightly better, but unembeddable, version of this video)



Потап и Настя Каменских - На районе (На раёне)
Russians (or should I say Ukrainians?) have sophistication. Let them show you it.



Потап и Настя - Не пара
The Original Russian (or should I say Ukrainian?) Gangstaz.



Also be sure to check out: сумасшедшие видео России

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"And if we occasionally speak of Baldur ..."

"In Christ, the embodiment of all manliness, we find all that we need. And if we occasionally speak of Baldur, our words always contain some joy, some satisfaction, that our pagan ancestors were already so Christian as to have an indication of Christ in this ideal figure."
[Dietrich Eckart, founding member of German Nazi Party]

• Inside an anti-Pagan hatchet-job

This post is prompted by a recent article by Brian Powell for MediaMatters.Org: "The Supremacy Cause: Inside The White Nationalist Movement."

Despite the specificity of its proximate inspiration, this essay actually digs deeply into the broad issue of the attitudes toward Christianity and Paganism found among certain elements of the racist right in 21st century American politics. What is shown below is that any apparent criticism of Christianity, or apparent sympathy for Paganism, found among far-right white-supremacist groups and publications (like the National Policy Institute, The Occidental Quarterly, American Renaissance, and Alternative Right) is not at all what it appears to be.

And speaking of things that are not as they appear: on the surface, at least at first, Brian Powell's MediaMatters article, referred to (and linked to) at the beginning of this post, presents itself as a fairly straight-forward bit of investigative reporting.

You see, Powell had registered for the first ever nationwide conference of a white nationalist group called the National Policy Institute (NPI). He attended the conference without revealing the fact that he was in fact there to expose the ideas and activities of an organization whose ideas and activities he, quite justifiably, loathes. "As a clean-cut white male, my presence wasn't suspicious and the other attendees assumed I shared their views. For my part, I let them assume, and I did my best to blend in."

So far, so good. But about two-thirds of the way into his article, Powell suddenly veers off on a 1000+ word tangent under the heading "By the Hammer of Thor", in which he insinuates that this racist organization is in some way connected with and/or influenced by Paganism. Ostensibly this little anti-Pagan rant by Powell was prompted by a chance encounter with some conference attendees who happened to be members of an American Heathen group known as the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA). (In this post I am using the words "Heathen" and "Pagan" interchangeably. "Heathen", or, to be precise, Heiden, is, after all, simply the German word for "Pagan".)

However, we find out that Powell never actually interrogated these Pagans about their religious beliefs or their organizational affiliations, because he did not want to blow his cover by asking a lot of questions. Instead, Powell admits that he only surmised, if it can even be called that, that they were members of the AFA after "craning my neck to watch them writing down information on their group for another young attendee". In fact, it is painfully obvious that all of the "information" about Heathenry and the AFA in Powell's article comes from a few minutes worth of googling, and not from anything that Powell learned at the NPI conference.

Incredibly, Powell made no effort to contact the AFA for an official response. Had he done so, he would have received confirmation that there were, indeed, a grand total of four AFA members who attended the conference as individuals without any official blessing from the ASA itself, as AFA leader Stephen McNallen later stated in a public response to Powell's article. Obtaining such a confirmation, or at least attempting to do so, seems like an obvious thing that any high-school journalism student would have done automatically, especially considering the fact that Powell thought it appropriate to devote about one fourth of a fairly long article (over 4000 words) to the supposed connection between racism and Heathenry.

Worse, though, is the fact that while Powell obsesses over his chance encounter with four Heathens at this conference, he completely ignores the very real connection between the National Policy Institute and Christianity.

• What Brian Powell doesn't know about the National Policy Institute
The National Policy Institute has ten guiding "Principles", the first of which is: "The West is a cultural compound of our Classical, Christian, and Germanic past."

The only religion mentioned in the "Principles" of the NPI is Christianity. Hmmm. What can we make of that? Perhaps we can gain more insight into the religious dimension of NPI's world-view by looking at the two men who co-authored their "Statement of Principles": William H. Regnery II and Samuel T. Francis.

Regnery is best known (to the extent that he is known at all) as the founder of the Charles Martel Society, which in turn is best known (to the extent that it is known at all) for it's flagship publication, The Occidental Quarterly (TOQ).

So, who was Charles Martel? His rise to power as the ruler of the Franks in the eighth century has been described by Princeton University historian Peter Brown (in his The Rise of Western Christendom) as "the greatest political revolution to occur in western Europe since the passing of the Roman empire." Brown goes on to say:
"The unprecedented coagulation of military power in the hands of the Frankish aristocracy who supported Charles Martel; the replacement of the Merovingian kings of Francia by a new, 'Carolingian' royal dynasty; the absorption by the Franks of large areas of central and northern Europe, from modern Holland to Saxony; the Europe-wide conquests of Charlemagne [Martel's grandson] ... these developments engulfed the Christian populations of much of continental Europe in a kingdom of truly 'imperial' dimensions, known to us as the Carolingian [or Frankish] empire. Regional 'micro-Christendoms' survived. But at the top of a victorious society, dominated by the Franks, their various representatives came together, for the very first time, to create what they considered to be the only true 'Christendom' that mattered."
[p. 378]
Martel and his Carolingian successors constantly expanded their theocratic empire by waging Holy War on all non-Christians, and even on those who weren't considered the right kind of Christian. Those against whom the Carolingians wielded the Sword of the Lord included the Islamic Emirate of Cordoba, the Pagans of Saxony and Frisia, and also the Lombards of Italy (who, while nominally Christian, were uncompromising enemies of the Pope and quite possible crypto-Pagans). Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote the following (in his massive A History of the Expansion of Christianity) concerning the violent nature of the spread of Christianity under Charles Martel and the Carolingians, with special attention to the Heathens who resisted Christianization most stubbornly: the Saxons:
"As we have suggested, the conversion of the Saxons was achieved by a combination of armed force and the zeal of missionaries. So far as we know, never before had the adherence of any people to the Christian faith been brought about by quite so drastic a use of the mailed fist and with so much blood-letting among reluctant pagans. The completion of conversion of the entire Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries, accomplished though it had been under the urge of imperial legislation, had probably not entailed the killing of as many non-Christians as did the winning of this comparatively small area in North-western Germany [Saxony]. It was the first but not the last instance in which acceptance of baptism and of the Christian name was induced by a liberal application of the sword. We shall find the procedure repeated again and again in the thousand years between the eighth and the nineteenth century. We shall see it usually as part of the process of the conquest of one people by another -- invaders and conquerors employing the Church and its agents as one of their tools."
[pp. 104-105]
So, it is Charles Martel and the dynasty of marauding medieval theocratic warlords founded by him who truly embody the First Principle of the National Policy Institute: "a cultural compound of our Classical, Christian, and Germanic past". The court language of the Carolingians was the classical language of Latin, their religion was Christianity, and they themselves were Germanic.

But what about the other author of the National Policy Institute's "Statement of Principles"? That would be none other than Samuel T. Francis. Francis, who died in 2005, was also closely associate with another bunch of fascistic white-supremacists: The Council of Conservative Citizens. In fact, Francis was the author of the CCC's own "Statement of Principles", which contains fourteen principles. Principle Number One is:
"We believe that the United States of America is a Christian country, that its people are a Christian people, and that its government and public leaders at all levels must reflect Christian beliefs and values. We therefore oppose all efforts to deny or weaken the Christian heritage of the United States, including the unconstitutional prohibitions of prayers and other religious expression in schools and other public institutions."
Such are the "principles" of the National Policy Institute. Obviously, no self-respecting Heathen would be caught dead in such company!

But wait, there's more. In fact, once one gets started, it's hard to know where to stop in listing all the things we don't find out about the NPI in Brian Powell's 4000+ word article that promises to take us "inside the white nationalist movement".

We've already talked about Regnery and Francis. Here is some background information on two of the other featured speakers at the NPI conference attended by Powell as part of his "investigation":

James Edwards was not only a featured speaker at the NPI meeting on September 10, he was also one of three NPI representatives who held a press conference the previous day (at the National Press Club) to announce NPI's proposed "victory plan" for the Republican Party in 2012 based on the catchy slogan, "Win White America". The title of their plan is "The Majority Strategy", and the "majority" in question is actually what the NPI calls "America’s historic majority—namely, European Christians." Powell also doesn't tell us that Edwards once described (in 2007) infamous Klan leader David Duke as "a Christian man above reproach". Nor are we told that Edwards made that statement during his weekly radio show, which is broadcast from a Christian radio station, or that Edwards got his start in politics working for Catholic arch-conservative Pat Buchanan.

Peter Brimelow was another featured speaker at the National Policy Institute's September 10 meeting, and he also just happens to be the man behind the annually recurring evangelical rallying cry: "The War on Christmas". Brimelow has been beating the "War on Christmas" drum since the 1990's. In addition to coining the term in the first place, he has aggressively promoted his brainchild with a religious fervor that has managed to alienate even many conservatives. The National Review, for example, dropped out of the anti-"War on Christmas" campaign when its editorship passed from John O'Sullivan to Richard Lowry in 1997 (on Christmas Eve, as a matter of fact). But the FOX network, and Bill O'Reilly in particular, have been enthusiastic supporters of Brimelow's meme. Even before the "War on Christmas" campaign got underway, Brimelow wrote in his 1995 anti-immigration book, Alien Nation, that it is "nothing less than the plain truth" to describe the United States as a "Christian nation", and that this is "not in the least incompatible with a secular state." Brimelow also approvingly (and misleadingly) quoted from Thomas Paine to the effect that "we claim brotherhood with every European Christian." (After the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Paine revealed what he had previously hidden from public view in the interests, as he saw it, of the Revolutionary cause: that not only was he himself no Christian, but that he held the lowest possible opinion of "this thing called Christianity".)

• "The Christian Question"

Clearly, then, when it comes to religion there can be no question of any hostility toward Christianity on the part of the National Policy Institute, and in fact they are if anything decidedly pro-Christian. It is nevertheless the case that one does find a surprising level of interest in a certain sort of "Paganism" (if it can really be called that, which is doubtful as we shall see) among some of the leading figures of the NPI. The true story of Paganism and the NPI is significantly more subtle and interesting than anything one might glean from Brian Powell's sophomoric hatchet-job.

Let's go back now to Samuel T. Francis, the "grand old man" of the NPI, whose attitudes toward Christianity and Paganism are quite a bit more nuanced, it turns out, than the impression one gets from either the blustering bible-thumping tone taken in the Council of Conservative Citizens' "Statement of Principles" (authored by Francis, see above), or from lurid intimations about "The Hammer of Thor" in Brian Powell's article. In fact, in the pages of the very first issue of The Occidental Quarterly, Samuel T. Francis expressed a qualified ambivalence toward modern Christianity while simultaneously expressing a somewhat wistful appreciation of (his own distorted idea of) "Paganism".

In TOQ volume 1, number 1 (Fall 2001), we find the article in question under the intriguing title "The Christian Question". This turns out to be a review by Francis of a 1996 book by James C. Russell: The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation. But before looking at what Francis had to say about Russell's book, lets look at Russell's own ideas about "the Germanization of Christianity".

James C. Russell was good enough to write a follow-up essay after the glowing review given to his book by Francis, and that essay appeared in the very next issue of TOQ: "The Western Contribution to World History" (here is a link to a pdf of the article). In that article, Russell celebrates the great achievements of the classical Greeks and Romans, while lamenting the fact that while they both, or so claims Russell, started out as culturally "homogeneous" they both fell into the error of "multiculturalism", thus leading to their declines and downfalls. After which the West languished until the eighth century when the Moors threatened to overrun Europe. It was now time for Europe to do or die. And this is precisely where Charles Martel and his Original Carolingian Gangstaz come in.

According to Russell, the Carolingian dynasty represented a newly "Germanized" Christianity that was now able to stand up for White Europe (aka "Christendom") and defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic. Here is how Russell puts it in his own words:
Early Christianity had found fertile ground for its message of individual salvation among the alienated, heterogeneous, urban inhabitants of the declining Roman Empire. Later, in the Early Middle Ages when Christian missionaries sought to convert the Germanic and Celtic peoples, it became apparent that for Christianity to be accepted by a more cohesive, homogeneous, pastoral-warrior society, it needed to appeal to the different concerns of that society. Hence, Early Medieval Christianity appealed to matters of group survival such as victory in battle, healthy families, and abundant crops and livestock. Germanic Christianity addressed these pre-Christian folk-religious concerns through local patron saints and clergy and their holy relics. In an apparent attempt to convert the Saxons who had been persecuted by Charlemagne, an adaptation of the New Testament known as the Heliand was composed in Old Saxon. It portrayed Christ and his apostles as a Germanic warrior-band. Eventually a Middle Eastern salvation religion was transformed into a European folk religion and Christianity became more closely identified with Europe, especially with the emergence of the notion of “Christendom.”

Early Medieval Christianity provided a spiritual impetus and a source of solidarity that are likely to have contributed toward European victories over invading forces. The bond between religious and temporal spheres increased under Charles Martel’s Carolingian descendants. They tended to view Christianity as the religion of a Roman Empire which they admired and sought to reconstruct. The application of religious fervor toward Western military exploits is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in a twelfth-century treatise of St. Bernard of Clairveaux entitled, In Praise of the New Knighthood. Written as an exhortation to the Knights Templar and other Crusaders, it distinguishes between fighting for “empty glory” or “earthly possessions” and fighting to assert Euro-Christian dominance in the Holy Land where Euro-Christian pilgrims and shrines had been attacked.

Recalling the existing medieval nexus between European self-identity and Christendom the following words of St. Bernard may be interpreted as a religious rationalization, if not an encouragement to assertively defend Western interests. Bernard writes:
The knights of Christ may safely fight the battles of their Lord, fearing neither sin if they smite the enemy, nor danger at their own death; since to inflict death or to die for Christ is no sin, but rather, an abundant claim to glory.... The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls.
There is nothing original in Russell's contention that Christianity became more violent as it became Europeanized (or "Germanized" as Russell would have it). This is right out of Kenneth Scott Latourette's A History of the Expansion of Christianity (referred to above), which was first published half a decade before Russell's book. However, it turns out that both Latourette and Russell were wrong in that they both characterized this as not just a change in outward behavior, but as a radical shift in the attitude of Christianity toward violence.

In stark contrast to the view of Latourette and Russell, contemporary (or nearly contemporary) sources that celebrate the hack-n-slashery of the Carolingians never give any indication that they considered the religiously inspired rampaging of Martel & Co. as something new under the sun. In fact, there simply was no change in the Christian attitude toward violence during the Middle Ages, for Christians had always not only accepted, but enthusiastically pursued violence, so long as that violence was in the name of Christ. What changed in the eighth century, rather, was the dramatic increase in the military and political means at Christianity's disposal, enabling Christians to more forcefully act out their (always present) violent tendencies. As Christianity became more powerful, due to the rise of an efficiently organized, militarily and financially well-endowed, and territorially ever expanding Christian state in the heart of Europe, Christianity became ever more violent in its actions in direct proportion to its increasing capacity to meet out violence. No attitude adjustment, or "Germanization" was necessary.

This point is addressed at some length by Lawrence G. Duggan in his paper "Compulsion and Conversion from Yahweh to Charlemagne", which appears as the third chapter in the 1997 scholarly anthology "Varieties of religious conversion in the Middle Ages" edited by James Muldoon (googlebooks link). In that paper, Duggan points out the contradiction between, on the one hand, Latourette's claim that the Carolingians were "the first but not the last" Christians to employ "a liberal application of the sword", and, on the other hand, Latourette's observation that "the methods employed in the conversion of the Saxons were so natural and logical an outgrowth of the policies of Charlemagne's predecessors that few [if any at all] seem to have been shocked." [The quotes are taken from pages 103 and 106 of the online version of Latourette here, which is volume II of "A History of the Expansion of Christianity", published in 1938 by Harper and Brothers.] In addition to Latourette, Duggan reviews several other eminent historians who have similarly failed to properly recognize that the "liberal application of the sword" in the name of the Lord during the Carolingian period was a continuation of the pattern of religious violence that can be seamlessly traced back at least three centuries prior to the birth of Martel, to the time when Gratian was the Roman Emperor, and Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan.

To drive home his point Duggan tells a story concerning King Ethelbert of Kent (560-616), who had allowed Christian missionaries to proselytize in his Kingdom, but who at first was personally disinclined to abandon Paganism, for he saw no reason to "forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long." Eventually, though, Ethelbert was won over to the new religion, although he continued to allow his subjects the freedom to choose for themselves when and if they wished to convert, for he felt that "the service of Christ was voluntary and ought not to be compulsory." But when Pope Gregory was informed of Ethelbert's approach, he chastised the King, exhorting him to set aside his scruples and to "hasten to extend the Christian faith among the people who are subject to you. Increase your righteous zeal for their conversion; suppress the worship of idols; overthrow their buildings and shrines." The Holy Father further commanded the King to bring about the conversion of his English subjects "by exhorting them, terrifying, enticing, and correcting them."

I will have more to say (in Part Two Three) about the very obvious flaws in Russell's version of the history of Christianity, but now it is time to find out what Samuel T. Francis had to say about the supposed "Germanization of Christianity". In Francis' views, Russell had succeeded in proving the existence of three distinct stages in the historical process of Christianity's progress and eventual decline:

1. Originally, Christianity was otherworldly and multicultural, and it mainly appealed to the poor and the downtrodden.
2. Then Christianity became "Germanized", thus transforming it into a nationalist ideology that appealed to the elites, especially warriors and rulers.
3. But now in modern times Christianity has begun to degenerate back to the "slave mentality" (in Nietzschean phraseology) of it's multicultural roots.

In Francis' own words:
The early Christianity that the Germans encountered contained a good many universalist tendencies, adapted and reinforced by the disintegrating social fabric and deracinated peoples of the late empire. But thanks to Germanization, those elements were soon suppressed or muted and what we know as the historical Christianity of the medieval era offered a religion, ethic, and world-view that supported what we today know as “conservative values”—social hierarchy, loyalty to tribe and place (blood and soil), world-acceptance rather than world-rejection, and an ethic that values heroism and military sacrifice. In being “Germanized,” Christianity was essentially reinvented as the dynamic faith that animated European civilization for a thousand years and more.
The take-home lesson here is that it is no coincidence that William H. Regnery II, the Fuhrer behind both the National Policy Institute and the Occidental Quarterly, is the founder of the Charles Martel Society. And it is no coincidence that Regnery's mentor, Samuel T. Francis, was a great admirer of the historical period of Christianity when its naturally violent proclivities were given free rein. For people like Regnery and Francis, the only problem with Christianity today is that it is no longer as overtly and viciously intolerant and violent as it was back in the good old "Germanized" days.

continue to part two: Yet More on Pagans, Christians, and White Supremacists in the 21st Century

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Wild Hunt versus Radical Traditionalism

In the last year and a half, the Wild Hunt blog (aka "the CNN of Paganism") has published four separate attacks on "Radical Traditionalism" in the following posts:
I don't intend to get into the ins and outs and roundabouts of what Radical Traditionalism may or may not be. Fortunately, the job of responding to these attacks is made much simpler by the Wild Hunt's decision to single out the journal TYR as a favored target for their anti-Traditionalist calumnies.

In fact, in the most recent instance (on Sep. 19, see list of links above) it was claimed that merely having an article published in TYR is by itself evidence that the author in question is likely to be a racist or even a fascist. But if we look at some of the authors who have published in TYR, we immediately see just how idiotic this claim is:

Christopher McIntosh
A respected scholar of Rosicrucianism, Dr. McIntosh is the author of The Rosicrucians, Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival, and a number of other important books and publications of great interest to Pagans, serious Occultists, and all students of religion, philosophy and cultural history. Here is a professional biography of Christopher McIntosh at the University of Exeter, where he is a Lecturer in Western Esotericism.

Joscelyn Godwin
In my opinion, you can quite accurately estimate the intelligence of a Pagan by the number of books by Joscelyn Godwin she or he has read. Well, that might be going a bit too far, but then again, it might not. Godwin is probably best known for The Theosophical Enlightenment and The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance, although those two books only begin to scratch the surface of Godwin's unique and invaluable scholarship. Here is a page about Joscelyn Godwin at Hermetic.Com, where you can find links to several full articles by Godwin online, including one on Julius Evola: Theosophy and Beyond.

Nigel Pennick
Pennick is a prolific author on many subjects dear to Pagan hearts with a particular interest in Germanic and Celtic traditions. He is probably most well known to Pagans as the co-author, along with Prudence Jones, of A History of Pagan Europe. Here is a link to Pennick's personal website.

Stephen Flowers
Stephen Flowers was one of the pioneering leaders of the movement to form a strongly anti-racist and non-racial religious movement devoted to the old Gods of Northern Europe (the Gods who were worshipped prior to the violent, forced conversion of the Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, Finno-Ugric, etc, peoples). As such he was one of the co-founders, along with James Chisholm, of the Ring of Troth in 1987. Flowers is well known for Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris, as well as his many books on Runes published under the name Edred Thorsson (especially: Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic). Here is a link to an extensive interview with Flowers by the co-founder of TYR, Michael Moyniham: Wisdom for the Wolf-Age: A Conversation With Dr. Stephen Flowers.


Well, it looks to me like the above list of distinguished authors isn't such bad company!

It is also worth noting that Mattias Gardell, author of Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, devotes several pages of that book to Michael Moynihan, cofounder and coeditor of the Radical Traditionalist journal TYR (whose website is radicaltraditionalist.com).

Gardell unreservedly exonerates Moynihan from any suspicion of white-supremacist and/or antisemitic leanings: "Moynihan is hardly anti-Semitic or white supremacist, and is definitely not a radical right 'leader' of anything." Gardell also quotes Moynihan directly: "I certainly don't identify with any vague racial category like being 'white' and have never attempted to project such a notion." Gardell also says that Moynihan "does not feel particular connected to most whites."

I am still working on a much longer analysis of the wretched hatchet-job done by Brian Powell for MediaMatters.Org: "The Supremacy Cause: Inside The White Nationalist Movement." (Part One of that project is now finished: link.) That article served as the pretext for the most recent attack on TYR at the Wild Hunt. In that MediaMatters piece, Powell completely ignored the deep and pervasive connections between Christianity the white nationalist movement (including the specific racist group he was reporting on) while focusing on a chance encounter at the fringes of a racist meeting with some people he thought might be Pagans.

I believe there is absolutely no room in Paganism for people or groups who are committed proponents of racism. I definitely don't believe that Pagans must all adhere to a common political ideology, but there are some things, and racism is one of them, that are intrinsically antithetical to Paganism. Others might think it is acceptable for Pagans to be racists, but I do not.

At the same time, we should scrupulously avoid reckless allegations against groups, individuals, publications, etc, because of the poisonous atmosphere created by such irresponsible and destructive words. If the Wild Hunt wants to do serious reporting on Radical Traditionalism, then they should do so. If they want to do a serious investigation of whether or not there are racist elements in certain Heathen groups or in some Radical Traditionalist groups, then they should do so. But instead what we have been getting is weasel-worded insinuations and just plain lousy reporting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Imprisonment of the Pagan Republican Sodomites (The Heathen-Minded Humanists Part Three)

I have so far written four posts in this blog about the 1468 (Anno Deceptoris) conflict between Pope Paul II and the Roman Academy. Here is a brief overview of the ground covered so far:

Part One provided some background on the two opposing sides: the "Heathen-Minded Humanists" of the Academy, who "despised the Christian religion and passionately inveighed against its adherents," versus the Pope and other representatives of "the genuine and noble Renaissance, which had grown up on Christian principles, and, while embracing classical studies with enthusiasm, had made them subordinate and subservient to Christian aims and ideas." The words in quotes are all from Ludwig von Pastor's "History of the Popes" (which ran to 16 volumes published between 1886 and 1930).

Part Two went into more detail about the unfolding of the "Crisis of 1468", as it is often called. The executive summary is that the Pope had the Heathens arrested on the trumped up charge of plotting to assassinate His Holiness (with the end goals of both the rebirth of the Roman Republic and the revival of Roman Paganism). I then jumped to Part Four, because I wished, at least for a while, to pass over the unhappy tale of our heroes' incarceration, and instead to move directly to the far more pleasant subject of the discoveries made by Giovanni Battista de Rossi (starting in 1852) of inscriptions that were found deep in the catacombs of the city of Rome. These were made by the Sodomite Republican Pagans in question after their release and exoneration, and they serve to demonstrate that the Heathenism of the Academicians went far beyond either delusional paranoia on the part of their accusers, or mere antiquarian affectation on the part of the accused. And Part Five told the story of the other Roman Academy and its illustrious ringleader, Cardinal Bessarion, in order to help provide a somewhat broader context concerning the "Heathen-Minded" Academies, plural, in Renaissance Italy.

It still remains to tell the middle part of the story, Part Three, for I can no longer put off dealing with the ill-treatment of the imprisoned Pagans. To that end I now turn to a modern, 21st century, source: Anthony F. D’Elia's 2009 A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome. First, though, I think we should refresh our memories about the material already covered so far, or at least revisit those events from the perspective of Anthony F. D'Elia, who provides the following very lively account of how it all went down in 1468 in the following three excerpts:
excerpt 1. [from pages 1-2 of D'Elia 2009]

The year was 1468. On Fat Tuesday, the last and most extravagant night of carnival in Rome, Pope Paul II sat attentively watching the races from his throne high above the boisterous crowd, when suddenly a scuffle broke out. The papal guards had stopped someone who was loudly insisting on speaking with the pope urgently about a matter of life and death. The man, his beard and dark eyes barely discernible under his hood, was dressed like a philosopher. Seeing that had captured the pope's attention, the "philosopher" broke free of the guards and intoned: "Holy Father! You are in great danger!" The pope sat up, leaned forward, and beckoned the stranger to approach and explain. What he heard made him tremble and turn pale

The cloaked informant asserted that an organized gang of miscreants was circulating in the crowd, not with the intent of cutting the purses of hapless revelers, but with a far more sinister aim: to murder the pope. An army of four hundred to five hundred criminals, he said, lay hidden in the ancient Roman ruins next to the pope's family palace. There, they awaited the signal to rise up, overwhelm the papal guard, and kill the pontiff. The conspirators planned to overthrow papal rule and destroy the power of the priests. After issuing his warning, the stranger gave no further details that we know of, but slipped away. A sudden terror came over the pope. As he looked down at the crowds of drunken revelers, he saw assassins everywhere. The masks and grotesque faces now seemed malignant and menacing. Paul was convinced that his life was in danger.

excerpt 2. [fr0m pages 3-6 of D'Elia 2009]

Carnival ushered in a week of merriment and unbridled pleasure, the last gasp for gluttony and excess before the forty lean days of Lent, when everyone [by law] had to fast in preparation for Easter. Before Paul ascended the papal throne, carnival in Rome had consisted of little more than some bull fighting and subdued revelry on the outskirts of the city. This pope changed all that. He turned the Roman carnival into a real party. He hosted sumptuous banquets for civic magistrates and citizens, at which delicate fish, choice meat, and many kinds of wine were served. After each feast he showered coins on the crowds outside his window, to demonstrate his benevolence toward the Roman people. Like other Renaissance cities, Rome used primarily the florin as currency, for the Medici bank in Florence had a virtual monopoly over European finance in the fifteenth century. Each year from 1468 through 1470 Paul spent between 329 and 376 florins on carnival banquets and other acts of liberality.

To give some notion of the scale of the outlay, some comparisons will be helpful. In 1449 a slave wet nurse could be hired for seventeen florins a year. The Venetian artist Titian paid assistants in his work- shop four florins a month in 1514. An apprentice banker lived on twenty florins a year, and a school teacher in early sixteenth-century Rome made twenty-five to thirty florins a year. Paul’s expenditure of hundreds of florins on carnival celebrations was, therefore, extrava- gant. The purpose of such elaborate festivities was to win over the Roman people, as Paul made clear in two medals he issued for carnival. On one medal was inscribed, “A public banquet for the Roman peo- ple,” and on the other, “Public joy.” He did his utmost to make himself beloved by the Roman citizens and members of the papal government.

Paul II encouraged everyone to participate in the carnival celebrations. Gem-studded swords at their sides, cardinals in full military regalia rode on horseback through the streets, accompanied by an elaborate retinue. The cardinals’ palaces were converted into casinos. The nephew of the future Pope Innocent VIII lost fourteen thousand florins to Cardinal Riario at one sitting. Such a fortune could have bought eight palaces in Florence at the time. The Roman diarist Stefano Infessura was aghast at the cardinals’ behavior: “This year at carnival all the cardinals rode on sumptuous triumphal floats, accom- panied by trumpeters on horseback, and sent masked revelers through the city to the homes of other cardinals, accompanied by boys who sang and recited lascivious and pleasing verses and by clowns, actors, and others, dressed not in wool or linen, but in silk and gold and silver brocade. A great deal of money has been spent, and the mercy of God has been converted into luxury and the work of the Devil. There is no one who is not shocked by this.” Extravagance, especially during carnival, was a hallmark of Paul’s papacy.

A major feature of the entertainment he offered to the citizens consisted of the public humiliation of those living on the margins of Roman society. For the carnival celebrations of 1468 the pope sponsored eight races. First the Jews ran, then the prostitutes, the elderly, children, hunchbacks, dwarves, and finally donkeys and oxen. They had all been forced to take part in the contest; the jeers of the crowd, the lashing and cudgeling, the pelting with rocks, drove the runners through the awful gauntlet, down the slippery, torchlit cobblestone streets. Many of these wretches stumbled and fell to the ground, bruised and filthy. The sight elicited such mirth “that people could not stay on their feet but collapsed, breathless and exhausted.” Pope Paul II, having taken pains to move carnival to the center of Rome and greatly ex- pand the races, enjoyed watching the suffering and humiliation of these helpless contestants. It was his idea to force the Jews of Rome, among others, to run, and he personally gave a gold coin to the winner of each race. Before Paul’s pontificate, Jews had been forbidden to participate in the celebrations, but they were nevertheless compelled to pay a special tax to fund the festivities. Paul is often rightly seen as anti-Semitic. He did, however, lower the tax exacted from 1,230 florins to 555. By forcing the Jews to run in the races, Paul also provided the Roman people with an outlet for their aggression, by promoting a safe enemy, a scapegoat against which the Christian majority could bond together. Later in the sixteenth century, after the Jews had been isolated in ghettos, carnival became an especially dangerous time for Jews, almost as bad as Easter, when, in order to protect them from Christian rage, the authorities forbade them to leave the ghetto. Many Romans, some powerful, some powerless, had a motive to kill this eccentric and arrogant man.

excerpt 3. [from pages 9-11 of D'Elia 2009]

Pomponio Leto, Bartolomeo Platina, and Filippo Buonaccorsi (Callimachus) were singled out as the leaders of the conspiracy. They were the best of friends. With their classical knowledge and dedication to learning, they had much in common. In his popular cookbook Platina represents them joking merrily with each other, leaning over a bubbling pot of soup to be served at a dinner party. It was their friendship, perhaps, that attracted them to the teachings of the philosopher Epicurus, for whom the absence of pain was, along with a community of friends, the highest pleasure. But for the humanists the joys of social life included the sexual. Callimachus, a Tuscan who, like other humanists, had come to Rome to serve as secretary to a cardinal, wrote love poetry to younger members of the academy. He praised their beardless youthful beauty and described the pleasures of their embrace. Pomponio, the beloved mentor and head of the academy was similarly inclined. At the time of the conspiracy, he was under arrest in Venice on a charge of sodomy stemming from the love poetry he had written about two youths, students in his care. Back in Rome it was alleged that "unnatural" vice had driven the humanists to murder the pope.

Pomponio was a professor of rhetoric at the University of Rome who was known for his pagan beliefs and devotion to the genius of ancient Rome. At a time when everyone in Europe, apart from the oppressed minority of Jews and Muslims, was a Roman Catholic, the assertion that the humanists were pagans had serious repercussions [note that D'Elia has already previously mentioned the fact that "Among their many scandalous behaviors they performed secret pagan rites and mock religious ceremonies at which Pomponio was called Pontifex Maximus..." p. 7]. Pomponio tried to defend himself, but without success, especially after it came out that he had not fasted -- indeed, had even eaten meat -- during the forty days of Lent. Platina, who would later write a damning life of Pope Paul II, worked for Cardinal Gonzaga and had extensive contact with church government. He had started life as a mercenary and had served in two armies for four years before finding his true passion in classical literature. His love of Plato's philosophy was cited as clear evidence of pagan leanings.

The humanists had been suspected of harboring ill will toward the pope for some time before the mysterious philosopher’s revelation on Fat Tuesday. Platina had already been imprisoned once three years earlier for challenging the pope’s autocratic rule and for threatening to call a church council to depose him. Callimachus, who was overly fond of drink, often attacked the clergy in his drunken diatribes, and he had recently handed out fliers predicting the imminent death of the pope. An anonymous astrologer had similarly foretold that the pope would become ill and die within days. By some bizarre coincidence, Paul II was in fact seized shortly thereafter by a violent chill. Like most people of his time, Pope Paul took astrology very seriously.

The appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1456 prompted all manner of astrological predictions and calls for prayer to ward off the ill fortune that the flaming ball of fire might portend. With their expert knowledge of the stars and admittedly outlandish ideas about the movement of planets, astrologers were the necessary forerunners of modern astronomers. Most universities, in fact, had chairs of astrology until quite recently. The Church never regarded astrology and magic as nonsense, as modern skeptics do. These were deceptive sciences, effectual but demonic, for they tried to manipulate Nature for personal gain to reveal its secrets. Astrologers claimed to divulge knowledge that only God possessed; their belief that stars determined character threw into question the Christian doctrine of free will. The Magisterium of Mother Church alone could pronounce on the proper use of magic and had a monopoly on all things spiritual. Portents, horoscopes, witchcraft, and magical spells were taken very seriously in this world, where the reasons for even the simplest changes in weather were unfathomable.

But just how did these men of letters intend to carry out their grandiose plan to return Italy to its glorious Pagan Republican Sodomite past? Surely they must have powerful allies - but who? Among those who were mentioned as possible supporters of the Conspiracy were the King of Naples, the King of France and the Ottoman Turks. But was there any evidence to connect the accused to such illustrious confederates? In the end, nothing could be produced to substantiate anything of the sort (and moreover, the Christian princes named as unindicted co-conspirators loudly protested their innocence). Many other questions about the supposed plot, from the details of its planned execution to its ultimate motives and goals, were similarly without clear answers.

Of course, the Holy Father had lost no time seeing to it that the conspirators were thoroughly and frequently tortured, and this naturally yielded results. But the stories that were extracted under torture were inconsistent with each other, as is so often the case, due to their being obvious fabrications produced only to satisfy the torturers.

Having arrested and savagely tortured many of the most distinguished, and well connected, intellectuals of Western Christendom, Paul II now found it difficult to justify his actions. No one dared, at least openly, to directly contradict the Pope. But even the most discrete and diplomatic inquiries about the affair proved to be an embarrassment. Now let us return to Dr. Ludwig von Pastor's narrative (here's a link to the full text at OpenLibrary.Org):
It was not easy for the Ambassadors of the [Italian] League, who were then in Rome, to obtain really authentic information regarding the events which had just taken place there, for the most varied and fantastic accounts were circulated. Many different statements were made as to the day fixed upon for carrying the plot into effect. Some said that Paul II was to have been murdered on Ash-Wednesday, at the Papal Mass, others that the crime was to have been perpetrated on Carnival Sunday, when all the people, and even the Papal Guards, would have gone to Monte Testaccio for the accustomed festivities. Others again declared Palm Sunday to be the day selected. It was further reported that the conspirators had, with a view to the accomplishment of their purpose, associated with themselves Luca de Tocio, who was a member of the Council at the Court of Ferrante I at Naples. This man was believed to be in league with other banished persons. Four or five hundred of them were to enter the city secretly, and to hide themselves in the ruins of the houses which had been pulled down in order to enlarge the Papal Palace. On the other side, forty or fifty partisans were to join the conspirators, and begin an attack on the attendants of the Cardinals and Prelates, who would be waiting in the Square in front of the Palace. By this means the Pope's small Guard would be occupied, and the conflict was to serve as a signal to the hidden outlaws, who would then make their way into the Church and murder the Pope and those about him. General pillage was to ensue, and Luca de Tocio was to establish a new Constitution. Even more alarming than the plot itself was the reported extent of its ramifications. The King of Naples was accused of taking part in it, and some were of the opinion that the King of France was also engaged, while others declared that Sigismondo Malatesta to be one of the conspirators. These varied accounts led the Ambassadors of the League to seek from the Pope himself more accurate information, and, at the same time, to express their sympathy and offer assistance on behalf of their several masters. An account of the Audience was drawn up by the Milanese Ambassadors personally, and in duplicate.
[pp. 49-50]
Pastor then gives us his own summary of the Milanese Ambassadors' notes, and the first several paragraphs of that summation (on pages 50-51) were already excerpted in Part Two of this series of posts. This goes on for several pages, and the interested reader is strongly encouraged to go to the full text, linked to above, and read the gory details for yourself. The executive summary is that while there was little room for doubt concerning the Academicians' hatred of Christianity and Papal authority in particular, or their love of all things Pagan and Roman Republicanism in particular, or their unbridled libertinage and their penchant for homoeroticism in particular, still there was no solid evidence to support the main charge of treasonous conspiracy.

In the end, the Duke of Milan's Ambassador, Johannes Blanchus, concluded that, "Regarding the Conspiracy against the Pope's person, enquiries have been most carefully made, but as yet nothing has been discovered but some blustering talk." [Pastor, p. 58]

In the next installment (I have managed to split Part Three into two sub-parts!) we will return to D'Elia's narrative, which could prove quite interesting due to the fact that D'Elia is of the opinion that in addition to be Pagans, Republicans, and Sodomites, the Heathen-Minded Humanists really did conspire to murder the Pope!!

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bogus Hakuin Quote on Life and Death: "Yes, but not a dead one."

The following bogus story can be found at that inexhaustible font of bogosity, wikiquotes:
A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died.
Hakuin answered 'How am I supposed to know?'
'How do you not know? You're a Zen master!' exclaimed the samurai.
'Yes, but not a dead one,' Hakuin answered.

Anyone with the slightest understanding of Zen can see immediately that this attributes to the great Hakuin things that no Zen Master would ever say. Sadly, this totally bogus story appears to be the handiwork of someone who passes himself off as a Zen Master, Albert Low: Teisho by Albert Low: Case number 55 of the Hekiganroku: Alive or dead?

Here is the genuine story as related by Nyogen Senzaki in "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" (link):

57. The Gates of Paradise
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"

"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.

"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.

"You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."

Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."

As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"

At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.

"Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Challenging the Mandate of Heaven", Or, David Loy don't know much about history.

"When the Chou tribe overthrew the last Shang king, they had to convince the people, especially the nobles, that they had the right to rule. The Chou told people that the Gods in Heaven had told them that they were to rule. This was called 'The Mandate of Heaven', heaven's orders.

"The Chou added that the Gods had warned them that they would only rule as long as they were good rulers. If they became selfish, and thought of themselves first, before the people, that Heaven would appoint another ruling family.

"No one knows if the nobles in ancient China believed this fairy tale, but they most probably thought that the Mandate of Heaven sounded like a good idea."
[Ancient China for Kids: http://china.mrdonn.org/mandateofheaven.html]

At no time in human history, in any culture anywhere on earth, have human beings simply passively accepted whatever the social, economic, and political status quo happens to be. Those who are out of power have always plotted to sieze power, and have often succeeded, while those in power have always been painfully aware of their vulnerability, and have often discovered first hand just how quickly and completely the most well ordered and firmly entrenched regime can be undone. Those who have been oppressed have always been aware of their oppression, and have always sought ways to ameliorate it, or, better yet, to end it altogether. And the oppressors have always been painfully aware of the fact that they are sorely outnumbered, and have often suffered violent deaths at the hands of their not-so-passively-accepting slaves, servants, serfs, and subjects.

In fact, one of the most obvious facts of human history is that human beings are constantly making conscious and very deliberate changes to the societies we live in (although, and as everyone knows, these changes rarely work out the way we hope). Kings and Queens have often pronounced sweeping reforms in order to create a more harmonious and stable, and/or a more enlightened and just, society. Peasants, workers, and common soldiers and sailors have often risen up in revolt with even more radical ideas about justice, and less concern about harmony. Other groups stuck in the middle (aristocrats, urban professionals, bureaucrats, merchants, etc) have often entered into shifting alliances with princes and paupers alike in order to protect what they already have, and also to extend their own rights and increase their share of the wealth.

Here is a typical example, describing events in China during the 3rd century B.C. (from Hardy and Kinney's The Establishment of the Han Empire and Imperial China):
When the king of Qin gained dominion over all of China and established his own dynasty in 221 B.C.E., he dissolved the system of hereditary aristocratic ranks that had prevailed in China for centuries. Aristocrats suddenly found themselves stripped of their titles, and once independent and often warring kingdoms now fell under the administration of centrally appointed, non-hereditary officials. But for centuries already, observers had witnessed the gradually weakening, ever more corrupt, and increasingly dysfunctional nature of the now-rejected system of entitlement instituted by the Zhou dynasty almost a millennia earlier. Under the Qin, men (and to a lesser extent women) distinguished themselves not by birth but largely by their achievements in warfare and agriculture, and they could obtain non-hereditary titles and privileges within a system of ranks. But when the energetic and visionary First Emperor died in 210, his son proved unequal to the task of imperial rule, and the Qin Empire fell three years later. In 202, the fist Han emperor, Liu Bang, reorganized the administrative units of the empire, adopting for central China the Qin-dynasty system of commanderies -- controlled by centrally appointed governors -- and for east and north China, kingdoms.
[p. 69]
Well, fine, you might say. But isn't this just "the elites" playing power games among themselves? What about the peasants, huh? Yeah, well, the thing about that is this: Liao Bang, the first Han Emperor, was born a peasant.

None of this is news to anyone. Except possibly to David Loy, who is peddling an obscurantist view of Asians according to which they are incapable of scrutinizing the societies they live in, which sounds like a bizarre twist on the hackneyed stereotype of "inscrutable" Orientals.

Loy's argument is that Westerners, going back to the Greeks of the classical era, have demonstrated the ability to distinguish between (a) mere social convention, and (b) unchangeable laws of nature. Of course that is only half of it, the other half being that non-Westerners are, according to Loy, incapable of making this same distinction (or, at best, decidedly disinclined to do so). Loy explicitly claims that the ability/inclination to see, for oneself and without any outside coaching or prodding, that human societies are susceptible to change by human (as opposed to divine and/or supernatural) agents is "distinctly Western". (Scroll down for a link to Loy's 2009 article in Tricycle magazine propounding this view.)

Bah.

And again I say: Bah.

Submitted for the Gentle Reader's approval is the following birds-eye view of the social history of China from Elizabeth J. Perry's Challenging the Mandate of Heaven: Social Protest & State Power in China. The difference between David Loy's ahistorical clap-trap and actual history is positively jaw-dropping. But please, don't take my word for it.
No country boasts a more enduring or more colorful history of rebellion and revolution than China. The Chinese tradition of popular upheaval stretches back well beyond this century; indeed, records allow us to trace it as far back as 209 B.C. when the Chen She Rebellion helped to topple the mighty Qin empire and gave rise to famous Han dynasty. Over the ensuing millennia, popular protest has formed a constant and consequential theme in Chinese political history.

China's impressive record of rebellion and revolution is due not simply to the country's extraordinary size and longevity, but also to the fact that central elements in Chinese political culture have directly encouraged such protests. The Confucian (or Mencian, to be precise) concept of a "Mandate of Heaven" (tianming) bestowed instant legitimacy upon successful rebel leaders. This pragmatic precept differed markedly from European notions of a "divine right of kings" or the Japanese belief in an unbroken line of rulers descending from the Sun Goddess, myths that militated against challenges to the powers that be. In imperial China, one who managed to wrest the throne by force thereby gained the Confucian sanction for his rule: as the proverb put it bluntly, "He who succeeds is a king or marquis; he who fails is an outlaw." Of course this did not mean that imperial aspirants were free to ignore normative bounds. Future emperors were expected to demonstrate their claim to the Mandate by means of various divine omens, and needed to come to terms with Confucian elites if they were to harbor any hope of a long-lived reign. Still, the relative openness of the system stood in stark contrast to that of other imperial orders. Political challengers in China -- be they peasants or foreign invaders -- were permitted to make a bid for kingship through popular rebellion.
[page ix]

Further Reading:

Monday, September 12, 2011

David Loy's "Buddhist" revanchism: five more counter-examples

"There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages."
Mark Twain, "Following the Equator"

"As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform. Prior to reading Gandhi I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationships."
Martin Luther King, "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story"


According to David Loy, a yawning mental chasm divides humanity into two groups as follows (see his Why Buddhism Needs the West, in the Spring 2009 issue of Tricycle magazine):
  • Group A: On one side of the abyss stand those who are incapable (at least on their own) of recognizing the simple fact that social conventions are merely things that human beings ourselves have invented. Because of this mental deficiency, these poor souls are doomed to passively accept even the most egregious injustices as immutably ordained by Nature and/or the Divine. In other words, here we have superstitious simpletons incapable of applying even the most rudimentary reason and logic to matters of social organization.
  • Group B: On the other side of the mental divide are men and women with the intellectual capacity and also the bent of spirit to ask questions about and apply reason to the ways in which human societies function and are organized. Most especially, these people are capable of forming in their minds the question: "do things have to be this way?" Even more importantly, they are able to give to that question the answer: "No."
An important wrinkle is that while it is true that on their own members of Group A are unable to raise themselves out of their benighted state of "social mystification", they can, under the tutelage of members of Group B, be brought to an understanding, at least partially, of the truth of things with regard to "the social and political arrangements under which we live." In particular, according to Loy, members of Group A can be made to grasp the following: "if a political regime is unjust and oppressive it should be changed, because such systems are human constructs and can therefore be reconstructed." But this is possible only if they are fortunate enough to be "exposed to the ideas" that can only originate from the (presumably larger) brains of members of Group B.

Every thinking person knows that Loy's argument bears a very strong resemblance to reality. We all know people who are oblivious to, and/or passively accepting of, the gross inequalities and injustices that surround us, and who give every appearance of being congenitally enjoined to remain in that state of callous ignorance.

And despite how frustrating and thankless it is, those who are blessed/cursed with a "social conscience" inevitably must feel compelled to appeal to those others (in Group A), and attempt to kindle within their hearts and minds at least the faint beginnings of "a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society."

So far, none of this is news to anyone, at least not to anyone in Group B.

But David Loy has a curious twist on what is otherwise a rather obvious, even trivial, observation about humanity. Loy insists that Group B consists exclusively of people of European descent!

For some reason, David Loy's outrageous chauvinism has passed unnoticed and unremarked upon, or, what is far worse, is being taken seriously as a legitimate, even progressive, analysis of human cultures and their differences. This passive acceptance of a line of reasoning that could reasonably be characterized as nothing short of racist, is, in my opinion, far more remarkable and troubling than Loy's own Eurocentric revanchism.

It seems odd that, now that we are well into the 21st century, it should still be necessary to argue against the contention that the ability to recognize and understand social injustice is "distinctly Western". In a previous post on the same topic (David Loy and the White Buddhist's Burden), I have already cited five counter-examples, demonstrating the capacity for non-Europeans from several different Asian cultures to do what David Loy believes only Europeans can do. These examples were: (1) The Mauryan Emperor Aśoka (ca. 304-232 BC), whose social conscience led him to enact publicly subsidized medical care, improve conditions for prisoners, strongly advocate religious tolerance, etc.; (2) The Chinese Empress Wu Zetian (624-705 AD) who worked for improving the social position of women and of the lower classes; (3) Chinese Chan Masters Yuan-Wu, Ta-Hui, and Hung-Chih who championed equality for women in Buddhism in the 11th and 12th centuries; (4) Japanese Zen Masters Dogen and Keizan who also took clear positions for the equality of women in the 13th and 14th centuries; and (5) Korean Seon Master Sosan Taesa who led a guerilla army that helped liberate Korea from foreign military occupation in the 16th century.

But wait, there's more!

Five More Counter-examples

1. Yellow Turban Rebellion 184-205 AD (China)
Zhang Jue was a Taoist religious leader who founded a new sect based on the Way of Supreme Peace, which venerated Huang Lao, a divinized form of Lao Tzu. Zhang Jue practiced spiritual healing among the poor and advocated equal rights and equal distribution of land. His sect rose up in rebellion against the Han Dynasty Emperor Ling in 184 AD. The story of this popular uprising against imperial power was retold in 14th century classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Here are some sources: cultural-china.com, threekingdoms.wikia.com, chinahistoryforum.com, List of Rebellions in China (wikipedia).

2. Nichiren (Japan, 1222-1282)
Among many other things, Nichiren is notable for his advocacy of equality for women. He taught, for example, “There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo [representing the Lotus Sutra] in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku.” Nichiren placed no limits whatsoever on the capacities of women, and taught that women could be the equal, or the better, of any men, and could attain enlightenment and Buddhahood. Nichiren also categorically rejected the notion of "ritual impurity" of menstruating women. For more, see Toshie Kurihara's 2003 article "A History of Women in Japanese Buddhism: Nichiren's Perspectives on the Enlightenment of Women": pdf.

3. White Lotus/Red Turban (13th century, China)
A new Buddhist sect began to appear among Han Chinese during the 13th century. The sect worshipped the Goddess "Unborn or Eternal Venerable Mother" (無生老母), and also looked forward to the imminent appearance of Maitreya Buddha. The White Lotus sect was also highly syncretic and taught the underlying unity of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. In 1355 a rebellion (often referred to as the Red Turban Rebellion) against Mongol rule broke out among Han Chinese. The revolutionaries were inspired by the White Lotus teachings, and a White Lotus monk named Zhu Yuanzhang (formerly a beggar) came to lead the revolutionary army. When the uprising succeeded, Zhu Yuanzhang became the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (as Emperor he is known to history as Hongwu). The White Lotus uprising has served as an inspiration to subsequent peasant revolts and other movements for greater social, economic and political equality throughout Asia. Here are some places to look to learn more: chinahistoryforum.com, wikipedia, NewWorldEncyclopedia, history.cultural-china.com.

4. "All Men Are Brothers" (aka "Water Margin" aka "Outlaws of the Marsh")
Kenneth Rexroth wrote, in 1958, of this 14th century Chinese novel known by many titles: "All Men Are Brothers is the story of the adventures of a gang of quasi-revolutionary brigands of the type who have flourished during all the many periods when Chinese civilization fell on evil days. While they were out, the book was very popular with the Chinese Reds. After they came to power it was frowned on for a while. It is dangerous to an extreme." A reviewer at yellowbridge.com wrote that "this one is called a Robin Hood story because it tells the exploits of a group of outlaws who steals from corrupt officials to give to the poor. However, I find it more like the 'Justice League' of DC Comics. Except that there are 108 superheroes." Paul Halsall, a classicist with a strong interest in Chinese literature and culture, describes the novel as follows: "The work is a semihistorical collection of stories about a band of enlightened outlaws--social and political dissenters whose exploits were recorded in official dynastic history. This is one of the few traditional novels approved today by Chinese Communist authorities and critics." (link) And here is an excerpt from a modern forward to the novel written by Edwin Lowe (a China scholar Macquarie University in Sydney): "Beloved by ordinary people and feared by officials, the bandits sally forth from the marshes surrounding their base at Mount Liang, to restore justice and order to the land. Robbing from the rich and the corrupt and redistributing to the poor and the virtuous, the bandits of Lianshan Marsh act in the name of loyalty to the Emperor of the Song, whom they believe to be shielded to the injustices of his corrupt officials and the suffering of his subjects." (link)

5. MLK, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, and the Dharma
While a seminarian Martin Luther King studied the ideas of numerous western philosophers and political thinkers, including Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Stewart Mill, Karl Marx, and A.J. Muste. Although he found much that resonated with him he felt that none of those authors managed to demonstrate that it was possible to apply "the love ethic of Jesus" to the problem of redressing social injustices. This changed only once King began to read the works of Gandhi. But there is far more to the story than that, for Gandhi, in turn, credited the Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy as the "teacher who furnished a reasoned basis for non-violence." Tolstoy, for his part, cited Schopenhauer as a major influence on his own ethical thinking, and also praised Schopenhauer as "the greatest genius of humankind." Finally, Arthur Schopenhauer was deeply influenced by his reading of Buddhist and Hindu literature, especially the Upanishads. Tolstoy specifically mentions Schopenhauer's own redactions of Buddhist and Hindu ideas as a major influence. For a slightly more thorough treatment of this "lineage" see: From the Vedas to MLK: Tracing Back the Radiance.

Further Reading: