Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.
President Grover Cleveland, State of the Union Address, December 3, 1888
We live in a corporatized world. Most of us either own stocks, have an IRA account, are a member of a union or church, live in an incorporated city, work for an NGO, own or work for a small, medium size business or a transnational corporation. These are different types of corporations. Some are non-profit (501c3), like unions, churches, NGOs, etc, and other are for profit corporations. The non-profit bodies are organized for public good and don’t have earnings as an ultimate concern, whereas moneyed corporations are comprised of shareholders who have an interest in profit oriented enterprises. That being said, moneyed corporate power has increased consistently ever since court challenges brought into question the nature of a human being, a natural person, versus that of a corporation, an artificial person. This began during the era of the robber barons with legal battles that have created a favorable environment for corporations eventually leading to the emergence of the Investor State. An outcome made possible by promoting an ambiguous understanding of the term person.
Many of the legal challenges began in the nineteenth century by lawyers who filed successive legal challenges on behalf of dominant railroad corporations, arguing that a corporation is a legitimate person with similar Fourteenth Amendment rights that were granted to former slaves. Since then, moneyed corporate influence has increased in proportion to its economic power as evidenced by successive Supreme Court victories in favor of corporate rights. These victories were matched with the successful corporate lobbying of congress. All of this has led to a corporate doctrine that has permeated our cultural mindset and changed the social, religious and political landscape of power.
Keep in mind that a corporation is invisible, immortal and in the case of the body of the transnational corporations, it is omnipresent and omnipotent. These attributes endowed this emerging power as a quasi-religion, making the transnational corporations, that has transcended into the “Investor State”, the most powerful economic body in the world. As a result it functions like a subliminal deity. In that capacity it has replaced institutionlized religions as the major purveyor of mediated doctrine settings the standard for human models of behavior. Role models that were typically managed by traditional religious institutions.
The following is a brief interpretation of how it happened.
Prior to his nomination as Supreme Court Chief Justice in 1874, Morrison Remick Waite was a successful attorney representing large corporations and railroads companies. In 1886 he presided over the Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company supreme court case involving unpaid property taxes by the Southern Railroad Company. The case was ruled in favor of the defendant based on the argument that the Santa Clara county had no jurisdiction including the value of fences siding the tracks in its tax assessment of property value levied on the railroad company.
Nothing about this ruling is remarkable in itself and would have been lost in the annals of jurisprudence, except for a controversial comment made by Chief Justice Waite which has been used as legal justification in favor of moneyed corporations ever since. The statement was not part of a ruling, nor part of the opinion of a majority or minority of the Court; nonetheless it’s been accepted as quasi-legal precedent. Keep in mind that the Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company case was not about a ruling on the meaning that any person, including a corporation, had equal rights protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The chief legal adviser for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was a lawyer and former judge named S. W. Sanderson. He was know for his view that a corporation was a person under the Constitution and should be treated the same as natural person ̶ a human being. He used this argument to prove that the provisions of the Constitution and laws of California are in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, an opinion that was most likely shared by the Chief Supreme Court Justice who made this comment in the case:
The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.
The lead lawyer for the Santa Clara County was a man named Delphin M. Delmas, also known as the silver-tongued orator of the west. He made a passionate plea against the fallacy put forth by the defense:
To my mind, the fallacy, if I may be permitted so to term it, of the argument lies in the assumption that corporations are entitled to be governed by the laws that are applicable to natural persons. That, it is said, results from the fact that corporations are [artificial] persons, and that the last clause of the of the Fourteenth Amendment refers to all persons without distinction.
One of the reasons the quote by Chief Justice Waite gained accepted legal status is because it was recorded by a court reporter named J. C. Bancroft Davies as a head note and published in a collection of Supreme Courts Reports (1885-1886). Davies held several jobs throughout his career. Among them he was a journalist, an assistant secretary of State and a US diplomat. He was also the president of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company. In 1883 he became the Reporter of Decision of the Supreme Court of the United Sates. In his capacity of recorder he published and interpreted Waite’s statement above as follows:
The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
To this day the non-ruling head note of corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment has been inadvertently accepted as a matter-of-fact.
I leave it to the reader to interpret Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment and make his or her own mind as to the meaning of any person which is believed here to refer to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In order to redress what is considered to be a misinterpretation of the meaning of any person, various semantic and literary analogies are used to help clarify essential differences between a natural and artificial person.
Dr. Frankenstein and the creation of a person in his own image
In Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, the author recounts the story of a science student named Victor Frankenstein who creates a person in his own image; an Adam of his labors. This creation turns out to be a vindictive killer responsible for the murders of Victor’s brother and his childhood friend. The killings were committed by the creature as an act of revenge for being lonely and rejected by society because of his hideous looks. As a result the monster demands that Victor create a female companion to cure his loneliness and to enable him to procreate like a human being. Feeling threatened, Victor at first agrees and proceeds to create a mate, but then relents and destroys the female companion out of fear that they will procreate and create havoc in society. The monster finds out the doctor’s action. In retaliation he murders Victor’s newly wed wife Elisabeth. The story ends with Dr. Frankenstein in pursuit of the monster in order to destroy his wretched creation. After a long chase Victor dies in the North Pole without completing his mission. Upon finding out of his creator’s death, the creature wanders in the freezing wilderness seeking death.
Shelley’s book is a literary creation and the creature is a fictional person. In a similar fashion a corporation is a literary creation, more precisely a juridical artifact described as an artificial person. Both of these creations are fictional and are made in the image of man. The term man here does not relate to gender but to the creative properties of an individual being.
There is an essential distinction between a naturally born being and an artificial person, a creature of the law. The first is a unique individual while the second consists of two or more individuals, referred to as a “body” which is synonymous with corporation.
The original meaning of person -persona- is a mask used by an actor playing a role in a drama or in life. Hence, it is a guise played by a character in a play or movie. This sense has somehow changed since the nineteenth century when the term person came to be understood as a human being. The period corresponds to the growth of moneyed corporations during the Industrial Revolution exemplified by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company legal case.
The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called the corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they posses, and in the restraints under which they act.
Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out money-making policy.
William Jennings Bryan
What relevance does a quote from a congressman who lived in an era when it was acceptable to make Christian references to God to a world that is overwhelmingly secularized? Foremost, it shows how far secularization has unfolded in our cultures today.
Secondly, a corporation is man’s creation. In this sense it is a legally modified organism that is challenging the premise of creation described in Genesis that God created Adam and Eve in his image. He created them male and female in order that they procreate the divine essence of life to reproduce, multiply and take dominion over the world. The argument here is that although the corporation is comprised of human beings, and as such is a body, it is not an individual and does not have the biological capacity to reproduce.
For the purpose of this analysis, I rely on basic functions of religion as they are appear in our cultures. They relate to the Roman experience of religio centered on a dynamic attribute of the sacred that establishes a separation, a buffer zone if you will, between beings and things that are sacred from beings and things that are common and ordinary. The word religion has many definitions and varies with various religious perspectives and experiences. The function of separation between the sacred and the profane is nonetheless found in most religions past and present. As a parenthesis, there are several examples of separation between the chosen/holy/sacred, and the common/unclean/impure in the Jewish holy scriptures, but there is no Hebrew word for religion. Whereas, in the New Testament the term is used as the scriptures were written in Greek by people who lived under the influence and control of the Roman empire.
Let’s steer away from a Judeo-Christian concept of procreation and use a more pagan example of fertility. We owe the Romans the terms for religion, person, corporation and Genius. The meaning of soul ̶ animous/anima ̶ is closely related to the word Genius, meaning to cause to be born. Genius is a specific attribute of male fertility distinct from the female property of giving birth represented by the goddess of childbirth Juno/Lucina. Genius is a unique personality, a physical and moral sum each one of us embodies at birth. According to the Romans, this essence of life has a divine origin. Hence, Genius signifies two converging principles, life common to all human beings and the unique aspect of life each individual incarnates when we are born. Every human being is unique yet part of the whole mystery of life. The essence of life is immortal. And although the individual dies, life goes on after his or her death through the natural and human capacity to procreate.
In a more related context, the Declaration of Independence is considered a sacred text. It is sacred precisely because it is set apart from other ordinary documents on the grounds that it outlines the creation and the historical foundation of the United States of America. In similar fashion to our analogies of religion, the text describes the act of Separation from the Political Bands of the king and corporations that have abused and usurped the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness of We the People. More to the point the document was signed by the Founding Fathers. In terms of literary criticism the term Fathers is a metonymy: A figure of speech that refers to procreating fathers and mothers having children born in the United States constituting the people.
A metonymy is a figure of speech that uses one word of one thing for another of which it is an attribute; like, the White House for the people working in the oval office; or, church as the physical building referring to the worshipers in the temple.
Before we go any further, the meaning of secularization needs clarification. It is commonly understood as a decrease in church attendance and a declining role played by institutionalized religion in society. This idea about secularism is somewhat misleading and is the result of an assimilation of religion with Christianity, the consequence of Christendom having dominated the western cultures for many centuries. However, secularization does not mean that the secular world is devoid of any religious dimension or that contemporary culture has rejected the sacred. What the term implies is that the core function of religion has morphed elsewhere. In periods of cultural change the sacred inconspicuously metamorphoses in other hierarchical power schemes.
The Surfing Madona Mural – Incinitas, CA
The following are some examples of the sacred from one religious/sphere to another. They show how corporate empowerment was made possible by the conversion of language. Words and symbols that are the creative endeavor and human heritage are being converted into highly protected logos and corporate trademarks that are legally protected with unlimited financial resources.
The first Olympiads were essentially a religious ceremony created in honor of Zeus, the dominant god of the Greek pantheon. Today the Olympiad is an international sporting event involving most countries on the planet. They have been taken over by official sponsors consisting of the biggest transnational corporations in the world. The games have the same function as they did originally; namely celebrating competition, victory, and instituting order and hierarchy. This is accomplished by not only separating the contestants from the audience, the victors from the competition, but also separating the special status of the gods and winners from the masses. Mainly, the Games were a ritual to commemorate the status of the gods. Today the separation consists in elevating corporate trademarks and logos from the masses of ordinary words and symbols. Nike for instance, who was the Greek god of victory, is today the name of a powerful transnational corporation.
December 25th was originally a pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice. It later became the date of the celebration of the birth of Christ, although there is no historical data to support that Jesus was born on that day. Now Christmas has reverted back to a period of consumerism. The change shows that the sacred dedication of a holiday switches back and forth between different religious belief systems. It is not the intrinsic nature of certain beings and things or their representations that are sacred, it is the underlying incursion of power established by hierarchy that proceeds to separate and confer different levels of status of sacredness on beings and things.
The word economy has evolved from a theological meaning of the divine government of the world to the art of managing the resources of the people and of its government. The conversion is attributed to renowned anti-clerics like Voltaire and his contemporaries who were successful business men. Following the aftermath of the Reformation and the development of the Renaissance, a wave of freethinkers and monarchs from various countries challenged the moral and political power of the Church in Rome. During the declining power of the Holy See, kings felt justified in confiscating the Church’s vast property in order to finance their conquests and wars. Hence, the original meaning of secularization was the confiscation of Church property by potentates or worldly powers for monetary ends. This confiscation also applies to religious language, symbols and icons.
In most minds Santa Claus is an American Icon. This notion overshadows the fact that Santa is a conversion of Saint-Nicholas. The result of fictional alterations of an historical figure created by advertising, framing the image of the Santa as we know him today. Only since 1773 has he been known as Santa Claus and perceived as a secular figure rather than a saint. The transformation of Saint-Nicholas was made possible with the help of various media; newspaper articles, poems, books, postcards, sketches and advertising. Santa became a mythical icon conjured from a patchwork of different sources no longer Saint-Nicholas or Sinterklaas. He is an entirely different person transformed into a venerated icon by the media. His mission is no longer to help children in distress but to be a consecrated agent of marketable goods.
From its early settlement and until the nineteen sixties, the US was a predominantly Christian nation. Sunday was still observed as a day of prayer, of church going and of rest. The Lord’s Day was considered a religious holy-day. Like the Sabbath, it was set apart by God for a time of worship and rest, separate from the other ordinary days. With the spread of TVs in people’s living rooms the sacred attribute of Sunday would slowly change and be phased out of the religious framework of the nation. The day of rest was converted into a day of business as usual, enabling an additional day of consumer spending. A change was taking place in the religious fabric of America. Market forces and secularism was shifting the sacred allocation of time and worship elsewhere.
The decline of institutional religious influence over the population was made possible by the advent of media. The preaching of the good news shifted from the clergyman in church to TVs in people’s living rooms and in temples like the theaters. This event promoted a proliferation of new religious movements (NRM). Some examples include, the Hollywood star system, the pop-rock star phenomenon and the professional sports system, endorsed by a consumer oriented culture propagated by the media. The important thing to remember is the function of the sacred: To separate and establish a boundary between the sacred sphere of the promoters/idols/stage and the followers/fans/audience. In Kanye West’s song I am a god. It is not West who is a god but his image consecrated by the the media that is a god.
Marshall McLuhan explained: “The “content” of any medium is always another medium… the “medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and forms of human association and action.”
The content of mass-media is a myriad of moneyed corporations. Its message shapes human association that eventually evolved into the Investor State. Although a new comer, the the legal notion of Investor State is the result of consistent legal battles, political lobbying and media promotion of the artificial person impersonating a human being. The corporate empowerment has currently assumed a dominant function in the economy and in politics as evidenced by the involvement of the Investor State in trade agreements with countries around the world.
As we conclude, we as citizens have a civic duty to question the incursion of transnational corporations in the public sphere and inquire about the impending challenges posed by the Investor State. Among the questions we need to ask is: What legitimacy does this Investor State have? A state is by definition an organized political community living under a single system of government. On whose authority did the Investor State become a state? Who are the members of this corporate body and who are its financial backers?
It is important to stress that transnational corporations are indispensable and have an essential role to play in the world economy. However, their role is to be the servant of the people not the people’s masters. A public debate is needed in order to clarify the function and limits of the Investor State in respect to elected governments to establish a balanced and healthy relationship between the rights of human beings and those of corporations.
When Michael Moore’s publisher wanted him to re-write nearly 50% of his book entitled Stupid White Men or they would not publish the book, the author balked. This was only a few days after 9/11 and the nation was still reeling from the chock the attack. On September 26th, presidential spokesman Ari Fleisher made this comment on national TV (later retracted) that “all Americans…need to watch what they say, watch what they do.”
The warning had some cooling effect on the author. Fearing that the publisher would not publish his book Moore kept quiet and stayed away from the media for two months so not to upset News Corp (Harper Collins’ parent company).
On December 1st the author gave a speech to a private event hosted by a New Jersey Citizen’s Action knowing there would be no media present. He also discussed with a crowd of 100 people in attendance his struggle with his publisher about Stupid White Men. He read passages of his book concerned that:
“It may be the only time it’s ever heard by anybody,”…”As far as I knew, there wasn’t any press there, so I told people what had happened. They asked, ‘What do you want us to do?’ I said, ‘Don’t call the publisher, don’t call the press. Let me deal with it.'”
Getty.Images – E. Charbonneau
Among the attendees was Ann Sparanese, a librarian at Englewood Library in New Jersey and a board member of the American Library Association (ALA). Ignoring Moore’s request, she posted a message on several ALA list-servers as soon as she returned to work the following Monday, detailing Moore’s problems with his publisher.
Sparanese explained: “I thought these particular librarians would be especially concerned. This is NOT a question of the CIA or the government demanding that a publisher stop publication for national security or some other well-known reason. The publisher just decided to walk away from the money −the book’s ALREADY printed and sitting in a warehouse− because of the current war-inspired, anti-dissent atmosphere. Even satire is biting the dust, by the publisher’s own hand.”
A few days after the ALA event, publishing insiders pick up the story. On December 4th Steven Zeitchik of the publishing trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly published an article relating Moore’s struggle with HarperCollins. The next day New York Post followed up on the story. On December 14th, Sparanese’s message was quoted extensively in “Holt Uncensored”, an e-mail newsletter published by Pat Holt.
Within days one of the list servers’ posting and the Publishers Weekly article, a HarperCollins editor informed Moore they were receiving a lot of email from angry librarians about Stupid White Men. As it happens libraries represent big money to publishers, spending over $2 billion a year for books and electronic information.
Moore did not know Sparanese had attended the Citizen’s Action event. Yet he’s thankful to her. He partly attributes the publisher’s change of heart to the lone librarian’s posting on the Net her concerns about free speech. “Librarians see themselves as the guardians of the First Amendment…You got a thousand Mother Joneses at the barricades! I love the librarians, and I am grateful for them!”
A sole unknown lost in a crowd who decides to take whatever action she could against what appeared to be corporate intimidation and censure. The simple posting on the internet by a quiet librarian perhaps helped to save Moore’s book. Pushing the author to greater things with his Fahrenheit 9/11. As far as we are concerned Sparanese’s activism is a perfect example of what we refer here as interactivism.
February 4th 2006 marks the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A remarkable German theologian. Bonhoeffer was involved in several clandestine missions to help Jewish people escape Nazi Germany. He also participated in failed plots to overthrow and assassinate the Fuhrer. His unpatriotic actions led him to the gallows. He was executed on April 9th 1945. A few weeks before Hitler committed suicide and the end of the war.
Bonhoeffer took part in a little known resistance movement against Hitler. He had been a spy and was determined to publicize to the world the existence of Nazi concentration camps and Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. Bonhoeffer’s had also worked with contacts in England, particularly Bishop George Bell. He had hoped that the British government would show support for the resistance of which he was a part. He also tried to convince his British contacts to participate in a military coup against Hitler. History reveals that due to their distrust of him and the Germans, England’s help never materialized.
What made Bonhoeffer exceptional is that he could have taken a cushy job teaching at good University or become a minister in an affluent parish. He could have blended in with the crowd like most of his countrymen and ignore Hitler’s folly. He could have stayed in the US after his latest visit instead of returning home. However, he could not leave his family and friends behind, or abandon his country at a crucial time.
He came from a good and affluent family. His father was a well respected professor of psychiatry and neurology. His mother had obtained a university degree. A rare feat for the time. She undertook to educate her children at home and explaining that: “Germans have their backbones broken twice in life: first in schools, then in the military”.
Bonhoeffer was torn between his passion for the Word of God and the love for his country. The German Church of the time was split between the emotional grips of patriotism and the commands of the Gospels. What made Bonhoeffer stand out from all other theologians of his era was his commitment to Christ. And to this day he remains an example of what it means to be an authentic “disciple” of Jesus Christ.
Like Jesus he stood up for the outcast. He was opposed to Antisemitism and expressed his views publicly against the racial policies of the Nazis. He stood against the predominant views of appeasement by the so-called Christian Church of his country. The Gestapo eventually caught up with him and forbid him to teach or preach. Before he finally was imprisoned he spent two years secretly teaching and supervising his students illegally in small parishes. He was arrested in April 1943. And until his death he remained a man of faith and stood steadfast against the delusion of tyranny and misplaced nationalism.
Germany was divided between a predominant German Evangelical Church and a religious right faction called the Deutsche Christen ─German Christians. The German Evangelical Church had a strong nationalist tradition and had a history of being subservient to state authority. Whereas, the German Christians became the more predominant voice of Nazi ideology. They even advocated the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible. With their help, Antisemitism became widespread and enthusiasm for Nazism took over Germany.
To this day many questions remain unanswered. How could a majority of Christians living in Germany not stand up to Hitler? How could they condone his racial policies? And how could they overlook the illegal invasion of other countries, justify hatred and war? The answer might lie in the art of casuistry!
Casuistry is the theological discourse that deals in resolving special moral cases of conscience especially in regards to matters of conflicting duty or responsibility. Mostly it appears in the form of sophistry: A justification of an act that is morally wrong making it appear to be morally right. For instance, the Church was able to morally justify acts violence during the Inquisition, contradicting the messages in the Gospels. It did this by diverting the issue away from the killing of innocent victims by demonizing them. The Nazi did the same thing with the Jewish people. Making them the victims and scapegoats of unresolved conflicts within their own German economy.
Bonhoeffer’s preoccupations were confronted by both theological and political issues. The racism of his country had finally convinced him that the religious traditions of his time were spiritually bankrupt. Disillusioned about his Christian contemporaries he described them as living a “religionless Christianity”. Where moral values were being replaced by cynicism and ideology. He realized that tribalism and nationalism had overtaken religion and the universal principles of true spirituality. He lived first hand the consequences of a religionless Christianity by his persecution, incarceration and execution.
In the face of his moral turmoil, Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship literally lays out his Christian position: To stand up morally against the tyranny of war, racism and hatred. Such a moral stand however has a cost. And since he was a man of his and God’s Word, he paid the price with the sacrifice of his life.
Most of all, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is among a few in history of Christianity who deserves to be called a Christian. To this day I cherish his memory, his moral example and character. He will remain an indisputable model of what is to be a “Christian”, especially amidst times of ethical decay, lawlessness and political tyranny.
Significant other refers to a gender blind way to name the Other partner in a relationship. The attribute significant implies having a meaningful and influential effect on the Other and onto oneself. Especially if it relates to a deep and liberating experience of love. In her seminal work of Le Deuxième Sexe, Simone de Beauvoir proposed her own analysis of alterity. The Introduction of the book is such a classic that it deserves to be reinterpreted in light of her invaluable contribution to the perception of the Other.
Although Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book in 1949 it is still a major treatise on feminism and phenomenology. The introduction of The Second Sex is based on her own philosophical analysis with references to scholars like Claude Lévi-Strauss, Dumézil, Granet and Hegel. As such she was a pioneer in using pluri-disciplinary fields like anthropology, mythography, mythology and sociology in her philosophical discourse. She brings up some original observations on the importance of myth in culture in light of her concept of the Other. And to this day it is hard to deny the caliber of her intellect.
De Beauvoir was brought up in a conservative bourgeois family in Paris. Her father was a lawyer and an agnostic. Her mother was a devout Catholic. She juggled the differing influences of her parents by becoming a devoted atheist. The existence of God did not matter as much to her as the existence of Other beings “there” in her life. Especially her life long companion Jean-Paul Sartre, the famed post-war existentialist.
Sartre and de Beauvoir first met in 1929 while taking their agrégation ─a test that rates students that enable them to teach in the best schools. Although Sartre failed the first time he took the test, he was nevertheless awarded first prize on his second attempt. Whereas de Beauvoir, who passed on her first attempt, was given second place. She nevertheless succeeded in being the youngest student to pass the agrégation and became the youngest philosophy teacher in France. Following the test, the president of the jury, professor Lalande, confessed to one of his colleagues that Sartre had marked intellectual qualities, but he added, the real philosopher is “her”.
Both were to remain “essential” lovers until Sartre’s death. They both agreed to an open relationship with a tacit agreement that they would reveal everything about their love affairs to each other. These “contingent” love affairs consisted mostly of Sartre’s ongoing womanizing including several ménage à trois involving de Beauvoir. Adding her own lesbian relationships along the way. Sartre and de Beauvoir’s personal letters published after their deaths, revealed that they were making fun of the Other lovers in their love triangles. They were typically being used to reinforce their own “essential” bond .
Following the second world war Jean-Paul Sartre became the intellectual star of France. Although de Beauvoir was Sartre’s intellectual equal, she never matched his fame and popularity. She became known ironically as Notre-Dame-de-Sartre and la Grande Sartreuse. Not until after her death in 1986 was she finally considered a philosopher in her own right.
French existentialism was a direct product of the liberation of France at the hands of the Nazis. Years of countless deaths, destruction and misery were quickly swept away by a moral and philosophical liberation. God and religion had been helpless to stop the Nazis and were replaced with a post-war moral freedom, spiritual skepticism and existentialism. Years of bloodshed unleashed a joie de vivre and free love that gave birth to the baby boomers. Sartre became the undisputed symbol of that liberation.
Sartre was the eminent French proponent of existentialism. Later on, he became an advocate of Marxism, even though revelations about the gulag’s atrocities committed by Stalin were being well documented. His Marxist’s leanings might appear as a typical French arrogance towards the Anglo allies who had liberated France. However, one must keep in mind that 17 million Russians died during the war. Russian troops under Stalin had advanced quickly into Germany ahead of the allies. And they had been instrumental in the fall of Berlin and the defeat of the Nazis. As such, Marxist Leninism had made a political incursion in the ideological make-up of most European countries.
Sartre was the undisputed star philosopher of the post-war era. His fame reached an unprecedented levels, despite his lack of personal glitter or physical glamour. He was short, crossed eyed and almost blind in one eye. A drab looking fellow that paid no attention to his exterior appearance. Simone de Beauvoir was the opposite: Proper, neat, severe and conservative looking. Despite his appearance Sartre was known to be a real charmer. He had a tendency of promising the world to his female conquest, all of them pretty women. A trait that annoyed the feminist de Beauvoir.
In 1946 Sartre decided to move in with his mother, although he had become well-off from his royalties. Most of the money he made from his publications was spent on sustaining his love affairs. Sartre confessed that the reason he began writing plays was to create acting jobs for his lovers, who had no means to support themselves. Overall he was known to be generous, intelligent and charming man. Not renowned for being a warm or attentive lover.
Despite the complexities of his philosophy, Sartre managed to make existentialism fashionable. Anybody could become an existentialist, especially the young. People might not have fully understood its philosophical intricacies but could readily identify with its unabashed free love and overall moral laxity. Jazz music, Paris night life, dancing, erotic euphoria were deemed the highest expression of a post-war existentialism. Nonetheless, existentialism also exposed a spiritual vacuum about the harsh reality of human existence.
In her Ethics of Ambiguity de Beauvoir described existentialism in clear terms and made it easier to understand ─her own interpretation and tribute to Being and Nothingness. Unlike Sartre, who had the propensity of being too analytical, dense and sometimes prone to lucubration. It was wrongly believed that de Beauvoir had no original ideas of her own. And the she was merely making Sartre’s existentialism more readily accessible to the reader.
Throughout her relationship with Sartre she was viewed as his philosophical apprentice, an intellectual second fiddle. After her death, as more of her personal correspondence was made public, a different portrait emerged. The letters show her as the more dominant partner in terms of exploring new sexual experiences and relationships. She was also more passionate and more emotionally daring than her companion. In retrospect, a reassessment of her life’s work does indeed prove that the real philosopher was “her”.
In her book Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter she undertakes to disclose the “enterprise of living” in which literature is substituted for life’s spiritual and religious needs. In this book, and a few others to follow, she reveals the intellectual journey of a twentieth century woman. Disclosing a moral disconnect with traditional religion and social conventions. On the one hand, she reveals the condition of women in light of post-war existentialism. On the other hand, her novels depict fictional accounts of her personal sexual experiences with varied partners of both sexes.
De Beauvoir proclaimed herself to be an atheist. Being an atheist however, does not mean being devoid of spirituality. In Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter she describes her relationship with her mother in this manner:
At every moment in the deepest of my heart she was my witness and I could not make any distinction between her gaze and that of God.
In retrospect, her life’s intellectual journey reveals a re-enactment of the twentieth century’s history of religious thought. She was raised a good Catholic and then grew up to embody a post-war secularization of established creeds, beliefs and practices. With a consequential reassessment of traditional religion, its sacred rituals and symbols.
De Beauvoir through her profane art of writing disclosed a preoccupation with the absolute: An absolute without God. Simultaneously denounced materialism and hedonism, as flawed and lewd. And objected to the idea that you needed to redeem yourself in this world in order to save yourself for the next in heaven. Her life and her writings reveal a search of the absolute through the living experience of the Other.
It is with the publication of The Second Sex that de Beauvoir’s analytical thinking is fully revealed. In it she states the premise of her book, “On ne naît pas femme: on le devient”. One is not born a woman: One becomes one. Explaining that a woman is a cultural label dependent on her identity only as a reference to “man”. An alterity in relation to the totality implied in the conceptual ideas like “mankind”. She exposes a patriarchal vision were the feminine is belittled, censured and negated. The book quickly became a manifesto for women’s liberation. Fans were grateful that a woman had finally understood their condition. For a growing number of them she became their “symbolic mother”.
Today, many of her ideas have become common knowledge and are now part of an acceptable way of thinking. But at the time of its original publication her observations were considered quite revolutionary. When the book came out she was branded by her male critics as an “existential Amazon” who has written “a manual of erotic egotism” full of “pornographic zeal”.
Her assessment of the Other begins with her own insights about her own status as a women. A bright, sexually emancipated and independent human being in a world of women economically dependent on an “absolute” patriarchal system. As she explains: the relationship between the sexes involves a duality and like any duality it gives rise to conflict. Inevitably, the dominant partner will assume the status of absolute.
Now, what peculiarly signalizes the situation of woman is that she ─a free and autonomous being like all human creatures─ nevertheless finds herself living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of the Other. They propose to stabilize her as an object and to doom her to immanence since her transcendence is to be overshadowed and forever transcended by another ego (conscience) which is essential and sovereign.
Liberation, according to de Beauvoir, is based on our mutual recognition that each partners is free and alternatively Other. Lovers view themselves ambiguously as subject and object of erotic desire. Rather than being confined and defined as a cultural or institutionalized man or woman. The concept of ambiguity, a fuzzy perception of self and Other, is in love identified as an essential step in the process of transcending the oppression of patriarchy.
The erotic experience is one that most poignantly discloses to human beings the ambiguity of the condition; in it they are aware of themselves as flesh and as spirit, as the other and as the subject.
At the time of the writing she introduced some ideas that might appear as self evident today but were shocking to the more conservative population of the time. As she explained, woman was defined as an incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other. But her analysis did not only limit itself to her feminist views of patriarchy but overlapped into the condition of the Other in culture in general. It is this contribution that we would like to emphasize here.
The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself. In the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies, one finds the expression of a duality – that of the Self and the Other. This duality was not originally attached to the division of the sexes; it was not dependent on any empirical fact…The feminine element was at first no more involved in such pairs as Varuna-Mitra, Uranus-Zeus, Sun-Moon, and Day-Night than it was in the contrasts between Good and Evil, lucky and unlucky auspices, right and left, God and Lucifer. Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought.
In addition to her assessment on the condition of women she also describes the idea of alterity in varied aspects of culture. She brings up the example of racism as applied to Black people as well as with Jews and anti-Semitism. All are based on a culture of master and slave and a tribal division between us and them. The outcast ─Other─ being relegated outside our mental process banned from our network of contacts, belittled and excluded from our spiritual embrace.
De Beauvoir’s idea of “man” as absolute, must not be confused with a person defined by his gender, but as a symbol of a patriarchal system. An invisible hierarchy that is over-powering and omnipresent. A top down system of control that is covert and guarded. More often than not, this power structure has been confused with God. It is intangible, pervasive and so elusive that it is deemed to be non existent.
What is usually visible about the hierarchy is the violence and terror displayed by totalitarian regimes, the war industry, hate groups and terrorist organizations. All the while, the workings of these systems remain invisible, expanding with legal immunity and impunity. Such is the enduring power of the elusive hierarchy.
The paradox is that the Other is a decoy to help reinforce the echelons of power. The Other that lays outside the system is a reminder that the hierarchy is in need of a scapegoat to be viewed as a threat so to strengthen the system.
Anybody who has experienced being excluded from family, friends, a group, a club, from people of a foreign nation, unable to speak the language, knows the feeling of helplessness from being excluded, of being the Other. This segregating experience allows us to see how the system works from the outside. It enables a solitary view of the whole scheme of which one is excluded.
Different examples of the Otherness are represented here as: the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant, the Jew, the gentile, the black person, the Muslim, the infidel, the mad, the gay, the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the sick, the unemployed, the prisoner, the handicapped…These groups signify varied aspects of human condition that are overshadowed by the majority in society. They become labeled as Other so to discount their value. Invariably distorting our mental perception of the whole human reality.
Cultural and racial boundaries between self and Other define who we are spiritually. The wider our level of affective and cultural openness towards the Other determines how developed we are spiritually. The more boundaries we raise, the narrower we become mentally. The greater denial of the Other, the more regressive and sectarian we become. These exclusions then activate a fanatical set of beliefs that are the basis for a cult: A perversion of true spirituality.
Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought
De Beauvoir’s assessment that Otherness is a fundamental principle of human thought is compelling and could easily be applied to other aspects of human perception of reality. The example of the Other as a profane reality revealed in the Catholic concept of God in the doctrine of the Trinity comes to mind.
God the Father
God the Son the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is Other in relation to the absolute implied in the patriarchal relationship between God the Father and God his Son. The gender component of the Mother is missing from the divine relationship between Father and Son. What makes pro-creation of either principles possible is “censured” and “negated”. The Holy Spirit is the Other, defined at the Giver of Life. A passive and overshadowed reality of the divine and sacred feminine. A principle that is nonetheless an essential and fundamental part of our spirituality’s dynamic.
In respect to her views about God and patriarchy, we can safely say that Simone de Beauvoir was not thrown out of the garden of Eden. She left voluntarily. Unafraid to leave behind the grip of a jealous Landlord and his overbearing generosity. A Lord who demands unconditional obedience in exchange for living in an environment of overwhelming security. She escaped with no regrets for having eaten from the fruit of the tree and revealed the secrets of the knowledge of good and evil.
The popularity of The Da Vinci Code put Opus Dei and the Church at the center of a controversial limelight. As a result it created a reactionary backlash from the more conservative faction of the Church. Dan Brown’s book made accessible to millions of readers the topic of the sacred feminine. And created a long overdue public debate on Mary Magdalene. A subject matter that had been discredited for the past two millenniums. Relegated as a profane reality by a religious hierarchy. The book rekindles a spiritually sensitive subject of Christianity that could no longer be overshadowed.
Paris and London
Dan Brown’s story begins in Paris. The heroine is Sophie Neveu, a French freckled red haired with a startling pedigree. The book was published shortly after Dominique de Villepin’s famous stance at the UN challenging the US’ right to wage an illegal war against Iraq. Shortly after, “freedom fries” became the rage in Washington and a favorite American antidote for renowned French arrogance. However, history has taught France a tough lesson with its colonial ambitions in Algeria. And decades after its involvement, it is still paying the price for its misadventure. Some of the words uttered by the main villain in the book reverberates a global concern about revenge. They will remain embedded as a reminder of the folly of grand illusions of anyone who wants to save the world and play god with history. As the Teacher asks the professor:
Are you with me or against me.
For the most part, the story revolves around museums and churches in Paris and London. The mystery begins with the murder of the Louvre curator and ends in a church’s rectory located in Scotland where the secret of the Holy Grail lies. The author keeps his readers guessing by alternating clues between famous and invaluable works of art, legends, myths, math trivia, poetry, anagrams, ancient monuments and secret rituals. Switching between the interpretation of famous paintings, the Gospels and the more complex and obscure secrets behind ornate gothic churches and temples.
The Holy Grail
The first Code is revealed with the display of the body of the murdered Louvre curator Saunière lying in the position of the famous Vitruvian Man. Saunière and Leonardo da Vinci we find out were both Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion: a secret society created to safeguard the secret of the Holy Grail. One of Christendom’s most famous and enduring legends.
In Christian mythology, the Holy Grail was the dish, plate, cup or vessel used by Jesus at the Last Supper, said to possess miraculous powers. The connection of Joseph of Arimathea with the Grail legend dates from Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie (late twelfth century) in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Great Britain; building upon this theme, later writers recounted how Joseph used the Grail to catch Christ’s blood while interring him and that in Britain he founded a line of guardians to keep it safe. The quest for the Holy Grail makes up an important segment of the Arthurian cycle, appearing first in works by Chrétien de Troyes (Loomis 1961). The legend may combine Christian lore with a Celtic myth of a cauldron endowed with special powers.
The development of the Grail legend has been traced in detail by cultural historians: It is a gothic legend, which first came together in the form of written romances, deriving perhaps from some pre-Christian folklore hints, in the later 12th and early 13th centuries. The early Grail romances centered on Percival and were woven into the more general Arthurian fabric. The Grail romances started in France and were translated into other European vernaculars; only a handful of non-French romances added any essential new elements. Some of the Grail legend is interwoven with legends of the Holy Chalice. ─Wikipedia
Harrison Ford in Harris Tweed
Who in their right mind would have thought that a professor of Religious Symbology would one day be the hero of a best selling mystery that would sell over 30 million copies worldwide. Robert Langdon is a Harvard University professor whose field is the study and interpretation of ancient sacred symbols. The night of the murder he happens to be in Paris as an invited guest to give a lecture and slide show on the pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres’ Cathedral.
Langdon is the writer of a manuscript entitled “Symbols of the Lost Sacred Feminine” yet to be published. The book deals with the history of goddess worship with several chapters on Mary Magdalene that are considered to be quite controversial. It prompted the editor to send the manuscript to a number of serious historians and art luminaries for their endorsement prior to the printing of Advance Reading Copies. Among the recipients of the draft was Jacques Saunière, who was found dead in the museum. Langdon and the curator both share a passion for the history of the sacred feminine and Mary Magdalene. They felt that the goddess’ role in the development of religious thought had been undermined by the curia.
The plot moves quickly after the discovery of Robert Langdon’s name written in blood next to the murdered body of Saunière on the Louvre’s museum floor. The professor becomes judicial police chief Bezu Fache’s prime suspect. He is saved from the constricting hold of the police by Saunière’s granddaughter Sophie Neveu, who happens to be a police cryptologist. She helps Langdon escape from the scene of the crime. Free to pursue their quest to resolve the mystery behind the murder. They begin their Harvard scavenger hunt.
Da Vinci and Saunière
Saunière was a devoted Leonardo da Vinci expert. Both were Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion. Most of the clues in the story revolve around Saunière’s use of da Vinci’s interpretation of paintings and crafts that point to the nature and identity of the elusive Holy Grail.
Langdon weighed his words carefully. “I was just thinking that Saunière shared a lot of spiritual ideologies with Da Vinci, including a concern over the Church’s elimination of the sacred feminine from modern religion.”
As a former Grand Master of the Priory of Sion Leonardo da Vinci’s works hold the key to the secret society’s reverence for the sacred feminine. He shares with Saunière an ongoing duty to preserve the secret of the tomb of Mary Magdalene and the documents that hold the truth about the divine feminine. As the story nears its final code we find out that the word APPLE is the key word that opens the precious keystone.
The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine.
At this point we would like to alert the reader to one of the more popular and enduring misconceptions regarding the symbol of the fall. And to the fact that there is no mention of an apple in Genesis III. Eve simply eats a “fruit from the tree”. The popular misconception is so embedded in our psyche that it made its way into the logo of a famous brand of computers. The discrepancy shows how myths evolve and become intertwined with reality and become part of our acceptable way of thinking.
One explanations as to how the confusion occurred, and not necessarily the correct one, is the following: When the Bible was translated into Latin the word malum ─meaning evil, implying Eve’s doing─ became identified with the words pyrus malus ─meaning apple tree. It might be added that the confusion was not dispelled by the Magisterium and seems to confirm our heroes distrust about the Church’s motive in maintaining Eve’s guilt in the fall of mankind.
The killer of Saunière is an albino named Silas. He is a member of Opus Dei ─a powerful and secretive order established as a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II. Silas is a protégé of a misguided Bishop named Aringarosa, who commands the albino to blindly obey the Teacher’s directives. He is told that his unconditional obedience will save the Church. Silas is unknowingly being manipulated by the obscure Teacher to find a mysterious keystone in the possession of the Priory of Sion, of which Saunière was the last surviving member and Grand Master. The Teacher’s goal is to take possession of the keystone with the intention to reveal to the world its secret content and the identity of the Holy Grail. A secret so startling that it could destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
The Teacher who single-handedly plots to destroy the Church is non other than Leigh Teabing an expert on the Holy Grail and former British Royal Historian, a peer of Robert Langdon. He has vowed vengeance against the Priory of Sion for having rescinded on their promise to reveal the secret of the Holy Grail at the end of the millennium. Having said this, we should not be surprised to find out that the Teacher, with his evil intentions, is deliberately spreading inaccurate facts about early developments of the Church and its canon.
The following are among a few of the many discrepancies outlined by the Teacher:
Jesus Christ’s life was not “recorded by thousands of followers across the land”. Scholars now agree that none of the writers of the Gospels new or ever met Jesus. These account were written in koiné ─Greek, roughly between 70 to 100 AD, more than 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. They were written by Jewish scribes who were living in a culturally Hellenized Palestine under Roman occupation. In all probability Jesus spoke Aramaic ─part of a northwest Semitic group of languages which includes Hebrew. And in all likelihood Jesus did not read or write. The same applies to all of his apostles, who were for the most part mere fishermen and peasants. In ancient Judaism, reading and writing was a closely guarded craft and privilege held by the scribes and priests.
There were not “eighty” gospels that were considered for the New Testament as stated by the Teacher. And Constantine did not commission a “new Bible”. The New Testament –twenty seven book canon─ as we know it today, was first documented as a list of books that were felt appropriate to read, and put together by Athanasius the bishop of Alexandria, circa 367 CE.
The Dead Sea Scrolls ─also known as the Qumran documents─ were not “found” in the 1950’s but in 1947. They were not among the earliest “Christian records” but were a description of rules of conduct of an early Jewish community, most likely the Essene. This community was primarily made up of single celibate men who dedicated their lives to spiritual purification in preparation for the impending “end of time”. A time when God would intervene to overthrow the forces of evil and reward the righteous. Some scholars have surmised that Jesus had a similar apocalyptic world view as the Essenes and might have shared their rule of conduct. Consequently, contrary to Teabing’s assertion, Jewish custom did not forbid men to be unmarried.
There is no scholarly evidence or proof that Mary Magdalene was connected to the House of Benjamin or that she was a descendant of King David. Even less so that she was pregnant at the crucifixion.
Moreover, Q is not a book written by Jesus. And it is not a surviving source being secretly guarded by the Church. Q ─an abbreviation from the German word quelle meaning “source”─ simply refers to a hypothetical “source” of Jesus sayings that scholars have found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
And lastly: The Gnostic Gospels does not refer to a collection of the Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls documents but is the title of a book written by Elaine Pagels.
As it happens these discrepancies do not interfere with the book’s core premise about the fact that some of Leonardo’s clues about the feminine mystique highlight the overshadowed and discredited Mary Magdalene…
Although Jesus speaks consistently of his absent Father, it is his mother that is present at the most crucial moments in his life. First and foremost, she gives birth to Jesus. As his mother she is responsible for his education that will eventually prepare him for his divine mission. She is present at the wedding at Cana when she asks Jesus to perform his first miracle instigating his public ministry. She is present in the background following her son throughout his preaching. She has the painful fate to witness her son’s humiliating crucifixion under the hands of the Roman occupying power. Having said that, it is another Mary, and none of the 12 apostles, that has the privilege to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1)
In 1969, shortly after the conclusion of Vatican II, the Catholic Church officially disclosed that the enduring belief that identified Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was not based on any factual or scriptural evidence, henceforth clearing her name. The magisterium also asserted that Mary Magdalene should not be confused with Mary the sister of Lazarus, from the town of Bethany. Mary Magdalene should be identified with a person from a town called Magdala located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
There is no scholarly consensus as to the origin of the surname Magdalene. The Church’s position is that it refers to a place named Magdal ─meaning tower or fortress. However, such a place on the banks of the Sea of Galilee no longer existed at the time of Jesus. In the first century such location was overtaken by the prosperous Greek city of Taricheae.
The surname “Magdala” ─Hebrew Migdal = tower, fortress; Aramaic Magdala─ should be viewed as a symbolic attribute in terms of “fortitude”. Similar in fashion to John who was also known as John the Baptist. Or Simon who was given the metaphorical name the “rock” by Jesus and became henceforth known as Peter ─meaning rock.
During Jesus’ ministry, a number of women followed their teacher but typically stayed in the background of the 12 male apostles. In Mark (15:40-41) and Luke (8:1-3) we find out that these women, including Mary Magdalene, provide financial support to Jesus’ ministry. And in break with tradition, Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) encourages Mary, sister of Martha, in her decision to attend his teachings rather than stay home to take care of her household duties.
At the time, women were regarded as the property of men, or as being under their jurisdiction. The only exception were women of wealth. In that era men and women worshiped in separate places. And as part of their morning devotion, men were thankful to God for not being “born a woman”.
Early on Jesus cures Mary Magdalene of her possession of seven demons. Possession was a term used to imply an illness for which there was no known explanation or cure. Somehow this is still valid today.
The Gospels recounts that in the town of Bethany a woman with an alabaster jar anoints Jesus’ feet with “very expensive ointment” ─some estimate the value at one year’s wages. The description of the scene is to say the least very sensuous. At Jesus’ request she is told to keep the remainder of the “costly” oil for his burial. And the woman that will be present with the ointment at the burial turns out to be Mary Magdalene. The apostles however, are scandalized by such an act of devotion and waist. They question why so much money should be spent so frivolously instead of feeding the poor. Furthermore, it is considered a disgrace for a woman to touch an unmarried man. Jesus tells them to leave her alone, because she has done for him a good work. And Jesus probably knew better than to argue with a wealthy Jewish woman. The surprising part about this episode is that it is recounted in all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Only three other stories are shared by the four Gospels: the baptism of Jesus, the multiplication of loaves, and the crucifixion.
The Hebrew word messiah means anointed. In Jewish tradition the anointment is typically performed by a priest during the sacred coronation of a king. The story about Jesus’ anointment in the Gospels is starling to say the least. One could interpret the passage as the anointment by a woman of Jesus the Messiah. A symbolic act of total devotion and respect. It is not performed by any of Jesus’ twelve male apostles who considered the act as scandalous and against Jewish tradition.
In the eight times a list of women is mentioned in the Gospels, on every occasion except one Mary Magdalene’s name appears first. Only at the crucifixion is Mary the mother of Jesus mentioned first and Mary Magdalene last. The Mary whose womb gave birth to Jesus is present at his death. Whereas it is Mary of Magdala who discovers the empty tomb that is a witness of the risen Christ.
In all four Gospels, the women that accompany Jesus during his last week are also present at the crucifixion. They alone remain present until the end, whereas all male disciples flee. It is also stated that the female followers were the first to witness that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. In the Gospel of John it is Mary Magdalene alone who acknowledges the empty tomb. While in the other versions it is Mary Magdalene accompanied by other women.
I have seen the Lord, and he said these things to me. (John 20:18)
Mary Magdalene is the first to witness the risen Lord. She is also chosen as a messenger to spread the good news ─ gospel. As it happens, the root word apostle in Greek means messenger. Therefore, Mary Magdalene and the other women are to be equally considered apostles.
The Metaphor as Code
The whole premise of The Da Vinci Code is the quest for the Holy Grail : the legendary cup at Jesus’ Last Supper. Alternatively described as a holy cup, royal blood or holy bloodline. Brown’s mystery has proposed some controversial ideas about Mary Magdalene and the meaning of the Sangraal.
We would like to introduce at this point the role of the metaphor in terms of symbolic significance that might hold the key to the Holy Grail:
I am the door ─gate (John 10:9)
I am the way (John 14:6)
In other words, Jesus in the Gospels uses the metaphor to reveal his message.
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my community ─Church. (Mat 16:18)
Jesus tells Simon that he is a rock ─peter literally means rock─ and he will be known as the rock on which Jesus will build his community. An additional indication that the metaphor holds a vital role in the meaning of the Holy Grail.
The last supper is where Jesus shares his last meal, breaks the bread and drinks from the sacred cup. The scene is the center of the whole Catholic faith. And the Eucharist is a sacrament that faithful Catholics partake in Church with the holy communion. At the Last Supper Jesus shares the bread and wine with his apostles and says these words.
This is my body…This is my blood (Mark 14: 22-24)
Again we would like to stress the importance of the metaphor as the great code that offers additional clues as to the secret of the Holy Grail.
The metaphor is a figure of speech that implies a shift in meaning and a spiritual code. A break in the normal use of language. Simultaneously breaking with the normal social conventions and religious practices. Simply put, the metaphorical interpretation of the Gospels could be considered as a keystone behind the last supper and the Holy Grail. What the cup holds is not wine but the metaphorical sacrificial blood. It could be added that the metaphor is a stark contradiction to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Furthermore, if Simon is the metaphorical rock on which Jesus will build his Church, is Mary Magdala, who was the first to witness the risen Lord, to be considered the metaphorical tower that will be built on that rock ─foundation. In addition, the name Madgal-eder also appears in Micah (4:8-10) and refers symbolically to a tower or stronghold of the flock. Mary Magdalene then, will stand on the rock as the stronghold for all future Christian communities.
The quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one.
(1) I would like to emphasize that my interest in the subject does not stem from my personal beliefs in or devotion to the sacred feminine, but is based on the observation that the goddess principle has been overshadowed in the Judeo-Christian sacred narratives. This leads me to conclude that our so-called western civilization lives by some type of perceptual scotoma ─a blind spot in a visual field of reality. This cultural and religious trait is part of my ongoing study and interest.
My interest also stems from the fact that Pope Pius XII, in the dogma of the Assumption, refers to the Mother of God as the Heavenly Queen. And in the Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women, dated June 29 1995, Mary is referred to as the Queen of heaven and earth. In several passages of the Old Testament we can readily find a goddess named Ashera who is permanently chastised by a jealous God. Ironically, that same goddess is also known by the title of Queen of Heaven.
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
Many articles have been written about the growing similarities between the rise of Italian fascism ─corporatismo─ and the current US ideological swing to the right. We propose some additional observations about the prevailing corporatist ideology and its hold on Washington DC. Noting some continental differences between the political exaltation of Italian politics and a corporatist claim to a global Imperium.
The word fascism comes from the Italian fascio meaning bundle. Mussolini was attracted to this ancient Roman symbol of the fasces representing strength and authority. It was meant to symbolize the different regions of Italy and guilds bound together to create a stronger country. The slogan “united we stand” fills similar political aspirations.
In order to understand fascism one has to keep in mind that Italy has been a country only since 1861, following what is known as il Risorgimento. Prior to the unification, Italy had been ruled by a dominant Church in Rome, by kingdoms and powerful city states and finally by foreign powers. Today Italy is made up of 20 regions, some of which are divided into two or more provinces. Each of these regions have their own dialect and distinct foods. They have little in common except Italian as an official language. Which was imposed to the whole country by banning the teaching of dialects in schools which were under Church control. These dialects could very well be considered languages as they are incomprehensible to the inhabitants of other regions. Friuly, where I come from, is proud of its language and is part of a region with strong separatist inclinations. Friulani for instance, don’t understand a word of Sicilian and vise versa. You could say that Italy was, and still is, a cauldron of multiculturalism. This agglomeration of regional rivalries prompted Mussolini to remark: “It is not difficult to rule Italy, it is useless.”
Mussolini was born in 1883 in Dovia di Predappio in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, famous for its Ferraris, Maseratis, parmegiano and prosciutto. He was a turbulent student but got good grades. His father was a socialist and his son was too. In 1902 Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland in order to escape his military service. Not an uncommon trait among our more bellicose leaders. During is stay in Switzerland he became an active member of the socialist movement of the country. Benito later came back to Italy and dabbled in journalism and eventually founded a newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia ─The Italian People. In 1917 he was called up for military service and was wounded in a grenade accident during a training exercise. The incident allowed him return to editing his newspaper and avoid the service.
Mussolini made his early mark in the world of politics mostly by fighting anarchists and communists. He eventually became prime minister with the help of King Victor Emmanuel III. The King was fearful that if he did not choose the fascist leader, Italy which was prone to regional discord, would end up in a civil war. Mussolini was quickly able to consolidate his power by exploiting fears of division in an environment of postwar depression and a general feeling of anxiety among the middle-class.
Mussolini had been an active socialist member until he abandoned the idea of class struggle in favor of stati corporativi. A similar concept was promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum in1891. It was issued to counter the growing influence of socialism and class struggle. Instead the Church promoted its own Catholic trade unions managed by “corporate bodies” as an alternative to class conflict. Mussolini’s change of heart made him appealing to a greater number of voters and powerful institutions. Under his leadership business owners, workers, trade unions, professionals, and other economic groups were organized into 22 associations—or guilds. They were given representation in a legislative body known as Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni.
The symbol of the fascio was meant to indicate the unifying strength of all the guilds and corporations. The unifying body also integrated a geographically fragmented and diverse Italy into a greater market area. This idealistic union led to a totalitarian political system that became known as fascism.
Prior to Italy’s move to fascism, the country had been a liberal democracy. Mussolini’s claim to be a compassionate leader helped him get the backing of the Liberals in parliament. With their support Mussolini introduced strict censorship laws and changed the rules of elections in 1925 and 1926. His victory helped him assume dictatorial powers and proceeded to discredit all his political adversaries. With the support of his corporatist allies he skillfully used his control over the press to create the myth of Il Duce ─ The Leader. A godlike image of a man who didn’t need any sleep and who was always right. A hero who never made or admitted to a mistake and could solve any problems for his country. Il Duce demanded total loyalty from his subjects and any resistance was dealt with his fascist militia called the Brownshirts. He eventually succeeded in securing complete power. However, under his regime his government became too centralized, incompetent and corrupt.
In 1929 Mussolini signed a concordat with the Vatican that recognized the sovereignty of Vatican City. In return the Church also recognized Italy as a State. The name Benito, meaning “blessed”, is an appropriate depiction of a mutual anointment by the Church and State. Il Duce then promoted the idea of a New Roman Empire that made him increasingly popular. However, dreams of a grand empire did not extend farther than the bombing of Corfu, the invasion of Albania and later Ethiopia.
In June 1940 Mussolini declared war on Britain and France. He attacked Greece in October and as a result lost a great portion of Albania. Undeterred, he declared war on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Shortly after in December, he declared war on the United States. An act that would eventually seal his downfall. Meanwhile, the US was fostering a deal with the mafia allowing the 1943 invasion of Sicily by an Anglo-American coalition to be met without resistance. Il Duce might have forgotten that in 1866 Palermo revolted against Italy. And to this day they do not consider themselves Italian but Sicilian.
Among the noteworthy similarity between pre-war Italy and the US today is the subsidizing of big business by the government. Most of it at the expense of small business and the poor. As a point of reference, Mussolini consistently demanded wage reductions from labor. The one-time socialist leader also abolished the inheritance tax, a measure that resulted in further subsidizing of the wealthy by the poor. Eventually wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped sharply.
Mussolini allowed huge amount of money to be spent on public works and toward the heavy industry and a growing “military industrial complex”. However, Mussolini who at the onset privatized a great number of state owned assets, later began reverting these policies and demanded strict centralized control over the country’s industries.
Likewise, laws enacted by Congress in the past two decades have been substantially more valuable to big business. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation resulted in corporate mergers and consolidation. Ironically it took a Democratic President ─Bill Clinton─ to repeal federal antitrust laws that had been in place since the Great Depression.
A similar cartelization process that made fascism possible in Italy was sealed in the US in 1988. Executive Order 12631–Working Group on Financial Markets (WGFM) ─also known as the Plunge Protection Team (PPT)─ decreed by President Reagan set a blueprint for the merger between the Security and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ─or their “designees”─ with the FED and the Secretary of the Treasury ─or their “designees”. The decree allied corporate and political elites into a single controlling body with covert powers over key financial and futures markets. Irrevocably altering the healthy separation between Wall Street and Washington and making the coronation of US corporate kingdoms inevitable.
Since the Executive Order, the US has seen a transfer of savings from the majority of the population into the stock market, to excessive consumption and an unhealthy accumulation of debt. Leaving people chasing bubble after bubble in an illusive quest of wealth. This erosion of savings was compounded by relentless tax cuts in favor of the rich. With the nefarious effect that the bulk of the country’s economy was diverted in the hands of a small group of majority shareholders, fund managers and CEO’s.
John Perkins, the author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, reveals some startling statistics:
Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; of those, 47 are U.S.-based
The overall share of federal taxes paid by U.S. corporations is now less than 10 percent, down from 21 percent in 2001 and over 50 percent during World War II; one-third of America’s largest and most profitable corporations paid zero taxes ─ or actually received credits ─ in at least one of the last three years (according to Forbes magazine).
Back in 1980 the average American chief executive earned 40 times as much as the average manufacturing employee. For the top tier of American CEOs, the ratio is now 475:1 and would be vastly greater if assets, in addition to income, were taken into account. By way of comparison, the ratio in Britain is 24:1, in France 15:1, in Sweden 13:1.
Pre-Civil War slaves received room and board; wages paid by the sweatshops that today serve many U.S. industries will not cover the most basic needs.
In the beginning of the US Republic, only men who owned property could vote. Today the rulers of the “ownership society” determine the outcome of an election. The process of cartelization and concentration of power is such that both parties are subservient to a corporatist agenda. And even if the majority of Congressmen and women are honest people, and we believe they are, only a minority of controlled swing votes can determine the outcome of important legislation favorable to special interests or big business.
In the US, the corporation is considered a legal person. And all corporations have a similar legal structure and abide by the same accounting rules and practices. Corporations may sell or produce different things but in respect to their legal structure, they are one similar legal entity ─person. The agglomeration of different mega-corporations is depicted here as a bundle and represents one incorporated body, subverting and denigrating by its unabated growth the essence of the human being.
As noted, this legal person is not a human being. Although they have the same rights as a regular citizens their responsibilities toward society or nature can be bypassed through lobbying. Civil duties could be deferred indefinitely by putting their enormous financial resources into endless litigation or by declaring bankruptcy and morphing into another corporate entity.
It should be stressed that the corporation plays an essential part in our economic development and is beneficial to society as a whole. However, we make a distinction here between the good corporation and a malignant corporatism. When the corporation becomes bloated through mergers and acquisitions and eliminates competition and diversity with the help of derivatives, then it becomes counter evolutionary. When these bundle-corporations align themselves together with the government and the war industry, they can become a malignant threat to civilization.
Since the Reagan years the process of cartelization of big business has been steady and relentless. The US citizen is loosing more and more of his rights and is now relegated to a gentile consumer. The President has become but a disposable mask of the incorporated body. His role relegated to the perception management of desinformocracy and the false advertising of democracy.
One must remember that US corporatism is also subsidized by a powerful US arms industry used to expand its corporatist agenda. Yet the bulk of the military expenditure are paid for by taxes levied on the ordinary citizen. And so are the casualties of war. History reveals that the economic survival of an empire rests on the ability to tax other nations not its own people.
Furthermore, the great leaps of technology made over the centuries are now being used to enforce a regressive corporate tribalism. One of the most overlooked consequences of the process of cartelization is the induction of a corporate feudalism. These new corporate kingdoms represent a devolution of human governance. They reinstate tribalism at the expense of universal principles of human rights developed during a long and arduous road to implement democracy.
Consequently, corporatism is defined as a political agenda to organize society in the image of the “corporation” or an artificial person, in order to override the sovereignty of the citizen: all for the benefit of the majority shareholder. Minimizing the autonomy of nations and creating in the process the Investor State.
We owe the term corporatism to an Italian philosopher named Giovanni Gentile who defined it as the “the merger of state and corporate power”. In retrospect the fascist era can be summarized as an alliance of corporate interests represented by the Church in Rome, the aristocracy who had shifted its wealth from feudal to corporate share holding, a rising and powerful group of industrial entrepreneurs (heavy machinery and armaments) and the anointing of a charismatic leader, in this case a former journalist and socialist, chosen to unify and consolidate the geographical boundaries of the state in order to control and delineate an economic market for the benefit of the corporatist body. Once in power Mussolini rebelled against the ruling powers that anointed him. This led to the unraveling of the fascist power scheme and the liberation, or the invasion depending on who you ask, by the US.
My father who was briefly in the Italian forces during the war still has fond memories of Il Duce, because he explains: “He instilled discipline in Italians”. He omits to add that he also instigated Italy’s collapse. Mussolini however, did leave one lasting legacy: Italian trains to this day run on time.
An Italian proverb was created after Mussolini’s death and it goes like this: “Those who are always right and never admit to being wrong will end up hanging upside down in piazza Loreto”
Debbie W., Richmond, CA
Extremely Interesting Read. Deeply researched account of the symbols om the US dollar.
I’ve always been curious about the symbols on the one dollar bill and the little book explains them well. Highly recommend this read.
Peter O., Santa Fe, NM
Good and entertaining… This book is full of historical facts about the symbols on the dollar. You won’t be bored reading it. The author keeps delivering relevant info till the end. And once you’re done reading the book, you’ll never look at the dollar the same way again.
L. K. M., Seattle, WA
Great read! Extremely well researched writing of the history, symbols and makeup of the US currency.
After reading the book you will love the tender you exchange everyday. Highly recommend.
R. S., Santa Monica, CA
Well researched book on the symbols of our currency. Very interesting and revealing aspects behind the history of our currency.
Joanne A., Novato, CA
Everything you ever wanted to know about the one dollar bill. This book explains all the symbols on the one dollar. Who knew it was so detailed? Very interesting!
M.J.B., San Diego, CA
Great Read! Well researched, packed with interesting facts about the US dollar. Quick read.
Carl L., San Francisco, CA
If you’re curious as to how the symbols found on the US dollar came to be, look no further than
Michael Rizzotti’s well researched book. In addition to providing the reader with the history and context, the author expands on related subjects such as the Federal Reserve and the dollar’ s evolution to becoming the reserve currency of the world. All in all, a good, well written read.
Ricky I., Palm Desert, CA
Interesting and Detailed. A unique and well researched explanation and interpretation of the symbols we have all seen on ou US dollar. Mr. Rizzotti vividly introduces us to the history of the symbols; and quite interesting interpretations on how and or why these symbols were included on the dollar.