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For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 03

Monday, April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a repeatable dream back then, alas no longer ]
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What happens, in other words, when imagination enters factual reality?

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This doesn’t, as far as I can tell, heppen only in Christianity — Henry Corbin’s book, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi, if I read it right, narrates an apparition of Beauty in the life of the Sufi known to Islam as the Sheikh al-Akbar, the Greatest Sheikh.

In India I was taught that Valmiki wrote the Ramayana, and Vishnu liked it so well he took the avatar-form of Rama to live out the epid in Valmiki’s honor, amybe 10,000 years later, every last detail correct.

Folklore, no doubt?

I have my own experiences.

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When I was about eight or so, I had a recurring dream, in which I was walking in the (grassy) English countryside, and a series of holes began opening in the earth around and in front of me. They were roughly manhole-sized holes, and after I had avoided a couple of them, I fell down one of them, much like Alice.

I found myself in Hell. To be precise, I was in a sort of stable with a number of stalls off a corridor that linked them — with fires burning in the stalls. Someone tried to throw me on one of the fires, and I objected, telling them I was a friend of the management — so they went off someplace to check.

When they came back, they told me that I did in fact have the freedom of the whole place — and indicated to me that besides the stables with their fires, there were two further rooms, one of which was a vast granary filled with silver corn, the other a granary of golden corn.

I would wake up as I moved through those two other rooms — and if I woke without having had this dream, I would frequently burrow back under my sheets and covers and demand it. And it would come.

The dream gave me a distinct sense that I need “fear no evil” — that hell could not in the final analysis touch me. This was its gift to me at the time, and I find it amazing that this particular gift was engraven in my dreaming consciousness maybe thirty or more times over a period of a few impressionable years…

It also told me that I was a citizen of the two realms represented by the granaries of silver and golden corn. I take them to be lunar and solar granaries, and equate them with the realms of poetry and mysticism, respectively: or one might think of them as savikalpa and nirvikalpa, via positiva and via negativa, Broceliande and Jerusalem, the imaginal and the radiant.

It was also clear that all three realms belonged to that same “management” whose friendship I had claimed, and which allowed me the freedom of the three realms. I understood on reading Dante (and remembering the dream after a lapse of years) that all three realms are realms of the divine love.

So in some very real and important sense, the seeds were never mine…

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Well, that’s pure dream, with its waking content a way of moving through this world.

For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 02

Monday, April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — this is really the opening salvo, bracketing the ineffable ]
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Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

Did the Resurrection really happen?

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Here’s the key para from Tolkien:

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

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What happens, in other words, when imagination enters factual reality?

For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 01

Monday, April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron –with breath, thinking this through ]
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It seems to me that there are two chewable questions in all seriousness:

Does God Exist?

To which it seems to me that the only answer would be something along the line of this:

A roaring silence, in other words, which somehow worked itself out like this in the mind of one Franz Liszt — and he must have been pretty shaken by the end of it..

For the record, it’s my sense that if St Gregory of Nyssa had had a taste for Liszt and access to YouTube, he might have said much the same.. One cannot predicate existence of God, but one can experience revelation, eh?

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Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

Did the Resurrection really happen?

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REVIEW: Commander of the Faithful by John Kiser

Friday, March 30th, 2018

[Mark Safranski / “zen‘]

Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader by John Kiser  

A while back, I received a copy of Commander of the Faithful from friend of ZP, Major Jim Gant who had been impressed with the book and urged me to read it. My antilibrary pile of books is substantial and it took a while to work my way towards it. I knew a little about Algerian colonial history from reading about the French Third Republic, the Foreign Legion and counterinsurgency literature but the name of Abd el-Kader was obscure to me.  The author, John W. Kiser, had also written a book on the martyred Monks of Tibhirine, a topic that had previously caught the eye of Charles Cameron and made a significant impression. Therefore, I settled in to read a biography of a long forgotten desert Arab chieftain.

What a marvelous book!

Kiser’s fast-moving tale is of a man who attempted to forge from unwieldy tribes and two unwilling empires, a new nation grounded in an enlightened Islam that transcended tribal customs ad corrupt legacies of Ottoman misrule while resisting encroachments of French imperial power. A Sufi marabout who was the son of a marabout, el Kader was the scholar who picked up the sword and whose call to jihad eschewed cruelty and held that piety and modernity were compatible aspirations for the feuding tribes of the Mahgreb. There are a number of themes or conflicts in Commander of the Faithful that will interest ZP readers;

el-Kader’s political effort to build a durable, modernizing, Islamic state and Mahgreb nation from feuding desert tribes and clans

Abd el-Kader struggled to unify disparate Arab tribes and subtribes through piety, generosity and coercion while integrating Turco-Arabs and Algerian Jews who had a place under the old Ottoman regime into his new order. Jews like the diplomat Judas Ben Duran and Christian French former military officers and priests became  el-Kader’s trusted advisers and intermediaries alongside Arab chieftains and Sufi marabouts.

el-Kader the insurgent strategist and battlefield tactician

As a military leader, Abd el-Kader demonstrated both a natural talent for cavalry tactics as well as the organizational skill to build a small, but well-disciplined regular infantry with modern rifles on the European model. It is noteworthy, that while Abd el-Kader suffered the occasional reverse (the worst at the hands of a wily Arab warlord loyal to the French) the French generals fighting him all came to grudgingly respect his bravery, honor and skill. Never defeated, Abd el-Kader made peace with the French and surrendered voluntarily; all of his former enemies, Generals Lamoriciere, Damaus, Bugeaud and Changarnier interceded on al-Kader’s behalf to prod the French government to keep its promises to the Amir, who had become a celebrity POW in a series of French chateaus.

el-Kader the Islamic modernizer and moral figure

The 19th century was a time of intellectual ferment in the Islamic world from Morocco to British India with the prime question being the repeated failures of Islamic authorities in the face of European imperialism of the modern West. El-Kader found different answers than did the Deobandis of India, the Wahhabis of Arabia, the later Mahdists of the Sudan, the followers of al-Afghani or the Young Turks who began turning toward secularism. Educated in the Sufi tradition, el-Kader’s vision of Islam, while devout and at times strict, encompassed a benevolent tolerance and respect for “the People of the Book” and general humanitarianism far in advance of the times that is absent in modern jihadism.

It was Abd el-Kader, in retirement in Damascus, who rallied his men to protect thousands of Christians from being massacred in a bloody pogrom (the 1860 Riots) organized by the Ottoman governor, Ahmed Pasha, using as his instrument two local Druze warlords who were angry about their conflict with the Maronite Christians of Mount Lebanon and Sunni Arabs and Kurds enraged about the Ottoman reforms that had ended the dhimmi status of the Maronite Christians. It was the Emir who faced down and chastised a howling mob as bad Muslims and evildoers and by his actions thousands of lives were spared. Already honored for his chivalrous treatment of prisoners and his banning of customary decapitation as barbarous, the 1860 Riots cemented Abd El-Kader’s reputation for humanitarianism and made him an international figure known from the cornfields of Iowa to the canals of St. Petersburg.

Kiser, who it must be said keeps the story moving throughout, is at pains to emphasize the exemplary moral character of Abd el-Kader. As Emir, he “walked the walk” and understood the connection between his personal asceticism, probity and generosity to his enemies and the poor and his political authority as Emir. When some Arab tribes betrayed Abd El-Kader in a battle against the French, consequently they were deeply shamed and ended up begging the Emir to be allowed to return to his service. On the occasions when harsh punishments had to be dealt out, Abd el-Kader meted them not as examples of his cruelty to be feared but as examples of justice to deter unacceptable crimes that he would swiftly punish.  This is operating at what the late strategist John Boyd called “the moral level of war”, allowing Abd el-Kader to attract the uncommitted, win over observers, rally his people and demoralize his opponents. Even in defeat, realizing the hopelessness of his position against the might of an industrializing great imperial power that was France. el-Kader retained the initiative, ending the war while he was still undefeated and on honorable terms.

In Commander of the Faithful, Kiser paints el-Kader in a romantic light, one that fits the mid 19th century when concepts of honor and chivalry still retained their currency on the battlefield and society, among the Europeans as much as the Emir’s doughty desert tribesmen (if there is any group that comes off poorly, it is the Turks, the dying Ottoman regime’s pashas and beys providing a corrupt and decadent contrast to el-Kader’s nascent Islamic state). The nobility of Abd el-Kader shines from Kiser’s text, both humble and heroic in a manner that rarely sees a 21st century analogue. It is both refreshing and at times, moving to read of men who could strive for the highest ethical standards while engaged in the hardest and most dangerous enterprise.

Strongly recommended.

 

Return to form

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on the East Coast at least, this can pass for a Thanksgiving greeting ]
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I’ve been away sick for a while, with no notes on form, paradox, quincunx etc — but on my return, couldn’t resist this medieval ouroborus of a cat, courtesy Emily Stein

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On the games politics gets compared with, we’ve seen various dimensions of chess, go, and also multi-game mixes such as Alasdair MacIntyre‘s assessment that we’re in a game where “moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net” — or CalvinBall.

At the opposite end of complexity is simplicity, and there’s no simplicity to compare with PacMan, surely. and as WaPo noted a short while back:

One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller’s team “working through the staff like Pac-Man.”

That’s pretty cool — but is it as cool as Trump’s own use of Hillary-PacMan from a while ago:

— and note that Trump also used PokemonGO in his campaign.

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And myself? I’m hoping to return to form, too, slowly. It’s great to have a computer after a year without.

I expect David Ronfeldt has noted the increasing usw of “tribal om MSNBC and elsewhere, though I’ve mainly seen it on TV without time to rewind & verify, take notes, etc. It has seemed quite remarkable to me, and I wonder whether Jim Gant or David have seen the same.

Greetings, all, Happy Thanksgiving — let’s talk, let’s stir the pot!


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