Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tavener on the eternal feminine

During June (sorry it's taken me a month to mention it), several newspapers published reports of the premieres of "The Beautiful Names," a setting of the 99 names of God by the leading Maryami musician, Sir John Tavener. The piece was commissioned by the Prince of Wales, and performed in London at Westminster Cathedral, and then in Istanbul at Agia Eirene (see picture).

Among all the press coverage, almost the only article to note a Traditionalist element was in The Economist, which mentioned "a school of thought which maintains that all rigorously followed religious traditions somehow converge at the 'summit.'" No other report got even that far--save for The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins.

Higgins dug deeper, and in a fascinating interview (June 11, 2007) Tavener refers to a vision he once had of Frithjof Schuon and explains about the transcendent unity of religions and the kali yuga (though he doesn't use the terms). Most interesting, however, is what he has to say about "the eternal feminine."

After telling Higgins about "a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary would appear, always naked" (the visionary's name is not given, but it can only have been Schuon), Tavener remarked:

I think our society at the moment - because I am a great critic of modernism - is very masculine-oriented, and the art I see and hear around me has gone beyond masculinity, it doesn't even possess the dignity of being masculine any longer. It is very aggressive and violent. And the feminine dimension is what everyone could do with having a good dose of.
This is somewhat closer to Aristasia than most Maryamis . . .

He added:

Even the prophet Mohammed said that the things that were most pleasing to him in this world were women and perfumes. I think women actually have that effect on me. Every woman I have known has actually deepened my spiritual awareness. Even if I have been a selfish man and treated them badly.

Dances in Bloomington

A correspondent has drawn my attention to what looks like a must-read article that I have so far missed, Hugh Urban's "A Dance of Masks: The Esoteric Ethics of Frithjof Schuon," (in Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism, G. William Barnard and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds, New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2002, pp.406-40).

According to the introduction, Hugh Urban examines the most controversial of the Maryami practices in Bloomington--dances involving "sacred nudity."

The introduction says,

Urban not only analyzes the symbolism of this ritual and its purported links with the Sun Dance of the Sioux, but also discusses how Schuon legitimized this unorthodox ritual behavior by distinguishing between the exoteric, conventional level of ordinary understanding and morality, and the esoteric, transmoral level of knowledge and action granted to those who have been initiated into a higher Truth.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Romanian Traditionalist of interest

Marco Toti, in his paper on "La globalisation du ”traditionalisme”. Quelques tendances de la philosophia perennis (États-Unis, Roumanie, Italie)" (given at the CESNUR conference in Bordeaux, June 7-9, 2007) has drawn attention to a previously unnoticed Romanian Traditionalist, or at least semi-Traditionalist, Andre Scrima (1925-2000).

In his youth Scrima was a member of Rugul Aprins, a group of Romanian monks and laymen considered by Michel Vâlsan to be an authentic form of Christian esoterism. Later, Scrima attended the Second Vatican Council as an observer on behalf of Archbishop Athenagoras of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church.

Toti's main source is E. Montanari, La fatica del cuore. Saggio sull’ascesi esicasta (Milan, 2003), pp. 117-128. He is publishing an article, "Morfologia religiosa ed ermeneutica nel "Padre Spirituale" di A. Scrima," in Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 74, no. 1 (2008).

Comments welcome: Marco Toti, marco76toti@yahoo.it