One of the ramifications of a very Eurocentric approach to history is that cross cultural interactions are greatly minimized. My view of history in many ways parallels Shakespeare’s line from Julius Caesar:
There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
Europe, Africa, as well as the Near and Far East have been for centuries very well connected. It common that one civilization plants an ideological seed in another’s soil. With a right amount of care, and attention these transplanted seeds may blossom. This is an important consideration to keep me mind as we sift through the debris of the past in our attempt to understand how we have at this moment i
In a past blog post: Why it Doesn’t Work So well: Horny mystics, The Love Ideal West, and my fucking Lucky Charms, I wrote about the romantic Love Ideal the West has taken up. The Crusades brought the West and the Islamic Civilization in closer contact. I’d like to add to that here:
Professor Hitti and others are fully persuaded of the Arab origins of the troubadors : “The troubadors . . . resembled Arab singers not only in sentiment and character but also in the very forms of their minstrelsy . Certain titles which these Provencal singers gave to their songs are but translations from Arabic titles.” P. Hitti, History o f the Arabs, New York, 1951, p . 6oo .
The troubadors sang of love, and the beloved. They depicted love to be this wild passionate affair that drove one mad. They spoke of love for love’s sake. However, one thing many troubadours and their admirers didn’t grasp was that these song had a mystical dimension to them. The mystics of the time codified their experiences with certain words and images. The work of Henry Wilberforce Clark comes to mind. I believe it was his seminal work: An Account Of Sufi Mysticism: With a Glossary of Esoteric Terms Elucidating the Secrets of the Sufi Orders that brought this codified system to light in the early 1900’s I believe. To make a long story short, implicit to these love poems or songs was the idea that human love wasn’t an end in and of itself it was a vehicle to something greater. The West in the cross cultural exchange fixated on human love being an end in an of itself neglected its deeper mystical connections. In fact, Western mystical traditions focus on sexual abstinence and a withdrawal away from life as opposed to living our passions.
European chivalric tradition also didn’t happen in isolation. They were influenced heavily by the mystical practices of the Middle East and Persia. As described by a popular Sufi figure in the West Dr Javad Nurbakhsh
The tradition of chivalry involved consideration for others, self-sacrifice, devotion, the helping of the unfortunate and unprotected, kindness towards all created beings, keeping one’s word and self-effacement – all qualities that were later to emerge as the noble attributes of the perfect human being from the point of view of Sufism. In addition to these attributes of a true human being, the chevaliers were committed to a particular code of etiquette and conventions, from which the main objective and principles of chivalry or javanmardi were derived.
Again, the West got the code of etiquette and convention but not the mystical understanding which animated it. At its heart Chivalry was a practice designed to help instill the spiritual insights into the unity of all created beings beyond form and duality. I will not go into all that mystical stuff or the principles of the unity of Being , mystical practice and all that jazz because no one gives a shit. I just want to make the case that what we call chivalry isn’t chivalry. Rahter is is a vestige of a poorly understood tradition.
Chivalry in it original form was based in the mystical experience of unity in all created beings. It was not Gynocentric, because in mystical experience on unity transcends gender and our dualistic categorizations. When it comes to chivalry we have inherited the chafe not the wheat. Furthermore one of the many causes of divorce is idealism in relationships not grounded in reality. “Research shows that couples who believe in the concept of “soul mates” are at much higher risk of disenchantment, conflict, and divorce. Couples who hold the more traditional view of marriage being based on a lifelong mutual commitment are happier, fight less, and are more likely to stay together.” The ideals we hold on to greatly affect our behaviors. I tend to believe that the pervasiveness of this unbalance romantic ideal in the media sets influences thought and behavior. I have always felt that reintroducing the historical context to certain cultural ideology can serve as a means to help us re-examine how we are living and why we hold what we hold to be true and stuff yeah that’s it
PS – I was writing a book of sorts on something and heavily involved into this moment in history and cross cultural exchange so if somethign inst clear lemme know.