The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
May 2012 – Vol. 15 Issue 3
The Eastside Friends Meeting (Quakers) will be hosting “Films of Peace and Consequence” on the first three Saturdays of May at 7 p.m. in support of Truce 2012, a global ceasefire planned for the International Day of Peace this September 21. On May 5 they will show Peace One Day, Part 3, a documentary by Jeremy Gilley, showing how he advocated for having the UN International Day of Peace be on a fixed day, September 21 (45 minutes); on May 12, A Force More Powerful, part 1 (85 minutes); with part 2 on May 19. This history of nonviolence demonstrates how the spread of democracy in the 20th century "would not have come to pass without the power of ordinary people who defied oppressive rulers not by force of arms, but by nonviolent action," if only because, as philosopher Hannah Arendt noted, "In a contest of violence against violence, the superiority of the government has always been absolute." Part one covers nonviolent campaigns for Indian independence, US Civil Rights, and ending South African apartheid, while part 2 covers Danish resistance against the Germans in WW II, Poland’s Solidarity movement, and Chilean protests against General Pinochet.
Eastside Friends Meeting is located at 4160 158th Ave. SE, Bellevue. Movies and peace activities will be available for children during the films; if bringing children please RSVP to EFMemail@gmail.com so kids activities can be planned.
“Let’s get to know each other!” is the aim of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound’s new monthly interfaith series “Many Cultures, One Community” which began on April 17th with a well-attended program. Several Branch members enjoyed a delicious dinner, conversation, and the movie Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on the Gallup Organization’s six-year study of Muslim communities in forty predominantly Muslim nations and among Western Muslim populations. Gallup conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with a cross section of residents – urban and rural, young and old, men and women, educated and illiterate – to get an accurate picture of the views of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide. Western media typically report only the views and acts of a small group of political and religious extremists, much less than 1% of the Islamic population, and of authoritarian governments. The majority of Muslims, however, support free speech, democracy, equality of men and women, and human rights, although percentages differ by country. They also affirm the importance of religion in their lives and favor continuing their traditional legal systems rooted in Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence. Their opinions of Western nations vary greatly and are tied to those nations’ policies and their impact on the Islamic world. The findings of this poll are also discussed and analyzed in the 2007 book Who Speaks for Islam? by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed.
Next month the series continues on May 15, 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. at 17550 NE 67th Court, Redmond, with dinner and Arranged, Best Film at both the Berkshire and Brooklyn International Film Festivals in 2007. The movie centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. So that plans can be made for seating and dinner, please register in advance at tinyurl.com/MCOC512 .
On the second Wednesday evening of each month, the Bellevue Bahá’ís welcome the community to their beautiful auditorium to relax and enjoy readings from indigenous, ancient and modern faiths and wisdom traditions from around the world. The free program also includes music and artfully presented photographic slides. The next Soul Food program on May 9 will center on the theme “No Beginning, No End.” Martin Leguizamon, an Argentinean-born guitarist, will be the evening’s featured musician. The program takes place at the Eastside Bahá’í Center, 16007 NE 8th St., Bellevue, at 7:30 pm, and refreshments are served at 8:30. Contact soulfoodWA@gmail.com or call (425) 260-3104 for more information.
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under the trees in the woods,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place. – Walt Whitman
On April 12 several Branch members heard archeologist Bonna Wescoat speak at the University of Washington on “Passage and Perception in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Samothrace.” A volcanic island in the northwest Aegean Sea, Samothrace is 20 miles long but rises to a mile in height. Near the Macedonian coast and within sight of ancient Troy, it was associated with many heroes and Troy’s royal house.
Today these Mysteries of the Great Gods still keep their secrets. Even classical authors disagreed about who and how many were the Great Gods and say almost nothing about what initiates did and saw. We know that the initiations were open to men and women, free or slave, of all nations. The benefits of initiation were said to be preservation of life, especially at sea, and an increase in piety and justice.
In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC the sacred center was transformed from a modest regional shrine dating to the 7th century BC into an international Mystery center second only to that at Eleusis near Athens. Philip II of Macedonia, conqueror of Greece and father of Alexander the Great, spent considerable time at Samothrace and in 340 BC completed a large initiation hall built on the old ritual center. Through the centuries further buildings were added (see map) and rites continued until the complex was destroyed by a devastating earthquake around 200 AD. Today no buildings remain standing, but fortunately the Greeks custom-made each stone for its spot in such structures, so that if the stones remain, the building can be reconstructed physically or in plan like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. In this way scholars have discovered what the complex looked like at the time of its destruction.
Dr. Wescoat said the site at Samothrace has a sacred, electric feeling even today, similar to the atmosphere found at Delphi. At many other sacred places, such as Delphi or the Acropolis, pilgrims ascended ever upward to a sacred culmination at the site’s highest point. The complex at Samothrace, however, is in a cleft in the hills containing three seasonal streams, with the sea to the south. Initiates entered from the eastern hill after nightfall though building 20 and went down a ramp to an amphitheater (#19) for an introductory ceremony. They then descended the narrow sacred way behind building 18 into the valley, where they were initiated in the great hall (#14), two long rooms lined with wooden benches. One of the few clues to the rites is that the hall contained two large statues of Hermes, the god who led the dead to Hades. After further ceremonies involving buildings 12 and 13, the now-initiated crossed the western river to dine and sleep (#8) in the area outside the sacred space. At dawn they returned up the sacred way, leaving through building 20, facing the rising sun. Unlike at Eleusis, both the lesser initiation (myesis or closing of eyes) and the greater (epopteia, opening of eyes) could be taken in the same visit. Dr. Wescoat believes this may be because Samothrace was more challenging to reach. Another difference from Eleusis was that the names of the Great Gods and the rites themselves were in a non-Greek language. The experience made a powerful impression, forging strong bonds among those who underwent the rituals together. Returning home, many joined local chapters of Samothracian initiates, suggestive to me of Masonic lodges.
Dr. Wescoat and her team have created computer simulations of the passage of the initiates through the sacred complex which show the site and buildings very accurately from eye level, and give a real feeling for the ancient experience. Like most successful religious rites, it was good theater, looking very mysterious and imposing by torchlight. We will probably never know what the initiates saw and learned, but can at least enjoy an ever fuller understanding of the site itself.