Today is St. George’s Day, the national day of England, Aragon & Portugal, Greece, and Russia (literally the Four Corners of Europe). The real dragon that the historical St. George slew was not a scaly monster with wings but (in effect) the last gasp of Pagan imperialism and imperial taxation for the ancient Gods in Rome. He was a nobleman who died a noble death for the highest of all causes: preservation of his own faith, morals, philosophy, and religion.
George’s father, Gerontios, was a Greek, from Cappadocia, Asia Minor, a high officer in the Roman army of the Eastern Empire and his mother, Polychronia, was a Greek from the city Lydda, Palestine. George’s parents were both pre-Nicene, pre-Imperial adoption Roman Christians and from noble families of Anici, so their child was raised with Christian beliefs, although it is probably fair to say that Christian beliefs of the late 3rd century might have included a lot of what we now consider “Gnostic” and other heresies. His parents decided to call the future saint by a rather humble name: Georgios, which in Greek means “earth-worker” or “farmer”.
No records attest or even suggest St. George’s birthdate or exact age, but “as a young man,” sometime in his early-to-mid twenties, before A.D. 302, George traveled to Nicomedia (now Turkish “Izmit” by the Sea of Marmara), the imperial city of the Eastern Roman Empire (from 284-324, just until the foundation of Constantinople). There in what was then the Primary Center of the collapsing Roman Empire, George offered his services to the Eastern Roman Emperor Diocletian and applied for a commission in the Roman Army, specifically the late imperial version of the Praetorian Guard. Diocletian welcomed this young nobleman, apparently quite warmly, as the Imperator had known George’s father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.
In the year AD 302, Diocletian (following his junior imperial co-regent Emperor Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice (tax or offering of some sort) to the ancient Roman gods still prominent at the time. A Christian himself, George son of Gerontius objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Roman Emperors, presumably, did not much like their edicts to be questioned, since their edicts were law. (The current President of the United States feels much the same way).
George’s actions put Diocletian in a pickle, however. George was either his best or one of his best tribunes and the son of either his best or one of his best officials, Gerontius.
In what can only be called an act of Anarchism and Defiance of Leadership, George loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian sought to convert George, to “save” him as it were for Apollo, Jupiter, Juno, and Zeus, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if George would bow down and sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Emperor essentially offered George massive and generous bribes and benefits, which the saintly young Christian never accepted.
Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to haveGeorge executed for his defiance. But, just to make the Emperor’s situation worse, before his execution George gave all his not inconsiderable wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords from which George survived three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on April 23, 303.
A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. George’s body was returned to Lydda in Palestine for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr. So the Dragon that George slew in fact was the dragon of obedience in violation of his faith, of his God and of his Truth. St. George was a nobleman who followed no leader but Jesus Christ, although he might have been close in wealth to the Emperor had he consented to the bribery and pressure. So let us feast today in memory of St. George the Anarchist, whose defiant death as an Imperial Tribune, so close to the emperor, brought the triumph of Christianity in Rome one major step closer.
For all these reasons St. George was truly heroic and a model for our time, and his inheritance of the Ancient Indo-European mythic status as Dragon Slayer is altogether appropriate and fitting (see Calvert Watkins: How to Kill a Dragon Oxford University Press). It seems particularly appropriate to celebrate St. George one week after April 15, in honor and memory of all who in adherence to their faith in freedom and the Constitution to defy the illegal taxes and sacrifices required of them in these United States today.
In following Jesus Christ, St. George in fact died more as a Dragon himself than as a sheep—he died with full knowledge of the earthly riches and power he could have possessed, if only he had abandoned his Lord for his earthly leader.
And all of this happened on the Cusp of Aries & Taurus (Does History Make Myth or does Myth Make History?): Does the following astrological characterization (“randomly” selected not by me but by Google as the first listed) seem at all appropriate for a week commemorating Adolf Hitler, Cannabis sativa L., Earth Day, Good Shepherd Sunday, and St. George’s Day?:
“Often times referred to as the as the “cusp of power”, the Aries/Taurus combination is one you do not want to fight against. I say this because you may never win; a fire/earth combination is never easy to beat. Aries is a fiery and impulsive sign. They charge forward even where angels fear to tread and have no problem doing what needs to be done to obtain their objective. The Taurus part of this combination grounds the impulsiveness and provides an air of practicality and endurance. It is like a tug of war and the feel of both involved is set in concrete.
The Aries Taurus combination is truly dominant and capable of being a force you cannot control. Make no doubt, they will be a leader wherever they end up being and you will do their bidding. At home or even at work, they are the established principal and do not like submitting to someone else’s authority. At the same time, all of this ‘being the alpha’ of the group can also overwhelm them causing them to lose their drive or ambition. They begin to question if it is worth all their effort and skill. But for as strong as these two signs are, they are also very, very dangerous.
They are the first signs of the zodiac as well as their element and quality. Like many first signs you will always have a fight for lead position. They surround themselves with people who are not afraid to go toe to toe with them and don’t mind going that extra mile. They enjoy a challenge and love to be intellectually stimulated. As someone who loves an Aries Taurus cusp, you will need to be patient with them as they can be quarrelsome and changeable at the best of times, especially if you have their heart. You will get the brunt end of many aggressions because again, they expect you to be able to take it. If you can remember that they are likely to follow their instincts rather than rules, it might help you two get along better. As a person living within this cusp, you are a bundle of energy at the best of times. The Aries in you is ready to take on the world while the Taurus in you thinks great idea but let’s sit down and plan strategy before you attack. If you are unable to find your own personal balance you are left restless and stressed. Finding the proper balance takes time, trial and error. You have to find your own path, one where you can let your aggressive nature out to play while keeping certain things in life stable and relaxed.”
We’ll see what happens today, but so far Sunday, April 21 has been the most dramatic day of this “Cusp” for me, mostly because of what happened at Church. It was the Fourth Sunday of Easter and “Good Shepherd Sunday”—due to my own schedule and whereabouts on Sunday I ended up going to the evening service at the Trinity Church Chapel on Jackson Street instead of my usual trip to “Real Presence” at the Cathedral. The 6:00 pm service at Trinity is much more conservative and traditional than the radically “avant guarde” event at the same time at Christ Church on St. Charles.
The drama started immediately when the opening hymn was (Episcopal) 1982 Hymnal: 522 (Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken–http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/EH1982/522). The words are almost irrelevant: the tune, the music, is Franz Joseph Haydn Opus 76, no. 3: the world knows this as Deutschland über Alles. Interesting choice the day after Hitler’s birthday, don’t you think? To aggravate the complexity of the thought, and the coincidence. Father Henry Hudon’s sermon concerned “Leadership” concluding “the Good Shepherd is the one who leads his flock, whom his flock will follow willingly.” The Psalm was 23 of course:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Historically speaking, Adolf Hitler was not a “Good Shepherd” for Germany or the world. He did not lead them to green pastures or still waters but led Germany into near total self-anihilation by fighting a war that should never have been fought. Even if we consider that Hitler had been a Good Shepherd for Germany right up until September 1, 1939, the invasion of Poland ultimately led to the cancellation of any good thing he or his regime had ever done. Hitler did indeed lead the world into the valley of the shadow of death where everyone, both Germans and non-Germans, had much to fear in those days. Goodness and mercy were not notable features either of the Third Reich nor the World War, nor of the Allied Occupation of Germany which followed. The War Crimes Trials held in 1946-49 (and sporadically thereafter) are among the greatest mockeries of justice in history.
But none of this changes the fact that Hitler operated as a remarkably “Good Shepherd” in the sense of a persuasive leader—a man whom his people followed. Many in the Patriot movement criticize Americans for being “Sheeple”—and yet our religion, or symbolism, everything in Christianity teaches us that the Lamb of God should be the leader of all the sheep. The Gospel on Sunday was John 10:22-30 “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch them from out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
One of Hitler’s Harvard-educated followers Ernst Hanfstaengl once rhapsodized about the Nazi leader, “What Hitler was able to do to a crowd in 2½ hours will never be repeated in 10,000 years,” Hanfstaengl said. “Because of his miraculous throat construction, he was able to create a rhapsody of hysteria. In time, he became the living unknown soldier of Germany.” Hitler’s sheep knew his voice, but perhaps he did not know them. Hitler not only gave an early death rather than eternal life to a huge number of his people, especially a near generation and a half of the good-looking young German men pictured in film-clip after film-clip from the 1930s shouting “Sieg Heil.” What could be more ironic? Hitler’s personality followed very closely to the Aries-Taurus cusp described above. Was it written with Hitler in mind?
And herein is the deep and troubling problem: people crave leadership. They long for a “Good Shepherd.” This is not merely a feature of the German people at all. The Americans since at least 2000 have recently been led down several paths by two good and persuasive leaders whom they did not question. The paths on which the United States of America has walked since 2000 are clearly paths to tyranny, despotic dictatorship, and one form or another of Socialism or Communism which will be utterly incompatible with the Constitution of 1787, or its ten 1791 Amendments known as “the Bill of Rights.”
The comparisons between Bush, Hitler, and Obama may get tiresome, but they are not pointless. Very few people in the world are actually capable of living as true leaderless “anarchists.” I fancy that I am one of the few who can manage, in large part because I am my grandparents’ grandson, and I know a few other true “anarchists”, but most people long to be told what to do. While teaching I learned this: most students hate a professor who encourages them to go their own way and be creative. They want strict instructions and stricter guidelines.
Prior to the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, I had spent parts of Saturday meditating as I always do on the horrible incongruity of 420 being Adolf Hitler’s birthday and International Marijuana-Pot, “Cannabis sativa culture” day. I don’t smoke pot anymore (never did very much) but almost everyone else in the world does or seems to. I last smoked in July 1991, right here in New Orleans in fact at a party my wife Elena and I threw in the Mary Martin suite at the Pontchartrain Hotel, within a few blocks of where I’m sitting writing this in fact. Elena’s little sister Alex and a bunch of Maya archaeological luminaries attending the International Congress of Americanists including Clemency Chase Coggins, Merle Greene Robertson, David H. Kelley, Edward B. Kurjack, Norman Hammond, and Harriot Topsey, were having a great time lighting up in one of the rooms while others were sitting “talking shop” in another. Elena made a gigantic scene when she found her (underage) sister smoking in a room full of adults and told everyone the horrible study of her brother George and his decline due to drug addiction (he died nine years later in January 2010, at the ripe old age of 51). It was the beginning of the end for me and Elena but it was absolutely the last time I ever touched Pot.
Still, as an anarchist I believe in Freedom and the right of each individual to choose his way, and for that reason I support the 420 movement to the extent that it proposes an abolition of all government interference with both the production, sale, and distribution of whatever people really want, even if they are led to destructive habits by bad shepherds….. Yes, I do think part of freedom is the freedom to follow even Bush, even Hitler, even Obama, even Stalin, but it is the duty of every Anarchist to try to turn sheep into wolves…..
Earth Day has never been that “big” a day in my life. I was President of the Environmental Law Society at the University of Chicago and have always fancied myself an environmentalist. But in recent years, I have become extremely uncomfortable with the Environmental Movement largely because of its alliance with “Agenda 21″ and what Obama Czar “Cass Sunstein” (my former professor for both Environmental and Administrative Law at the University of Chicago) calls “Command and Control” state action. ”Command and Control” over the economy under PRETEXT of environmentalism is to my mind, totally wrong.
I submit that sound money is the best guarantor of sound economic policy. But for ludicrously extravagant government expenditures in the 1920s-1930s, none of the gigantic dams could ever have been built along the Colorado River and, without that hideous diversion of water, the ecological fiasco known as Southern California suburbia could NEVER have come into existence. Los Angeles might have remained a small railroad town. Although, pushing the model back further, the great railways of the 1860s-1890s which created (among other things) Los Angeles and Pasadena, would likewise never have happened if government had stayed limited and constrained by sound monetary policy and the Constitution of 1787, limited by the Bill of Rights. Dams are the greatest ecological and environmental curses known to the Planet, yet they provide short term comforts which people love. As I have often written, Dams are just the latest manifestation of “Oriental Despotism” which is the original form of state-based welfare, the original basis for welfare-based “command and control” over large populations. Ecologically speaking, NOTHING is more wasteful, destructive, and against nature than the water-redistributive policies which have transformed Southern California, Southern Nevada, and most of Central and Southern Arizona into suburban wastelands. Abolish the free credit easy money economy, restore gold and silver as the only lawful currency, and the dams will soon cease to function, have to be torn down, and the Southwestern Deserts will reclaim the suburbs, slowly but surely. That is MY dream for Earth Day.
But finally, will it take a real St. George to achieve such an ecological turn around? A modern St. George might well be the man who dismantles the dams. St. George, the Patron Saint of England, Greece, Aragon (Catalonia), Egypt, Lithuania, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia. St. George, by all accounts, was a leaderless Anarchist. He was NOT a Good Shepherd. He apparently did not lead people at all, but acted alone and set an example. I think this is why St. George is such an appropriate Patron Saint for England, and Americans would do well to think more of his example as well.