Friday, January 18, 2013

The queer bird’s fate

By Dr. Lucio F. Teoxon Jr.

There is an interesting but little known story of a royal falcon that looked so different from others that the King’s minister decided to trim its claws, beak and wings. “Now you look like a decent bird,” said the man. “Obviously, your keeper has been neglecting you.”

History is replete with stories of individuals who suffered persecution, imprisonment or death simply because they chose to be unlike others or pursued their own vision uncompromisingly in defiance of conventions or authority.

Socrates was made to drink hemlock for remaining the way he was: a gadfly who made his fellow Athenians uncomfortable by pressing them into the realization that, for all their pretensions to the contrary, their fond beliefs or opinions were in fact without solid basis. His no-nonsense search for the truth earned him their displeasure and they falsely charged him with impiety to the Greek gods and corrupting the minds of the youth in ancient Athens.

Jesus was crucified for tapping into cosmic consciousness from which vantage point he declared that he and the Father are one. The Jews, particularly the scribes and priests whose knowledge about God was chiefly derived from books and in thralldom to their unenlightened minds, accused him of blasphemy, an offense punishable in their canons by death.

Both of them were given trial, or rather the semblance of a trial. They were meted out the sentence of death. Socrates died a martyr to the love of wisdom; Jesus died as a ransom for the sins of the world.

Jesus’ vicars in the person of the grand inquisitors were to commit similar crimes by consigning to the flames whomsoever they branded as heretics. The case of the great iconoclastic scholar and philosopher Giordano Bruno is well known. He was burned alive at the stake in Rome in 1600. His crime? He advanced the idea of an infinite universe and postulated the possible existence of an infinite number of worlds inhabited, like this one, with intelligent beings. He prophetically envisioned space travel and what we now dub as intergalactic odyssey.

Even Galileo, who sought to prove Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, would have suffered the dire fate of incarceration had he not the prudence to recant what the Holy See then regarded as heresy in blatant opposition to the authority of the Scriptures. Still, during his formal abjuration he muttered under his breath, “Nevertheless, it moves.” Meaning that the earth moves round the sun. For the rest of his life he was placed under house arrest in Florence.

Also lamentable was Baruch Spinoza’s misfortune. Called the God-intoxicated philosopher, his unorthodox thinking ran counter to the theistic beliefs of the Old Testament. He questioned the many contradictions in the Bible, the basis of the Jewish Torah. In his philosophic flights, God is conceived as the essence underlying reality, phenomenal nature or the cosmos. Both mind and matter are attributes of the Divine substance. Hence, Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish Synagogue of Amsterdam. He was anathematized by the Jewish community in Holland and from the people of Israel.

In contemporary times, there is the sad story of the Jesuit priest-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He held that the evolutionary movement of the human phenomenon heads toward superconsciousness. This is the birth of the ultra-human, the Omega point in which the human and the Divine converge. His vision is a grand marriage of evolution and mysticism, of science and religion. But in his lifetime he was forbidden to publish his works. To a writer and thinker, what greater injustice and pain could there be?

That is the grim reality of intolerance in the realm of philosophy and religion.

Equally virulent, if not more so, is it in the social and political domains. On a massive scale at that. Any person or group of persons going against the grain is marginalized if not totally ostracized. Anybody who does not toe the line nor abide by the official doctrine ends up in concentration camps or else summarily liquidated.

Remember the purges of communists by fellow communists under Stalin? Or the Gulag Archipelago? Or Fort Santiago? Or Fort Bonifacio? Remember Kintanar? Or Tabara? You can add to the list what you will.

The academia where academic freedom is supposed to sustain the life of the intellect is not spared. Even right there, irrational prejudice and bigotry are just as rampant. Any local literatus knows Jose Garcia Villa who was expelled from U.P. for writing what was then considered as “obscene” poetry.

Again, we can multiply ad infinitum the instances. Why, oh why is this the case? Who will save us from ourselves?

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