Friday, December 17, 2010

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The 4th Awakening

21 The Clerics Win a Pyrrhic Victory

The Herrnhuters were repressed to put a stop to rising self-consciousness among proto-Estonians and proto-Latvians.

While some historians say that the Herrnhuter movement came to a halt effective 1840 (due to running out of steam according to some), my great-grandfather and others kept it going in the Vidzeme part of Latvia. In my great-grandfather’s case, he kept the Herrnhuters active in the vicinity of Taurene, Bānūžu Manor, where he was manager. Interestingly, his title was not that of ‘vagars’, a name often associated with brutal overseers of farm workers, but ‘starasts’, the name distinguishing the bearer as one worthy to be ‘star east’ or the star of advent). Even after the inn he leased (Mūru krogs) was burnt down in the early 1860s and after he died (1868), he was remembered by the local people as starasts and his wife was referred to as the wife of starasts.

As I have mentioned in blog 8, the inn may not have burnt down (as told later) as a result of my great-grandmother making candles over a hot kitchen stove, but as an act of arson by forces unknown to stop this one Herrnhuter lay preacher who would not quit preaching.

Like many violent events that for one reason or another go unrecorded and receive interpretations contrary to fact, the blame for the burning of “Mūru krogs” inn was passed to my great-grandmother. She kept the secret by saying nothing. One reason for thinking that she was not to be blamed for the fire is that she is not known to have ever blamed herself for it. The one comment she did make was that her infant son had to be wrapped in a sheepskin for lack of other garments. Apparently it was winter (perhaps before Christmas), because Abiņa is reported to have commented: “He (her son) was wee shivering”.

Grandfather also never blamed his mother for the fire, but collaborated in the lie (my assumption), because if one wished to get ahead in life in those days, one had to be a Lutheran and not a Herrnhuter. Even so, in his approach to everyday living—in spite of becoming a teacher and choir director with kudos, and later the founder and distinguished editor-in-chief of Latvia’s best known newspaper, grandfather ever stayed the lay teacher. One may presume that the latter is the reason why his relationship with the editorial staff of the newspaper and newspaper readers was never that of a cleric vis a vis church members, but a lay leader vis a vis a community. This is not to say that he did not have the occasional role of an intermediary-cleric (laity > cleric > God) between the newspaper staff and publisher, the latter the woman he married in a second marriage when he was past sixty.

That this kind of conflict (Lutheran vs Herrnhuter) may result in a misinterpretation of history is well known to Latvians who until twenty years ago lived in Soviet Latvia. This is to say that if under repressive circumstances one wished to get ahead with a career, at one time one had to be a Lutheran, at another time a Communist Party member.

Unpleasant and self-compromising compromises have dogged both proto-Latvians and their descendants to this day. In the case of the present, the role of the Lutheran clerics—a role the Herrnhuters were opposed to—has been taken over by the Latvian Saeima. In other words, where as the Herrnhuter order of the universe was man and Visums (or God), under the neoChristian order it was man > clergy > God. Today the clergy has been replaced by the parliament (Saeima in Latvian). Not surprisingly, in practice this order becomes that of a partidocratic democracy (=party democracy and/or partial democracy). The frequent observation among the public that the Saeima-Parliament legislates without a vision of a future for Latvia (and refuses to finance a study of alternative possibilities) is proof par excellence that the government at this time is an institution that exists only for the sake of itself and the interests of its lobbies.

The Pyrrhic victory (at least from my point of view) of the Lutheran church over the Herrnhuters in the 1860s had immediate and unanticipated consequences. Having brought proto-Latvians to self-consciousness, the repression of the Herrnhuters did not automatically effect the squelching of nascent nationalism and the repressors’ (tsarist Russia, German barony, Lutheran clergy) victory. Indeed, the repression turned into something of a paradox: the awakened proto-Latvians could be appeased (and fooled) only by replacing the numerous German pastors with Latvian pastors. Thus, we are now told that it was the Lutheran clergy that had such an important role in the development of national consciousness in Latvia.

Let us now return to our proto-Latvian story, which is a parable of the proto-Latvian Children of Johns become a fairy tale. It brings us once again to the subject of mimesis as desire, a very strange desire indeed, one which causes us to go hang ourselves over and over again.

The Story of Crazy Jane and Clever John, Part 2 as retold by
© Eso Anton Benjamins (…story begins at blog 15)

On the seventh day of the journey, Clever John—even as he came close to the foothills of Sun Mountain—was to see a most unusual sight.

As Clever John and Rozinante galloped through forests and meadows toward the Sun, they went past a huge oak tree. The tree may have been a thousand or more years old. Its branches were thick and long. Resting on one branch that stuck way out was a ladder, and from the branch hung many nooses. All the nooses were filled, and from them hung many men and women.

As Clever John and Rozinante both stopped (no doubt somewhat taken aback by the sight), an ever greater surprise awaited them. The nooses around the necks of those hung loosened up as if by themselves, and the bodies of the men and women fell to the ground.

The bodies lay in a heap for quite a while, but then, unexpectedly, they began to stir and soon stood up. Everyone then went back to the ladder and stood in line to climb back up to the branch. One of the men came by Clever John, who greeted him.

“I am appalled by what I see,” said Clever John to the man.

“Don’t be so, Clever John. It will happen to you, too.”

“I dare say ‘never’,” answered Clever John.

“Time will tell, Clever John,” answered the man. “Nevertheless, you look to me like the heroic type, which is a sign that fame awaits you”.

“You believe that I should consider it?” asked Clever John as he tried to imagine the situation.

“There is yet plenty of time for it, Clever John,” said the man, “But tell me, where are you going?”

“I am going up Sun Mountain to meet the Sun. For five days she has hid her face. I want to find out what the problem is.”

“Ah, Clever John,” then said the man, “I beg you to ask Her for how much longer we must keep hanging ourselves?”

“Glad to do you the favor,” answered Clever John.

Asterisks & Links of Interest

Unchanged Feature: The Witches of Ghana in Gambaga
Could we have the word and name of Ghana pronounced as Yana? If so, we could then call the withches Yanas (Janas, Zhenas) of Yana (Jana, Zhena).

Unchanged Feature: What is reality, what is myth?

Changing Feature: In the preceding posts, we started a compilation of a series of video clips, which when seen as a linear sequence tell a story in a discernibly telling context. Note what is happening around you. Put this clip as a tail to your blog so others may see. The origin of this post is at  This is the 6th video of a series.
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