Preface to the Arabic edition of GNOSIS
The Historical Misunderstanding which exists between Orthodoxy and Islam and which is to be dissipated
I) Historical Perspective
A tragic misunderstanding has been weighing for centuries over the orient and poisons the relations between the Orthodox and the Muslim worlds. From its historical perspective, this misunderstanding is completely absurd since Muslims and Orthodox have been - and are still - called to live side by side throughout the expanse of the old Hellenistic world, which has become larger with time, and extends today from the North Pole to the Adriatic and from there to the confines of Chinese Turkestan, Afghanistan and India, including Egypt and the Middle East. Yet we see this old misunderstanding, which is without valid reason in itself, regain its dynamic form of old this day in Cyprus, thus adding to the flows of blood that have spilled over the centuries, new confluents.
Despite appearances and the sometimes pompous declarations which place the accent on religious opposition, we can uphold that the real origins of the hostilities which set these two worlds against one another, were always of a political and economic order, given that wars of old - and up to pre atomic times - were profitable enterprises.
The conquest of Russia by the Tartars in the 13th century had for goal nothing other than the tribute. For, with the abolishment of the yoke in 1480, which was already shaken a century prior on the fields of Koulikov, the Tartars, previous conquerors, spread throughout Russia, becoming an integrated part thereof, moreover loved by its population. So much so, that it would be ridiculous to speak today of Russian-Tartar hostilities, whilst there lives in the USSR beside the mass of Orthodox some thirty million Muslims, not only in a perfect equality of rights, but also in deep trust and reciprocal sympathy.
The Crusades were the work of the papal Occident, and we know, that the Orthodox did not take an active part therein; Orthodoxy did not even entertain a religious Order of chivalry. On the contrary, they were the victims thereof. In 1204, under pope Innocent III, Greece having already been decimated by the Occidentals, the IVth Crusade conducted by Enrico Dandolo, doge of Venice, took Constantinople, pillaged it, devastated it and then established therein for 57 years a 'Latin empire'. Around the same epoch, in 1240, as the Tartars proceeded methodically in the conquest of Russian principalities, Kiev having been devastated, the Swedes, then the Teutonic Order, drawn from Palestine by pope Gregory IX, were hurled against the Russians in a 'Crusade' with a battle cry: Humiliate the Slavs! They were knocked asunder by the prince saint Alexandre Nevsky.
The wars which opposed the Turks to Russia and to Europe had no religious motive whatsoever, just as was their conquest of the agonizing empire of Byzantium. Warriors without an original culture, they soon became pawns on the chessboard of European politics. More than once were they 'hurled' in war by the Occidentals against Russia. But it would be in vain to seek therein religious motives, that is to say an opposition of Orthodox and Muslims. To be convinced, it would suffice to glimpse the peace treaties by which were ended these disastrous wars that shook the power of the Ottoman empire. Therein was always an article which regulated for the duration of the peace, the statute of the subjects of the two empires who had embraced, whilst being prisoners of war, Orthodoxy by the Muslims and Islam by the Orthodox. Here-below in extenso are the stipulations of one such article, of identical content with others, namely that of the treaty of Andrinople of 1828, which put an end to the war of Greece's liberation:
Art. XIV - All prisoners of war, from whichever nation, condition or sex they may be, who are found in the two empires, must immediately after the exchange of ratifications of the present peace treaty, be freed and returned, without the least ransom or payment. Exceptions are made for Christians who have embraced of their own free will the Mohamedan religion in the States of the High Gate, and the Mohamedans who, also of their own free will, embraced the Christian religion in the States of the Ottoman empire1.
If we add the reference in the two ukases of the empress Elizabeth I, daughter of Peter the Great, which banned Catholic and Protestant propaganda among the Muslim population of the Russian empire (The Orthodox Church having never done so, being hostile to every form of proselytizing), we would be able to measure the amplitude of this tragic misunderstanding, fruit of that politics which for centuries dug a pit between the Faithful of the two great monotheistic religions.
We will recall, on the other hand, that speaking of his campaign raids, the Prophet discerned two sorts: The ones, exterior, under the battle cry: Amma esseif aou el Islam!2 The others, interior, which Orthodoxy calls Unseen Warfare, having for objective the victory over one-self, that is to say over one's own Personality, covered as if with an armor of its Shell3.
II) The Call of Truth unites Orthodox and Muslims
Everything changes with Time except the truth, the Alpha and Omega of Creation. Yet, its revelation comes but progressively - as it radiates in the form and language most suitable for the respective mentality and culture of the human types to which God addresses His Word through the mouth of His Envoys.
In the Orthodox Tradition, the march of the Faithful from all horizons, in answer to the divine call was imaged as a movement going from the periphery towards the Center where the truth was symbolically placed. The Abbott Dorotheus exposed this image in the following diagram:
It is to draw the attention of the seekers on the fact that, while each approaches the Truth from his side, they progressively approach one another4.
It is to be noted that this is valid on all planes including the material and the technical: the uniformity of teaching and of researches oriented towards the same goals determined on this plane the uniformity of results obtained or to be obtained, as well as the by-products which are sometimes expected. Accordingly, the marvelous technical progress, while abolishing distances and assuring the immediate transmission of thought, abolishes at the same time classical wars due to nuclear armament. By eliminating their profitability of old, it has rendered them without purpose.
The moment has come to concentrate our attention and, in general, the efforts of the human spirit on the moral bases of our existence, unchanged since centuries, it can no longer bear the weight of contemporary material civilization, which risks on that account of being shattered into fragments. The lack of solid moral bases, in line with the progress of technique is glaring to the eye. Indeed it is but the law of the jungle - and even in its most primitive form - which maintains atomic peace: the equilibrium in terror. For all the necessary elements to launch the Deluge of Fire are already gathered: a press of the button is enough to tear the planet apart.
Before the approach of the Era of the Holy Spirit where Truth abides5, today's man of elite must deploy great efforts oriented towards himself, with a view to preparing in the very depth of his purified and revivified heart a dignified habitation that can receive this Truth. If he manages in time, the rest will come in consequence: the impervious partitions between humans would progressively disappear and the frontiers maintained between nations would be effaced; the peoples would then be called, after millenaries of covetousness and mutual incomprehension - mother of all hostilities -, to rebuild the Tower of Babel that was formerly stricken down, to raise it in the present as a symbol of the conscious re-conquering of their unity of spirit and language.
The U.N. is the outer draft, the useful and necessary instrument, but up to now far too mechanical. It still lacks Soul. We can easily see this: its task exceeds the moral possibilities of the Intellectual, who since the Renaissance detains in Europe, then in the whole world, the levers of command. And the march of History, which no one will be able to stop, nor slow down, imperiously demands the advent of the New Man.
In the series "GNOSIS" the author has done his utmost to expose in a modern form the esoteric Doctrine which dates according to the Tradition from before the Deluge - back to Seth, the third son of Eve. Completed and revealed by Jesus after his resurrection to Peter, John and James, this Gnosis was later conserved from generation to generation in esoteric form in the oriental Orthodoxy - to be brought out of its occultism in our time.
Salvation does not reside in any new marvels of technical progress, which are nevertheless indispensable for assuring a material base for the New Era, of which the possibilities exceed the most powerful imagination of the technocrats of our day.
Salvation depends on the results of the introspective researches done by Man in the very depth of his heart to recognize his Real I, which has been forgotten since the fall, and to identify himself with it.
Filled with amazement, the Orthodox finds himself therein identified with the monad of Christ his Lord, Son of God who is the Light, the Spirit and the Love.
Approaching the center of the diagram of Abbot Dorotheus from a different horizon, the Muslim undergoes the same revelation and declares:
I have seen my Lord with the eye of the heart and I said to him: "Who art Thou?"
He said: "Thou!"6
In the third volume of "GNOSIS", the last of the series, the reader will find geopolitical indications relative to the perimeter from which, as from a radiant of shooting stars, the New Light will shine. It is that of the old Hellenistic world, which is now larger, that was created by the work of Alexander the Great, and became three centuries after him the cradle of Christianity.
Rich of their respective Traditions, the Orthodox and the Muslims, who in our day populate this perimeter, bear a great responsibility: based on their comprehension and on their respective esoteric efforts, will depend the lot of the planet.
"GNOSIS" constitutes the call addressed to all, without distinction of race, cast, sex and religion, to unite in this noble task having eyes fixed on the Truth which is the Unity in Variety.
Geneva, 22 October 1964
1 Gabriel Effendi Noradounghian, Legal Counsel of the Ottoman Gate, Collection of International Actions of the Ottoman empire. (fr: Receuil d'Actes Internationaux de l'empire Ottoman, en vol., Paris, Cotilon, 1897-1902, t.II, p. 172) Thre same disposition is found in the treaty of Bucarest (1812), the treaty of Jassy (1792), and finally, in that of Koutchuk-Kainardji (1774).
2 The saber or Islam!
3 That is to say what man acquires since his earliest childhood due to education, training and in general to his personal experience.
4 The Abbott Dorotheus (VIth-VIIth century) saint, lived in Palestine near Gaza, author of 'Instructions to the ascetics,Philocalia', Russian translation, Moscow, 1884, vol. II, p. 659 (fragment 42).
5 II Peter, III, 13. (according to the Slavonic text).
6 Hussein Mansour Al Hallaj, Diwan.