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Published: Who are you – Part 2.2: Intensities and associations / E-book

Posts from this blog bundled as blook “Who are you part 2.2: Intensities and associations” are published as E-book on the website of Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher. This E-book is freely downloadable via:


Who are you 2-2This part 2.2 of “Who are you” is an exploration of “intensities and association” in Amsterdam, where Carla Drift, Man Leben and Narrator consider the Reformation and the consequences thereof in Holland. During this part of the survey they look into iconoclasm, a personal relationship with God, Calvinistic predestination, fear for freedom, capitalism, to have or to be, the end of time, “My life closed twice before it’s close” by Emily Dickinson and “One what is that”.



Intensities and associations in the end

Halfway through the afternoon Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting in the Vondelpark outside Het Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Teahouse) [1].

Blauwe Theehuis[2]

“This morning I had mixed feelings about our proposal to start preparing the next part of our quest. On one hand, our proposal fits nicely with the overwhelming emptiness of the virtual digital world made of bits and monitors wherein we experience everyday world in our century; so I had noticed in the tram to the Vondelpark a mother giving her attention all the time to the 5 inch screen of her mobile phone instead of to her toddlers. On the other hand, in my opinion this part of our quest is not completely finished. In Florence – at the previous part of our quest – we had planned to give attention to the paintings in Holland. I also had in mind to address feelings, emotions, and the seven deadly sins according to Dante during this part of our quest. I am aware that these topics are quests in themselves. Maybe we can treat these topics in a nutshell, just like the treatment of capitalism this morning; I can nicely align the development of painting with the development of capitalism”, says Carla.

“You’re right. The transition is too abrupt, but the next few days it’s pretty stable weather for sailing: an opportunity not to let pass easily”, says Man.

“Could you summarise these subjects, so we can see how much attention will be needed”, says Narrator.

“Oil painting during and after the Reformation had boomed in Holland, because the inhabitants wanted to show their welfare within private homes – to themselves and to others – through images that showed landscapes designed by humans – as God’s steward –, paintings of tables displaying wealth of glassware, food and dishes and of course paintings of themselves and acquaintances in wealthy clothes. These paintings have characteristics of a desire to retain and acquire wealth. This way of looking, I have taken from John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” [3]; he shows a striking example of this display of prosperity with the painting “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews” by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough. Many of the oil paintings by Dutch masters include a similar display of wealth and prosperity of the individual human being.

Mr and Mrs Rober Andrews[4]

In addition to the display of wealth and prosperity, these paintings ought to show always some moderation as a good steward of God suits. Essentially, many paintings show the election by God in the here and now and in the afterlife of the owner or of the person portrayed. This is in a nutshell the summary of my contribution on traditional oil painting in Holland to intensities associations. I am aware that I have done injustice to many masterpieces”, says Carla.

“I have always felt some discomfort seeing paintings made by most Dutch masters. You have aptly summarised my discomfort”, says Man.

“As idol in Amsterdam, I paid no attention to painting, I lived a life as a desirable exotic – non-Dutch – appearance. I myself was the shining chosen star to which everyone was attracted and around which life revolved. After I had left behind this life as idol, I never had time for viewing the Dutch masters. After our sailing trip I will visit several museums”, says Narrator.

“Could you give a similar summary on the seven deadly sins according to Dante?”, asks Man to Carla.

“OK. As brief as my summary of oil paintings in Holland.
The seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church had already been described in a systematic overview by clerics in the fourth century AD. In the sixth century AD, these deadly sins had been officially defined in a list by Pope Gregory. This list was used by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy. Besides the Catholic church has seven virtues opposite to the seven deadly sins.

Hieronymus Bosch had depicted the seven deadly sins in a painting [6].

Zeven hoofdzonden - Bosch

I will give a brief explanation of the seven deadly sins.

Lust is usually understood in the light of excessive thoughts, wishes or desires of a sexual nature. In Dante’s purgatory, sinners are purified of lustful/sexual thoughts and feelings by flames. In the hell of Dante sinners are blown by hurricane-like glowing winds that match their lack of self-control of lust in earthly life. During our search we have not encountered lust; in Aldous Huxly’s “Devil of Loudun” [8], lust as cardinal sin is treated: I think we can skip this cardinal sin during our quest.

Gluttony refers to both excessive eating and consuming things past the point of usefulness. Gluttony denotes waste by excessive energy: one of the pitfalls for God’s steward.
Greed/desire is a sin of excessiveness like lust and gluttony. Greed refers to a very excessive desire and a pursuit of wealth, status and power for personal gain: one of the pitfalls in the pursuit of success as a prelude to the grace of God.

Sloth has changed slightly in character in the course of the time. Initially it was seen as not fulfilling God’s gifts, talents and destination. Now it is seen as willfully negligence, e.g. of the duty of care for others, or for society. In my opinion sloth also implies the unwillingness to take notice and to be open to opinions or religions of others even if they do not comply with your own opinions or beliefs. This form of laziness consists of avoiding the question, “What is the other seen that I do not see?”.

Wrath or rage is the sin of excessive and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. In its extreme form, wrath shows itself as self-destruction. The feelings of anger and hatred may persist many generations. Wrath or anger is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest.

Envy is to some extent related to greed: both sins are characterized by an inner unsatisfied desire. Envy and greed differ on two points. Firstly, greed is usually linked to material things, while envy is characterized by a more general feeling of loss. Secondly envy recognises something missing in itself that another has or seems to have.

In almost every list pride or arrogance – e.g. the opinion to be exclusively God’s elect as individual, as group or as a religion – is considered the most serious cardinal sin: it is seen as the source of the other deadly sins. Characteristics of pride or arrogance are the desire to be more, more important or more attractive than others; herewith the good works of others – in religions God’s works through other religions – are ignored. The sinner has an inordinate love of his own or of his own environment and/or religion. Dante described it as “love of the ego – in religions, one’s own faith – perverted to hatred and contempt for the other.”
This is in a nutshell the summary of the seven deathly sins”, says Carla.

“Again impressive in extension and brevity. During this introduction I must think – with shame – of my many shortcomings and mistakes in my life”, says Man.

“My most serious deadly sins had not been born out of pride or arrogance. Envy – caused by a general feeling of absence – during my puberty has encouraged me to become a child soldier with consequences that I still carry with me. My life as an idol in Amsterdam had come naturally to me; fortunately, I have left it in time away. Maybe laziness was the cause of my years at the edges of the mirror palaces of the intelligence services; although in this part of my life I had fulfilled my talents and destination given by God, I should have given more attention to the duty of care for others outside my small environment. My life as a mendicant – or Bhikṣu – has elements of envy in the form of a general lack: at that time I’ve tried to avoid cardinal sins”, says Narrator.

“Could you summarise in the same way the many forms of emotions and feelings, after we’ve had a drink?”, asks Man to Carla.

“There are many theories about emotions and there are different approaches to classify emotions [9]. The psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion by Robert Plutchik is interesting because this theory is based upon the following ten postulates [10]:

  1. The concept of emotion is applicable to all evolutionary levels and applies to all animals including humans.
  2. Emotions have an evolutionary history and have evolved various forms of expression in different species.
  3. Emotions served an adaptive role in helping organisms deal with key survival issues posed by the environment.
  4. Despite different forms of expression of emotions in different species, there are certain common elements, or prototype patterns, that can be identified.
  5. There is a small number of basic, primary, or prototype emotions.
  6. All other emotions are mixed or derivative states; that is, they occur as combinations, mixtures, or compounds of the primary emotions.
  7. Primary emotions are hypothetical constructs or idealized states whose properties and characteristics can only be inferred from various kinds of evidence.
  8. Primary emotions can be conceptualized in terms of pairs of polar opposites.
  9. All emotions vary in their degree of similarity to one another.
  10. Each emotion can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal.

Based upon amongst others these ten postulates, Robert Plutchik composed in 1980 a wheel of emotions that consisted of the following eight basic – or biologically primitive – emotions, and eight more advanced – to increase the reproductive fitness of animals, such as the flight or fight response – emotions, each composed of two basic emotions.

Basic emotion[11]

The wheel of emotions composed by Robert Plutchik looks like:

Wheel of emotions - Robert Plutchik[11]

Recently – based on a comprehensive study of existing theories of emotions [12] – the following table is compiled from opposing basic emotions. In compiling this table, the following three criteria have been applied for emotions: 1) mental experiences with a strongly motivating subjective quality like pleasure or pain; 2) mental experiences that are a response to a particular event or object that is either real or imagined; 3) mental experiences that motivate particular kinds of behavior. The combination of these criteria distinguish emotions of sensations, feelings and moods [11].

Kind of emotion[11]

These basic overviews of feelings and emotions provide a good starting point for further exploration of these feelings, but I think a far-reaching exploration is beyond the scope of our quest. In so doing, Robert Plutchik stated in one of his works [13] that poets and writers capture and summarise the nuances of emotions and feelings better than scientists; he gave the example of how Emily Dickinson who had been raised in a Calvinist family [14] describes her feelings of despair – in my opinion the despair over a separate existence after God’s election at the end of time as close of this life and the hereafter [15] – in her poem[16]:

My life closed twice before it’s close
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event in me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Probably this poem also partly expresses the hope and despair of Calvinism with – at the end of time – an unimaginable separation equal in inconceivability to the separation of air from earth at the beginning of time. Is my summary on this topic sufficient?”, says Carla.

“Comprehensive in its brevity. Impressive use of the poem by Emily Dickinson at the end. Your explanation reminds me of the Buddhist question:

“When the fire at the end of time rages through and everything is destroyed, is this destroyed or not?” One master answered: “Destroyed, because it goes along with this”. Another master answered: “Not destroyed, because it is the same as this”. [17]

At the end of this part of our quest, I have the impression that the Calvinists in Holland – with their many secessions – lived as if the end of time has already come. All we know of heaven is parting from the loved ones who have another believe, and all we need of hell. The end of time will not bring change to this, “said Narrator.

“The poem by Emily Dickinson describes for me the inconceivability of the end times.
Looking at the wheel of emotions by Robert Plutchik I have noticed with gladness that joy is a combination of the two emotions optimism and love. Tracing all emotions and investigating all combinations of emotions is indeed beyond our quest. Are there other topics that we wish to investigate?”, says Man.

“I am fascinated by intensities and associations and I am often surprised by intensities and associations within our environment, in relation to the other and by my own emotions and feelings. The quest to investigate all these kind of feelings requires a full human life, “says Carla.

“In my opinion this is applicable to every part of our quest”, says Man.

“And surpasses our lives. Shall I prepare a simple meal for us in Man’s kitchen as the close of intensities and associations?”, says Narrator.

“Then we can consider during the meal where we meet tomorrow to travel to my sailboat. I can borrow a car from a former companion; he is a couple of weeks on holiday, “says Man.



[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blauwe_Theehuis
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vondelpark
[3] Source: Berger, John, Ways of seeing. London: British Broadcasting Company and Penguin, 1972 p. 106 – 107
[4] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gainsborough
[5] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_and_the_Four_Last_Things
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
[8] See: Huxley, Aldous, The Devils of Loudun. 1953
[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_classification
[10] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plutchik
[11] Copied from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrasting_and_categorization_of_emotions
[12] Source: Robinson, D. L. (2009). Brain function, mental experience and personality. The Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 64, 152-167
[14] Bron: http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/church
[15] Another explanation of this poem is based on the loss of two beloved ones. According to Christian faith before the Reformation a reunion may be expected at the end of time, but the explanation suggests that Immortality may be a fiction and creates the hell of the future. See: Vendler, Helen, Dickinson – Selected poems and commentaries. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010, p. 520 – 521
[16] Franklin, R.W. edited, The Poems of Emily Dickinson – Reading Edition. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 630 – 631
[17] Free rendering of the koan Dasui’s “Aeonic Fire” in: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 131 – 136

Freedom and bound: to have or to be

The next morning Carla and Man meet on the Beursplein.

“Last night I was too outspoken about Calvin’s predestination. Maybe I had the excesses in mind – e.g. the slave trade, the precipitation of revolts in the Dutch colonies, and the pursuit of capital – and I had too little attention to its merits, such as keeping livable a large piece of land below sea level and a large tolerance often based on a good business attitude. I am often too outspoken, more mildness would suit me”, says Carla.

“I admire Holland for its pictorial art, its pragmatism, its relatively good housing for everyone. This too is the result of the business attitude and God’s stewardship that has also taken shape in a socialist manner in last century. You have aptly expressed a number of starting points for derailments that were partly caused by Calvin’s doctrine of predestination. Any movement or sect that considers itself superior, has a strong tendency for derailment over time. There is Narrator”, says Man.

“Have you already been waiting a long time before this cathedral of capitalism? In many early Christian churches no regular church services take place anymore, because the believers have disappeared or have gone elsewhere. This capitalists’ cathedral is no longer in use, the followers of this religion have left for more profitable places like the South Axis in Amsterdam or the stock exchanges in London and New York”, says Narrator.
Berus van Berlage[1]

“That’s right, the capitalists pursuit maximization of profit [2], and hereby they are biting their own tails similar to players of a pyramid scheme. The sources of capital are enormous, but finite: once they will dry up.

Capitalism had already a long history before Calvinism had partially emerged from capitalism and gave further shape to it. Let me first tell you this long history in a nutshell.

Probably the meaning of capitalism is derived from the Roman word “caput” [3], which means head (of a person). This origin underlines the importance of private property within capitalism.
The onset of capitalism has probably been the use of devices by individual people to perform specific activities easier and/or faster. Among the hunter-gatherers such devices were stones to crack nuts, weapons to hunt animals and later devices combined with ingenuity to domesticate animals for food or for help during the hunt. In addition, hunter-gatherers needed a large environment as a means for their existence. When this environment or living conditions – also the possession of women and children – were threatened by other hunter-gatherers or groups of hunter-gatherers, these capital resources had to be defended.

Capitalism got a new dimension in nomadic societies of herdsmen; the capital of these nomadic herdsmen were their flocks and their pastures. The corresponding capital resources – such as animals for transport and for herding cattle – were used for tending and defending the herds of cattle, or men needed these devices – such as women and children – for survival. A religious expression within these societies of herdsmen was the cattle cycle [4]. In the Proto-Indo-European world, women represented the only possession of real value [5]; men needed the possession of livestock as a means of exchange to obtain women. In the Roman Catholic and Lutheran version of the Ten Commandments, we still see a relic hereof in the form of the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s wife” prior to the tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s house” [6].

Within the agrarian capitalism of arable farming, the disposal – and later the possession of – land and water was necessary capital needed for survival [7]. In the course of time, the agrarian capitalism of arable farming has driven nomadic societies of farmers to the remote areas of Western society by occupying fixed crop lands. The introduction of the three-field system in arable farming during the early Middle Ages – in combination with limited cattle breeding – eventually allowed more people a living on permanent farmland.

Within the societies of herdsmen and farmers, bartering was needed, because people within these societies were not completely independent in their existence and because the need for specialized tools or services increased over time. There was barter needed at local markets or during fairs. The barter proceeded initially in kind; later rare objects – first rare stones or metals, and later coins with an image of a leader as trustworthy “person in the middle” – were used as “objects in the middle”.

During and after the Crusades in Western society in the second half of the Middle Ages, the trade in special items and services took further shape. Hereby, and also by the decay of feudalism arose a new economic organization during the Renaissance in Western Europe, where trade supported by the (city-)state in the form of mercantilism [8] increased further in importance. With mercantilism, the importance of coins as a trustworthy “object in the middle” also increased. Possession of coins became more and more an independent worthwhile life purpose in itself, because with money, all life goals could be obtained even remission of sins for a good afterlife through indulgences [9] within the Catholic Church.

By mercantilism, the attention within the lives of people moved more and more from “to be” to “to have”. In the earlier world of scholasticism, one was a human in a predefined order of life in which one ought to live virtuously. In the new world order, ownership of money became a great good in itself whereby a good place in life and in the hereafter could be obtained; owning and maintaining money rose in esteem, and gaining profits changed in the course of time from despicable act in a praiseworthy activity.

This form of mercantilism boomed in the Dutch Republic enormously, because of the unique position of Holland in a major river delta, because of the lack of arable farming land in Holland whereby cereals must be obtained by trade like the city-state of Athens in the fifth century BC, and because of a unique system of collective management of the polders. Additionally, the merchants and wealthy citizens in Holland – the Nouveau Riche of that time – initiated far-reaching adaptations and innovations of mercantilism.

One of the changes was the replacement of coins as “barter in the middle” by bonds [10]. Without a direct purchaser of the cargo – after examining – a shipload could be exchanged on the Dam in Amsterdam for securities. The traders in Holland did everything to perpetuate confidence in these securities

One important innovation was issuing of shares in corporations of merchants in order to make risky trading on a large scale to distant overseas colonies possible. Herewith the initiative of issuing of shares moved from nobility or (city-)state to initiatives by private individuals.
Waardepapier van de VOC uit 1662[11]

These modifications shifted the importance from coins – minted out of precious metals and imprinted with the image of a confident ruler – to securities issued by merchants and wealthy. This change shifted the economic initiative form the nobility and the (city-)state to merchants and wealthy individuals and corporations thereof.

For the “common people” of farmers, local traders and craftsmen in Holland , this new form of mercantilism meant a landslide; their whole economic existence could completely disappear in a short time by a cause from outside; others – often in modified form – may easily take over their livelihoods. They could not influence this change in any way.

Within this change of the environment of the “common people” – from a world modelled after the medieval scholasticism to a new world of mercantilism – Calvinism arose during the Reformation in relatively prosperous Geneva [12], and it found a fertile ground in the Netherlands of the 17th century AC.

By Calvinism in connection with mercantilism, the main focus of people’s lives changed from “to be” to “to have”. While in Calvinism – with its the doctrine of predestination – “being” in God’s grace was of supreme importance. But on one hand the gratitude and obligation for the elect to be God’s steward and on the other hand the constant desire for success as forecast for the election by God, meant that “to have” in earthly life is of immanent and immeasurable importance for “to be” in this life and especially in the afterlife.
In continuation of his work “Fear of freedom”, Erich Fromm states in his later work “To have or to be” [13]:

“We live in a society that is based on the three pillars of private property, profit and power. Acquiring, possessing and making profit is a sacred and inalienable right – and a duty as God’s steward according to Calvin’s predestination – of an individual human being in the new world order that has emerged from the mercantilism. Thereby it does not matter where the property comes from, nor whether there might be obligations attached to one’s property” [14].

Calvin’s predestination – embedded in mercantilism – considers “having” possessions as a predestination of God, and therefore an immutable right and duty for God’s stewards. Dorothee Sölle states in her work “Mysticism and Resistance – Thou silent screams” that Erich Fromm rightly makes a meaningful distinction between on one hand the functional properties of utensils to be used for our existence and on the other hand property for enhancing the social status of the ego, guaranteeing security in the future or just for the convenience of self-desire. About ownership of the latter kind of property, Dorothee Sölle says – I think rightly –, that it destroys the relationship with the neighbour, with nature and with the I [14]. And she states freely rendered: the forecast of a hereafter in God’s grace through the pursuit of earthly possessions soon degenerates into a prison on earth and a herald of hell. Francis of Assisi had only allowed money on the dunghill. [14]

In our modern times, paper money is exchanged for virtual bits in computer systems that offer – via monitors – access to terrestrial resources. These virtual bits had started an environment of its own, wherein mankind will be more and more a servant – or slave – to the many forms of bitcoins in these computer systems. Having access to this world of bits and monitors overshadows “being” in our daily life. Through a long detour, the emptiness of the virtual bits and monitors have confiscated the richness of our existence. This is in a nutshell my introduction to capitalism”, says Carla.

“So much in so few words in front of this cathedral of capitalism. Near this building and during your introduction, I am reminded of the haiku by Rӯokan after thieves had taken everything out from his hut:

From my little hut
Thieves took everything
The moon stayed behind [15]

The moon stands for the unshakable believe of Rӯokan”, says Narrator.

“To have or to be. After this truly somber picture of human existence. I would like to show you a different kind of emptiness: the emptiness of the Waddenzee. The next few days the weather will be good. May I invite you for the last sailing trip with my small sailboat; soon I will give the boat to a good friend who is much younger. On the sailboat we may prepare “emptiness” – the next part of our quest”, says Man.

“Shall we this afternoon look into what we still have to investigate on this part of our quest?”, asks Carla.
[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beurs_van_Berlage
[2] Another explanation about Capitalism is given at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism
[3] Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins – The hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z. London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008
[4] See also: Origo, Jan van, Wie ben jij – een verkenning van ons bestaan – deel 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Uitgeverij, 2012 p. 33
[5] See: McGrath, Kevin, STRῙ Women in Epic Mahābhārata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009, p. 9 – 15
[6] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments
[7] See also: Beyens, Louis, De Graangodin – Het ontstaan van de landbouwcultuur. Amsterdam: Atlas, 2004
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercantilism and http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geschiedenis_van_Europa
[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence
[10] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercantilism
[11] A bond of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie from 1622 AC. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waardepapier
[12] See also: Fromm, Erich, De angst voor vrijheid – de vlucht in autoritarisme, destructivisme, conformisme. Utrecht: Bijleveld, 1973 p. 67 (Fromm, Erich, Fear for Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941)
[13] Free rendering of paragraph from: Fromm, Erich, Haben oder Sein. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2011, p. 89 (Fromm, Erich, To have or to be?. New York: Harper and Row, 1976)
[14] Sölle, Dorothee, Mystiek en verzet – Gij stil geschreeuw. Baarn: Ten Have, 1998, p. 327 – 328
[15] Source: Stevens, John, Three Zen Masters, Ikkyū, Hakuin, Rӯokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993, p. 131.

Freedom and bound: fear for freedom

At the beginning of the evening Carla, Man en Narrator meet each other in the Vijzelstraat with a view on the Gouden Bocht [1] at the Herengracht.
Gouden Bocht Herengracht[2]
“This is a beautiful place to continue our quest for “a personal relationship with God”. At this place in Amsterdam the merchants and wealthy had placed in stone the legitimacy and grace of their personal relationship with God in the 16th and 17th century.
Gouden Bocht Herengracht 2[2]
During the Dutch Reformation, Calvinism – with the doctrine of the predestination of God’s grace – has radically changed the worldview of merchants and wealthy in the Amsterdam.
Within the Scholastic worldview before the Dutch Reformation, God’s grace was determined in the course of a lifetime in synergism [3] between God and human actions. Through good deeds, humans could obtain God’s grace, and by sin and mortal sin, humans lost God’s grace partially or even completely. When a large number of sins were committed during life, humans had to spend a certain time in purgatory after their death for purification before they can be adopted again in God’s grace.
During the Reformation, Luther has stated his doctrine of God’s monergisme [4]: only God determines the justification of het His grace for individuals in His infinite omnipotence. According to Luther, a man can only lose the grace of God by losing faith in God; man has a free will to preserve faith in God.
Within God’s monergisme of Calvin, the grace of God is solely determined by God. Man has no free will to obtain the legitimacy and the grace of God; man obtains and retains this grace solely through the election of God. By predestination God preserved his grace only to His elect.

Genade Gods[5]
The merchants and wealthy in Amsterdam regarded themselves as the elect of God by their Reformed faith based on Calvin. As a result, they must – as stewards of God – realise God’s work on earth during their earthly lifetime constantly. These canal houses are the fruits in stone of their stewardship of God”, says Narrator.

“On the one hand, the merchants and wealthy had received their puissant wealth naturally by the wind in the sails of their merchant ships. On the other hand, they had worked constantly so hard with the devil on their heels to fulfill this earthly stewardship of God in order to decrease the uncertainty about the destiny of God’s grace; one was never sure of this grace, and a prospect thereof in the here and now was more than welcome. In addition, the merchants and wealthy were of the opinion that by God’s providence and by their wealth they were entitled to the stewardship of God. This stewardship gave them the right to usurp their rightful share of earthly possession and to manage it in the name of God”, says Man.

“Erich Fromm [6] had examined and described in his book “Fear of freedom – the flight into authoritarianism, destructiveness, conformism” [7] the impact and consequences of Calvin’s predestination on humans during the Reformation and on humanity in the 20th century. According to Calvin, the complete omnipotence of God includes the complete impotence of man. Human faith is rooted in human powerlessness. Only on the basis of this powerlessness we can trust in God’s omnipotence, that – if it pleases Him – will lead us to the arrival of a new, better world. According to Calvin, man is not in any way a master of himself; the pursuit of virtue as a goal in itself is for Calvin unacceptable and would only lead to vanity. The salvation of man from this earthly life through God’s grace or eternal damnation is already fully determined by God before a human life begins; no good or bad deeds can change this. Only God in its absolute omnipotence determines the election of a man wherein man cannot and should not penetrate. Although Calvin projects all justice, charity and love in God, according to Erich Fromm the God of Calvin possesses the characteristics of an absolute tyrant with no compassion; the God of Calvin is not in harmony with the Christian God of the New Testament according to Erich Fromm.
The doctrine of predestination has two psychological faces according to Erich Fromm. Man is deprived of every freedom to change her/his life here and hereafter by own actions: man is only a powerless instrument in God’s hands. At the same time man is deprived of every doubt to be in God’s omnipotence constantly.
The God of Calvin has emerged from the Reformation that had brought massive social upheaval in Holland, Germany and England. In Luther’s Germany this social upheaval caused a general unrest; especially the middle class, but also the peasants and the urban proletariat felt their existence threatened by the disappearance of the old certainties and long standing interrelationships of a society founded on religious scholasticism, the rapid dissemination and direct accessibility of this change, the increase in knowledge by the printing press, and the rise of capitalism. By the Reformation and the increasing individualization, the “common people” in Holland, England and France felt themselves null and void, alone, frightened and powerless within a life wherein every human endeavor seemed pointless. Calvin’s predestination gave the “common people” words to these feelings of powerlessness and it gave purpose and meaning to this powerlessness.

Synode Dordrecht[8]
By Calvin’s predestination, the realization of complete inferiority is moreover sublimated into an absolute superiority of God’s elect; they are from the beginning of time to eternity in the grace of God’s omnipotence, nothing and no one can ever alter that election. As we have discussed before, the adherence to the right faith in a personal relationship with God and acquiring success is a sign of this election. Every hour of her/his existence a God-fearing human will establish His works in the sweat of her/his brow according to His predestination – out of conviction, of duty and of coercion –, because Calvin and his followers had the absolute conviction to be among His elect. By this direct relationship with God as His chosen, the Calvinists considered themselves as utterly superior to the dissenters and hereby they were destined to act as a steward of God in His world order.
Calvin’s predestination offers the traders and wealthy in Holland – the Nouveau Riche of the 16th and 17th centuries who have emerged from the “common people” – a justification for the sometimes questionable acquisition of their capital: by His election, the Calvinistic merchants and wealthy merchants regard themselves as absolute Stewards of God.
Calvin’s predestination offers a Calvinist captain of a Dutch trading ship in that time the justification to be Skipper besides God. By God’s election, the captain was absolute ruler of the boat, its crew and cargo; a rebellion against him was a revolt against the absolute power of God. This doctrine of predestination also offered justification for the Dutch to rule over its colonies and – more than one century later – to trade slaves as God’s steward over the non-elect inferior beings.
Rembrandt van Rijn, twee moren[9]
Calvin’s predestination produced according to Erich Fromm a flight from freedom in the following ways:
• docility to the Calvinist doctrines and the worldly authority on earth that was established by God,
• destructiveness of other dissenters and other cultures that do not accept God’s order
• conformity to the Reformed (Calvinist) Church.
Calvin’s predestination has sublimated fear, uncertainty, futility and helplessness to absolute superiority of the elect. This causes that it is extremely important for Calvinists – as elect – to have a direct relation with God whereby it helps to follow the pure beleive and to belong to the only true church; this motive for the absolute pure belief within the only right church has caused many divisions in families and in the Reformed churches in the course of time. [7]
Shall I continue tomorrow with the rise of capitalism during the Reformation where the doctrine of Calvin partly originated from and where Calvinism has given shape to a some extent?”, says Carla.

“Catholicism – that I met in my youth in South Limburg – has many shortcomings and the doctrine of the chosen people of the Jewish religion has caused much suffering and sometimes made hardship bearable. Because of these shortcomings, I never felt myself completely at home in both religions.
I finished Grammar school at a Christian Reformed school. In the beginning after my youth in South Limburg I regarded humility, purity of the letter and overzealousness in this belief rather strange; after some time I got used to it. But I retained difficulty with the steepness, the smugness and superiority of the front benches in the Reformed Church as I always kept struggling with the condescension of the notables in the Catholic church.
I had read Fear of freedom by Erich Fromm at the beginning of the 70s just like you. With your explanation of sublimation of powerlessness to superiority of the elect, you give an interesting addition to this book. The same sublimation of nothingness and helplessness to absolute superiority took place in the 30s in Germany with as consequences authoritarianism, destructiveness and conformism [10] by the other regime in Germany until the end of World War II”, says Man.

“The sad consequences of this sublimation can be read in the history books and some of us still feel the impact of these horrors on a daily basis.
Will Indra’s Net – wherein each and every glass pearl forms and simultaneously reflect the entire network – also show the insignificance and powerlessness within each pearl, wherefrom to acquire a real or perceived inner superiority by sublimation?”, asks Narrator.
“Interesting question. I think that the origin of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and this branch of Zen Buddhism have also emerged from deep feelings of nothingness, futility and helplessness in human life and within society. Herewith these Oriental religions are connected with the origin and cause of Calvin’s doctrine. But I’m sure that on one hand Indra’s net may easily comprise and reflect Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, but probably by many other lights Indra’s will not radically and definitely move to the ultimate consequences of Calvin’s predestination”, says Man.

“I am not so sure. I think that Indra’s net can indeed produce an extreme belief as the Nazi regime in Germany; as we saw earlier: Indra’s net can also be ill. But I doubt if every pearl will spontaneously decide to sublimate its insignificance and powerlessness into superiority; there is too much counterweight within Indra’s net just like there was also a counterbalance present in Germany during the Nazi regime; unfortunately in Germany this counterbalance was completely overshadowed by the mainstream of conformity to the authority of the leader and destructiveness of dissenters. The three streams of authoritarianism, destructiveness and conformism are timeless, like the ongoing cycle of honor/power – pride – wrath – revenge for warriors in antiquity. Unfortunately at this point I am realistic pessimistic”, says Carla.

“I agree with you on this realistic pessimism and I would like to add the Bodhisattva ideal with its limitless compassion whereby compassion also includes the acceptance of points of view where I totally disagree with”, says Man.

“A beautiful ideal that gives hope”, says Narrator.

“Without hope for a better future, it is difficult to live for many people”, says Carla.

“I think noting is excluded within the metaphor of Indra’s net”, says Narrator.

“Shall we continue tomorrow? Let’s now enjoy this beautiful evening”, says Carla.

“That is good”, says Narrator.

“Let’s have a drink, what do you want?”, says Man.

“For me some soda”, says Carla.

“For me a beer: that is needed after our overview of Calvin’s predestination”, says Narrator.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouden_Bocht
[2] Source images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouden_Bocht
[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synergism_%28theology%29
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monergism
[5] Source overview and see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_(theology)
[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm
[7] This argument by Carla Drift is a free rendering – with several additions – of the pages on this subject in: Fromm, Erich, De angst voor vrijheid – de vlucht in autoritarisme, destructivisme, conformisme. Utrecht: Bijleveld, 1973 p. 67 – 138 (Fromm, Erich, Fear for Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941)
[8] The-Synod-of-Dort-in-a-seventeenth-century-Dutch-engraving. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Calvijn
[9] Painting “Two moors” by Rembrandt van Rijn. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_van_Rijn
[10] See also: Fromm, Erich, De angst voor vrijheid – de vlucht in autoritarisme, destructivisme, conformisme. Utrecht: Bijleveld, 1973 p. 104 – 138 (Fromm, Erich, Fear for Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941)

Freedom and bound: a personal relationship with God

Carla, Man and Narrator meet each other in the Nieuwe Café near the Nieuw Kerk in Amsterdam.

“Personal relationships with Gods are of all time after in the distant past mankind and the Gods have received a place in each other’s lives. These relationships are not always easy and obvious; Gods and people regularly disappointed each other or let each other down.

The relationships between people and Gods varies – as all kinds of relationships – depending on the characters, circumstances and requirements between: absent and negligence, superficial and practical, purposeful and calculated, internalized and comprehensive, to intense and unbearable.

In the course of time human societies became larger, more complex and layered whereby also stratification in the concept of God has increased. Although the Supreme Gods play an aloof overarching role in the kingdoms or empires, the household gods or the pagan gods [1] still play the lead role in daily life of local communities. Many local farming communities have remained pagan in the eyes of the official churches [2].

Within the Catholic world, the local Saints have taken the position of the former local pagan gods. With its usual pragmatism the Catholic Church has assimilated local rituals and incorporated in its general habits, the church offers a large vessel which provides – under its terms and imposed limits – a place for church saints and local customs with their own rites [3].
For ordinary local people the Catholic God was – just as Jesus – an unattainable creature who, like distant rulers and armies just caused misfortune. The local clergy and rulers – each in their own way – should keep the Catholic God pleased. On passing through through South Limburg, I have heard a local alderman cry out in despair: “God in the Hague!!” upon a new Dutch rule. Pastoral letters from the Pope in Rome and the Bishop of the diocese are welcome if the content meets the local customs, but if the content does not fit then the local use continues – just a little less public or slightly customised –; the elderly know that over time all would once change in their own rhythm.

Especially women – and men occasionally after confession or during a church service – ask the Virgin Mary for help and consolation usually by praying the rosary: Mary was always more important and more helpful than the unattainable God [4].

Maagd Maria
The local saints exist in the material world: they are tangible, they are in the church and are carried in the processions: the local holy statue is the saint. As a result, parishioners are so upset when an old weathered statue is restored or replaced with new one from the factory. In the famous churches the statues of the saints attract two groups of visitors: parishioners and pilgrims who communicate with a real person / a better (or higher) being, and tourists who look at an example of religious art.

The personal relationship between the local saints and parishioners is mutual. The parishioners take care and venerate the saints, but sometimes the statue of the saint should also be flattered and bullied just as a lazy local administrator. When the local saint does not answer the prayers, the image can also be punished; there are examples of throwing in the river of statues or punishment like facing the wall of the statue [6].

The rulers maintain a reciprocal relationship with their gods; they receive advice, support and assistance in their activities, they keep the gods alive by expressing due honor to express and they explain the habits of the Gods – to mutual benefit – to their citizens.

Sometimes the relationship between the ruler and the gods becomes upsets. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Xerxes – king of the Persian Empire between 485 – 465 BC – punished the sea goddess of the Hellespont by flogging her waves with three hundred lashes and branding her with red hot irons after a storm had destroyed the cables which supported the boat bridge of about 1300 meters across the Hellespont [7].

Xerxes golven[8]

This morning we have very briefly seen how the Christian church has become the official state church of the Roman Empire practiced under Constantine the Great after the Edict of Milan in 313 AC. This evolution is based on at least two developments. The first development is the revolution of monotheism, as developed in Judaism more than 1,000 years earlier [9], and as adopted by Emperor Aurelius in 275 AC. in the form of the invincible Sun God ( Deus Sol Invictus ) taken from Syria after his victory in the East [10] . The monotheism of the Sun God was not absolute, whereby this faith was very convenient for Emperor Aurelius to adopt without hurting individual sensitivities of people. With all Roman citizens convened around this obvious national God, the second development took place: with the general acceptance of this obvious monotheistic God it was possible that the representative of the Sun God on earth was surrounded obvious supra-powerful features. This bond between the Sun God and his representative on earth was shown throughout the empire in images of both on coins, which represented “(barter) objects in the middle” that were guaranteed by the Sun-god and his earthly representative. The impact of this second development, we still have in our daily life with the name of the “Lord’s Day”: Sunday [11].

Munt zonnegod
At 324 AC Constantine the Great became ruler of the Roman Empire after he had defeated Licinius – ruler of the eastern part of the empire until then. Herewith Constantine created “One God , One Empire , One Emperor”. How Constantine had made the transition from the Sun God to the Christian God can no longer accurately be traced. With this gradual introduction, the administrative organization of the Roman Empire and the church organization were adapted to each other in the course of time. Within administrative units of the empire, a bishop was appointed as the head of the Church’s unit: “One God , One province, one representative of God”. By this development in parts of Europe, the ecclesiastical provinces still reflect the former provinces of the Roman Empire. According to the history books this development took place relatively smoothly , but in practice often an iron fist was applied whereby many battles and internal strife over the secular and ecclesiastical power have been fought [13].

The Old Testament often shows an angry – and sometimes rancorous – God when his people have let him down again and again or his people has been unfaithful to the covenant. After the emergence of the “One God, One Empire, One ruler” directly connected with “One God, One Church, One regional representative”, the conservation of the ruler / representative and church / empire require all attention, so the position of a monotheistic God as Supreme God was no longer an issue. Religious disputes aimed at on one hand the extent to which the monotheistic Roman Father God was Almighty and the positions of the universe of heavenly entities – Christ, The Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints and angels, etc. – with and around God, and on other hand the relationship between humanity and the world with God, his universe, the origin and end of it. Shall we enter the New Church?”, says Narrator.

Carla, Narrator and Man enter the Church. They stand at the pulpit.

“Wonderful introduction. On seeing this pulpit, I have to interrupt you, because this pulpit reminds me of the tent of Alexander the Great after his death in which he still ensured order and unity from his throne.

preekstoel Nieuwe Kerk[14]
Briefly: Alexander the Great left after his death in 323 BC a vast empire that reached over the whole civilized world from Greece, Egypt, just beyond the Indus River in the east. During his life, Alexander the Great – with his immense charisma, his policy of divide and rule, his reward for loyalty and his ruthless revenge on unfaithful – was the sole binding factor with an almost divine status [15]. Without a clearly appointed successor after his untimely death, a ruthless power struggle soon began between (alleged) pretenders and supporters. Within a short time most of Alexander’s direct pretenders – women and children – were murdered; also women took part in the mutual slaughter of each other and each other’s children.

The actual battle for his succession was conducted within Alexander’s small circle of confidants – who alternately had assumed the role of general, comrades and executors – and various local rulers, whom Alexander the Great had left as guardians of parts of his empire during his triumph.

One of Alexander’s confidants was his secretary Eumenes – an outsider and foreigner of Greek origin – who had played an increasingly important role during the succession in which he had primarily fulfilled the role as protector of the mother and only surviving son of Alexander. In this struggle Eumenes had proved an outstanding military strategist and tactician, and he won most battles, but otherwise he missed all the good and bad qualities of Alexander in charisma and revenge, while he had also remained a stranger to the Macedonians. At the moment he had to make a unity between different factions within the army, including the headstrong and self-confident Silver Shields – the never defeated elite troops that Alexander had inherited from his father Philip II and who had given him many victories in his triumph; many were already over 60 years old – Eumenes had decided to bring the ghost of Alexander back to life. He told the commanders of the troops who were entrusted to him that Alexander had appeared to him in a dream and had given him the order to let all commanders appear before Alexander’s throne in a tent for deliberation. The commanders had accepted this proposal. Eumenes had ordered to cast the throne from gold of the royal treasury and he placed on it Alexander’s scepter and diadem in a tent. All commanders had brought honours to the empty throne by burning incense to him – the Ghost of Alexander on the throne. Eumenes had promised that as long as they met as council before the throne and accepted orders from him , then Alexander would be present and guide them in their decisions. After Eumenes and the commanders had accepted this way of decision-making, the mutual tension was significantly decreased. Obviously Eumenes had the most input during the deliberation [16]. Almost Eumenes had managed to secure the throne for the family of Alexander, but in the decisive final battle the opponent had conquered the baggage train with women and possessions of the Silver Shields. A faction of the Silver Shields had finally chosen for their belongings and they had delivered Eumenes with a list to his opponent. First, the opponent did not dare to kill Eumenes out of respect, but later he gave this command. The Invincible Silver Shields were dissolved, the commander was killed and the individual infantrymen received in remote areas impossible tasks that they usually did not survive. All this time the Ghost on the throne had led them in this turbulent period in taking decisions and had led them to victories when they remained faithful to the decisions [17].

Upon seeing this pulpit, I notice the similarity with the tent of Alexander and a Ghost on the throne”, says Carla.

“Fascinating addition. Shall we continue with this topic this evening”, says Narrator.
“That is good”, says Man.

[1] “Pagan Gods” is derived from Gods of the pagus or pays. Pagus means in Latijn: village
[2] Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 50
[3] See e.g.: Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007, Chapter 7: Fairies, Virgins, Gods and Priests.
[4] See also: Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007, Chapter 7: Fairies, Virgins, Gods and Priests and Histoire de la Vie privée. Tome 3: De la Renaissance aux Lumière. Red. Ariès, Philippe & Duby, George. Chapter 1 (p. 85 from the Dutch version)
[5] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosaire
[6] Source: Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007, p. 133 – 134
[7] See: Herodotus 7.35 en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerxes’_Pontoon_Bridges
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xerxes_lash_sea.JPG
[9] See amongst others: Potok, Chaim, Omzwervingen, ‘s-Gravenhage: BZZTôH 1999 and Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013
[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus
[11] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zondag and Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 30
[12] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus
[13] See also: MacCulloch, Diarmond, Christianity – The first three thousand Years. New York: Viking, 2010, Part II “One Church, One Faith, One Lord?”and Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, Chapters II and III
[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nieuwe_Kerk_(Amsterdam)
[15] See also: Lane Fox, Robin, Alexander de Grote, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij de Arbeiderspers, 2005
[16] Source: Romm, James, Ghost on the Thone – The death of Alexander the Great and the war for crown and empire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. p. 220-221, 235
[17] See: Romm, James, Ghost on the Thone – The death of Alexander the Great and the war for crown and empire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Chapter 10

Free and bound

After Carla, Narrator and Man have visited the English Church, they walk to the Catholic Begijnhof chapel. At the entrance Man explains:

“In spring 1942, I have received the first sacraments [1] of the Catholic faith in this Catholic chapel with the official name Johannes and Ursula chapel. In 1671, this chapel had started as a hidden chapel by connecting two houses in the Begijnhof to create a Church space. The former city council had approved the plans for the reconstruction on the condition that from the outside one cannot see that in here a Catholic chapel was located.
Katholieke Begijnhof kapel buitenzijde[2]
With the receiving of the first sacraments in this Catholic Begijnhof Chapel my faith had changed from Jewish to Catholic to the outside world. Via friends of my aunt at the Civil Registry in Rotterdam, I have received a few days later my other name Hermanus Jacobus Maria Leben including accompanying identity papers; from that moment on my name was Man Leben instead of Levi Hermann. With this other identity on paper I arrived through a number of intermediate steps at the farm of my godparents in South Limburg [3]. Although I have had the best time of my life at their farm, the free rendering of the poem by Rudyard Kipling [4] about the loss of his son during a fight on the Western Front in Great War had been in my life for a long time:

“Have you news of my mother?”
Not this tide.
“When do you think that she will come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide

“Has anyone else had word of her?”
Not this tide.
For what has disappeared, will not return
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide

“Oh, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide, nor any tide,
Except she had given her child —
with this wind blowing to that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide and every tide;
because I am her sun
given with this wind blowing and that tide! [5]

Much later, much later, in the preparation of saying Kaddhish in memory of my mother, the following haiku came into my life:

Wind takes you along
Volatile and fatal
From Hades’ realm.

After honouring my mother and father in the Jewish commemoration Kaddish [6], the following haiku came into my life. I always carry this haiku with me wherever I go and stand:

Where I go and stand
Your voice and your face
This tide and all tide

The long version of this haiku is the following poem:
Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
within this wind blowing I hear Your voice.

Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
within this wind blowing You’re near.

In every voice, I hear
In every face, I see
This tide and all tide
Your face.

Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
The passing of my life
Your face.

Let us enter the chapel”, says Man.
“You were so lonely”, says Carla.
“All one, never lonely as you had been in the solidified time. Let’s enter the chapel”, says Man.
Carla, Man and Narrator enter the Catholic Begijnhof chapel.
Katholieke Begijnhof kapel binnenzijde[7]
After visiting the chapel, Carla, Man and Narrator have a drink at the Spui.
“A long time, my memories of the Catholic Begijnhof Chapel had been vague and diffuse, but now I am old, it seems that my baptism, confirmation and first communion took place yesterday, so clearly I see and smell these events from my memories.
I also remember my dislike of the priest who has given me the first sacraments of the Catholic Church. An aversion to authority is a constant in my life. From childhood on I wanted as little as possible to do with power, because it brought me no good. Now I must admit – with shame – my mistake to the influence and – especially at the time – to the courage of the Catholic priest in Begijnhof Chapel; to him I owe further my life.
Although this priest had probably followed the Catholic canon law, he went – risking his own life – at least beyond the profane requirements of the occupier in the Netherlands and he also went beyond open undercurrents of anti-Judaism in the Christian church since this church under Constantine the Great had become the official church of the Roman Empire.
The anti-Judaism in Christianity had probably had its origins in the usual rivalry between religions in the struggle for survival, and had been shaped in the struggle for dominance between both religions and in the pursuit of purity of faith.
Before the Christian church under Constantine the Great had practically become the official church of the Roman Empire, Christians had to deal with prosecutions . In addition, they had to bend in many places in Asia Minor to the Jewish precepts and laws. The Christians could only express their dormant and sometimes outright hatred of the Jewish in words, sermons and writings. The Christian faith had emanated from and had built on the Jewish faith and rules, but as adolescents move away from their parents in order to start their own life, so the Christians moved away – and sometimes rebelled against – the Jewish faith and Jewish law and rules. Although at that time the Christians in Asia Minor had rebelled against the Jews, as descendants of the Jews – on the road to independence – both beliefs were closely linked. Also a very significant group of Christians – called Judaizers [8] – were sympathetic to Judaism: in addition to the Christian Sunday rest, they practiced the Sabbath rest, they fasted with fellow Christians and observed the Jewish rules for fasting, they celebrated the Christian Passover in the church and in their own circles the Jewish Pesach. The Christian church leaders – seeking purity of faith – were not pleased with this mix of both believe; they wished to establish the renewal of the Christian faith and eternally safeguard it in the future whereby simultaneously introduce rigidity, hierarchy and authority. In addition, the Christian church leaders wanted to establish a homogeneous block in their struggle against paganism [9]. Perhaps the Christian church leaders were more anxious about the temptations and paganism in their own sections or in their selves, than about the paganism in the outside world. An organization or person with inner doubt often tries to derive securities from the vicinity: if the environment offers security and support, the inner uncertainty will have less incentives to manifest themselves. This corresponds to a liar who do every effort to let the environment appear honest in order to avoid being caught.
In 313 AC, the Christian church was liberated from persecution under Licinius and Constantine the Great – the emperors respectively the Western and Eastern Roman Empire – with the Edict of Milan [10], by the words ” that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best” [11 ]. Although there had arisen freedom of religion within the Roman Empire by this Edict, in reality shortly after the Edict the Christian church had become he official church of the Roman Empire. At the Council of Nicaea Constantine personally made sure that the Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover were separated [12]
Around 380 AC the anti-Jewish rhetoric had reached its peak at that time in Johannes Chrysostomus (Church father, and later Archbishop of Constantinople from 398 to 403 AC). In Antioch – in that place Johannes Chrysostomus was a normal priest – was a substantial group Judaizers, despite all efforts of the Christian church to separate Christians and Jews. With his ” Preaching against the Jews ” Johannes Chrysostomus had tried to end the habit of Judaizers definitively. He compared the Judaizers with mortally ill fellow Christians that had to be cured of the Jewish plague. With all his extraordinary rhetorical gifts and his extraordinary charisma, he had disreputed the Jews in these sermons by comparing them with the lowest earthly beings around. The ultimate argument of Johannes Chrysostomus in his anti-Jewish sermons was the proposition that – without exception – all Jews were “the murderer of Jesus Christ”: herewith the Jews had call upon themselves all their misery and rejection of God. The influence of these sermons has been enormous; the translated sermons had been distributed within the Christian church. By the sermons of Johannes Chrysostomus the attitude of Christians towards the Jews had been profoundly affected; latent dislikes of the Jews have been given a voice and the image of the “Christ Killer” stigma had been inculcated [13].
Johannes Chrysostomus[14]
Before the Reformation, especially Antwerp and also Amsterdam were refuges for Jews from Spain and Portugal, and later to people of other faiths or dissenters. After the fall of Antwerp during the revolt against Spain in the Low Countries in 1585 AC [15], many – most prosperous – refugees had moved to Amsterdam. During and after the Reformation, Amsterdam has been – to a greater or lesser extent – a refuge and a kind of haven for dissenters and beliefs of others faits. My parents had relied on it as they had fled from Frankfurt am Main to Amsterdam in 1934 to escape from the effects of the other regime in Germany.
With the rise of the other regime in Germany in the 30s, xenophobia had been connected with the always latent aversion to Jews, coupled with the memory of shame of the loss of the Great War and the repayment of the war debt – that had caused a crisis and hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic between 1921 and 1923 [16] – linked with the urge to permanently establish and sustain innovation in Germany permanently. The result was a widely accepted dictatorship in Germany that had accepted no other voice and a society that wished to eradicate existing fears by projecting uncertainties on scapegoats. Removing the scapegoats from society might also remove the fears and uncertainties; this mechanism cumulative in dictated persecution of Jews that was strictly executed by the bureaucrats.
In the prime of my life I had the idea that I could shape my own life, that I could liberate myself from my past by free choices, that I did give shape to my own future shape. This liberation had largely taken place, but I have owed my whole life and the way I’ve lived for a very large part due to the Christian Church, to John Chrysostom and the consequences of his Sermons against the Jews, and the authority of the priest who has given me the first sacraments of the Catholic faith in this Catholic Begijnhof chapel. As much as I had tried to escape hereof, and how much I had resisted ‘ve done myself in the prime of my life, now I’ve peace with it. Free and bound”, says Man.
“Once I read somewhere that Church History is all encompassing. Arguably I think this is correct”, says Narrator.
“Shall we have lunch. Mid-afternoon we can continue with “Free and bound” in a personal relationship with God, during and after the Reformation. Then I suggest to continue with the rise of capitalism in Holland amongst others caused by the Reformation. Do you like of this proposal”, says Man.
“That is good. Shall I continue with the personal relationship with God? ”, says Narrator.
“Afterwards I will continue with the rise of capitalism”, says Carla.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrament
[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_Chapel,_Amsterdam
[3] See also: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 21 – 21
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling
[5] Free rendering of: Kipling, Rudyard, My Boy Jack. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Boy_Jack_%28poem%29
[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhofkapel_(Amsterdam)
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaizers
[9] Source and see also: Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 154
[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Milan
[11] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_and_Christianity
[12] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 266
[13] Source and see also: Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 155
[14] Image of Johannes Chrysostomus in the Hagia Sophia. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Chrysostom
[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Antwerp
[16] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic

Iconoclasm and the word

Before the tourist flow will start, Carla, Man and Narrator visit the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. They are looking at the Sacred Heart statue in the middle of the lawn.
Begijnhof Amsterdam[1]
Begijnhof - Heilighartbeeld[2]
“This Begijnhof – founded before 1346 AC in the Middle Ages – is the only inner court that exist in the Amsterdam within the Singel. Originally the Begijnhof was entirely surrounded by water with the Nieuwezijdsvoorburgwal, Spui and Begijnensloot; the only access was a bridge over the Begijnensloot at Begijnensteeg. The Begijnhof was not a retirement provision founded by private individuals; it was a sort of nunnery – with patron saint St. Ursula – where beguines lived with more freedom. They had made a vow of chastity and they had felt obliged to daily visit Holy Mass and to perform prayers during fixed moment every day, but they were allowed to leave the inner court at any time to get married.

After the Alteration in 1578 AC – wherein the Catholic administration in Amsterdam was replaced by a Calvinist administration – the Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic institution that was allowed to continue its existence because the houses were private property of the beguines. The chapel, however, was closed to be allocated in 1607 AC to the English Presbyterian church in Amsterdam. Since that time, the chapel is named the English Reformed Church [3].

In September 1898, Piet Mondrian – an iconoclast in modern art – was commissioned to make four wooden relief panels for the pulpit in the English Reformed [4]. It is interesting to see the development in the work of Piet Mondrian; starting with these panels in the pulpit, via the painting of the tree in gray/blue, to abstract paintings with coloured surfaces, to – like Gerrit Rietveld – determine the painting with white, perhaps because he was one of the few who wished to create paintings by undistorted light. After his iconoclasm Piet Mondrian had kept to the strict rules of abstract paintings according Neoplasticism [5] and he only used horizontal and vertical lines to divide the surface of the painting; lines that enclose and lines that exclude, although in the last paintings both lines no longer enclose and exclusion. Piet Mondrian never used diagonal lines like Theo van Doesburg [6].
Preekstoel - Engelse Kerk - Mondriaan[7]
Boom Mondriaan[8]
Schilderij vlakken Mondriaan[9]
Schilderij Grijs Wit Mondriaan[10]

Via this contemporary iconoclasm by “De Stijl” movement, it may be good to continue with your introduction of iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago”, says Narrator.

Carla, Man and Narrator sit against the wall around the lawn in the Begijnhof.

“Thanks you for this fascinating introduction to the Begijnhof and its history. Before I will start with the iconoclasm of 2500 years ago in the early Jewish history, I would like to bring to mind Moses’ effort to get the One – Yahweh – recognised as the only God without a picture by the Jewish people. After Moses had receive the Ten Commandments from the One (written with the finger of Yahweh) – including the first two commandments: “I am the eternal God and Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – and returned again to his people, he saw the chosen people worshiping a golden calf: the chosen people had completely forgotten Yahweh. Furiously Moses threw the tables of the Ten Commandments in pieces. Hereafter he had to climb the mountain again to receive new tables of the covenant from the One. These tables were carried in the ark of the covenant; probably the ark was destroyed in the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem [11]. Since that time, the tables of the covenant including the first books of the Tanakh [12] are carried as Torah [13] by a Jewish community on a roll – made of parchment from the skin of a kosher animal – wherever they go. The text of the Torah is overwritten and copied by hand on parchment for every Jewish community wherever they live. Because of these roles the covenant with the One is no longer physically bound to the original tables in an ark of the covenant.
Around 600 BC the first temple in Jerusalem – built around 1000 BC under the reign of King Solomon – had been destroyed and a large part of the chosen people had been taken to Babylon in three groups between 597 and 582 BC. A small group of the people had remained and they lived as shepherds among the ruins of Jerusalem [15]. A generation later, the part of the chosen people in Babylon could return to Jerusalem, and many of them returned. With the group that had stayed behind in Babylon, a close relationship remained that almost two thousand years later is still in place, because after the chosen people spread all over the earth, the descendants of this group staying behind in Babylon were still consulted on the interpretation of religious matters. After the return of the exiles the rebuilding of the new smaller – second – Temple started in Jerusalem; this second temple had been finished in 515 BC. At that time, there was a high degree of literacy among the chosen people in Palestine; this is shown in correspondence between Jewish soldiers and their officers from that period [16].

In 445 BC Jerusalem – with the second new temple – is still a city of half-ruined walls where people lived among the weeds and the rubble. In that year Nehemia – the deputy governor of the Persian king – decided to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem; walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the construction, the weapons were ever ready to repel sudden attacks of opponents; trowel in one hand, sword in the other hand.

After the building of the walls had finished, all the chosen people gathered one month later – in the seventh month of the year – near the restored Watergate. The chosen people asked Ezra – the high priest and scribe – to get the Torah including the law of Moses. Before the gathered crowd in Jerusalem, Ezra opened the Torah and everyone stood up. The native language of many of the attendees was Aramaic; during the reading of the Hebrew text of the law of Moses, the Levites [17] – the tribe of my ancestors [18] – gave explanation in order that the people understood the text. The next day Ezra, the Levites and Elders assembled to study the Law. They read that in the seventh month of the year, the chosen people had to build tabernacles. Hereafter the chosen people gathered foliage from the environment to build huts [19]. A month later, the chosen people entered a new covenant with the One; a covenant that connects and a covenant that excludes. Herewith the chosen people promised to read these laws regularly and they committed themselves to maintain the covenant including e.g. the commandment to refrain from marriages with outsiders .

This call of the chosen people to read the laws was a revolution in the ancient Near East, where usually the people were called by rulers to hear the power, the sacred majesty and the words of the local king, and to worship the king and his images.

The worship of the chosen people was centred around scrolls with words; it was a worship without a king, and it was a covenant within the whole community of the chosen people with the One. Through this public reading, the old habit of loudly reciting the Torah at fixed times was restored and today this practice is still carried out by the chosen people [20].

This iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago is very similar to the iconoclasm of 1566 AC during the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands. In 1566 AC on Walcheren in the dunes of Dishoek the first so-called “hedge sermon” [21 ] took place in the open air. From that moment, and the next few years many sermons had been held in the open air held by Protestants since overt religious practice outside the Catholic Church had been banned. Partly because of these sermons and the reading of the Bible itself – the Holy book given to chosen people by the One – created a mutual bond between believers. They would have experienced this as a worship without a king and as renewed covenant between the One and the whole community whereby they surely had read the book of Nehemiah about the covenant between the One and the chosen people 2000 years before. And still in Reformed families in the western part of the Netherland a next passage from the Bible is read at every meal; this usage is derived from the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands, but it is also a result of the renewed covenant that the chosen people entered with the One more than 2,500 years ago”, says Man.

“With this explanation of the iconoclasm from the Jewish history in relation to the iconoclasm in the Golden Age of Holland, you fulfil the role of the Levites again; the same role that your ancestors had fulfilled 2500 years ago. Obviously at that time this covenant had been a revolution as far as a commitment to the One concerned, but I have my reservations about the walls that enclose and the walls that exclude. A revolution that wishes to separate the elect from outsiders and/or dissenters is of all time. According to Bakunin [22], many revolutionaries become worse than the former ruler after a short time. How did this revolution of 2500 years ago via a renewed covenant with the One continue?”, asks Carla.

“Nature flows where is cannot flow anymore. This also applies to my role as a Levite [23]; this certainly applies to the development and the continuation of the renewal of the covenant with the One. Less than a month later, a document of this covenant had been prepared containing a large number of provisions , including the names of the elect, marrying within their own circle, and exclusion of populations in the vicinity [24]. In the western part of the Netherlands, the Reformation had followed a similar path . In London in 1550 AC the first Reformed church service had been held; in Emden in northern Germany a first Synod had been held; then in Dordrecht during the Eighty Years’ War– whereby several key persons could not be present – the two Synods of 1574 and 1578 AC had been held, and in Middelburg in 1581 and in The Hague in 1586 AC two other Synods had followed. These Synods had aimed at mutual agreement within the Reformed churches, but also to ward off foreign elements; also here walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the pillarisation after the time of Napoleon, faith groups married in their own circles and lived in their own circles. During the school struggles in the 19th century there has been fought hard for freedom of education within their circles with an equal financial footing by the Government; this freedom of education – and equality in public financial contribution of private schools with public education – is enshrined in the Constitution of the Netherlands [25].

Due to my life course, I could never feel at home at religious walls that enclose and exclude; I have always sought and found the interconnectedness – with hope and consolation [26] – of the many ways of religion”, says Man.

“Not intentionally, but intuitively I have asked you to visit this Begijnhof as a way of interconnectedness within the separation in history between Catholic Beguines and the English Presbyterian church in the Protestant area of Amsterdam”, says Narrator.

“Shall we visit both churches?”, says Man.

“That is good”, say Carla and Narrator.


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam)
[2] Sacred Heart statue made by Johannes Petrus Maas in 1920 AC in the middle of the lawn in the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. Due to the pillarisation in the Nederland at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century these statues were allowed within their own circle. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heilig_Hartbeeld_(Amsterdam)
[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformed_Church,_Amsterdam
[4] Source for the description of the Begijnhof in Amsterdam: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam) en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof,_Amsterdam
[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nieuwe_Beelding
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Doesburg
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engelse_Hervormde_Kerk_(Amsterdam)
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[10] Source image: http://www.dekunsten.net/01+.html (fair use)
[11] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence, Part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 104 – 106 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_of_the_Covenant
[12] The Bible of the Jews. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh
[13] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thora
[15] Source: Potok, Chaim, Omzwervingen, ‘s-Gravenhage: BZZTôH 1999, p. 175 – 182
[16] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 81, 82
[17] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levite
[18] The original name of Man Leben is Levi Hermann. See: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 129
[19] See: Nehemia 7,72-8,18 from the Tanakh
[20] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 59, 60
[21] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagenpreek
[22] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin
[23] See also: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 128
[24] See: Nehemia 9 – 13 from the Tanakh
[25] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_struggle_(Netherlands)
[26] Last words in de film “Offret – The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky