Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Synod of Whitby

The Synod of Whitby took place in 664 AD. Ostensibly it was held to decide between the 'tonsure' or haircut of the Celtic monks versus the haircuts of the Roman monks. Also there was a central argument over the dating of Easter, the Irish and Scots having taken their dating from that chosen by St. John, the apostle who "Jesus loved". Rome however had changed it's mind and moved the date of Easter to another Sunday.

However, more deeply this was "the clash of two civilizations. Ireland stood for a small federation of social groups as inept at centralizing as they were biased against it. The English mission stood for the Roman Church, an ecclesiastical empire that needed conformity to function properly." The Irish church was based on "monasticism, asceticism and martyrdom" whereas with the rise of Constantine the Roman church saw 'martyrdom' as a thing of the past. I was also against the Irish rule of the abbott of the countryside monasteries over the bishops, the bishops being connected to the town based political organization of the Roman church. As for asceticisms, the "simplicity of Irish aspirations" , "their simplicity of character" and "their love for nature and their delight in little things of it" were at extreme variance with the "complex web of intellect" of the Roman church and the Canterbury school's showing "priority, dignity and such considerations override often its duty to neighbours." The Irish quite simply were more likely to love their fellow man and have a fondness for them than their counterpart who were more in favour of 'ruling' and establishing appropriate hierarchy of empire.

The Celts had a quality which was offensive to their "serious" English Roman counterparts, and that was their "taste for whimsy" . "In a typical carefree ay they never came to regard Latin with the same awe others did, yet they excelled in that too. …The Irish at the time developed their tongue far more than any other European race and much of their best literature was written in Gaelic." In addition they had an 'adventurousness" that their Roman English counterparts did not approve of. "Their love of the sea took them across it with the same vigour the Vikings had.

Admittedly they had an irritating trait of being 'intolerably self satisfied' and the 'idea of the chosen race was always present."

As to the issue of heresy, the Irish were more influence by Pelagius and John Scotus. Pelagian heresy was a rationalist heresy that questioned the notion of original sin and the divinity of Christ. John Scotus was the Neo Platonist and claimed that Evil was a "privation of God" and did not exist in its own right.

Further at the time there was in the Eastern church the idea that the trinity was to be understood in a mystical way. God the father represented the Old Testament and the rule of fear, with Peter representing the New Testament and the rule of Gospel and St. John representing the Holy Spirit and the rule of Love. The Celtic church claimed it's authority as coming from St. John, love and the teaching of the inner church whereas the Roman church clearly preferred God the Father and God the Son championing Old Testament and St. Peter

Finally, the Irish monks shaved all the top of their heads leaving the hair long at the back whereas the Romans shavedthe top of their heads in a circle which they said emulated the 'crown of Christ."

The quotations are from "The Early Celtic Church" by Brendan Lehane, Continuum, London, 1968. They're attributed to St. Gregory , the pope of Rome's "campaign of expansion and consolidation'.

The Empire must have conformity even in a haircut and a date whereas years later Luther will begin the revolt that divided the church into Protestant Christian and Roman Catholic because of the base corruption and obscenity of the day when the death of a loved one was denied entry into heaven until an adequate bribe was paid to a priest.

Given my ancestry I too love the 'little things' and remember being told that the sixties was really mostly about men refusing to have the short 'military haircuts' of the day. The greatest offence of Jesus was to call God, the father, daddy, and claim that Love was the central message of scripture. The message of the 60's was also Love and Peace. These seem to be the most dangerous ideas of history.

Given the importance of haircuts to history I think it's worth watching the length of hair of men and women at any time.

And at my age I'm grateful to have hair to hold onto. Not surprising it was the White man that taught the Indians about scalping too. One must keep track of the re writing of history if one has any interest in truth. And that's a date I'd like to keep.

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