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The Oldest Christian Church

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* On this page I focus only on the Christian Orthodox doctrines and their applications to our postmodern universe. There is a segment on Islam and Oromo in "Birth of Tafari" chapter. Cross: see ORTHODOXY!


[continued from page "Magic Scrolls"]



Ethiopians were indifferent to the issue of race... There are many shades of black in Africa. Egyptians or Arabs could be very dark. As well as Indians (especially, Indians in Africa). Division lines in Ethiopia are ethnic (cultural). Ethiopian Jesus isn't white, and in my opinion, neither the Russian Christ. The faces on Russian icons are very dark. Perhaps, it has something to do with a brown, which has to be applied first, before we use okra and other colors. Perhaps, because Jesus is a Jew, and not from Brooklyn but Palestine.
Unfortunately, many Ethiopian Christian books are the apocrypha. They are not well known. There was no dialogue between Ethiopian church and other Christian Orthodox branches. Egyptian coptics or Armenians would see nothing unusual in Christ dark complexion. Since Ethiopian church lived for centuries in total isolation, Ethiopians had no need to compare their Christ with European versions. And they were the only Christian country in Africa. They do not consider themselves blacks because their Central African neighbors are much darker. Sheba is dark for the Hebrews, not for the Oromo.
More interesting is to see the different understanding of Christ's essence. Like in other Eastern Orthodoxies we hardly can find Jesus on the cross. His human nature isn't separate from his divinity and therefore his death has less significance. Also, his birth, Christmas, is not a major holiday. Easter is. The triumph of being God. For Abyssinians, the warriors, Christ was more a king:

With this writing, through the power of Jesus Christ, Sabaot, who has Michael on his right and Gabriel on his left, you will send the angels with their swords and Christ between them with his sword; and they will purify the face of the earth, the four faces of the sky, the four faces of the plants, the four faces of the water, and the faces of all things under the earth.

Also, in contrast with all other Christian churches, Ethiopians see the Trinity as three identical figures. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who in Western mind were developed into definite personas, in Ethiopia they are seen as the same. Therefore Christ is a ruler. Equal to Father, the Creator.
The geometric (abstract) dimension in scrolls' canon allows them to present Christ as very connected with the other world. He, like everything else in Ethiopian iconography, is depicted according to a nature of a situation. God-man is present in human situations. (Of course, one has to remember that there are several eras in Ethiopian history with its own sensitivity. For me the beauty of true scrolls ends with the Gondar period.)
The writing on the scrolls!
Protective Motif: "This is Mrs. Esther Sellassie-Antohin."
In what language should I write my wife's name? English, Amharic, Russian? I hope that the picture will SPEAK, will protect her. Is it a portrait? Could her guardian angel recognize her on this "portrait"? Is it a good enough painting for the eyes of the divine?...

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Notes & Thoughts

Part Two of the Book is about being emperor, king and King of Kings. About something that is very foreign to our minds. I keep hearing about "People's Princess" (Princess Dianna) every day and I don't understand this media-given title. Maybe the concept of king is less complicated than "God" and I can find my answers for the history of my century. I don't believe that we can foget things and there is nothing from the ancient past in our contemporary institutions. Actually, I believe that the past reenforces itself in our "new" formations. I suspect that there is more "monarchy" in our democracy than it was ever in previous history. Who is our king is another question. Who? You, the people.
Historians have always claimed that the myths of celestial kings were nothing more than images of local kings and kingship rites projected onto the sky. But comparative analysis will demonstrate that the reverse is true. The memory of the creator-king came first, and it was this remarkable memory which provided the mythical aura supporting and legitimizing kings the world over.[1]

Killing the king became a secret act in modernity. Historians didn't convince the revolutionary that the king isn't divine. The murder of kings isn't public but something of a court intrigue. The leaders of a mob kill a man to get rid of a king. What's the point in talking about them? Nowadays it doesn't take a hero to kill a hero. Bullets equalize the strong and the wicked. A child with a gun could be David. He has no memory. Period.

Of course, we know that according to universal tradition, every king was, in a magical way, the Universal Monarch reborn. But this is an academic issue. What is King if God is dead? What is a king? Another human. Countries without kings are the leaders.

The original concept may appear as self-flattery, but it actually has more to do with the *burden* of kings: the requirement that the king live up to the mythical aura of kings. Never was there a king in early times who did not wear the dress of a mythical god--the model of the good ruler. Whatever the celestial, founding king had achieved, it was the duty of the present king, pharaoh, or emperor to duplicate, at least through symbolic repetition. For such was the first test of a *good* king. [2]

O King's Rights are King's Duties!


On a level of comfort our modern commoner lives like a king. Do you expect him to be a servant of the society (Friderix's principle)? Well, he is not in a position of superiority to others: a welfare recipient is provided with living -- the same with a king. He has all the benefits of a king without king's responsibilities. In fact, today's society, and not religion as before, guards against anybody's superiority. Paid policeman or soldier, they are in the field of special authority (a "man with the gun," but a part of the big machine = state of power) and we PAID them to have firm control over them. This expension of the model of noble living on all citizens came together with the opposite principle, when we require all to work.

"Military communism" in Russia (1918) removed the economy of labor relations. There was an order of monk-warriors (knights of revolution). "Party of a new kind" (Lenin) -- where any job was political and was an appointment (almost as in nobility). The society was divided into the sacred members (party) and the rest. The party member had no personal divine rights (and no persona); he owned nothing but everything was in the possession of the state, based on ideology. Factually, everything belonged to the party.

That was the ideological ground for the totalitarian state, and, eventually, for uncontrolled corruption. After the sons of the Great Revolution executed their fathers (the normal mode of succession in monarchy), they had no memory of being underground, in exile, opposition. They knew nothing but power. Stalin was the last to die in 1954, when the communist clan of children and grandchildren of the revolutionaries took over. It took another generation (1985-Perestroika) to dissolve the ideology (and as a result the state became self-destructive). The same with Mao and his cultural revolution. In Ethiopia Mengistu had to complete this process in one decade.
What still is missing in Ethiopia -- technology. The best tool of providing king's living for everyone...

[King as a super-man (superior being): magic presence, the bridge between human and the divine.
Now: supreme to whom? To other people? No way!]


Contrary to what is usually thought, it is the man of excellence, and not the common man, who lives in essential servitude. Life has no savour for him unless he makes it consist in service to something transcendental. Hence he does not look upon the necessity of serving as an oppression. When, by chance, such necessity is lacking, he grows restless and invents some new standard, more difficult, more exigent, with which to coerce himself. This is life lived as a discipline -- the noble life. Nobility is defined by the demands it makes on us -- by obligations, not by rights. Noblesse oblige. "To live as one likes is plebeian; the noble man aspires to order and law" (Goethe). The privileges of nobility are not in their origin concessions or favors; on the contrary, they are conquests. And their maintenance supposes, in principle, that the privileged individual is capable of reconquering them, at any moment, if it were necessary, and anyone were to dispute them.*(2) Private rights or privileges are not, then, passive possession and mere enjoyment, but they represent the standard attained by personal effort. On the other hand, common rights, such as those "of the man and the citizen," are passive property, pure usufruct and benefit, the generous gift of fate which every man finds before him, and which answers to no effort whatever, unless it be that of breathing and avoiding insanity. I would say, then, that an impersonal right is held, a personal one is upheld. [G VI]

Ortega E Gasset is pointing at something which could be the extreme of nobility in the case of Being the King. Absolute Monarch is the absolute limitation. Haile Sellassie was the last and ultimate emperor. He was and played the King of Kings.

I write this on the day of the Crown Prince's death. He died on January 18, 1997 in Alexandria, Virginia. Self-proclaimed Emperor just a few years before his death, he never had any political significance. He was the Emperor for a few days during the coup of 1960 -- and the father remembered it. The son was crushed by the weight of his father's fame. He never was his father's favorite son. He was another example of many negatives of the noble idea.


Noble means the "well known," that is, known by everyone, famous, he who has made himself known by excelling the anonymous mass. It implies an unusual effort as the cause of his fame. Noble, then, is equivalent to effortful, excellent. The nobility or fame of the son is pure benefit. The son is known because the father made himself famous. He is known by reflection, and in fact, hereditary nobility has an indirect character, it is mirrored light, lunar nobility, something derived from the dead. The only thing left to it of living, authentic, dynamic is the impulse it stirs in the descendant to maintain the level of effort reached by the ancestor. Always, even in this altered sense, noblesse oblige. The original noble lays an obligation on himself, the noble heir receives the obligation with his inheritance. But in any case there is a certain contradiction in the passing-on of nobility from the first noble to his successors. The Chinese, more logical, invert the order of transmission; it is not the father who ennobles the son, but the son who, by acquiring noble rank, communicates it to his forbears, by his personal efforts bringing fame to his humble stock. Hence, when granting degrees of nobility, they are graduated by the number of previous generations which are honored; there are those who ennoble only their fathers, and those who stretch back their fame to the fifth or tenth grandparent. The ancestors live by reason of the actual man, whose nobility is effective, active -- in a word: is not was.* (Gasset)

How and who could outperform Haile Sellassie? He couldn't have done it himself at the end of his life. He ended where he started -- in relations with himself. He withdrew from the world.

If Chinese wisdom is right HIM famed the ancestors, his efforts were directed at the past, regardless of his reforms of the present for the future of Ethiopia. Maybe there is logic in the modern amnesia of the country. The history of nobility was over and people on the streets of Addis Ababa had no interest in this foreign culture.

What is the inside picture of the monarch?
God, king, man -- always single. The price of power, freedom, self-awareness -- solitude. HIM did not share his thought with anyone. Not even with paper. A man of silence, he was used to the position of a monk. His thoughts and personal feelings were between him and God. Tafari was a prisoner of Haile Sellassie. It was his choice and destiny.

Relations with yourself as with "others" -- performance, personal (private) and public, the conflict.

Relationships with your-selves: democratic process?

The aristocracy didn't put a fight. At the time of revolution there was only an empty shell of nobility. The inner tension on which nobility lives was gone. The Crown was ceremonial rituals, no more than the British royal house since high modernity.

King as the nearest image of Father (God).

King is alienated from life.

Humanity is not his family (in human sense): they don't (and shouldn't) understand him, they share of nothing in his experience; the division is the extreme one. He doesn't belong to heaven and doesn't belong to earth.

After the Age of Revolution loses its rage and will turn into legitimate past -- and the postmodern is an indication of this aging modernity -- we will rediscover the secrets of nobility. Not only the disappearance of the openly communist rhetoric but the reappearance of forgotten kings is an indication of cultural vacuum.

One reason constitutional monarchies appear to be exceptional in the degree of unity and stability which they enjoy may be that the monarch is a center of national loyalty above politics. A distinguished English lawyer expressed it this way: "One can be a loyal subject of the Crown while regarding the Prime Minister and his Party as a national disaster." (Austria 2000)

New logic of the benefits of royalty: "political impartiality would not apply in the case of a President who was politically selected. (However, some of those who argue in favour of a republic are reported as saying that the President, however chosen, would be above politics)." (Australia 2000)

And we thought that Machiavelli was the ultimate politician. They were philosophers next to contemporary leaders, who are the pure politicians. They are the servants -- they can't have independent minds. There is nothing there for them to think about but the politics.

King rules but does not govern: thinkers. Masses govern but can't rule. Think about it....

The (constitutional) monarchy has undergone a process of democratization of at least the same magnitude as the "monarchization" of the democracy. Kings for a year, for a day, even fifteen minutes! Rotate the power of the powerless! Rent the palace! What is our hotel industry for? Limousine service, catering, restaurants -- the last must be served! I don't need blood line, you need money. Let's rotate the role playing; one day a master, next day -- a slave. What is our idea of vacation? Did you ever heard the saying "The customer is a king"? Why not "president"? Doesn't sound right.

Too late to talk about Revolt of the Masses.

The Mob is a king, both during the revolt, and after, when it forms Revolutionary Society of Equals.

It is always violent, even when it's an organized one. Especially when it's well-organized. This soft violence is fully analyzed by Foucault. Marxism is a over century old experience to miss the points of the advanced power technology. A careful reader of American texts could notice that the laws of democracy protect "human" rights. "Human" is a historical definition, not an absolute. Communists openly rejected "abstract humanity"; they were for the rights of the "Soviet humans." "Human" is something which is a mutual feature in you and me. Our common characteristics, not our differences. Individual rights gave in to human rights. Did you notice?

Monarchization of democracy (conversion): president as a celebrity. The recent auctions of American royalty, the Camelots, and belongings of the first lady J. Who buys them? The kings. The customers. It takes a lot of money to get (buy) the mass media time and the mass itself.

Popular king, people's favorite = clown. Leadership = people's will. We elect president not for actual management but for a representation. We need the figure.
Collective conscience must be a reality since we politically act upon it.

Paradise: land of no fear. Our leaders are likable, good-to-all-guys. The principle of electability makes them into non-rulers and non-governors. Populism (love) and monarchy (fear): in the past they loved their king because he was "theirs" by God's providence. Now they like their choice. The king served his people by God's will. If the king is my true servant, paid by me, hired like a taxi driver, how can I respect him more than a mailman? If the president doesn't rule, who does? We (too many) can't. How could we govern? By faking it. Instead of God, he has to please me.
Embracing the slavery: if they don't submit themselves to one man, they have to submit themselves to the last, the lowest man. The slave. To all of them. Take it, teaches the new Saint of the Idea of Power, Foucault, the oppression will make you stronger. In resistance the suppressed forms its individuality. Some do.
They lie; democracy is the most oppressive machine. I would fight and die for it but this commitment to the best of social mass-organization can't force me to lie... Well, I crossed the border of my African Book; this thought belongs to my American Identity manuscript. Sorry.

St. Michael Ethiopian Orthodox Church

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