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Human Child Befriends Bird “What are those little white things good for, Noah?” This bird, a magpie named Penguin, was rescued in infancy by photographer Cameron Bloom and his son Noah, and became a member of the family. She has free access to the outdoors, but always comes back, sometimes bringing fellow magpies with her for a visit. For further appealing photos of these two friends, see Penguin Editor’s Corner Essay: Wings Birds have wings. And (with some exceptions) they fly! Human beings have decided that we are so vastly superior to all (other) animals, including birds, that we can do whatever we like with any of them--kidnap infants from their mothers and adopt -- --them, enslave them for their milk or eggs, hunt -- --and kill them, eat them. But, annoyingly, -- --there is one enviable power birds have that we -- --lack, and that is spreading out their wings and -- --flying. (If we want to travel through the air, -- --we must depend on contraptions modeled on -- --birds.) How unfair! Well, we can always cram birds tightly into cages and prevent them from taking off, but that doesn’t give their power to us deserving humans, unfortunately for our egos. Cherubim and Seraphim Traditionally, humans have tried to make up for the lack of wings by imagining ourselves as winged, or as linked in some way to powerful winged beings. Hybrid human-animal images expressing these feelings were common in the ancient Middle East, and wings seem to have been a frequent feature. One early instance was the Babylonian kirubu or karabu (cognate to cherub), who not only had a human head, and wings, but a lion (or ox) body, suggesting intelligence, enormous power, potential violence, and the freedom from gravity that wings give; see photo above. A carved Assyrian version of such a tri-brid has been found in the area that was Canaan. Kirubu seem to have been formidable guardian figures, probably more or less the same as the cherubim with flaming swords (who apparently had hands to hold the swords) in Genesis chapter three who were set to guard the entrance to Paradise after the Fall. A pair of cherubim facing one another, made of hammered gold, were made for the lid called the Mercy Seat, of the ancient Israelites’ sacred chest, the Ark of the Covenant. Apart from their wings and (we assume) faces, the details of their appearance are unknown. In the initiatory vision of the prophet Ezekiel, winged cherubim, probably with lion bodies, seem to draw God’s chariot; in two Psalms, God rides up into the sky on the back of a cherub. (In this conception, the cherub must have had a lion or ox body, because if he had a wholly human form, God would have been riding piggyback, rather a comedown for the divine dignity!) However, in time, cherubim did come to be seen as having completely human shape, but with wings; and now they are always thought of that way, either as small children or as numinous adults. That some details are unknown is also true of seraphim, even more powerful than cherubim, each of whom has three pairs of wings. They are always in the presence of God, burning with love and praising him, says the second-century book of Enoch. Similarly, in Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple, they cry “Holy, holy, holy, YHWH* of hosts; the whole earth is full of your glory.” They are associated with fire, seen in this vision in a seraph’s touching a burning coal he takes with tongs from the altar to the seer’s mouth, thus cleansing him from his dangerously sinful and unclean condition. The temple is filled with smoke, either from the seraphim or the altar, or both. They evidently had arms and hands, but further features are not given. Interestingly, in the passage in Numbers in which the Israelites complained to God and Moses and were bitten by venomous serpents, seraph is the word used to refer to the bronze serpent Moses is instructed to make, to mediate healing to them. Seraphim may also be dragons, who in Western tradition are still thought of as breathing fire. Could Isaiah’s seraphim have had part-dragon bodies?. There are other ancient orders of powerful spiritual human and animal beings, who may be _____________________________________________ *YHWH, pronounced Yahweh, is the name of God; in time it was considered too holy to utter, and substitute terms were used. winged, though originally none are close counterparts for human beings. But human-looking beings, understood to be messengers (Latin angelus, from Greek ‘aggelos) sent by God to important biblical persons, are also featured in the biblical texts. It is common for artists to depict these messengers with wings to indicate their power to move between the divine presence and the human scene. According to the texts, they evidently frighten those to whom they come; in a number of cases they preface their message with “Fear not.” Often their message is to announce, to a childless woman or couple, the coming birth of a very special son who will liberate God’s people from the power of their enemies. Or angels may be seen as members of a divine army liberating or protecting God’s people. In the Bible, then, a human-like winged being doesn’t have wings just for the fun of flying, or to bolster his or the collective human ego. Wings mean that one is a child both of heaven and of earth; finite, yet also in the divine presence. (Are we all, in this sense, winged?) Do You See What I See? Strictly orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims tend to affirm that these beings have a literal existence (though most probably aren’t thinking of cherubim as having lion bodies); the more liberal adherents tend to hold that the beings are symbolic of human or divine powers or energies. In fact, however, when a certain kind of spiritual being is widely affirmed throughout a culture, a small percentage of members will in fact have visions of that being. In regard to angels, it is difficult to estimate the percentage of the number of claimed angel experiencers who see winged beings, because so many experiences that could be classed in other ways (telepathy, precognition, contact with the deceased (including deceased relatives), extraordinary light, or just hunches, are thought of as angel communications. On a website of such experiences Angel Encounters , eighty-three readers tell their stories. Of the ten who saw extraordinary-appearing figures, only five had wings. It seems likely that when cherubim were thought of as having lion bodies with wings, a few visionaries saw them with that appearance. Co-Creation in Visions What can be going on? It seems that in the case of any class of visions, there is a substantial cultural contribution; there is probably an individual contribution as well, as one can see in the (non-visionary) mystical experience Faith Bowman had in 1974, while nursing her baby; she experienced the empowering presence of an all-mothering God as pouring out life, love, and nurturance to all living beings, including herself, and though her to her child. (See “Wound Round with Mercy,” PT49 ). It is evident that her own present activity and consuming preoccupation with her baby during that period in her life had a large part in shaping her conception of the presence she perceived. This may be compared and contrasted to Isaiah’s perception of God as an evidently masculine figure seated on a throne in the temple, and concerned to save the seer from the destructive power of uncleanness. But both experiences are numinous, powerful, and empowering. These shaping influences do not, however, mean that the presence experienced is not real, only that the deep-level consciousness of the experiencer co-creates, together with the divine or preternatural presence, the form of what she or he sees and hears. The presence is real; as the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Isaiah’s vision was his prophetic calling to a career of warning, transforming, and empowering others. For example, remember that the magnificent image of the Peaceable Kingdom --Woodcut by Fritz Eichenberg in which both predatory and prey animals, led by a human child, live in peace together (and after which this journal is named) has fostered hope and inspired work toward healing the world for more than 2500 years. The “Holy, holy, holy” cries of the seraphim have been echoed in hymns and in millions of Masses. Back to the Birds So far we have been dealing with wings and the power of flight on the symbolic level, with particular reference to us human beings. We are in danger of exploiting real, physical birds again for our own benefit. So we need to ask: what good does this symbol exploration do for the chickens, the eagles, the larks, and all their kin, including bats? Does their power of flight express a truth about their status as children of both heaven and earth as well? It does indeed. Birds and other winged creatures such as bats are certainly part of the Beloved Community of all beings. Of course such an idea cannot be proved, but its truth is sounded and echoed over and over in the stories of medieval saints, and in the work of religions animal activists today. Francis of Assisi is the saint best known; stories are told of his love for and communication with animals, especially birds, of his preaching to them as well as to people. Also beloved if less known than Francis is Martín de Porres, the Black saint of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Lima, Peru, who had a healing gift, as well as knowledge of healing herbs, which he used on behalf of both of animals and humans. Animals, probably including birds, were said to follow him down the streets. Milburh or Milburga, a princess and saint of Mercia in what is now the Midlands of England, was said to have power to communicate with birds, who would obey her. Similarly, seventh-century saint Cuthbert, who came to live on the island of Inner Farne, communicated with the island’s birds, and promised them “Cuthbert’s Peace,” some kind of punishment for anyone who harmed them. Of sixth-century Irish saint Kevin it was told that a bird built her nest and laid her egg in his outstretched hand, and that he remained in that position until the baby hatched out. There are other accounts. Many of these stories, especially those from the early Middle Ages, are very probably legendary, but the fact that so many have been lovingly told and re-told testifies to a deep conviction that humans and animals, including birds, have a deep spiritual link of love, which was manifest paranormally in the lives of saints. Flying is Fun, Too I commented above on the painful irony that birds, especially chickens, who can fly when they grow up in normal conditions--high enough to roost in trees--are the animals most often enslaved and virtually immobilized before being murdered and eaten. Admittedly, chickens can’t soar, but for birds who do, like the waterfowl featured in the first poem below, flying is often seen as a serious and tiring business, which, especially for migrating birds, it is. But it can also be fun. Jonathan Balcombe in his eye-opening 2006 book The Pleasurable Kingdom points out that animals normally have many pleasures, including enjoying doing something they are really good at. (See Review and lead essay in PT 23 .) The second poem below, featuring a kestrel having a great time on a windy morning, is an example: “. . . the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! . . .” We activists are rightly concerned to open the hearts of our fellow humans about our race’s appalling sins of causing terror, anguish, and death to other animals. But we must also help people to realize that we human animals also sin against them in depriving them of the various pleasures inherent in their natural ways of life. As the staretz (spiritual counselor) Father Zossima in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov says, "Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don't harass them, don't deprive them of their happiness, don't work against God's intent." Baby Bird Taking the Adventure Don’t stop them from flying! --Editor NewsNotes Feeding Displaced Animals The Australian government dropped 4000 pounds of food, mostly carrots and sweet potatoes, to starving wallabies, koalas, and kangaroos displaced by the out-of-control fires. See Saving Animal Refugees ---Contributed by Marjorie Emerson New Impossible Product At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, Impossible Foods introduced their latest product, Impossible Pork. As pig flesh is the meat most often consumed worldwide, that Impossible Pork should be successful is extremely important. See Debut --Contributed by Karen Borch Unset Gems “As we eat, so we are.” --Annie Besant “Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter." --Martin Luther King Jr. ”You’re taught that murder is wrong, but only if a human is murdered. You’re taught that serial killers are bad, but hunting is a sport. You’re taught that Auschwitz was evil, but slaughterhouses and fur farms are humane. You’re taught that jail is for punishment, but zoos are a fun place for animals. They do a lot of “teaching” you. Isn’t it time that you think for yourself?” --T. J. Jessep Contributed by Idarmis Rodriguez Letters: Rosemary Carlson, Marian Hussenbux Thank you for keeping the Peaceable Table Newsletter going. The history of those who made it their life mission to respect all beings is not always made available in our media. Often, it would appear that a choice to be vegan is exotic and radical in a modern world of abundant processed food. Without people like you and your family, we would still be in the dark. . . . --R.C. Thank you very much for the latest issue. The Holy Family in cages is an interesting and disturbing matter. . . . I am very wary when people say--as some did in the case of the cage -- --display--it is 'politicising' an issue. [It] is desirable, in my view. Politics affects us all, every thing we do, and vote to be done, [and] is part and parcel of being a 'civilised' society in which we delegate people whom we expect to act thoughtfully, to effect change for the better. . . . --M.H. (Pictured above) Pioneer: Annie Wood Besant, 1847 - 1933 Annie Wood Besant, International President of the Theosophical Society and committed vegetarian, was a woman of many life stages, as is suggested by the titles of a biography by Arthur H. Nethercot. Its two volumes are named, respectively, The First Five Lives of Annie Besant and The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant. All these various lifetimes, though, were for her merely waystations on a pilgrimage which culminated in her widely-known final Theosophical role as popular speaker and sensitive writer on spirituality, as Indian political activist, and as vegetarian. Annie Wood was born in London; her father was a physician who died when she was only five, leaving her mother, who was a devout Anglican, in financial straits. Annie herself was likewise naturally religious, and also given to good works for the poor, of which there were all too many in Victorian England. The consummation of this particular life was a reluctant marriage at age twenty to a clergyman, the Rev. Frank Besant. This union quickly dissipated any illusions she may have had about the Church and its ministers, for he turned out to be not only domineering but cold-hearted, extremely rigid, and violent. They had two children, a son, Arthur, and a daughter, Mabel. Annie had a crisis of faith when Mabel contracted a severe case of whooping cough and nearly died. The seamy side of priestly life as seen in Frank, together with a God who seemed unable to care about a child's suffering and closeness to death, led her to doubt orthodox Christianity. Indeed, by 1874 she was anonymously writing pamphlets questioning the divinity of Christ, and she refused to receive Holy Communion in her husband's church. At this Frank Besant insisted on a legal separation, unless she returned to the sacrament. She did not. On leaving the vicarage, Annie Besant took up with the National Secular Society of the well-known atheist and political radical Charles Bradlaugh, who offered her a job as a reporter for his newspaper, The National Reformer. She also lectured for the cause, quickly displaying a remarkable talent for this endeavor; indeed, in time there were those who called Mrs. Besant the greatest public speaker in the world, and many later Theosophists and other activists attributed their calling to first hearing her speak. Bradlaugh and Besant were soon involved in a notorious 1877 court case over their publication of a book on birth control, The Fruits of Philosophy, written by an American physician, Charles Knowlton. The charge was pornography! The two secularists defended themselves brilliantly in court, and were acquitted on a technicality; the book sold over 200,000 copies world-wide. An interesting side note: Bradlaugh was elected to parliament in 1880, but was unable to take his seat until after a prolonged struggle over his refusal, as a non-theist, to take the oath of office. Around 1885 Besant increasingly went her own way apart from Bradlaugh, enrolling in London University, working with the non-violent Fabian Society on behalf of socialism, getting elected to the London School Board. In the last capacity, she helped secure free meals for poor children and persuaded the Board not to buy goods from sweatshops. In 1888 she undertook her famous work on behalf of exploited match girls in their unhealthy working conditions (they had to work with dangerous chemicals) by organizing a strike, which in turn did much to advance the trade union movement. In these same years Annie Besant was inwardly becoming more and more dissatisfied with the materialism of her atheist position. She found herself reading, and writing about, comparative religion, all the while wondering if social and political reform alone were enough to make humans as fully happy as they ought to be, or if some deeper kind of transformation was also called for. At this point, in 1889, the famous reformer-journalist W. T. Stead, with whom she has worked before, asked her to review H.P. Blavatsky's massive just-published work, The Secret Doctrine, in his Pall Mall Gazette. The Secret Doctrine is a foundational Theosophical treatise portraying One Existence and a pervading ancient wisdom underlying the universe, expressing itself through the planet's many religions and cultures, and working from within to advance all beings to higher and higher levels of spiritual evolution. Altruism and service are important parts of this upward movement. Totally entranced by this book and its vision, Besant sought out Blavatsky, then living in London, joined the Theosophical Society, and thereafter made it the focus of her untiring work for wisdom and the good of all. Annie rose rapidly in the Society, writing and speaking with her exceptional oratorical gifts on its behalf. On the passing in 1907 of the first International President, Blavatsky's erstwhile companion Henry Steel Olcott, Besant was elected his successor by a wide margin. She continued in that capacity until her own death in 1933, residing at the International Headquarters, Adyar, just outside of Madras (now Chennai) in south India. Her Theosophy did not in the end mean the giving up of her natal Christianity as did the secularist stage in her life. She wrote a Theosophical book on esoteric Christianity, and she worshiped, and on occasion preached, in the Liberal Catholic Church (after its founding in 1916), a small denomination closely linked to Theosophy. We cannot here trace most of her presidential activities. It must be noted that, besides in-house Theosophical administration, she lost none of her commitment to social action. Coming to love Indian culture, she labored to found schools up to the university level which emphasized Indian traditions rather than the Europeanism of much British and missionary education. She also worked actively on behalf of respect for India's women and lower castes. Politically, she actively promoted "home rule" or dominion status for India (though she did not favor complete separation from Britain), and served a term as President of the Indian National Congress, the organization shortly to be led by M. K. Gandhi (though she differed with him on home rule versus independence, and on some of the Mahatma's tactics). She and other leading Theosophists were interned for a time during World War I by India's British rulers because of the alleged disruptive effect of their agitation. Vegetarianism is promoted by Theosophy, though not mandated as a condition of membership in the Society. Besant, however, took it up when she joined, and characteristically spoke powerfully on its behalf. (In the 1920s she became a vegan.) In an 1894 lecture, later published, "Vegetarianism in the Light of Theosophy," she emphasized the human place in the world, as "viceregent in a very real sense, ruler and monarch of the world, but with the power of being either a bad monarch or a good. . . Take then man in relation to the lower animals from this standpoint." She then vividly contrasts two kinds of people going out into the woods. “On the one hand come those whose presence instinctively brings misery and fear to the animals, creatures of feather or fur clearly sensing and dreading the emanations of intruders who come with the mind of the hunter, the killer, the meat-eater. Then, on a kindlier day, the wild may brighten to the very different aura of one who comes in peace as friend, the sort of person like St. Francis and not a few of the saints of India whom animals approach in love. Birds settle on him or her, and larger beasts nuzzle or rub against this beloved human companion. Which will bespeak the human future? Besant goes on to talk about the ghastly atmosphere of a slaughterhouse, above all from the perspective of the animals about to be slain. "Notice the terror that strikes them as they come within scent of the blood! See the misery, and the fright, and the horror [with] which they struggle. . ." And Besant goes on to argue that "As we eat so we are. What's on our plate today is not just a meal, but can shine a light down the corridors of time to illumine, and help make, the world of the future. “For if we cast out into the onrushing stream of planetary life the misery of the aughterhouse, so are we infecting the world with those blood-laden thoughts and energies, bound to come back to us in human violence now and for as long as its energies continue. But the more we eat platefuls of peace, so in the direction of peace and love goes the world on all levels.” For as Ms. Besant summed it up, "The evolution of the world depends upon us." How we dine, though not the only factor in that process, is an extremely powerful and significant force for shaping the world to come, since eating affects us intimately several times a day, and what we send out at every meal will come back tomorrow and maybe for many tomorrows. So taught Annie Besant. Let us hear and heed this gifted, powerful, and compassionate woman. --Robert Ellwood For a longer quotation regarding animals from the writings of Annie Besant, go to PT 9 . For more on the importance of meditation and a nonviolent diet in the world’s spiritual evolution, see “The Animals Are Waiting,” PT 66 . Recipe: Cheeze Scones 1 cup sifted flour 2 tsp. baking powder ½ tasp. salt 1 tsp. dry mustard ½ C plus 2 T grated Daiya cheeze ¼ C vegan butter, broken up into pieces if too firm ¼ C plus 2 T vegan milk 1 egg equivalent (e.g. 1 T ground flaxseed, 3 T. warm water; stir, let stand 5 minutes) 2 T. grated Parma or other parmesan cheeze Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. Add the dry mustard, cheeze shreds and butter, blending in quickly. In medium bowl, beat soy milk and egg substitute. Add to flour mixture to form a soft dough; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 min. Move oven rack to upper portion of oven, and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously “butter” baking sheet and set aside. Roll out dough on floured board to ½ inch thickness. Cut into 12 (2-inch) scones with an oval or round cutter. Arrange on the baking sheet, sprinkle with the Parma or other parmesan cheeze and bake until puffy and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Test for doneness. They may need up to 3 minutes more. --Lois Wythe Veganized from The Peaceable Kitchen Vegetarian Cookbook, produced by Sandpoint (Idaho) Worship Group. Permission to reproduce by Steve Willey Poetry: William Cullen Bryant, 1794 - 1878; Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844 - 1889 To a Waterfowl Whither, midst falling dew While glow the heavens with the last steps of day, Far through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue Thy solitary way? Vainly the fowler's* eye Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong, As, darkly painted on the crimson sky, Thy figure floats along. Seek'st thou the plashy brink Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide, Or where the rocking billows rise and sink On the chafed ocean side? There is a Power whose care Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,-- The desert and illimitable air,-- Lone wandering, but not lost. All day thy wings have fanned, At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere, Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land, Though the dark night is near. And soon that toil shall end; Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest. Thou’rt gone; the abyss of heaven Hath swallowed up thy form . . . . He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright. --W.C.B. *Fowler: Bird hunter The Windhover To Christ our Lord I caught this morning morning's minion, king- dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawFalcon, in his riding Of the rolling-level-underneath-him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion. --G.M.H.