Seven dreams of West Asian history, as they collapse into a cosmic nightmare

Seven dreams of West Asian history, as they collapse into a cosmic nightmare

By COME CARPENTIER... | 9 October, 2016
Bedouin mountain, Abu Dhabi, Greece,Perso-Arabian Gulf, Graeco-Roman imperium
Bedouin mountain guides make their way down from the summit of Mount Moses, near the city of Saint Catherine, in the Sinai Peninsula, south of Egypt, in December 2015. Reuters
The message of India brought in various eras to West Asia may again be heard to restore peace and tolerance to a deeply divided and unforgiving land.

The other day I was flying over Arabia, from Abu Dhabi to Greece. From the porthole the clear weather offered me an awe-inspiring panorama, unfolding the mercury pool of the Perso-Arabian Gulf sprinkled with rocky islets, the lunar expanse of the Rub al Khali, the turquoise waters of the Red Sea girdling the chaotic Martian tohubohu of the Sinai mountains. Suddenly the jade snake of the Nile meandered into my field of vision and on the edge of the vast and crowded puzzle of Cairo the Gizeh pyramids seemed half-buried dice, abandoned in a sandpit by giant children.

I remembered Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom and also the French historian Benoist-Mechin’s book series on “the longest dream in history” and I silently enumerated seven, once achieved and long unravelled dreams of power and salvation that still live in the minds of many in that tragically tormented region.

First came the Persian call for universal union under a benign Achaemenid ecumenical rule. Much later a saying was coined in the Islamic tradition, to the effect that the Mahdi, the expected messiah would not appear until Iranian chargers drank from the Jordan. Iran today has rebuilt the bridge between the Zagros and the Lebanon, through Iraq and Syria and its navy has sailed from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

Second was the Graeco-Roman imperium, carrying the legacy of Alexandrian syncretism and implanting seeds of European dominance—Frankish, Venetian, Catalan, Genovese, French and English—that bore fruit under the crusades and much later with European mandates in the Renaissance and during the last two centuries. The West now led by the United States, allied with its offspring, the state of Israel, is still fighting for supremacy in the Biblical heartland of its main religion.

Third of the seven Kerubim with flaming swords was the Byzantine State which sunk deep Eastern Christian roots and connected Muscovia and the Slav commonwealth to Palestine and Syria. Today a resurgently orthodox Russia has staged a mighty comeback through the Constantinopolitan Bosphorus and the Aegean Sea. Saint George and the Tzar are back in force.

I remembered Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom and also the French historian Benoist-Mechin’s book series on “the longest dream in history” and I silently enumerated seven, once achieved and long unravelled dreams of power and salvation that still live in the minds of many in that tragically tormented region.

The fourth horseman came in the Islamic tide from the Hejaz. The universal khalifate was established, first in Damascus and later in Baghdad. Salafists are now fighting the other contenders for control of that same turf, with Saudi funding and, paradoxically, with US military and political support. Like the Jews and Christians who believe in the prophecy of Armageddon, Muslims expect the final battle between the Antichrist and the returning Messenger of the Almighty to take place in Syria, in the area of Dabiq.

A fifth metamorphosis took the form of the Ottoman Sultanate, which for three centuries extended its sway over all the region, claiming the Byzantine succession. Although Ataturk turned his country’s back on her past, President Erdogan and his party have conjured the Osmanli ghosts and attempted to assert power over Syria, Northern Iraq, Libya and even Egypt by allying with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist forces. In that process, Turkey has been thrown into possibly lasting turmoil.

The sixth constellation to have risen and set over West Asia is the Silk Road, which, like an earthly Milky Way stretched for centuries between the cities and ports of the Levant and remote China. Beijing is rapidly rebuilding those pathways as the shadow of the Celestial Empire waxes ever higher over Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Egypt. The Chinese have prudently tied their junk to the Russian cruiser and, as was the case many centuries ago, the Silk Road is being blazed under the aegis of the Neo-Byzantine double-headed eagle.

A new world war is about to erupt in the land of Sur and Asur, between followers of Apocalyptic creeds for which the future is already written in a Book. Yet in timeless infinity, the book is infinite too and can never be read in full as it is constantly rewritten.

Who is, will you ask, the seventh archangel of that heptad? It is the oldest and quietest, the Indo-European Aryaman who spread his wings (the wings of the soma-haoma birds) over the entire area when successive flocks of Indo-Iranian Cassite, Hittite, Mitannian, Median and Scythian charioteers and horsemen settled it and spread Vedic-Avestan myths, languages, religions and ways of life. That is the trans-national cultural community which survived for thousands of years through the Seleucid, Parthian, Kushan, Sassanid, Samanid, Ummayad, Abbasid, Fatimid and Savafid periods. It provides age-old links between Greek, Armenian, Aramaic, Latin, Farsee, Kurdish, Ladino, English and French and left traces in Hebrew and Arabic. That is what bonds greater India to the Middle East, from Kerala to Yemen, from the Deccan to Anatolia and from the Ganges to the Nile, but lays no claims to the three religious poles of the area, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Mecca, nor to its four historic political capitals, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul. It hence provides a common ground for reconciliation and coexistence.

In the chaos created by the conflicting claims and ambitions of bitter rivals, the message of India brought in various eras, from the days of Suras and Asuras (Syria and Assyria), from the age of Isvara (Osiris), by the legendary Bhagavan (Bacchus) Dionysos on his ivory chariot followed by tigers, by Mitra’s priests, by Alexander’s returning Greeks, by Ashoka’s missionaries and by Apollonius of Tyana may again be heard to restore peace and tolerance to a deeply divided and unforgiving land. The Silk Road can break through the sectarian walls of fanaticism and colonial greed to carry the Dharma of Vivasvan, Rishi Angiras (Angelos), Sri Ram, Lao Tzu, Zarathustra, Buddha, Confucius, Plotinus, Mani, Suhrawardi from Alep, Rumi, Nizamuddin Auliya and Guru Nanak among many others.

Otherwise the current situation can bring about in the coming days the enactment of the ominous prophecy of the End Times. The seven dreams are collapsing into a single cosmic nightmare. A new world war is about to erupt in the land of Sur and Asur, between followers of Apocalyptic creeds for which the future is already written in a Book. Yet in timeless infinity, the book is infinite too and can never be read in full as it is constantly rewritten.

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