Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Parable #3: The Parable of Auguste the Monk ~or~ "Hang together, boys!"

Once upon a time, in the high cliffs of Northern Turkey, lived a monk named Auguste and his band of Holy Brethren. They possessed the grandest monastery in Turkey, with high battlements and fortifications, on the tippest top of a dangerous crag so high that enemies could be seen coming from miles around. The barbarian hordes had no hope of breaching this mighty castle, and the monks, their treasured scrolls, and golden chalices were kept safe for generations.

Auguste became leader of the group in his 40th year. He was a wise man, well versed in every aspect of the holy scriptures. Of the 100 monks in the Monastery of the Cliff, Auguste was easily considered the purest.

Until Davide came along. Davide insisted that the holy literature was incomplete, that the Revelation was ongoing, and that the monks must scan the heavens and their hearts for new wisdom. Nonsense! Cried Auguste-- the Word was complete, or else nothing could be certain. With regret, he banished Davide from the monastery. Davide and his followers fled to the hills, where they scanned the heavens in vain for some missing truths. Their numbers dwindled and their names are now lost to time.

Some of the remaining monks had been friends of those who had gone. Some were not convinced that the split was necessary. Some did not find the matter in question to be particularly important, for weren't both groups servants of the Word? But Auguste silenced this dissent, insisting that solidarity and purity be maintained.

But the squabbling continued.

Some monks abandoned their faith altogether. Some lost their fervor. Some warred with other monks. Young initiates who had expected to find a sanctuary of tranquil holy men were known to turn back at the gate and return to their homes and hearths, never to pursue the Word again.

Yet Auguste's mania for purity continued, and further splits occurred:

A Monk named Christian developed a new theory about the origin of the scriptures. He was banished. Then Ferdinand the bald wrote an illuminated manuscript depicting the prophet as a mortal man. He was excommunicated. Intense young Nicholai designed a model of the universe that conflicted with an established interpretation of holy writ. He was kicked to the ecumenical curb.

With each purge, more students, followers and believers left the Monastery of the Rock. Students of Christian settled in France, Nicolai's men dispersed to Italia, Ferdinand's to distant Spain. Without the security of the monastery, each group was ultimately overwhelmed by the hordes of Europe and lost forever.

Auguste realized: his ideology was pure, but his brotherhood had become as a drop of wine in a glass of water. They had no impact on the wide world. The soldiers of the Word were lost to each other. He wept.

But he possessed a vault of scriptures at the Monastery of the Rock! And those scriptures were direct holy writ from the source of all knowledge. They were uncorrupted, unaltered, eternal! Auguste and his remaining five monks would bring the Word into the future incorruptible and imperishable!

Then the barbarians came.

There were no monks to man the battlements. There were no monks to fire the cannons. There were no monks to bar the doors. There were no monks to carry the water. There were no monks to save the burning scriptures. There were no monks to protect Auguste himself from the King of the Barbarians.

And, ultimately, there were no monks at all...

--Richard Gleaves

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" - Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence

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