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“The Eye of the Needle”: The Rhythms of the Sacred: time of the monk, time of the tourist on the global scene’ (2007)

Throughout the Middle Ages monks studied a cumulative corpus of knowledge by copying manuscripts, and making commentaries. These activities assumed that the roots of Christianity lay in the Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian tradition, i.e. in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in the Near East. From at least the time of Isidore of Seville there were attempts at etymological treatment of words. The past centuries have seen many refinements to philology in general and to etymology as a specific discipline. The past half century has added two new dimensions to this process. First, scholars such as Kahir1 have drawn attention to the history of letters of the alphabet as building blocks of meaning. Second, they have pointed to intimate links between the Judeao-Christian tradition in the Near East and traditions in India. This implies that monks and scholars of the future are faced with a new set of challenges: to understand traditions that go back long before the birth of Christ and entail the Far East as well as the Near East.

To illustrate these challenges we shall focus on a few letters of the alphabet. In both the Far East, the Middle East and in Europe, the seven days of the week are linked with the twelve months and twelve signs of the zodiac. There is reason to believe that the days and months are also linked with the alphabet. The letter A links with Agni (sacrificial fire represented as a ram); B with Budha (Mercury); C with Chandra (Moon); D with Daksha Prajapati (the Creator); and E with Ena (Capricorn linked with Saturn) and also entailed three lines (cf the trigrams in China) that corresponded to energy in the three worlds. F was a weakened version of same. G was Guru (Jupiter).

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