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Spirit Wrestlers and Grail Questers


This week, before we start the wrestling and the questing, I need to explain why these columns, written for a community free-net in an overwhelming Protestant Christian community often get focussed on Buddhists and Hindus and this week on a couple of fringes of Christianity. A major reason for these columns is to inspire you to take advantage of our free-net, our entrance to the World Wide Web. The truth is, you don't need the Internet to get in touch with our local Christian communities, although you can find some of them represented on pages:

Here, however, are some links to several Christian sites, which will enable you to enrich and deepen your appreciation of mainstream Christian communities, even as you also use the Internet to gain a better understanding of other beliefs and communities.

The Good Bookmarks gives you links to most of the major faiths and traditions of Christianity as well as general sites for Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism:

At one site, you can read the Bible in 15 languages, from Bulgarian to Swedish:

If you poke around on the Internet, you can find even more languages. By the way, I found that reading the Bible in Spanish was a great way for me to practice that language. Years after I made that discovery, I discovered that Sir Richard Burton (the nineteenth century explorer and translator, not the twentieth century actor), known for translating some rather rowdy materials, used "my" biblical method to learn a staggering number of languages. For staggering numbers, how about the Lord's Prayer in 1117 Languages and Dialects?

One of the most intriguing versions of the Bible, and a significant document in American history is the Jefferson Bible, the version of the New Testament that Jefferson prepared for his own use, reflecting his own beliefs:

This week, I want to share with you my findings about the Doukhobers, the spirit-wrestlers, as well as those who continue the ancient quest for the Holy Grail. For all the bad reputation that the Internet has gained as a hotbed of pornography and violence, it is nonetheless a great tool for preserving and presenting information about religious beliefs and communities. The pages that honor the Doukhobers are simply, efficiently designed to organize and share a great deal of information about a little group that began in Russia and has lived just over a century in western Canada that, otherwise, we would probably have no contact with.

The word Doukhober dates to 1785, when an archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Russia identified a group of Russian peasants as "Doukho-bortsi." The term, which literally means "spirit wrestlers," was a derogatory term for people struggling against the Holy Spirit. The Doukhobors took the name, as their own, saying "We wrestle with and for the Spirit of God."

And they have been wrestling ever since, with two rules governing their matches. First, "Recognize and love God - the spiritual Force of Goodness and Creativity - with all thy heart, mind and soul." Second, "Love thy neighbor as thyself". The Doukhobors have always stressed a practical, livable religion which could help people to live together happily on earth. The way of the Doukhobors is a way of life rather then a religion, ranging from music to cuisine.

Believing that Godís law is manifested through loving attitudes among people, they renounce war. They are vegetarians, to avoid the violence of killing animals, and they avoid alcohol and tobacco out of respect for God, who created our bodies. Their opposition to war and to the established Orthodox Church in their native Russia led to torture and exile, loss of freedoms, and even death. Attracting the attention of fellow pacifists such as the Quakers (Society of Friends) and the author Leo Tolstoy, the Doukhobers were allowed at the end of the nineteenth century to emigrate to western Canada. There they developed a communal rural lifestyle somewhat like that of the Amish, based on a day to day living out of the Golden Rule.

But, while maintaining their basic beliefs and values, Doukhobers are moving from that rural way of life to a more typical North American lifestyle. The problem is to embrace the best of technology and other aspects of modern life, opened to them by increased educational opportunities. They are trying to remain Doukhobers, while becoming a partóbut a distinctively Doukhober partóof Canadian culture. In 1996, with a gesture both symbolic and significant, the Doukhobor Home Page was created to take advantage of the great opportunities offered by the Internet:

From that lovely site, lovingly maintained by Ryan Androsoff, I have taken the information on the Doukhobers, and also from that site, I take these words, which summarize so much that is good and strong in these good, strong people:

Be devout, trust in God. Love him with all your heart. Be zealous towards his holy church. All his commandments sacredly revere and observe. Follow the path of virtue; shun all vice. Be prudent. Having in mind the end, always maintaining the right perception of your means. Do not idly let go by an occasion for worthy deeds. Do not embark on any venture without careful deliberation, and in your reasoning, do not hurry. Be not tardy, except only under special circumstances and occasions. Do not believe everything you hear. Do not desire everything you see. Do not proceed to do everything you are able to. Do not proclaim everything you know but only that which should be proclaimed. That which you do not know, do not affirm, nor deny; best of all - inquire; then will thou be discreet.

The idea of questing after the Holy Grail, the mysterious cup which, according to legend, held the wine at the Lord's Supper and later caught the blood of Christ as he died, seems even more distant than the plains of western Canada. Yet, the Grail has motivated knights and writers to continue to seek it. In "The Legend of the Holy Grail," a site almost overstuffed (and I mean that favorably) with information, images, ideas, links, and more links, Justin Griffin, self-proclaimed "Good Hermit of the Forest Perilous," sets up so much rich and crowded web space dedicated to the Grail that I feel as if I become a knight on my own quest every time I visit it:

The quest that the Good Hermit sets up for us ranges from the earliest rumblings of the Grail legends to the possible existence of the Grail today, the Nanteos Cup. (I was going to give you the link to the specific page, but at this site, certainly, the journey is more important than the arrival.)

While such a site might be no more than a hobbyist's report on his obsessions, the Hermit elegantly links the Grail quest to his own religious experience and convictions in some moving pages.

As different as these sites are, they share certain characteristics. Both of them are maintained by webmasters that I could imagine preferring the term "web-servants," which I found in a site dedicated to Eastern Orthodoxy (where I first found the Doukhober site)

There is a distinct personality as well as a sense of craftsmanship in the way they present their materials. Ryan Androsoff, who maintains the Doukhober site, and Justin Griffin, who maintains the Grail site, show us just how good the Internet can be, not only with the quality of their presentation but also with the significance of their content. Keep your feet dry and your heart full of noble thoughts, and be very sure that if noble thoughts ever seem to be lacking in your life, you can find plenty of them down these two little byways off the information super highway.

Rovin' and Ravin' Homepage

Religiously Rovin': Internet Pilgrimages



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