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  • THE GROWTH OF AN IDEA: In 150 Years!

    In watching the ABC TV’s four part series “Mafia: Mafia? What Mafia,” screened on Monday evenings at 9:35 to 10:30 p.m. from 25 February 2008 to 17 March 2008, I could not help but notice the stark contrast between two organizations that had their origins in the mid-nineteenth century but with psycho-ethnic-national-spiritual-historical roots that are obscure and complex even to the specialist. One of these organizations I belonged to and one I had heard about, read about and seen discussed in the media for half a century, from my youth in the 1950s and 1960s until just yesterday. After watching yet another discussion of the mafia on ABV TV, I felt moved to write this mostly prose-poem of contrast and comparison, two threads in my life: one a thin one I only experienced in the print and electronic media and the other that had become part of my inner life for over half a century.

    At the end of the 19th century The Sicilian ethnographer, a Palermo physician, Giuseppe Pitre wrote: “the mafia is the consciousness of one’s own worth, the exaggerated concept of individual force as the sole arbiter of every conflict, of every clash of ideas or interests.”1 Beginning with this consciousness, this paradigmatic psychology, an entrenched culture or “industry of violence” had developed in Sicily by the mid-19th century. Leopoldo Franchetti described the mafia in Sicily in 1876, in one of the first written reports on the mafia, as a culture, a way of life, an industry of organized destructiveness and terror deeply rooted in the institutions of mid-19th century Sicily. By the 1960s this culture had become embodied in an international organization whose direction of development was logical, indeed, hardly surprising given its embryonic origins and ethos. -Ron Price with thanks to Nancy Triolo, “Mediterranean Exotica and the Mafia "Other" or Problems of Representation in Pitre's Texts,” Cultural Anthropology,Vol.8 No.3, pp.306-316.

    At the end of the 19th century the well-known Cambridge University Orientalist Edward Granville Browne in 1890 met Bahá'u'lláh, the successor to the Báb whose teachings had been both popularized and anathematized in the 1840s in an Iranian bloodbath far more extensive than anything that occurred in Sicily. By 1890 Bahá'u'lláh had been a prisoner and an exile from Iran for almost 40 years. His teachings were at first shrouded in obscurity but gradually came to light in a vast literary output and exegesis by His successors. His followers were and still are considered heretics in Iran. Some 20,000 Babis, Baha’u’llah’s precursors, and Baha’is were brutally exterminated in the half century 1844 to 1894.

    Today Baha’u’llah is recognized by several million of His followers around the world as the Divine Teacher for this age. According to Bahá'í belief, such Teachers have included: Moses, Abraham, Christ, Muhammad, Krishna and Buddha, among others. They have appeared at intervals throughout history to found the world's great religious systems. They have been sent by an utterly mysterious, completely obscure, profoundly perplexing, forever unknowable Creator to enable us to bring human civilization to ever higher levels of achievement and knowledge, larger units of social and political organization, indeed, new and wonderful configurations deriving from the power of thought. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 5 March 2008.

    A lot can happen in 150 years,
    on this earth, this veil of tears.
    It has been a century & a half
    of endless fear....still it is near.

    With feather not with hammer
    I would wish to lightly brush
    the sleep-fast windows of this
    dozing world where my brother,
    unwitting, lies innocently curled
    as the flames leap lush and the rank
    winds yammer...tongues lick the door,
    lap the sashes. Wingless, I clamber;
    songless scream surrounded by patterns
    of private withdrawal as obscure in their
    psychology as they are transparent in their
    very noisey and noiseless external shape.

    Ron Price
    5 March 2008
    married for 43 years(2010), a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 10 and a Baha'i for 51