Is Leela Samson, the Director of Kalakshetra (Chennai), ashamed of her Indian heritage? (Please refer to Organiser, April 29, 2007).
Well, we are also ashamed of the Samsons in our midst, who still remind hostile to our heritage. I believe she is a Roman Catholic. Surely, she must have read the pronouncements of the present Pope on matters cultural? Pope Benedict XVI says: ?the heritage of ancients Greece (pagan, for you) is an integral part of the Christian faith.? (This refers to his speech in Germany last year.)
Is Indian'sHindu heritage an ?integral? part of the Indian Christian'sfaith? No? Why? Because the Samsons of India are not told that our patience?I mean the patience of the Hindus?is not unlimited.
I do not expect the Samsons to have any detailed knowledge of the history of European Christianity?that it came out of European paganism, especially from Roman paganism, that from the times of the Renaissance Europe has been trying to integrate the Greek heritage with the Christian heritage.
But why this change of heart? Because pagan Greece has and enviable record in arts and literature. If societies are judged by their art and literature at the bar of history, there is nothing surprising if the Vatican wants to annex the Greek heritage. The Pope himself speaks of the value of art and literature to a spiritual life.
To which culture does Samson belong? To the Christian-European? If so, it was wrong to put her there at Kalakshetra. If, however, she belongs to the Indian tradition, she has no business to Christianise an institute which is essentially Hindu.
In contrast, look at the Vatican'sconcern for the European heritage! Not long ago, the Vatican marked the fifth centenary of its museums. The emphasis was on the decision of the Church to embrace the intellectual heritage of the Greeks.
Thus, while the Hall of Statues in the Vatican venerates the art of the pagan Greeks and Romans, the scholarship of the Church throughout the Dark Ages kept the lamp of Greek philosophy burning. Thus it was the Catholic Church which preserved the pre-Christian heritage of both Greece and Rome.
The creation of the museum itself has and interesting story. On January 14, 1506 a man named Felice de Francis was digging in the land once in possession of emperor Titus. And there he saw some pieces of marble. It was the missing Laocoon?a legendary sculpture made at the time of Christ. Pliny, the Elder, described it as ?superior to any other work of art?. Indeed, it was a wonderous work showing sea serpents ensnaring a priest and his two sons in revenge for the priest'sbetrayal of certain gods during the seige of Troy.
When pope Julius II heard of this discovery, he ordered emissaries (including Michaelangelo) to examine the site. Later, he bought the Laocoon from Felice de Francis and brought it to the Vatican for display. Thus began the Vatican Museum with the acquisition of a pagan work of art!
What is more, while Michaelangelo was working on the Christian story on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael another famous painter, was engaged in painting at the adjoining rooms the ?School of Athens??the great humanist Aghora, the scene of many discourses by Socrates, Plato and Pythagoras. Thus, we have Christ and Plato under one roof! Can there be a better demonstration of the marriage of the Catholic faith with the secular roots of Western thought!
The Vatican museums and the Basilica of St. Peter'sare eloquent examples of Greek aesthetics, just as Catholic scholarship is a stepchild of Greek philosophy.
Christian Europe is giving up its insanities. The Vatican has already expressed regret for the many wrongs in the life of European Christianity. Now the marriage of paganism with the Christian faith is perhaps what will make European civilisation whole.
Do the Christians in India understand the meaning of these transformations in the Christian world? Will the Samsons of India wake up in time?