Gnomic Odes of Prester John

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Gnomic Odes were known in Antioch and Edessa that were remembered by some in Nisibis and Tibet as the Odes of Prester John.  They were also known as Odes of Solomon, because they were Christian wisdom’s Song of Songs that were also psalms of peace.  They were loved and remembered in the Oriental Eastern churches that had no empire to defend them, martyred churches that scattered seeds of wisdom in Iraq and Persia, renewing Sufism, seeds of Dzogchen wisdom in Tibet, completing the diamond wisdom of the Buddha and Taoist wisdom in China, breathing fresh life into the wisdom circles of Lao Tzu.  In India, the Odes of Prester John were kept hidden among Mar Thomas’ churches on the coasts of Kerala, remembered as Johannine but not as the Odes of the Beloved Disciple of the King of Kings.  Prester John himself never claimed he wrote them but that he loved the Beloved Disciple whose voice he heard in them, opening earth to heaven.  Messengers from Rome and Byzantium were sent to find Prester John in moments of extreme necessity, but what they received did not raise armies but awakened illumined hearts.   Prester John preferred his gnomic odes to weapons of destruction, so was a disappointment to imperial Christendom, Catholic Rome and Orthodox Byzantium.

Prester John did not claim to own or control the churches of the Orient and so was little use to those who owned and controlled churches in the Mediterranean.  The Beloved Disciple was useless, too, in a world of patriarchal domination.  Despite this, her gnomic odes were revered and loved because they awakened wisdom and empowered glory to restore love’s glory to God.   Martyred in the far east with seers who discerned their glory, they were handed on in Syria and Coptic Egypt by those who had long forgotten Prester John, remembering Solomon, whose Song of songs still sustained those who loved his wisdom.  Gnomic odes worked like enigmatic prophecy or enchanting canticles in circles that attended to the spiritual culture of the heart.  Whenever wisdom dawned, their poetic cadences were transfiguring, capable of miracles that the Beloved Disciple once worked, casting out demons and emptying hells.  Prester John had known and loved the wisdom of the Beloved Disciple, but was never tempted to defend it with imperial military power.  Defenceless peace was the only defence for a disciple of the Beloved Disciple, but this peace meant martyrdom in a world of clashing cultures and warring empires.

Powerless, therefore, in imperial wars, the Johannine wisdom of Prester John was powerful, nevertheless, in its empowerment of mystical wisdom.  In a flatland world of relativism and nihilism, Johannine wisdom freely offers an orientation that inspires global sophianic reorientation.  Prester John became a legend, like the Grail, but not the oriental wisdom that the Beloved Disciple transmitted.  She was always the apostle that empowered the apostles, long before the powerless reign of Prester John.  Her gaze was a kiss of peace and an embrace of wise love, well able to bear witness to the resurrection of her Beloved.  Her Song of Songs was a collection of forty two odes, the second of which was lost, wisdom songs that communicate love’s capacity to heal terror and make peace.  Prester John still prays in heaven that love will empower love to trust love, enabling the Beloved Disciple to be heard again.  If wisdom odes still inspire pure hearts of translucent lovers, there is hope that the uncreated Lover of lovers will again be heard.  Prester John was a priest-king whose prophecy was not quenched and whose heart rested on the breast of the Beloved, just as the Beloved Disciple rested on the breast of her Beloved.  Odes of rest are still timeless odes of peace, renewing peace on earth as peace reigns among angels in heaven, the graced and glorious peace of bright stillness.