Religion

07/29/2015 07:22

Tree of Faith is a series of novels with a theme that religion motivated the World War II conflict. It may seem obvious when you look at the Jewish question, but were other factors present which drove the world into conflict, resulting in millions of soldiers and citizens losing their lives? 

Starting with geography. clear demarcation, the Romanic people spread across Western Europe, the Slavic people to the east. In the centre of Europe sits the Germanic groups and to the north the British and Scandinavian lands. These lands also reflect religious demarcations, the Roman Catholic church dominating the west, the Orthodox church the east. In the centre, it is less clear. Two religions predominated in the earlier cultures, one before the spread of Christ's teachings was Paganism. After a Catholic period these mid european and Northern European cultures predominantly adopted protestant faiths such as the Lutheran and Anglican faiths. There are no clear markings for the Jewish faith. Throughout time, the Jewish faith has been without defined location. Up until the formation of Israel, the group was a minority being excluded from country after country. Unlike a similar socio-cultural group 'the Gypsies', the Jews typically secured economic,cultural and political power despite their role as a minority. This fact often brought them into conflict with their host cultures. Put very simply, the host resented success of the so-called foreigner, particularly given that it was often in professions that required cerebral rather than physical effort. 

One element brushed over by historians is the extent of Paganism in modern society. In the case of the Nazis, party leaders often embraced Pagan beliefs. Himmler believed that he was the incarnation of Heinrich der Voegler, the first king of Germany. The runes developed from the old Eddic and Norse tales played a central role in the Schutzstaffel. Each member was assigned a rune, the organisation was modeled upon twelve departments and Wewelsburg Castle HQ is a building full of symbolic decoration. There was in effect a rejection of the Christian ideals within the SS and a return to the Pagan principles that had reigned supreme before Charlemagne cut down the symbolic Ash trees. 

Pagan beliefs extend today into European culture, though we often not aware of it. We see cultural remnants of the Pagan belief such as the Maypole and Christmas Tree, but few of us are aware how profoundly Christianity robbed this faith of its identity. The cross itself is a substitute for the Irminsul. The evidence of this link is everywhere, but no more so in the fact that the Christians adopted the very same knife ithat Odin had thrust into him when hanging from the Yggdrasil. It is no coincidence that the first Christian symbol 'the Fish' had to be substituted two hundred years after the death of Christ. When the Apostles travelled to spread their word, its reception only took off when they adopted the Pagan religious symbols and took over their sights of worship.

Despite the questionable history of Christianity's symbols, the essence of 'Love thy neighbour' in the teachings of Christ made it a unique faith. It should not matter whether you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, your neighbour should be treated equally. So, where did it all go wrong? Europe in the 1930s was a world of poverty, one of struggle where colonial power was at its peak. The teachings of Christ had fallen upon barren ground, for man had come to the conclusion that he need only pay lip service to its message. This was true of Nazi Germany though we should not forget that it was also true of colonial Britain and Stalinist Russia. In effect, Europe was ripe for a conflict and it is just a wonder that WWII did not extend into WWIII.

In the books, the main characters delineate around religion. We see Orthodox, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Pagan characters and we see within the books religious symbols as characters question their faith:

Jewish - The faith sees its people as a chosen race and so the mirror is a key symbol just as the window is one for the Christian faith. We see this most markedly in the Chassidic tale told by Elena in Whispering Birches and also in Mihael in Truth in Ash. Book 4 is the principal book dealing with the Jewish faith. The orange tree is also a symbol of Jewish faith in the books. Its taste and scent are sweet, yet you cannot live on oranges alone. 

Paganism - The oldest faith of Europe, one displaced by Christianity and one that retains a profound hold on Northern and Central European culture. The colour purple is an important symbol that recurs throughout the book, it being the Phoenician colour(the original Phillistines). Their ability to spread culture is one of the hidden secrets of European history. Some even maintain that their spread was not just westward and that they influenced the Brahman cultures to the east and some link their cultural spread to the Americas. Paganism is the central theme of Fallen Beech where the central characters Lukas Armbrecht and Franz Wolff are in effect the characters Tyr and Fenrir from the Eddic poem. Franz has been tamed by Gleipnir, cast in Whispering Birches, whereas Lukas assumes his role as Tyr. The Ash tree is the symbol of Paganism, it being associated with the Yggdrassil.

Orthodox - This religion reigns over Eastern and Southern Europe and is most associated with the Slavic and Greek races. In the books, it plays a central role in Whispering Birches where we are reminded that Auschwitz devastated not just the Jewish community but also the populations of Poland and Russia. In the books, the constellations, Hercules and the sun crosses are clear symbols which refer to the church's closer connection to earlier Pagan practices. The hanging man, associated with Odin and its link to the Orthodox cross is an important symbol in Truth in Ash.  The Birch tree is the symbol of the Orthodox faith in the books.

Roman Catholic - This religion dominates Germanic society particularly in the south of the country where the Nazi movement was at its strongest. We see that the religion is compromised by its acceptance of the Nazi movement. The church was powerless during much of the conflict and in many cases complicit. We see this most strongly in Truth in Ash where the main character Franz Wolff returns to his faith after previously being seduced to the Pagan movement. We also see it in Franz's conviction that he should be forgiven for his role in the Auschwitz crime. The Beech tree is the symbol of the Catholic faith in the books.

Protestant and Reformist - History knows how many people fought to gain independence of the Roman church. Their role in WWII was relatively passive with the exception of Britain. Instead, the protestant countries stayed largely neutral with Scandinavia and Switzerland both excluding themselves from the conflict. However, they played a questionable role by profiting from the war and favoring the Nazi cause. This will be a theme of Book 5. The Linden tree is the symbol of the reformist faith.