Wednesday, December 9, 2009

North-Atlantic Brussels

There's more to Brussels than what you see. It's the spider locus in a cosmic configuration.

In my hippie days, Brussels to me was a site of magical and mystical activities. I used to go there for meditation at the Zen dojo near Halle Gate or the Tibetan centre in the Capouillet Street, to particpate in the meetings of the neo-theosophical World Teacher Trust, to read and buy books in the esoteric bookshop Le Lotus in the borough of Elsene (more spiritual than its counterpart downtown, General Occult), or to attend the 1983 New Age fair "The world we choose". Kind of Kathmandu.

I read all about the heraldry of the city and the secret alchemical references in the names of and statues upon the buildings around the townhall square, including Manneken Pis, whom indeed you do see in Renaissance alchemical treatises. More secular but still colourful was the story of Everaard t'Serclaes, a patrician who in 1356 organized a citizens' guerrila action that chased the occupying garrison of the Earl of Flandres from the city and opened its gates to the troops of the legal ruler, the Duke of Brabant. He was murdered in 1388 by the bastard son of the Lord of Gaasbeek, and is depicted in his death throes on the outside wall of building De Sterre on the townhall square. If you caress his arm there, it guarantees a whole year of being lucky in love.

At some point, it dawned on me that Broekzele ("swamp-forest"), to use the original Dutch name of Brussels, is more than just a city. It is the capital of the Flemish region, which is not the old county of Flanders (now the western provinces East and West Flanders and the adjoining regions in France and the Netherlands) but the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium, including most of the old dukedom of Brabant and the region of Loon, now called Limburg. It is the capital of Belgium and the seat of the most important governing bodies of the European Union. And finally, it is the administrative seat of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and consequently also the favourite place for anti-NATO demonstrations. On its central boulevard in the early 1980s, I and hundreds of thousands of demonstrators repeatedly marched against the installing of more nuclear weapons by Ronald Reagan. We shouted: "Belgium out of NATO, NATO out of Belgium!"

NATO was conceived as an alliance to defend freedom. To symbolize this lofty ideal, Brussels is historically very apt. In 1830, at the founding of Belgium, it pioneered the most liberal constitution of the age. Political refugees found freedom of speech there (recently whittled down by "hate speech" laws), most famously Victor Hugo and Karl Marx. Normally, the enemies of freedom, or at any rate of NATO and its intervention in Afghanistan, ought to treat Brussels as a favourite target for terrorist action. Yet, this has never happened so far. Today a NATO counterterrorism expert told me the hidden mechanisms behind the deceptive peace and quiet here, including the tacit understanding between the Belgian state and the terrorists that they will be left undisturbed if they merely use Belgian soil for preparing action elsewhere. This is top secret, so don't tell anyone. And if you really must (say, under torture), at least you don't have it from me.

But drop the mundane data now. Just think of this truly mystic insight: Brussels is the capital of North Atlantis. Gee, isn't that cosmic? Stop the search for Plato's Atlantis, it is right here.

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