Prester John And The Magic Negro

Chaitanya Jyothi Museum Opening, 2000

In the Name of The Father, and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, Amen.



The century between 1000 and 1100 AD in Europe, North Africa, The Levant, The Middle East, India and Eurasia was extraordinarily packed with consequential events.  Norman French conquered England and settled on Scotland, being helped indirectly by Norwegian Vikings, who, on their last major visitation at the Sceptered Isle, drew off English strength to the north of William’s invasion.  Certain Christian French knights conquered Jerusalem and fortified local environs.  The Bishops of Rome and Constantinople excommunicated one another.  Nestorian/Antiochene Christianity continued to appeal north and east from the Levant through Eurasia to Tibet, Siberia and China.  El Cid conquered North African Moslems in Andalusia (Al-Andalus) and Valencia.  Syro-Malabar Christians in India expanded their influence country-wide and especially in the west (Konkan Coast), southwest (Kerala, Karnataka and Goa), east (East India) and northeast (Northeast India).  And Genghis Khan’s parents were moving towards conceiving their illustrious son.

But for our purposes here, another consequential event of that century begs attention: the suppression of Mutazilite Islam, based at Baghdad and Basra, by proponents of Asharite Islam, based seemingly everywhere else.  This suppression was nothing short of successful.  Asharite Islam idolized the Koran and insisted on the authority of its scholars thereof.  Mutazilite Islam would have none of either, considering both idolatries.

Asharite Islam generated three consequential and decisive character traits: (1) anti-empirical fanaticism (they call it purity, salaf), (2) war-making fanaticism (again, they call it purity, salaf) and (3) anti-cultural fanaticism (and again, they call it purity, salaf).  These character traits dispose Asharite Moslems — aka Salafis or Shi’ia — to fits of ignorant, stupid arrogance, raging pugnacity and very bad breeding.

Between 1000 and 1100 AD, Europe and the Levant got a stiff dose of Asharite Islam’s puritan (salaf) sadism.  It came from Europe’s east and south.  Its cousin, Mongoloid Nestorian Islam from Europe’s north and east, would be felt in Europe soon enough, during the next century.

Both Latin and Greek Churches felt besieged.  They were.  They could not count on sizable Nestorian populations in Eurasia and skilled Syriac or related populations in The Levant and East Africa.  Partly, this was because European bishops had already read Nestorian and Syriac Christians out of the Church.  Partly, it was because Christians are trained in vigilance against idolatry — a training that also accounts for their love of nature, beauty and mildness — and so have difficulty summoning a ferocity sufficient to defeat the ferocity of Moslem puritans, whose twin idolatry of book and person induces them to conjure artery-splitting ferocity as a sign of piety.

By various means word circulated in besieged Europe that a dark-skinned, wealthy, powerful (militarily) and Christian king lived behind Moslem lines and was willing and able to attack those lines from their rear.  Such an attack, of course, if in sufficient strength, would lift the Moslem siege of Europe.  The king’s name was given as Prester John, which may be a form of Presbyter John.  His kingdom was said by some to be in Sub-Saharan Africa, by others in India, by others Eurasia and by others Ethiopia.  He was never found and he never reported in, at least not in the strength and with the intentions Europeans fancied him having.

Prester John as Europeans thought of him was a projection of desperate prelates exegeting and eisegeting texts, of variable reliability, regarding an unknown dark-skinned worthy willing to wallop Moslem puritans in their pantaloons.

But the notional hope for a savior in the rear of an enemy before whom one cringes is a common enough phenomenon in human affairs.  Even when that hope has no tangible justification.  The fact of the hope is reasonable even when the substance of it is not.

Observe in modern literature, say, movies, the dark-skinned Prester John image in full Color and Cinemascope glory: The Magic Negro.  Examples: Bedazzled and Blazing Saddles.  The Magic Negro is the wise and powerful savior, the god, dark-skinned, who is behind the bad guy, who is giving the good guy hell, and turns the tables on the bad guy.  For a female but still dark-skinned version of this figure: Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.

The Magic Negro image has its obverse: The Treacherous Negro, the figure the good guy thinks will save him  but who actually works for the bad guy and in the end joins the bad guy in giving the what-for to the good guy.  In American movie cliche, The Treacherous Negro, the betrayer of hopes, is usually light-skinned.  Example: Touch of Evil.

This literary phenomenon reflects the abyssal residence in the literary tradition of the Latin Church of the hope/projection that the savior from present distress is dark-skinned as well as rich, skilled and powerful.  And if the savior is dark-skinned, the oppressor, logically it seems, must be light-skinned.  There is also the dark-skinned figure of Othello The Treacherous Negro, deeply set in the consciousness of The Latin Church, seduced by his light-skinned aide, Iago/Diego (James), to engineer his own tragedy.

The movie Die Hard compiles a classic The Magic Negro figure with a White Devil and his The Treacherous Negro accomplice.  Something of a tour de force of related figures and their permutations.  Lawrence of Arabia, on the other hand, follows the Prester John/The Magic Negro script exactly: circle around the enemy, make contact with a powerful friend behind the enemy and together strike the enemy in his rear (Aqaba).  The technical name of this maneuver is envelopment.

Lawrence and the Arabs executed a single envelopment at Aqaba, as did General Jackson at Chancellorsville.  History’s most famous double envelopment is Hannibal’s of Rome’s Legions at Cannae.  However, GOA MacArthur also executed a famous double envelopment, of the North Korean Army, from Inchon and the Korean east coast.a

The figure of Prester John is a psychologist’s wonder-world, a magic kingdom for him or her.  Some earnest and clever thesis writer must have exploited that opportunity now and again.

The Latin Church has never said that skin-tone affects or symbolizes spiritual opportunity, character or ability.  Together with all religions, The Latin Church uses the binary of light and dark as symbols of good and evil, but light and dark skin are not included in that binary.  The binary is about light as in sunlight and dark as in lack of sunlight.  Not skin-tone.

The literature of the Latin Church, however, does include skin-tone — as well as costume color — in the binary of good and evil, as practically any pre-modern American movie will attest from its start if not soon after that.  Example: El Cid, made before modern Hollywood’s light-skinned autophagy replaced the more traditional tale with light colors and costumes, to include skin-tone, representing good and dark colors and costumes, to include skin-tone, representing evil.

Of note is that the figures of Ivanhoe and The Black Knight Of The Hudson (United States Military Academy at West Point, New York) are traditional Prester John figures in that they represent genuine saviors appearing in black (armor) and at least in Ivanhoe’s case from behind an enemy’s lines.  Images of the dark-skinned savior from afar, at least since the 11th Century AD, burn deep in the mind of The Latin Church.

Americans and their foreign observers recently emerged from an experience wherein many and perhaps most thought they were asking The Magic Negro to save them from loss of freedom and sovereignty — and expecting him to do that — but actually were asking The Treacherous Negro to help ranks of foreigners who hate America and Americans drive freedom and sovereignty right out their lives and into oblivion.

Americans, to save themselves, thought to welcome a Fraud who wanted to blow them up.  And they were warned about their irrational enthusiasm.  Well and truly warned about it.  Then, helped along by voter fraud of numerous species, American voters did it anyway.  They welcomed an anti-American whose actual objective was to undue them.  To their regret.

One should be grateful Americans have enough sense left in them to be able to regret their delusions and gullibility.  They are not completely catatonic, yet.

Comes news The Magic Negro who is really The Treacherous Negro is finally caught in her/his own web.  See also here and here.  And here.

Prester John is a dramatic devise, a literary figure, employed by story tellers, narrative spinners, tale retailers to grab attention to one thing while doing something unseen elsewhere, something unsavory, nefarious.  This is always the case, everywhere.  When the tale retailer is one’s self, one is in real, perhaps lethal, epistemological danger.

Βασιλεία του Θεού
Kingdom of God

Update 1: Roger Simon: All roads, all lines of inquiry lead to [The Magic Negro].  See also here.

Update 2: J. B. White: The OODA Loop President


Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren

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