Monday 9 May 2011

Seymour Glass compared with Seraphim Rose


I have just been reading my favourite JD Salinger stories about the Glass family ^ - which focus on the life and suicide of their American-born fictional 'saint' Seymour; and I have just started a re-read of the biography of the first real life American-born Saint (of the Russian Orthodox Church) Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina + - born as Eugene Rose (and usually called Fr Seraphim Rose).

The comparison is interesting.


The fictional Seymour Glass was born in 1917, while Seraphim Rose was born in 1934 - half a generation later.


Seymour Glass was raised in New York City on the East Coast of the USA, was something of a child prodigy who was often termed a 'genius' (by his family), and attended the local elite university - Columbia.

Seraphim Rose was raised in California on the West Coast of the USA, was something of a child prodigy who was sometimes termed a genius (by his friends), and attended the local elite liberal arts college - Pomona.


Both Seymour and Seraphim developed an intense personal and scholarly interest in Eastern religions, meditation, Buddhism, Oriental languages and the like.


In the end, Seymour developed a personal, eclectic, syncretic religion incorporating elements of Christianity, Hinduism (especially reincarnation), Zen, and a life dedicated to personal poetic creativity.

While Seraphim became a Russian Orthodox Christian of the most traditional kind, an ascetic monk, and led a life dedicated to attaining holiness (theosis) and evangelism via his writings and translations.


Seymour died young in 1948 at the age of 31 - shooting himself probably due to psychological war trauma and despair at living up to his own ideals.

Seraphim died young in 1982 at the age of 48 - from an acute medical illness.


After his death, Seymour became a kind-of saint to those who knew him personally, then to Western youth via the writings of JD Salinger and the (fictional) example of his life.

After his death, Seraphim became a Saint to those who knew him personally, and then to Eastern post-communist youth via his own writings and the example of his life.


Seymour Glass was a seeker; Seraphim Rose was a finder.


^ Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters; Zooey; Seymour: an introduction all by JD Salinger.

+ Father Seraphim Rose: his life and works by Hieromonk Damascene.


1 comment:

Brett Stevens said...

From an article about arch-neurotic Carrie Fisher:

There is a line of Paul Simon’s that she quotes in the book, written in part about her, “From what I can see of the people like me/We get better but we never get well.”

This describes so many "seekers." Without a center, they are finding new source of "hope," but never a constant belief.

I think of our frontier ancestors (both US and Europe) who, alone in the primordial darkness, needed a bright inner light to keep them focused on what they needed to do to survive.

We live in often dispirited times.