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FREEDOM: Parabola Volume 49, No. 1, Spring 2024

This Spring 2024 issue of Parabola opens and closes with the exceptional lives of a man and a woman, both Black, both born in the 1800s, he into slavery in Missouri, she abducted as a child from her African village by Arab slave traders. 

Both spent years wrapped in chains—a suffering that brought an understanding of both inner and outer freedom denied to most. The Emancipation Proclamation freed Augustus Tolton from his outer bonds; the girl, Bakhita, brought to Italy by an owner, fought in court and won her freedom. Both then embraced a religious life dedicated in part to obedience, he as the first identified Black Catholic priest in the U.S., she as a nun who would be named the first Black woman saint of the modern era.

Freedom is both as simple as escape from restraint and as challenging as submitting voluntarily to a will other than one’s own. “The truth shall set you free,” proclaimed Jesus, not long before he willingly suffered crucifixion.

Freedom from what, and free for what? Among the personages exploring those questions here are Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, American President FDR, and, enlivened here by Professor H. Talat Halman, the freest of all free Zen spirits, the legendary enlightened scamp Ikkyu. There is a refreshing essay by Hilary Smith, who finds freedom in ghostwriting for spiritual teachers; an illuminating look at freedom of the voice by singing instructor Danielle Woerner; from celebrated chef Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, three Passover recipes; and much more, including the exciting tale of how Bön monks escaped from Tibet after the Chinese invasion.

We hope you enjoy this issue, dedicated to the wish that we all awaken to the spirit that concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl wrote of, of how “everything can be taken from us but the last of human freedoms … the freedom to choose our spirit in any circumstance.”

—Jeff Zaleski

table of contents

Rising Above Mary A. Osborne
From slavery to the priesthood

Voice and Freedom Danielle Woerner
Expressing our essential self

Tenzin’s Escape Harvey Rice & Jackie Dole
Bön monks flee the invaders of Tibet

Meeting the Teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
A life-changing encounter with spiritual authority

The Word for Soul Surnaí Molloy
A lyrical song of love, nature, the sacred

The Shattering of Dependency Patty de Llosa
Invaluable advice on cutting the apron strings

Ikkyu H. Talat Halman
The Zen master as free as a “crazy cloud”

The Blessedness of Freedom Frederick Douglass
He escaped from slavery and into greatness

Thy Will Be Done Julia Walsh
A traumatized nun heeds the call

Rumi’s Wedding Night Marian Brehmer
Honoring the world’s most popular poet

The Four Freedoms Franklin Delano Roosevelt
A call of hope from an American President

I Knew Two Men Roger Lipsey
Remembering Harold Bloom and Jacob Needleman

Ghostwriting for God Hilary Smith
Finding freedom in namelessness

Why Is this Night Different from All Other Nights? Rabbi Hanoch Hecht
The Passover Seder – with recipes!

To Be Here Is Immense Clare Simons
A Hindu bride is married by the Guru

The Faces of Freedom Lanta Davis
Avatars of virtue revealed

The Power of the Automatic James Opie
Michael Currer-Briggs on resisting the flow

Ignoring Alexander Nitya Satori
How a free-living soul conquered the great emperor 


Anonymous / French-Haitian
Retold by Nartana Premachandra

The Turtle and the Ring
Anonymous / Buddhist
Retold by Kyle R. Garton