(The impressions in this poem are a composite of several experiences; no single baroque church is described and I am aware that not all baroque churches are dark and shadowy but sometimes quite light)


Below weighty pillars and arches
Unpraying eyes in silence observe them:
Donors all richly attired attending the Virgin,
St Helen in triumph for tomb find and cross piece
Alexandria’s Catherine presenting her wheel.
They, like Jerome in wilderness tatters nursing
A lion, all once shone in their frames now
Much lost to high gloom, their oils half rotted
And bled into canvas that age, incense
And candle smoke darken. The coloured remains
Bear witness, fixed by grand gestures, to
Saints’ tales, pious half truths dependent
For meaning and standing on rivers and fires
Of God’s story otherwise lost to shadows or absent,
A stranger to even side altar themes.

If faith should be seen, of divine source
There’s nothing to view save the host, “he”
As wafer behind a cabinet’s doors (1)
And hidden entirely if no monstrance (2)
Bears him about in brief sunburst of gold gleam
Or above a high altar no agony’s glimpsed. There
A figure more darkened, the crucified
Hangs nailed as though it might be forever,
Sad eyes directed to heaven, limbs strained
To pure immolation. He, less Lord than an
Ever sacrificed lamb, is still caught in a
Hell world scarce overcoming earth’s ills and
The curse, unless by whatever it’s trusted
Can be re-enacted by priest’s hands amid
This scented but mouldering pomp. There
Celestial power must be drawn through
The shadows, upheld and furthered by prayers
Of the many but lessening faithful… (3)

There’s a life I am drawn to outside.
No dome to enclose nor candles to soothe me
Air, sunlight, earth and luminous sea
Let these meet and surround me. With these
Rising Godward I’ll speak into heaven
For miraculous change having chosen
Self within light, promise taken from (4)
Dawn Star and bright noon of sure resurrection. (5)
Without you, pure elements sensed and
Desired I cannot own fullness of Truth,
Cannot obtain what soul should acquire
With strength of corporeal feeling and
Nature, holding thoughts and images naked
As Francis in quest of meaning and grace. (6)
The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.


1) cabinet i.e. the tabernacle where the host is reserved
2) An implicit critique of the transubstantiation miracle whereby  Christ is not a sacrifice once offered (Heb 9:28) but repeatedly offered when the priest transforms the bread and wine.
3) A monstrance is a vessel that carries the host in processions behind glass typically surrounded by a sunburst design in gold with a cross above it.
4) Miraculous.change i.e. of soul preceding and leading to change of body (resurrection) rather than trans-elementation of bread.
5) Christ is the Morning Star (2 Pet 1:19, Rev 22:16) though Lucifer can be called that but not the Sun in full strength (Rev 1:16) i.e. noonday. A new dawn promises the various fulfilments of noonday.
6) Francis is St Francis who divested himself of his clothes to return them to his father. He also preached a sermon in the nude.

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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Poetry, religion, Uncategorized






Since in my role of poet I want and ought to keep abreast of what’s currently considered good, memorable poetry, finally and rather belatedly I have got round to obtaining and attempting to absorb that trendy production: Poems That Make Grown Men Cry (2014). A hundred men, not alpha males but notably successful in their various fields,  writing, scripting, film directing and the like (even science like Richard Dawkins!) were asked to contribute a poem with comment on how and why certain lines moved them, evoked their tears or a choked up reading. The project’s original idea had been a publication to generate funds for Amnesty International which was aware that once behind bars prisoners of conscience often take to verse. But along the way the book also aimed to break down a few gender stereotypes about men and emotions.

The end product is a fascinating experiment which however finishes a very mixed bag that carries both outstanding and (to my mind) less impressive, even forgettable verse. Taken all together, the anthology is rather hard to assess and even represent. “Poetry” in this book can range from choices like James McManus’s of a prose extract (albeit poetic) from Finnegan’s Wake and Carl Bernstein’s of the nursery rhyme All the Pretty Horses, The latter is not really moving in itself but seems to have been admitted because Bernstein feels overcome by private memories of early fatherhood triggered by just reciting the words. Some of the poems are quite lengthy and others rather short – very much so in the case of Boris Akunin’s chosen Hokku (sic): “Dragonfly catcher/ Where today have you gone?”. Its seventeen syllables in the Japanese are said to be not just moving but to encapsulate the meaning and power of poetry itself and they have been inspiring Akunin’s fictional endeavours for years.

Poems by Auden top the choice list followed by A.E. Housman, Thomas Hardy and Philip Larkin. One of Housman’s poems (Last Poems XL) was a choice shared by Richard Dawkins and former poet laureate Andrew Motion. I can’t help feeling that the Victorian poet’s tight rhymes and/or firm metres using octosyllabics or less, have a way of punching things home to the heart in a way stately, traditional iambic pentameter may not always manage to do. This struck me when I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s very felt Requiem, (chosen by novelist and Presidential speech writer, Thomas Buckley). Its simple beat and images with its sailor home from  sea and hunter home from the hill, evokes something universal that is at once touching in its sense of finality and peace.


For the most part, however, I found the ensemble less moving than quirky and even an interesting, rather special sign of our times whether as regards the types of poetry selected or the beliefs they conveyed – obviously a lot of the poems deal with attitudes to loss and death…. One or two choices seemed so off base they left me closer to laughter than tears, like the mentioned Akunin’s hokku and then Anish Kapoor’s choice of Adrienne Rich’s not unmeaningful but over-the-top Eastern War Time I, with statements Kappor weeps to like: “I’m a canal in Europe where bodies are floating…..I am a corpse dredged from a canal in Berlin…”. I could agree, as I am sure many would, with actor Hugh Bonneville in finding Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier moving (and even if you’re not English),,,, except that, however grand the feeling and the style, some of us happen to know that when he was dying Brooke wasn’t thinking about England as he imagined he would be, but love in Tahiti.

It must be admitted nothing in the anthology moved me to tears as such (I even kept  feeling how distant my own inner life must be from the Anglo-American one chiefly represented) but only to melancholy or gloomy thoughts. But that is what numbers of contributors more or less admitted was the case for themselves. Certainly some poems that got past the gate like D.H. Lawrence’s masterful and hauntingly strange Bavarian Gentians, chosen by oet Simon Armitage and about descent to the underworld, are just gloomy rather than tearful. The father and son editors Anthony and Ben Holden might have needed to take more time to track down men who really cried over their poem. Numbers of contributors admitted to a possible choke line or a few words that had been  difficult for them to read out loud on occasions, but far fewer admitted to anything like the “breathing pure grief” which   the last verse of Keith Douglas’s Canoe generates for Clive James, or that a part of Brian Patten’s Armada does for actor Paul Bettany which he says can make him wail. (Objectively Armada is a sad poem for a mourned parent and a lost childhood world).

Apart from the mentioned Requiem poem, for myself one of the most moving poems in the collection is Wilfred Owen’s war poem Dulce et Decorum Est selected by the late Christopher Hitchens shortly before his death. Of course I knew it already and it could be called a fairly conventional choice in an anthology that to a striking degree eschews the traditional – most of the poems are modern and outside the canon – and bereft of almost all traditional belief and feeling about death and immortality too. There’s nothing here of Milton, Herbert, Donne or others, but a good deal in the spirit of what Philip Larkin does best for the outlook of total unbelief. Even the Auden poem Friday’s Child chosen by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, unless read very carefully and well understood (it’s about both the execution of Dietrich Bonhoffer and Christ’s crucifixion) sounds more like mockery and denial of belief than any kind of affirmation. Quite why the Archbishop, indeed any Archbishop, would chose such a poem is a mystery, but reading this book is a reminder that indeed as the saying goes, “it takes all sorts to make a world”, because little here follows what one might expect.


How could it possibly be that illustrator and screenwriter Mark Haddon would favour Derek Wallcott’s Midsummer Sonnet XL111 (it’s much longer than a conventional sonnet) which begins “Chicago’s avenues, as white as Poland/ A Blizzard of heavenly coke hushes the ghettoes” .Haddon is moved because Wallcott’ss list of urban details and objects (including “cars like dead horses”) is somehow moving just in itself. Presumably this is something an illustrator understands. Then there is Salman Rushdie’s choice of Auden’s In Memory of W.B. Yeats. This is a wonderfully sophisticated and witty poem except for its crazy, much criticized assertion “poetry makes nothing happen” ; but Rushdie, another of the anthology’s atheists and agnostics, finds overwhelming emotional force in its concluding words, (a contradiction of the nothing happens assertion), “In the prison of his days/teach the free man how to praise”…Oh well.

Absolutely not moving as poetry, nor I think even distinguished as same, is Harold Pinter’s It is Here (for A) the choice of film director, Neil Labute. It is a mere ten line evocation of  PInter’s first meeting with Antonia Fraser – the first line is “What sound is that?” and the last line is “Listen it is here”. I can’t understand why anyone would be moved by what merely registers or celebrates, and rather poorly in poetic terms (Ms Fraser seems like a disembodied je ne said quoi, not a person), the onset of by many accounts one of the nastiest adulteries (for its consequences) in the modern literary world.

Since I am not especially familiar with the poetry of Emily Dickinson, I looked up just what it was she is supposed to be saying in novelist Douglas Kennedy’s choice of her After Great Pain which includes such as “- was it He that bore/and Yesterday – or centuries before”. Is the poet talking about her heart or Christ’s suffering or just what? It turns out nobody is sure and I am not surprised. Dickinson can be quite ambiguous, sometimes just disjointed in composition, but the fact you need to think what she’s saying at a point where she might be intending to pull at heart strings, makes you question this whole issue of poetry that makes to cry and/or be deeply moved.

Dickinson (1830-1886) composed a relatively clear and by now almost canonical poetry, but she anticipates elements of modernism, and sufficient chunks of this grown men’s anthology enlarges upon the direction she takes when touching on ultimate themes. It beats a path deeper into a verse so ambiguous, gnomic, riddling or Japanese suggestive as with actor Colin Firth’s choice of Emily Zinnemann’s Regarding the Home of One’s Childhood One Could: that it prompts speculation about what is happening to the modern sensibility poetry does its part to form or reflect.

It is my impression that Anglo-American society is so averse to deep emotion that it seeks to hide and suppress it as something foreign. In consequence, it may finish suddenly and unaccountably moved by the quirky and riddling where a maze of possible meanings both cloaks deep emotions and half releases them. The maze becomes a privileged site imagined as housing answers of sorts in the face of normally rejected, insoluble problems. Profundity lies not with affirmation and faith but rather with agnostic pointing in a world of often very random signs. A lot of the anthology is just melancholy whimsy (which is what I would consider a fair amount of English poetry to be) and of which the evidently popular Thomas Hardy is the great master if you like that kind of thing.


Faced with this would-be revealing, confessional anthology, some of us may still be left asking just what poetry is now supposed to be and where headed. Clearly this collection is nowhere near to the tears which, as opposed to those of regret or puzzlement, belong with a certain admiration before the sublime of which I recall Chateaubriand wrote somewhere. Rhapsodic, inspirational tears don’t appear. And if this sample of (largely) contemporary verse is anything to go by, it’s farewell to poetry that is, broadly speaking, didactic or inspirational/romantic in favour of something more like therapy or Zen realizations (the vaguer painterly sort rather than the instant flash variety born of specific meditational techniques). There is nothing here of the epic spirit, though something which recalls it is present in the long poems some contributors chose of Elizabeth Bishop, where it’s present ironically even eccentrically and therefore not very emotionally beyond feelings of a general regret.

It cannot be stressed enough today, that poetry emerged in the prophetic function and thus traditionally has connection with religion, something even atheist poets like Shelley understood – his Ode to the West Wind clearly aims at vision, claims a prophetic role and the sublime. Modern poetry has abandoned not just faith but with it the sublime of the Romantics in favour of the humdrum world and the aforesaid whimsy. I feel like saying what most makes me want to cry in this collection is what it implies for poetry itself! Still, as I’ve said, the book marks a very interesting experiment. And I gather that what makes grown women cry is in preparation and will be revealed to the world in the northern spring of next year. Await further revelations and enjoy the contrast!

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized



I am publishing this controversial poem ahead of this week’s unprecedented address before the Pope on the 24th by a gay Catholic to the World Meeting of Families convention in Philadelphia, USA. Though the speaker Ron Belgau himself elects for celibacy, as conservative Catholics believe no one is born gay and so should not identify as such but rather seek cure (the position of most conservative Protestants), they are opposed to the convention. Likewise liberal Catholics who think eros has some rights to expression. Obviously the would-be generous Pope still wants to uphold tradition. But the reality is the tradition to which conservatives are attached is not nearly as scriptural as imagined, not least as regards how people are born. No poem could fully cover all the points I make or try to suggest as a theologian writing  some considerably  didactic poetry, but the notes below will be some guide. (Some notes are offered more like suggestions to further inquiry and conversations and a precis of the poem or what used to be called “the argument” is added ).



Baruch had indeed been a blessing. (1)
In the calm of his secretary’s eyes
Their attentive, aware, knowing gaze,
What imaged futures, what revelations
Could not find reflection, not shine back
If with traces of more earthly wisdom.

Surely the Lord had granted him this. It
Was, he had privately felt, convenient
Being forbidden free choice among
Daughters of Zion.(2)  Most too easily
Turned aside to the wrong – a heavenly Queen,
In love with her and powerless idols (3).

Strong, firm, unyielding, bright as a flame
Mounts devotion to God. Woman will stray.
Her talk and her feeling imagines, suggests;
Naming, language and words were from Adam
His directions came first like an essence
Of action and order, not life’s adornment (4).

Yet even bound to and led by Law’s orders
And counsel, were any attached to the
Father Creator with genuine fervour?
Could devotion more purely or only ascend
To that sapphire of heaven, God’s floor (5)
Above limitless, testing bright sands?

Admit that beyond the desert of trials
And even by streams and waters of quiet
The holiest passions knew wrestle and
Struggle more fit to male circumcised’s will. (6)
Before love for his women the sweetest
Of psalmists could still rate a man. (7)

In Eden’s new symbol, the Temple, (8) near
The ark amid quiet flame and ascension
Of incense, peace like blue heaven’s repose
Might enfold such as he was, a priest, or
That Psalmist desiring to dwell there.
But where was rest for the many outside?


“Go”, said the Lord “and buy yourself linen”.
The linen was fresh as priests’ garments
And linen are pure. Its use was as loincloth  (9)
But not to be washed, worn only as sign.
Could a prophet complain? Isaiah was bound
To live naked, Micah determined the same. (10)

“Go” said the Lord and “in what you are wearing
Make way direct to the river Euphrates” (11).
Once arrived and removing the loincloth
There, as instructed, he had hidden his linen
In a hole to be dug in a rock by the waters.
The act was a mystery, no reason disclosed.

For long its purpose remained a deep secret
But during the interval sometimes he’d
Wondered, not least why unwashed, thus impure,
The cloth was a sign outside custom of Law.
Were not emissions by nature occasion
For dipping and corporal cleansing? (12)

Even so, might the intention be something
Of self to be gifted the rockface? –
The imageless Lord is imaged as rock.
Yet beside river waters, digging there
Had he enacted or seen something
Not of himself but other of Woman?

For was there not always a presence of
Lover, Wife, Mother, always emerging,
A something divine that’s also of Woman?
Surely God’s prophet Isaiah proclaimed such, (13)
And had not Elohim, that form of the
First name addressed to the Highest, implied it? (14)

Yes, water like flowers were blesséd, yet
For himself, for the height and depth of
His longings, did he not almost prefer
To see, touch and feel the rough naked rock
On which sun so fiercely beat down that day,
Elemental as he applied to the task?

Rock, stone, first and firm out of chaos
When all else was still waste and void! (15),
Primal, enduring, thrown up amid quake
And volcano, strong from the urge of
Creation and making! Clinging fast to
That rock was like love for God and the earth.

And the highest reaching of mind and of soul
Its purest, most undistracted direction
Was it not based on, did it not rise from
The pillars of earth and the root of himself,
Above and below joined in one psalm, one
Vibration, knowing praise of God’s force? (16)

Love moved and was where? At home, in the heart
In the heavens, with the children of men?
No matter where always with faith, its nature
Often departing from what was familiar
Taking the path of the rawly essential….
So, what had he learned beside a far river?

Long he mused. He’d returned but little conveyed
To Baruch. Sometimes we hold and desire
Secrets from even those dear. The relation
Of two may be helped by a third, spirit
And mind will sometimes demand it. Was not
Elohim the divine One as plural?


Many days having passed, the Lord said
“Go, return to Euphrates and what you
Once dug there and hid, now withdraw”. Yet
To do that had seemed hard labour for nothing
When the cloth emerged rotten. He was near
To complain task and sign must be worthless.

Except that all thought of the kind was not
Of the Lord, Who himself would declare
The linen was useless and as such, like
The prophet’s own people, prideful and
Evil in service of gods and of deeds so
Unrighteous they invited destruction.

He was reminded his people were made
To be always distinctive, a house
Possessing a name, its function a praise
And a glory, its men, if only they
Saw it, if only they’d listen, attached
To their Lord like loins bound to the loincloth (17).

The prophet knew as well as the Lord
Jerusalem’s rebels would not grant
Him hearing. Yet the message left questions.
Which he addressed less to God than himself,
For a word once delivered and clearly,
The rest should be grasped through knowledge and faith.

Grasped no matter how novel or strange.
For now, no longer a serpent opposed to
The Lord nor a sword in conflict with life,
The member long hidden and shamed became
With the priest’s rod that budded, sacred,  (18)
Part with that all-self the Psalmist said praises. (19)

Being threefold in form it reflected
The powerful One of the plural
Elohim (20) and like prayer in its rising,
It joined with creation. Though of bodily
Form but one part and compact, its urgent
Desire might possess the whole frame.

Nor was it true, if folly compared it
With bodily features designed to allure,
Love’s member owned nothing of beauty;
In that is was closer to what is unseen,
Insubstantial, but sweet to the senses
Like incense aroma or notes of a harp

But raw too, kin to fires of God at the first.
Recalling the shaking and motion of
Earth drawn from chaos. Creation itself
Rose in explosion, foaming and violent
Darkness advancing to light and to order
Fierce and tender to nature emerging.

True, like nature, woman gave birth and helped
Finish creation; but though of its kind
Her own force was vital and flowing
As man’s, still it came after, was second,
More strong for response and reaction.
That much even the eunuchs could tell…(21)

Also one like the prophet barren of
Offspring and, wifeless. As such, why was he
Called to learn from the loincloth? Could he
See, sense or enjoy all the more strongly
The male side of God or even the female
But without bringing life to the world?  (22)

Yet even Isaiah, married with children
Spoke of a place that was higher, one
Reserved for the eunuch (23); and if for the
Regular man lost seed (because it spelled death)
Was impure, had not his own seed remained,
As though pure on his way to the river?

While some might be whores, he knew
That not all who were eunuchs were evil,
Though the Law refused them the temple (24).
Some were most righteous, God’s very own
Angels as was one who delivered him
Out of the well-pit when no one else would (25).

Of God or the most sacred urges what
Did these barren ones know? Though by law
No man could lie with a man, these did so,
Brazenly dressed and painted as women (26)
Shrieking and squealing , completely abandoned
In service of God or the gods, so they thought.

And they lived, for though Leviticus’ rule
Required execution, in practice (it might be
Because scribes endeavoured to change things (27)
Or even great Moses himself was unsure),
Deuteronomy let them to live but not
To give offerings to God from their wages (28)

And the same book excluded such men
From the list of those other ones cursed
For perversions (29). Perhaps some mercy
Had thought they arrived at their whoredom
As slaves or that, from birth little fitted to
Custom and home, in confusion they’d strayed.

Hardly he knew, though even he was aware,
Having taught no leopard will ever change spots,(30)
Major change was unlikely. At least
They were not quite the same as the violent
And greedy of Sodom, those who had lusted
Not just for women and men but for angels (31).

Yet they seemed, though Law had not added
Its curse, much self-harmed by addiction,
Disease or even by early decease
And – if they desired such – hurt by lack of
Relation for having too much, too long
Remained bound to their lives of sensation.

For unharmed, the body of soul could never
Sustain the effects of those many profane
And too meaningless couplings (32); and through
That same body it was, prophets knew,
Soul entered to different places and times,
Grasped more of earth and of heaven with God.

But then he recalled that dark time back when,
In anger with God and depressed, he’d charged the
Creator himself with great wrong: his rape (33).
Meaning what? So often in contact with God
His soul with its body was touched high and low
At base of the spine and the crown of the head (34).

Few lived or connected that way with life
Or the Lord. With or without the Creator
The regular man and his spouse, learned more
And were joined chiefly through body/soul centres
Of navel and heart as was, he could tell,
Israel’s wise king with the woman most loved (35)

It was why man and woman would always
Feel more materially owned by each other
Than prophets obsessed by God and addicted
Or those men in their shadow, the eunuchs,
For whom the life stream through body alone
Seemed like their only and dangerous truth.

When, reversing the order of female
To male, the Shulammite offered first of
Herself and her body, that way the
Male force was and could be contained;
And from there was the basis of pleasure
Prolonged, even savoured, not wasted away (36).

And so it should be, for indeed man having
Once entered the garden of woman, to her
He belonged and always – something of soul
Was absorbed to her being forever (37) Soul
Knew that, it’s why man could hate with great
Violence what he knew was great power.

Since divine grace and power are still stronger
Even two of same sex might  join as though one (38)
-The Psalmist assumed he could marry a man – (39)
But could that express the commonest way
Two men would know and enjoy who they were
Linked in spirit and mind but together distinct?

The eunuch, whether made or just born
Had more of man and of women together;
To appreciate, not to create seemed his role.
Bliss, nature or God all passed through him;
He stood as witness to lament or rejoice (40)
Or else with prophets enact and forth tell.

Not possessing but sharing, two persons
One teaching, one learning, (41) mind and will
More than body containing the life flow,
Such might be ground of attachment and not
Of necessity all and always forever (42).
When one loved without home, wife or child….

It was true that for him a man’s presence
And form might be a delight lower yet
Somehow akin to communion with God. But
How hard to admit such as prophet of all
That was pure in the land, a voice to
Recall his own people to keeping the Law.

The Law was imagined or wooed by some
As a woman, its rulings and words deemed
Adornment; but no, for him all pattern was art.
Law shaped, it fashioned a house, when it did
Not strip bare, returned man to nature and Adam,
Man unadorned, truth’s most beautiful form.

How much there might be to change and re-think!
But then, nothing was harder than what,
Quite apart from these musings of his, was that
Message revealed and to him quite uniquely,
How, in the heart and in people one day
A new covenant law would be written (43).

And dimly he thought he saw ahead to
That time a messiah regarded the eunuch
As symbol of difference and strangers
Of whom, to avoid hatred and violence
In self and more widely the nation,
It brought curse to treat with only contempt (44).


Some of this he tried as he hadn’t before
To explain to Baruch. This proved rather
Hard and he failed, though being astute
Baruch half understood. He even laughed
Just a little, if lightly and sighed as
He sought for the words that wouldn’t offend.

“You are such a gloomy bear of a man,
Serious always! And I know it’s been
Hard for you, often quite lonely, but
I think you may now have found some new truth
With you as my teacher I’ll always learn more
And I knew you quite liked me – from that look
In your eye I’ve sometimes felt owned. Let’s not
Rush to conclusions, it’s no good idea.
But I too have thoughts I’d like you to hear ..”


1) The name Baruch means blessing

2) Forbidden to marry Jer 16: 1- 4

3) Queen of Heaven Jer 7:18, 49:19

4). It is interesting that Adam names things before Eve’s arrival. According to theories of Écriture Féminine (Women’s writing) promoted not least by French Jewish writer, Hélène Cixous, language is phallocentric, forces woman to express a patriarchal worldview. She maintains in effect that woman is entirely a sexual organ who has feelings and impressions in numerous ways and directions that current language and writing do not express. Maybe and if so, one has to admit that the impression of this female alternative however suggestive and expressive would never make for an efficient organization of the world!

5) Reference to a description of heaven in Ex 24:10

6) A founding father, Jacob, wrestles with the angel at Peniel by the stream of Jabbok. (Gen 32:22-32)

7)  2 Sam 1:26. The love of Jonathan is rated as “passing the love of women”.

8) New studies of the Jewish Temple, especially from Margaret Barker stress the connection of Temple with Eden.

9)  Loincloth as sign, Jer 13:1-4.

10) Isaiah naked 20:2, Micah “I will go naked” (Mic 1:8). Originally prophets were often naked apparently fully as the story of Saul amongst the prophets would indicate (1 Sam 19:24). One might suspect not simply a sign as with India’s Jain monks of dedication and separation from norms, but unstated esoteric considerations (opening the whole aura to spiritual influences which clothing may prevent).

11) Tradition and this poem for convenience assumes Jeremiah went to the distant Euphrates 350 miles away indicative of the direction the future exile of Jews would take (and perhaps the direction in which Eden had lain) but the Hebrew is problematic. The prophet may as easily have gone only three miles away to the river Para and this might have better suited giving a sign to the people.

12) Any seminal emissions involuntary or otherwise occasioned a brief ritual impurity which required cleansing (Lev 15:1-3).

13) Isaiah is only one of those prophets who introduce female imagery to the predominant male imagery of deity. For Isaiah God can be a woman in labour (Is 42:14), a woman who has nursed her child (Is 49:14-15), a mother comforting children ( Is 66:13). This is necessarily, logically valid if both male and female are said to be created in the divine image (Gen 1:27). It is just (as per note 4) that in some fashion and way whatever the male force is, though it need not be superior it is still “first” in order and thus perhaps better or more spontaneously images the Creator.

14) Elohim, the first name of God is a uniplural word. Eloh is feminine singular while im is masculine plural.

15) The prophet had a vision of a world laid waste and void Jer 4:23

16) Especially Ps 103:1 but in anticipation of later claims regarding the soul which for David is the nephesh or animal soul which sustains the whole body, not the para-intellectual spirit..

17) Jer 13:11.”for as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord…”

18) Num 17:1-8. Though potency and fertility are not the prime consideration in the story of Aaron’s rod, obviously in an episode involving authority that kind of symbolism attaches to it as it did for D.H.Lawrence, author of Aaron’s Rod

19) Again Ps 103:1 “Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name”. Soul (nephesh) has implications for soul body or aura while all within me is all of the body the soul sustains.

20) In Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions, NewYork 1964, p. 88), the pornographer declares, “before me always the image of the body, our triune god of penis and testicles…” The point might be obvious and even profound as a possible basis for more mystical treatments of sex, but being neither religious or mystical Miller gets it theologically, kaballistically and almost any way wrong. He identifies the penis (which would need to be the Creator, Keter the Head) with the Spirit. It is Son and Spirit who proceed from the Father/the Head and together they are like the Ying/Yang that realize and carry creation and thus would be beneath and symbolized by the testicles. In numbers of books and articles I take the position that the Eastern churches who insist that both Son and Spirit proceed directly from the Father represents the authentic, original  quasi-subordinationist Christian belief, not the Augustinian western formulation which makes the Trinity mathematically equal while claiming the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son).

21) The word “eunuch” is used rather loosely in this poem and thus more in the way of Jesus’ time than Jeremiah’s, namely as covering for anyone, often gay, who is different and apart from family rather than only a castrate.

22) Masters and Johnson research found gays seemed to enjoy or manage sex more than straights who could be bumblers by comparison. Assuming gays are more adapted in some ways to sex, (even if this might be linked to other energies more esoterically), how much should gays be denied it? St Paul controversially advises heterosexuals it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9) but he and conservative Christians don’t advise the same to gays, rather they advise complete abstention. The argument is less favoured by Christian therapists who know that what too often happens with gay “cures” and abstentions is that the energies get bottled up only to explode later if they don’t produce depression or suicidal tendencies. For a critique of St Paul on maybe “homosexuality” (a word he didn’t use or know) see the poem and notes at However, if sex somehow pours through a person without procreative end or aim, this must say something about libido as something larger, “eros” a whole energy which is somewhat its own justification. That gays can be a channel pleasure but not be merely addicted to it seems implied by some exercises of the Erospirit variety in which gay men once brought to “full body orgasm” (which has something in common with woman’s orgasm), addictive sex seems overcome.

23)  Favour to eunuchs Is 56:4,5 “in my house….a monument and a name better than sons and daughters, an everlasting name”

24) No eunuch admitted to the assembly Deut 23:1

25) Jeremiah delivered by a eunuch Jer 37:7-13

26) Lev 18:22 The first century Jewish philosopher understood the celebrated Leviticus ban as most essentially a ban upon what is technically called “sacred” prostitution. The difficult even corrupt Hebrew of the text is hard to understand outside that context. (After all, how could a man lie with a man as with a woman, which is hardly what most guys would care to do, unless as often occurred in ancient prostitution for heterosexuals, the role of women was taken by men in drag?). But assuming the reference is as popularly believed purely to homosexual relations, it can be speculated that involved in the ban was everything from ancient considerations of hygiene to a desire to insure maximum fertility of the tribe or defend masculine honour since prisoners of war were sodomized to womanize and thus disgrace them.  However most likely and in harmony with so many laws including on consumption of pork, the aim was to avoid association with the idolatries of surrounding peoples. In ancient times sex was always a religious statement of sorts. Whether execution was ever literally intended and commonly applied in early times is debateable. A lot of ancient codes ruled execution in unlikely cases probably just codifying by it what was deemed unacceptable.

27) Jeremiah accused scribes of tampering with scripture (Jer 8:8) and it is hardly sensible of fundamentalists not to perceive at least some elements of editing and development in the Torah. Not all need be deemed tampering either but just updating. After all, the individual is supposed to reason with God –  “come let us argue it out (Is 1:18)” . The core covenant was essential but at the margins change was possible as it was for the daughters of Zelophehad who questioned revealed Law on rulings as regards female inheritance and got this changed (Num 27). One could say Yahweh is an absolute ruler who is also democratic.

28) Male prostitutes not to give offerings of  their wages. Deut. 23:18

29) The twelve curses of Deuteronomy (Deut 28:15-26), though they include upon incest and bestiality do not include same sex activity, though conservatives always like to lump the latter together with them. This looks like development in the attitude towards same sex issues.

30) That leopards don’t change spots nor the Ethiopian his skin is affirmed Jer 13:23. In ironic contrast,  religious conservatives today are convinced no one could be born gay and change therefore must occur although even Jesus affirmed some are ‘eunuchs”, i.e. gay, from birth (Matt 19:12). Extremes of extraversion and literalism cannot envisage homosexuality as any mind state or world view but only a series of sex acts.

31) Although even a modern translation like the NRSV will speak of the men of Sodom as pursuing “unnatural lust” (Jude 1:7) which makes it sound like another terror text for gays, as a footnote concedes, the Greek literally says they pursued “other flesh” or “strange flesh”, meaning angels. Along with gang rape and general violence, lusting after angels is what the story of Sodom is much about.

32) The soul (Heb Nephesh), the aura, subtle body of esoteric traditions is assumed here and also common views as regards its damage and pollution through promiscuity. Nowhere is the doctrine explicit in the bible but it seems everywhere assumed especially among the prophets and through the different words covering notions of spirit and soul. The notion a soul body that departs the body at death is perhaps most explicit in Christ’s parable of the rich fool: “this night your soul is required of you” (Luk 12:20), a soul independent of the dying body..

33) Jer 20:7. Scholarship is divided and translation likes to be discreet using words like “overwhelmed me”; but a strong case can be made for the prophet accusing God of seducing and raping him like a woman – the vocabulary echoes Deuteronomy on such matters. This is more explicable if one assumes a gay psychology and inbuilt cultural fears of the period of the disgrace of being shamed and disgraced as a man and then factors in the esoteric factor (see next note ), then it all makes sense.

34) An esoteric objection in world religions to sodomy, especially as rape, is that it can interfere with the lowest, base of spine chakra, which some systems, notably the Buddhist, won’t even deal with in meditation. It is a powerhouse for the rest of the soul body (aura/subtle body), primal, elemental, animalistic yet linked to the highest chakra to. Some may be born with automatic connection to this and controlled it allows great power, but if this region is blown open uncontrolled it can open to all kinds of imbalance, obsessions, addictions, bad kundalini trips, possession states etc. (We have hints of this in the classic gay poet Cavafy’s poem Terror, an appeal to Christ against the stalking demons who know his secrets. The rather confused, incoherent evocation of this comes with testimonies like “born again” Catholic, ex porn star, Joseph Sicambra, whose false understanding of homosexuality is as nothing but a loveless pornography). Deep links with God would involve highest and lowest parts of the whole body but a depressed prophet could accuse the deity of just interfering with him because the base of spine had been touched and what could have been an aspect of ecstasy becomes an aspect of despair.

35) Heterosexual sex is less potentially multi-dimensional and complex (straight, straightforward!) than gay eros and does not usually include highest and lowest but the mid range of the soul/body connection. Rather emphatically so as in some imagery of Solomon’s Song with such as “your navel is a goblet”…   Song 7:2.

36) Prolonged, savoured…. suggestions that Solomon’s way is at least partly tantric see my Solomon’s Tantric Song: Questions of Spiritual Sexuality

(2012) To achieve real satisfaction beyond obsession and violence heterosexual sex may need to absorb something of the kind. Note that the poem having earlier indicated that woman comes second, suggests in sex she does and should be first and the energy flow reversed.

37) Early Israel did not even have formal marriage ceremonies. Marriage was sealed by no ceremony but intercourse. The assumption always was and remains, (as when St Paul speaks of believers marrying prostitutes I Cor 6:16)  that a male is married to whoever he has sex with. The notion seems meaningless outside of more universal esoteric traditions embracing doctrines of soul bodies which blend whenever full penetrative sex takes place. Therefore each partner joins with and imprints the soul. This would explain why the varieties of “fornication” (originally meaning prostituted sex) and divorce without good reason risk exclusion from the kingdom. Casual partners can be at variance representing different spiritual fields and beliefs like Corinthian prostitutes attached to other deities. Chastity seems less a matter of purity than safety and observing boundaries!

38) It is possible for same sex partners to become one. See my A Special Illumination, Equinox, London, 2004 which includes alleged revelation from Jesus to Christine Troxell see pp 117/8 about this. One can dismiss this as heretical private revelation but not only did enormous sincerity surround the reported experience but arguably the Davidic experience supports the notion.

39) King David made a berith (covenant but a word that can be used for marriage) with a person of same sex. While undoubtedly the biblical ideal and norm of marriage is one man and one woman, it is to ignore the fluidity of biblical thought when conservative literalism insists biblical tradition teaches only one norm and never could or should envisage exceptions. This position’s only real claim to authority is Jesus’ single reference to an original Edenic (“in the beginning”) ideal (Matt 19:5), and Eden is not the world we live in. While believers can hope to realize that ideal, they still do not have automatic authority to impose it on all. However….one can also have questions about the oneness/marriage examples of David and Troxell (see previous note) envisage. David  today be seen as bisexually inclined and Troxell was asked by Jesus to make a choice about which side she would take because her experiences, even if ghastly with abuse and rape, had been effectively bisexual. Gay men, as indicated in the rest of the verse, are less likely to think in terms of heterosexual or bisexual unities (bisexuality particularly seems to deny all boundaries and borders) than living and being in harmonious parallel. Effectively one is suggesting/speculating gay “marriage” may not perfectly symbolize what and who gays represent for themselves or society..

40) In the ancient world eunuchs had ritual functions being employed especially in lamentations. It is quite clear that at the other pole gays are good at celebration; some would seem to wish to be at perpetual dance!

41) A suggestion that something nearer the Greek model might suit some gays. Also that anything like “tantra” (gay tantras have been theorized) might more intellectually than physically “contain” the energies involved, but that any arrangements need to recognize difference. The gay marriage movement is the product of American desire for equality and social sameness, whereas what is significant about gays for themselves and society is their difference rather than sameness. Keeping to and developing gay “unions” might have better reflected and served that. Like gay activist Ken Mills in Ireland who opposed the nation’s marriage equality referendum, some gays have realized the new drive has almost more significance for children and family, adoption, surrogacy etc (things some gays like Dolce and Gabbana and actor Rupert Everett don’t favour), than simply marriage.

42) Stress on difference might better illuminate ethical issues. If the sexual and psychological basis of gay relations are different, should one expect the same kind of contracts and values? Those conservatives who oppose gay marriage will still criticize gay relations by the standard of lifelong monogamy. Is this fair? To pose the question is not to argue for spiritually unhelpful, promiscuous change of partners, but if, for example, the “tantra” of gay relating bore some connection, Greek style, to male initiation, a kind of fathering and learning, might that not have its natural course after a time rather than a lifetime? Might the appropriate arrangements be sometimes almost forced to avoid exclusivity? I have mentioned the potential risks of sodomy for the soul/body. If however, outside of committed, lifelong relations, that kind of penetration had not taken place (as for various reasons  it often  did not in many ancient Greek relations), would the relation be considered one of complete union? There is still much that could be examined here.

43) Jeremiah is known as the prophet of the New Covenant,  Jer 31:31-34

44) Matt 5:22   In the Sermon on the Mount’s section on anger, it is forbidden to dismiss anyone as “fool”/worthless person. This is almost inexplicable in context unless one realizes racah  could function as Aramaic slang for something like “effeminate pervert” or “faggot” (according to the Peshita Aramaic bible). Cursing persons for a faggot then appears to be symbolic of all and any angry dismissive rejections that risk generating violence in self or others towards  outsiders, sexual, social, racial or whatever. Doubtless anyone same sex inclined would be rejected or even in danger from angry prejudice in Jesus’ times. (Even today only recently Ultra-orthodox in Jerusalem murdered and injured gay Jews in Jerusalem. They felt they had under the Law a right to kill which Jesus’ implicit modification even cancellation of the old Law denies). Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts is an important moment symbolizing acceptance and looking back to the deliverance of Jeremiah by a eunuch of Ethiopian origin.


The poem begins with suggestion of a possible more than business feeling between Jeremiah and his secretary. J, forbidden to marry but not unhappy to be so, suspects some connection between male impulses in establishing attachment to the Creator (the poem implicitly questions theories of “woman’s writing” where such as religion is concerned). God soon imposes on his prophet the task of a mysterious sign with a loincloth. J wonders about its meaning, not least since not washing what he must wear seems to run against the purity laws. Despite himself, and even while performing the sign of hiding the cloth beside the Euphrates, J recognizes something feminine in God but for himself instinctively still prefers the “masculine” side of God and himself and nature. He also wonders about love. Its demands can separate (as he had to do from Baruch to go to the Euphrates) as much as join. And again even love seems to him somehow elemental, raw and male. He also realizes true love between any couple might require something like love on the side to survive – a love affair with God? Later with the loincloth gone rotten the prophetic sign seems valueless but God agrees about the negativity. The sign was about a faithless Israel needing to be as attached to God as loins to the loincloth. J doesn’t interrogate God about the revelation but realizes that among other things the penis is assigned new dignity and symbolic meaning. It also appears to certify his intuition of the role of the masculine in the roots of spirituality and life organization, but if so it still makes no sense that a celibate should realize it. The revelation makes for questions about sex and its expression , especially given that for Israel sex is about reproduction. But there is the further problem  that J had himself once accused God of raping him. What did that really mean, why would he even think it? The secret lies in the hidden (esoteric) features of sex which could include heightened awareness of male or female energies or both within the self and relative to God through reception of divine energies/eros but through different parts of the soul body (aura). The idea is unfamiliar so  the prophet can only look at the case of the eunuch and/or male temple prostitutes as any point of comparison. Truth about them then proves to be more grey biblically and socially. Their unsatisfactory lives could nonetheless be influenced by mismanagement of inborn tendencies that engage different parts of the soul body that the prophet himself naturally intuits. As J has always taught the leopard doesn’t change his spots, likewise the relevant impulses would need less change than recognition, use and proper management distinct from heterosexual sex and its organization. As had been in the case of Solomon, the latter might ideally be quasi-mystical or tantric to be fully successful. The role of the born eunuch type by contrast was more (angelically) about vision and praise than reproduction, family or exclusive bodily possession on the material plane. If it was to be expressed at all, (and the “eunuch” role seemed natural and necessary including for clarity and inspiration itself), its own form of relating might be more akin (by implication) to the Greek teacher/pupil relation  than the regular marriage by whose standards it could not automatically be judged (an implicit critique of modern marriage equality as universal panacea). Not that the prophet, who does not seek to justify simple licence of relations,  is quite sure. He is left with much to consider. He nonetheless acknowledges he is designated prophet of “the New Covenant”, so new views of life and sex could be included. He looks towards a future Messiah’s declarations. He can’t explain his many thoughts to Baruch who proves a bit coquettish,  conceding in response he was always aware J rather fancied him.













Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Poetry, religion


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In the past I haven’t liked nor especially believed what sounded like extreme statements from some Christians to the effect Australia’s press is anti-Christian and hopelessly secular. There is undeniably an increasingly  sometimes morbid stress on church scandals over positive actions but, even if it’s a bit token, at the very least there are usually religion favourable features or editorials at Christmas and Easter. However the following is frankly unacceptable.

During the last two weeks I tried to interest The Australian, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Melbourne Age and the West Australian in an author’s 800 word op ed  (news release) reproduced below  for September 15th.  It announces by title and contents a unique, historic discovery on which I am well qualified to write. The article is factual, it is not religiously sectional or gospelling. (In fairness to the last approached WA, they don’t normally take op eds, but a helpful staff member said to try).

When I heard nothing from the SMH I emailed asking was there any decision and was told there were so many applications I must wait. I replied requesting some expedition given the deadline date, but despite being given a readerlink number to write back, I heard no more. And elsewhere there was just nothing.


I suspect at least some of the problem here is modern society’s, especially Australian society’s, fetishism of “equality”. No matter how qualified or experienced you are to declare something, you’re stuck at the back of a queue and would be thought arrogant to suggest you deserved to be more or sooner heard than Joe Citizen.

However and unfortunately in this case, I fear more is involved. There simply has to be some kind of anti-Christian/anti-Christ feeling, whether expressed through indifference or active hostile censorship, if it cannot consider newsworthy and significant what I’m claiming.

Even if people would contest the claims and suggest (though it would be hard) that it’s all wholly coincidence, surely Australian “fair go” should see to it that something got out. But, no, for what might be one of the most important discoveries for Christianity since the Dead Sea Scrolls or controversial as issues around Dan Brown fiction, there is a blank drawn. This has to say something and I don’t like what it says.

In this instance it is not myself that has been refused. It is Truth and Christ himself….and insultingly.



It sounds improbable to claim that today, Sept 15th, is now certifiably the true Christmas. How could it be demonstrated? Assuming it could, would this solution of an ancient mystery matter and reveal anything today? Here’s a very brief answer.

Back in the late ‘70s two eminent astronomers, Austria’s Ferrari D’Occhieppo and England’s David Hughes, argued from ancient astronomy/astrology that mid September 7 BC was necessarily what drew the attention of Magi. As scientists they avoided the more detailed proofs of astrology offering no “working” horoscope for the life. (This would need to reflect through so-called “transits” extreme crisis around the Easter week of – by general consensus – AD 30 or 33 and prove sensitive to Jesus issues to this day). However, given existing attitudes and knowledge, it would still be hard to convince people of the significance of even the most appropriate chart. It could be so although, as I’d immediately seen, the gifts of the Magi seemed to codify the centrepiece of a suggestive natal pattern: Sun (Gold) opposite Israel’s messianic Tzedek/Jupiter (Frankincense) conjunct fated, painful Saturn (Myrrh) in suffering Pisces, sign of the incoming era.

Astrologers testing the astronomers’ thesis produced no working chart. Without testing for AD 30 and aware of historical considerations like Passover dating (which could place crucifixion on a Thursday before Passover) average tests were set to fail. I was sure anyone needed to start by establishing a birth pattern that under usual rules could combine typical features for a worker with his hands, a healer and a public speaker/teacher – an uncommon combination. I found it with surprising ease. With more effort I traced requisite factors for beginning and ending of a dramatic public ministry.

I was satisfied the grail was found. Astrologers I consulted didn’t disagree. My findings were favourably reviewed in America’s leading astrology magazine. A relatively technical account of the findings was published in New Zealand in 2003. And the chart still worked. When I forecast Jesus was likely to be notably in the news around a date in 2002 he was – the discovery of the much contested James ossuary box with the names of Jesus and Joseph on it was reported from Jerusalem.

But was there some way to popularize the proofs and secrets for the general public? If you can accept the possibility that all time and language are one and, as Psalm 19:2 claims, night skies “utter knowledge” then there’s new, clear evidence.

In recent years it has become possible to know the positions of name, place and concept asteroids anciently unseen and unnamed. It has also long been possible to apply certain Parts, like Part of the Father, of Brothers etc to the picture. With such data added to Jesus’ (planetary) pattern results are eloquent and remarkable against statistical probability. They also confirm the pattern for the birth time I’d established years before having access to the new evidence.

In the “house” of home, origins and family, Jesus’ ancestors like Ruth, Solomon, Jacob, Miriam (Mary) etc appear. (It happens Paradise is also there!). On the reputation Midheaven, Joshua (the real Jesus name) is found. The chart receives a super-conjunction of asteroids with Jesus’ names and titles, Masi (Messiah) conjuncts Isa (Arabic for Jesus) and so on. The asteroid James conjuncts the Part of Brothers – only a very time accurate chart could allow the coincidence. The suitability is repeated later for the crucifixion pattern at which interrelated San Pedro (Peter) Nemesis, Lucifer and Hahn (cockerel) are suggestive for a certain story about denial and cock crow. On Easter morning when it’s said an angel rolled away and sat on a stone, asteroids Angel and Stone are found directly connected in appropriate place.

These unexpected findings (I apply around 500 asteroids and 70 Parts), matter for many reasons. It makes it harder for maverick scholarship to maintain Jesus never existed or made the kind of claims he did. But we can also ask questions like was Jesus married, was he Essene-connected and obtain clues to controversial subjects like Second Advent and divinity claims. At the end of the Piscean age which Christ’s birth may be said to have inaugurated, we can know things unknown at its inception and that we perhaps should know.

Yet I’m not sure people want answers to questions often raised. I could write a book about the rejections, distortions, hostility and indifference encountered trying to promote this important information exact as a fingerprint and unique in its way as the Dead Sea Scrolls. As one religious journalist said in refusal of a feature: “we know all there is to know about Jesus, we don’t need to know about the Magi”…. “No room at the inn”! Perhaps the problem is more spiritual than intellectual. Anyway, there has just been an eclipse on Jesus’ sun. Hopefully it might introduce a season of more open examination for these mysteries.

 Rollan McCleary  is a writer, poet, and a doctor of religious studies from Queensland University. He is published in mainly religion. Testament of the Magi: Mysteries of the Birth and Life of Christ, is available from  Amazon. Author contact:
































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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in religion, Uncategorized


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The title could seem overstated, even impertinent directed upon such a large phenomenon as a nation’s predominant religion, but especially in its more conservative and evangelical wing American Christianity can itself be remarkably given to the overblown, aggressive or emotionally intrusive statement. Thus it’s not possible for some to maintain Obama has been wrong  or misguided about, say, marriage equality, rather it has to be he has “blasphemed God!”! Even for a believer (or even the Pope) to be just concerned with welfare and poverty issues could cause him or her to be judged and dismissed as “a Marxist”.

Because despite everything I believe American Christianity does represent and preserve a few beliefs and ideas in danger of being forgotten or overlooked elsewhere, I shall first define what I mean by “American Christianity” and before pointing to some good things catalogue the  real, sometimes major blemishes. This is needed because one notices how inside and outside America, most admirers of the positives seem in their enthusiasm to find it too easy uncritically to absorb, even cheerfully export, the negatives. (Asian and African churches particularly have not been helped by that tendency).

Granted if one is to generalize, American Christianity is highly diverse. Its Catholicism alone is of a unique, sometimes quasi-Protestant or very protesting variety. However, my main concern is what is covered by what broadly descends and from the first from Calvinism and Presbytery or else is close in its “evangelical” belief system to the widespread Bible-believing Baptist tradition still much represented in the South. Together these streams often combine in what gets labelled “the Religious Right”. Both these traditions, though increasingly questioned or abandoned by the young, remain widespread in terms of influence and to the extent both have things too unexamined about them, for a toxic influence.



Together Calvin and Calvinism are almost what was most controversial about Reformation Protestantism. Calvin instituted a mini inquisition in Geneva teaching people to spy on one another. Calvinist Americans (originally from Scotland where Calvinism took strong root) retain a questionable habit of labelling, judging and testing fellow believers ( and wider society) while themselves chasing respectability and success to the point they are St Paul’s men-pleasers (Eph 6:6). But worse, overturning the beliefs of centuries and ignoring that Christ taught riches could be a stumbling block to attaining the Kingdom, Calvin taught that prosperity and success were the mark you belonged to the righteous elect and enjoyed divine favour.

The consequent emphasis upon material success has sown the seeds which would flower in contemporary prosperity gospel, a kind of legitimized religious materialism and even greed recently obscenely symbolized by preacher Creflo Dollar’s 69 million dollar private jet to help him bring people the gospel. There is something in all this that recalls the condemned Church of Laodicea which declares, “I am rich, I have prospered and I have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). In reality, however, even Calvin’s prosperous children need something and it’s to support or to be supported by the traditional party of the wealthy in politics, the Republicans, in order to impress their beliefs and agendas upon the masses. The irony of this is just not seen.


Despite some liberal policies – support of separation of church and state, women preachers, some reasonable scope for divorce – the Baptist/evangelical strain which in modern times has produced the archetypal Billy Graham, has been hamstrung upon its Koranic style treatment of “God’s Word”. Here the Bible becomes an inerrant authority, an authority which can assume the role of a Paper Pope and almost more infallibly. Any human quirks or weaknesses in the record are simply not seen. St Paul and others don’t write inspired documents, they simply repeat what God says much as Mohammed claimed to receive the Koran. References to “God’s Word” at least implies complete direct dictation.

It follows that the mainstream of Baptist/Evangelical churches read the bible at face value literally. Poetry and ambiguity, cultural and historical filtering don’t count (who cares about poetry in America and a day means 24 hours only doesn’t it?)…..unless and until by selective reading it suddenly does count. Thus today there are evangelicals of the plain sense school prepared to preach that “as in the days of Noah they were marrying and giving in marriage” (Luk 17:27) has to mean Noah’s contemporaries were pushing gay marriage. How? Why? Remind  these same people that the “covenant” David and Jonathan had was a berith which can mean marriage or inform them that one of the ancient meanings of “eunuch” that Jesus said some are naturally born, was the nearest thing to the modern “gay”, and you would be accused of special pleading or worse.

Biblical literalism excused or justified the South’s slavery historically, but selective reading still abounds. Paul gets suitably ignored about women covering their heads or men obeying political authority (American independence was born of ignoring St Paul!); but whatever the apostle may have meant in Romans 1 about Roman morals it’s living proof “homosexuality”, (though the bible knows no such word), is the final barometer of morality and national life. Tolerate marriage equality and you go the way of Rome and divine judgement falls! Making your gay offspring homeless is perfectly OK. The long history of bullying and violence directed against gays or those thought not masculine enough everywhere from schoolyard to high street  has never been protested but even been deemed inevitable by those same literalists who will scream like stuck pigs about persecution and diminution of their rights under secularism.

Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter might as well to be attached to every gay or seeming gay in those corners of the land where heteronormative Christianity rules and regards the disposition not as an inspiration for the likes of Michelangelo but a living curse. (Gay is envisaged as nothing but drug and alcohol fuelled sex addiction around bars or perhaps a demonic  possession). Besides which, sinners have no real rights in democracies, only conservative Christians should own democracy…or just rule the land. But that’s only one issue.

Despite Jesus’ relative pacifism and “put down your sword”, religious rights for literalists include carrying guns according to the constitution. (You might need to fight an evil government or the  forces of Antichrist!). The connection between gun laws and America’s internationally exceptionally elevated crime and murder rates is just not seen; such connections are only made by evil unbelievers! Disciples of Jesus are as good as gun-toting soldiers. Again the irony, even eccentricity of all this is not seen.


Even given a less face value, more consistent reading of scriptures which educated conservatives do allow, should the Bible ever assume the almost Paper Pope authority evangelicals give it to the point they will almost hit people over the head and dismiss them and any contrary  argument with what the inerrant “Word of God” declares? Even for those of us who consider scripture precious, we must say, no.

I always cite how the apostle Peter denies vision itself to protest to God what he is shown is against scripture (Acts 10). Long before him the daughters of Zelophehad successfully petition against what they deemed unjust to them in details relating to the (revealed) Law (Num 27). The fact is one cannot adequately read and apply scriptures to absolutely all people, situations and times always, especially not without some illumination. Try it and you may finish up with policies like the most rigid rulings of conservative Catholicism whose guide is less scripture than philosophical formulae according to Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism.

It is hardly surprising that in recent ecumenical decades evangelicalism has become almost Catholic on abortion. It used to be some exceptions like rape were deemed permissible. Now for pro-lifers every women is supposed to preserve life at all costs as though before modern times the number of women and foetuses who died in childbirth was not truly enormous in the course of just nature. If God could allow so much infant mortality that medicine alone has diminished, God is surely capable of excusing termination of life in the case of the traumatized, the life threatened, or those who feel contaminated by sexual abuse whose effects may well be lasting for the future child anyway. Is it Christian charity to want to jail doctors or victims for doing the practical or merciful?

This irrational absolutism has prevented true and just laws being instituted because the whole subject becomes polarized into  either/or, “murder” against life alternatives rather than a matter of proper exceptions. (I accept that abortion on demand and for convenience is against life but that’s another matter).

Given that the Spirit (who is said to lead into all truth, Joh 16:13) is not a vivid part of the evangelical’s Trinity, it follows that we will often find conservative believers absent from common sense or charity not to say any exalted Truth. Many conservatives would even deny the Spirit any place in the life of the church and are vehemently opposed to charismatic trends of whatever sort. It can even be heresy to assume the Spirit is present beyond the times of the apostles.

And so we have the contradiction of “born again” Christians dubiously claiming colourful conversations with Jesus yet without aid from the Spirit or hearing God’s voice (memorization of bible influences the substance of many “conversations”). I, like many, was (unnecessarily given his background) surprised to learn that even Billy Graham denies having ever heard God’s voice. While I don’t believe anyone, short maybe of extreme saints, will hear from any member of the Trinity on a frequent basis, as per my Cosmic Father (, I do believe one can and even should hear from God….now and again and with real communication, not just repeating a believer’s remembered scripture verses.

So here one touches on the blindspots, contradictions and even cruelties which American Christianity can manifest. But rather than continue as one could, to change the subject, what about the positives?



America of the adverts is also  the America of evangelism. Beyond all the potential abuses, caring enough about people and beliefs to go out and preach to strangers and argue for one’s convictions is to a degree commendable. It’s because some churches like The Church of England seem incapable of persuasion, apologetics, dynamic preaching that they cannot recoup their massive losses and confront indifference. Even a former Archbishop of Canterbury has recently opined his church will be extinct in around a generation. This isn’t good enough, including because to preach the gospel, to make disciples, is part of Christ’s own parting commission to followers (Matt 28:19 ). Not everyone can evangelize any more than they have a voice to sing a hymn (St Paul calls evangelization a gift) but many could and can reach out and they should make some effort if they are to call themselves Christians.


It may be expressed and described in different ways, but what is preached by many American churches, especially the more traditionally revivalist, is a form of “salvation” which involves a deliverance from potential damnation. This means that if persons aren’t sidetracked into prosperity gospels and even if and when believers need to recall a few social and political issues, still the religious issues will remain primarily spiritual and visionary. They need to be that whether to make a real impression or to be at all close to the gospel as originally preached. Social and political gospels may satisfy for a while, but ultimately people want and expect to deal in ultimate issues, life, death and the beyond.

Like it or not,Jesus referred to loss of soul and the threat of hell quite frequently (45 gospel verses refer to it). Not of course in the style of the hell fire sermon of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist which is morbid/obsessive, but nonetheless succinctly and firmly. Quite how and why hell could and should exist at all and if and how it belongs to justice is a major issue. I explore it in my Cosmic Father ( ) not always supplying regular answers and not Calvinistic ones; the subject is beyond present scope but I would say this much here. Ideas and attitudes essential to Christianity begin to weaken outside of a view to an eternal loss. It is for example more possible and just reasonable to forgive to the uttermost if absolute hell is the prospect of your worst enemy. It is at the time that American Christianity is beginning to weaken and youth abandoning it that you will read books like “evangelical” Rob Bell’s Love Wins which preaches a certain universalism and disposes of more dire possibilities around the soul.


Far from universal among American churches though it is, and sometimes exaggerated into a kind of Zionism where it appears, nonetheless few national churches have as much feeling as America’s whether for the Jewish origins of Christianity or the importance of modern Israel in the larger spiritual picture of things. It is as though American Christianity had to make up for the history of western Christian anti-Semitism. Certainly somebody needed to make up for it because it was never acceptable and was a serious heresy when it swerved with Augustine and others into what is called supersessionism or replacement theology. This makes out that OT prophecies regarding Israel are either invalid or apply to the Church instead.

Surely nothing could be further from the intended truth. If replacement were the case Jesus would have rejected more than date setting when, for example, he is reported in Acts 1:6 as refusing the disciples’ question about when he would see to the re-establishment of Israel, i.e. political Israel, the messianic kingdom, the Millennial reign he had not set up during his ministry.

Christians are not obliged to agree with everything modern Israel says and does, but they should perceive history and providence, prophecy and the turning of the ages in the establishment of modern Israel. Anything else risks becoming, as it has done among some Eastern Orthodox Christians and others, a kind of unacceptable anti-Semitism with refusal of a proper witness to God’s purposes in history.

In certain respects some traditional churches are closer to the Muslims (whose Koran is strongly against all Jews) than Christian doctrine and it may be their fate is to be swallowed up by Islam if they can’t distinguish themselves more in some areas of belief. (Let’s not forget that Pope John Paul 11 astonishingly, perhaps just ignorantly, kissed the same Koran which often declares against the Jews with whom, like Christians, one should never be friends and [according to Surah IX, v. 30] Jews are simply “perverse” so that Allah is opposed to them.


Americans have little sense of history, but less anchored to tradition and the past they are more open to the possibilities of the future. This includes embracing the much misunderstood, too little considered issue of apocalypse and Second Advent. Again it is anyway supposed to be only Christian to be awaiting the Advent which is awaited two ways, first archetypally in a state of general readiness (because there is a sense in which the divine is always coming to us and we are to be ready for it) but, more literally, there is a point in time in which God absolutely intervenes in history and returns.

Although liberal scepticism has it Jesus wrongly expected to return within a generation this is not really so likely, especially not if he told his disciples on leaving he would be with them till the end of the aion (era). What era? For American Christians it is the end of “the Church age”, but for some of us (inevitably charged with heresy, divination or whatever!) this could plausibly alternatively or additionally be the end of the age of the current age of Pisces with whose beginning the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi (astrologers) corresponded. Accordingly, though plainly some people keep date setting, dreaming Second Advent and rapture (itself a rather American obsession but with surely some basis in otherwise incomprehensible or ignored claims of Jesus and Paul about a sudden disappearance), it is not wrong per se to look at world events and ask questions about where we may stand in terms of history and possible last things…. Which leads me to a related point which is re “prophetic” perspective.


There are always two kinds of prophecy, the prophecy which seriously foretells (this tends to be rare and is a gift and vocation) and the prophecy which is more like commentary on events from the religious/biblical standpoint and there is not enough of that in the churches. Whether one agrees with what was said or not, an interesting recent example has proceeded from Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Lotz Graham who has been saying that God “allows” – not the same as positively wishes and wills – terrorist attacks and natural disasters because they are also wake-up calls for people.

The point is an important one, (again reaching into theology beyond present scope) but believers and even the world do need to be told, and in a way that voices for the traditional and liturgical churches rarely if ever do, that spiritual forces are at work in events and must be engaged. In an evil world God’s so-called “wrath” is more like his withdrawal of a degree of protection that must always be prayed for and sometimes earned by suitable personal and social reform (repentance). “Ah Assyria, rod of my anger” (Is 10:5) says Isaiah about what is to occur for a faithless Israel. This kind of discernment needs to have a greater part in contemporary religious discourse.

It is of course something that risks misuse and ironically Ann Lotz’s less imaginative brother Franklin Graham can be a leading abuser. He works a bully pulpit which doesn’t seem to have understood the kind of principles his sister refers to. For example, instead of being open to the possibility that Obama is a rod of God’s anger and that the shocking Christian American history of violence and discrimination against gays is being allowed, judged or repaid when Christians defending their business rights against gays now get (unjustly) treated in the courts, nothing is ever seen except insults to God and Christians who are being or who will be shortly persecuted.

But supposing God will be deaf to conservative prayers until real repentance and changed outlooks are evinced? Franklin G’s perspective has been shockingly, inexcusably wrong when he can even praise Putin of Russia’s treatment of the gay issue (fascist gangs freely roam the streets attacking and torturing those who might be gay). Could God possibly approve Graham’s wrong minded, ill informed bully pulpit nonsense? Addressing every issue, hurling threats in all directions, his poorly disguised egotism should relent and let others prophetically speak about any judgement God might intend upon America.


Not all experiment works and not every novelty is valuable, but we should be open to the new or at least not be stuck in a rut. The gospels constantly challenge to new and radical perspectives, to ongoing self and social criticism. One would hardly imagine so to judge from the appearance, style and practices of much Christianity, some of which is even stuck into the Catholic motto, semper idem (always the same). It is the American churches which are really prepared to experiment, change and adapt, and not just to obtain more funds but at least sometimes to discover what spiritually works, what occasions success, influence, a change to lives, a healing of mind or body. Such things matter or they should do to churches. Religion is not just about eternal security but a few temporal risks and what I would call “spiritual efficiency” and letting faith work.

In certain respects tradition, so valued in some churches, is almost religion’s greatest enemy preventing the church from hearing “what the Spirit is saying to the churches”, that refrain in the early chapters in Revelation, and meaning. what the Spirit is saying now and into the future, saying without only quoting previous scriptures or repeating familiar prayers and chants of the centuries. While main traditions of the faith may not be wholly disregarded or excluded just as the bible cannot be denied in the general direction and essence of its meaning, some variation on a theme and development is also required. The openness of America religion can be risky but is meaningful. Of course it needs to be part of and interact with a degree of democracy too, and here we come back to a potential American weakness.

Yes, the people and culture are democratic but not quite so much as they imagine. There is something polarizing and polarized about American society as in its history of race relations and there is something which seems to encourage situations in which, as the wife of someone in politics in America once said to me, “everyone persecutes everyone else in the end”.

So, I admit the possibility that such as the new secularism and emphasis upon gay rights may create a situation of discrimination for Christians (who once reckoned to discriminate against all and any sexual variation). I touched on this in McCleary’s Additions and the article, Something Wrong with American LGBT . True democracy must always go a fair way to tolerating what it doesn’t particularly like, want or approve. Otherwise it’s not democracy but sharia or fascism under another name. But to the extent American Christianity is able to find the grace to tolerate, then, as against the increasing cynicism and dismissal that American religion is generating around the world, I do think it still has some lessons to teach us.


Posted by on July 4, 2015 in religion


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What Jesus looked like has been a subject of endless speculation and artistic representation. Almost inexplicably the most popular article I have written for this blog has been Colton Burpo’s “Real” Heaven, Akiane’s Jesus and New Christ Images I suspect its popularity could be involved with its inclusion of an attempt to make theological sense of certain biblical claims about Jesus’ appearance and go some way to “identikit” a true image of him aided by the true and still working astrology for Jesus I claim to possess.

But something was absent from that exercise because I didn’t know it until recently. And because I believe the heavens do “utter knowledge” as per Ps 19, do tell us the truth and help to reveal real mysteries, I have to add the following to my perception of the subject.

There are many asteroids in the heavens and many will be irrelevant to us because they are just names that must land somewhere. Even so, name, place and concept asteroids when significantly placed in a birth chart repay our attention. Accordingly I believe the following fact has some value. It tells us something about the appearance of Jesus and even supplies clues to the nature of incarnation because the relevant celestial factor was within conjunction of his ascendant (the body, the personal style) at the time of birth.


The relevant asteroid is the almost untranslatable wabi-sabi, a key concept in Japanese aesthetics, especially Zen aesthetics, and of chado, the related tea ceremony. It involves beauty of a special kind, unconventional and sometimes, though not necessarily including what might seem almost ugly or at least a little rough because it can include imperfection. Yet it can be elegant – the tea ceremony and raked sand and stone Zen garden obviously are. Overall and typically however what is wabi-sabi is modest, unpretentious, muted, evocative, rustic or rooted in nature, intuitive, intimate and inward, unstated or understated. It is often accidental, muted, more shadowy than light, perhaps incomplete, faded or asymmetrical, more interested in the detail than the grand plan.

Wabi-sabi is almost the complete opposite of the West’s typically measured, idealized and idealizing, rationalized, finished, explicit and “solar” Apollonian beauty which aims to shine like the midday sun rather than lighten with the beginning and ending of things as of early dawn or evening twilight. Within the West something like desire for wabi-sabi is expressed in Robert Herrick’s famous poem, Delight in Disorder which begins “A sweet disorder in the dress…” and after enumerating examples like a loose shoe lace finishes, “Do more bewitch me than when art/ Is too precise in every part”. Yet, if we examined the “precise” figures and proportions of the Apollonian up close we would find that they too were imperfect. The perfect circle is never perfectly circular nor the perfect square square. It is only a matter of degree and perspective. The perfect circle is a Platonic idea.


In the Colton Burpo article, I suggested that Isaiah’s prophesied Messiah who “has no beauty that we should desire him” (Is 52:3) means most essentially that he won’t manifest the style and appearance of the hoped-for conquering hero, himself perhaps a Hebrew militaristic version of the radiant, Greek Apollonian male ideal. While I still believe that is the main and original idea (especially as no Messiah could be ugly since even just a priest was required to be without blemish and note that anyway modern translation like the NRSV’s may substitute majesty for beauty), wabi-sabi can still enlarge upon and illuminate the original prophetic claim. It can extend it into something more positive and spiritual than just a declaration rejecting a type of historical or cultural bias in a people’s expectations.

Wabi-Sabi involves a beauty that reveals itself essentially to the trained, teachable and alert mind, these being essentially humble. The tea ceremony is not the Last Supper or Holy Communion, but practitioners of the ritual must prepare themselves and even (like entrants to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity) bend beneath a low door to enter. They must also dress and act simply, because in the ceremony all become equal. Only given the right mood, attitudes and gestures will the beauty of the ceremony reach into awareness and become an epiphany of existence.


Surely something of this attached and attaches to the Jesus of the incarnation. His appearance is elusive. He does not immediately impress in the Apollonian fashion and he does not aim to. Speaking of perception generally, the Jesus of the parables, citing Isaiah, warns the people will look without seeing, will hear without listening (Matt 13:14).

The Catholic church currently has a well meaning but often contradictory Pope who has surprised many by proposing that atheists can be saved although it’s a biblical dictum that no one can please God unless they have faith (Heb 11:6) ). If one accepts that statement then in line with its claim I would suggest one might always need to have a degree of faith for the eyes to be sufficiently opened to perceive just what the beauty of Jesus was and is. I suggest that (again a bit like the tea ceremony principle!) the beauty would be integral, something that would satisfy and express at more than one level…

The biblical tradition is much opposed to the idol and by association somewhat the image too, often the psychological cum spiritual servant and equivalent of the idol. The idol/image can paralyse and confine the mind especially if it seems very ideal because then appreciation becomes essentially intellectual. There is no identification with it because we are not and cannot hope to be like it. Even in just everyday life men especially can pursue the perfect woman in terms of appearance though she may not in any sense be a soul mate or even someone who could gratify authentic erotic desires. She is desired as a possible possession, the token of an ideal to be seized or won. However, as said, true beauty is and needs to be integral, satisfying and fulfilling at more than one level – the psalmist even suggests we “taste” and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8). As the poet Ben Johnson suggests in “Still to be Neat” and in agreement with the mentioned Herrick on the charms of simplicity and occasional disorder:

Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art:
They strike my eyes, but not my heart (Italics mine)

And of course in religion and for its devotion the heart must be struck. The eyes easily deceive and mislead.

There is no grounds with heretical and culturally blinkered Gnostics to maintain that Jesus was necessarily ugly and stunted or even to think of him as what the French in their own a nod towards wabi-sabi values would call un beau laid (a beautiful ugly person). As already indicated, the assumption is not even strictly possible in terms of traditional Jewish culture and values, nor could it fit any more Christian theological notions of Jesus as “A Second Adam” free from the effects of anything like original sin. Jesus would have to have been attractive and even ideal in some fashion but just not in any merely standard and obvious way. Humanly any beauty would be somehow elusive and inclusive as indeed might even be the heavenly kind too – I think of one alleged afterlife experience of Christ in which the person describes Jesus’ face and person always slightly changing as he gazed at it.

Certainly at the level of teaching, but doubtless too in some respects as regards his appearance, with Jesus one is always invited and required to see more and beyond. One needs to reach into a spiritual world beyond the material and everyday rather as an aim of wabi-sabi is to reach into “the Invisible” (even if for disciples of Christ the Invisible is not a revelation of a world that evolves from nothing only to transform back into nothing as per strict Buddhist philosophy).


Wabi-sabi is relevant to and has coincidental affinities with Christianity in terms of its revelatory style rather than core philosophy because for Christianity there is creation of something that will return to something. What is mysteriously revealed in Christ – hidden in plain sight wabi-sabi style but often missed by almost everyone from liberal Christians questioning incarnation to Hindus teaching Jesus as one of numerous “avatars” to Muslims proclaiming a non-composite Oneness that denies God can have any “Son” – is “The Angel of the Lord”.

This figure is the “form” or visible manifestation of deity and for early Christians the pre-incarnational Christ. This person appears to humans as a human even while it is declared at Sinai that no one may see God (the Creator) and live (Ex 33:20). Thus a judge of Israel, Gideon, encounters this person, first as a man in the field then suddenly panics because he realizes he has somehow encountered God and so fears to die. (Jdg 6:22). The slower father of Samson is at first just puzzled by sight of an angelic man whose name he eventually asks only to be told it is too wonderful to be said, (again a bit like the wabi-sabi revelation that can’t quite be stated, the YHWH name revealed to Moses was not to be pronounced or taken in vain by Jews).

It follows that the eyes of Jesus’ disciples need to be opened to see who and what Jesus is – and to initiated disciples he and it can of course even be perfectly “solar” as at the Transfiguration. A solar, regally messianic Jesus exists – as such he is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah: (the lion is always symbolically solar) and the figure of apocalypse itself. But within time and towards his era, to this age which is the age of grace, the age of Pisces which Christ’s birth introduces and which is now drawing to a close as belief declines (perhaps in line with Jesus’ question/forecast of Luk 18:8), Jesus is more hidden and simply evocative of many things. He is so like the symbolic ruler of Pisces, Neptune.

It is crucial, expected and a proof of correctness of any major issue in astrology that everything must agree and be mutually enlightening. Thus, if we presume to say that Jesus is the very essence of Neptune, hidden ruler of the era as astrologers maintain, then it is appropriate that the eminently “Neptunian”, inclusive aesthetic of wabi-sabi be complemented and echoed in the asteroid that musteriously rises at the birth.

Most western representation of Jesus, even including through the early icons, is more or less Apollonian at very least in being fixed rather than elusive and evolving. This corresponds to the fixity of some early creedal statement and Apollonian models in earlier pagan and imperial art rather than the element of fluidity in biblical narrative which carries such information as that Jesus “increased” in wisdom and favour with God and man. (Luk 2:53).

Through participation in life Jesus’ wisdom is increased and I think it would be true to say, though many would disagree, we can perceive some enlargement in Jesus’ realization of his person and mission as his work continues. Thus in the apparently early Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ programme seems largely to be perfectly living out the life of the Jew in a Jewish society still under the Law whereas later realization of purpose and destiny seems more absolute, mystical and universal. And whether that impression owes more to Jesus or to those recording his words, there are undoubtedly some gaps, puzzles and apparent contradictions in the gospels with which commentary has been wrestling ever since. Wabi-sabi style the reader is not permitted the luxury of the completely finished work (with Mark’s gospel absolutely not!) but must instead work and live with the material to grasp some of its elements. The gospels have their real and distinctive literary style yet they are also rough edged or etched like a chado cup. Sometimes the problems of reading can be resolved by scholarship and background awareness of historical factors, but not infrequently resolution may come with something like a Zen flash of insight. Regardless, any tensions inherent in the understanding of the gospels, Jesus and incarnation are not usually sensed or expressed through western religious art of the standard kind.

The test and drama of Jesus’ life was that the divine nature and characteristics are present but condensed. They needed to be claimed, realized, taken with faith so that Jesus struggles like an ordinary mortal unaware, (unless by vision and faith), that his being cannot fail in ordinary human ways when faced with ultimate challenges of his fate. (I endeavoured to stress this point in my poem The Hidden Deity, human Jesus, though theoretically and in the long term his Second Adam nature could always be renewed, is still temporarily subject to exhaustion, stress, hunger, frustration, temptation. The divine is neighbour to the human in Jesus, there is a rather wabi-sabi blending of effects, including that of time.

Wabi-sabi is about a beauty subject to time and gesture rather than one that aims at a timeless transcendence. Jesus is “perfected through suffering” (Heb 2:10) because as long as he is within time he (on the human side) is in some sense incomplete, developing and growing into the potential he has. To that extent Jesus might be called “imperfect” or unfinished; certainly he is in a position where he can become “sin for us”, something which outside of time in eternity he could not strictly be. Once out of earth time he is seen fully for what he is more divinely as in the visions of Revelation which conclude the biblical record.


Can we draw any comparisons at all with anyone known who has wabi sabi near the ascendant? Assuming a correct birth time, one instance would be the poet Walt Whitman of the once notorious Song of Myself. In this his rough (but almost deliberately assumed) persona is offered to the world like an incarnation of something – in his case the new democratic American or even the new gay male. The essential point amid the obvious difference with Jesus is that there is the same distinct sense of “This is my body”, the self in some fashion offered, very exposed to and for everybody and yet still a mystery.

The matter is beyond present scope, but with Whitman in mind I imagine (thinking of Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae and her provocative but meaningful statements regarding gays and the formation of the West’s crucial Apollonian aesthetic which almost dominates in Christianity) that wabi-sabi might be a clue for analysis of aspects of gay aesthetics and desire. These don’t as often imagined all readily correspond to the Apollonian. They can be also be more shadowy and even murky (as in, say, the erotics of leather, bear or grunge cultures, the glamorizing of industrial settings or docklands as sites of desire. These zones belong more to the elements of earth and water than the fire and air through which much spiritual imagery customarily tends to translate). Anyway, if the Apollonian is considerably gay perhaps we might say that wabi-sabi at the secular level was closer to the concept of queer.



Reverting to specifically images of Jesus as I discussed them in the mentioned Colton Burpo feature with its “identikit” work on Jesus’ figure, practically I think the wabi-sabi finding could encourage one to place a bit more emphasis and focus upon the exampled Virgoan images as they contributed to the exercise. One needs for Jesus an appearance not ultra-special but just generally pleasant, healthy, open and attractive in an almost country boy way, not notably dramatic, alluring or shining forth like his ancestor Solomon – noticeably Jesus prefers the lily of the valley to the glories of Solomon! I illustrated this earthy, almost plant-like attractiveness through the late Virgo screen actor Paul Walker and a Walker-like portrait of Jesus from artist Richard Hook.

Quite what we might want from (western) painters is still hard to say. All religious art, not to mention the image of Jesus, is having a hard time. Modernism hasn’t helped and probably never will. It is itself becoming repetitive and tired. Probably we need a new romanticism in art with elements of Caspar David Friedrich, Turner and Blake to convey a different, more fluid, growing essence of life and hence in Jesus too as “Lord of Life”. Perhaps it is an oriental or a new form of East-West art which is needed; the one certainty is that new inspiration and some change is required.

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in aesthetics, religion


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Since I am neither Italian nor a scholar of Latin beyond what I learned at school, I sometimes ask myself why I should feel moved by and dealing with something close to the heart of poetic inspiration in the case of Petrarch’s Ad Italiam, (To Italy, but sometimes called Petrarch’s Hymn to Italy). More recently too I find a new and relevant symbolic significance attaches to the work..

The mood of the poem is plainly enthusiastic and ecstatic but the total impression is of feeling somehow more engraved, fixed and  “absolute”  in a way I should wish to class with the very different because elegiac  Catullus C1, the celebrated “hail and farewell” poem for the poet’s brother deceased in a far land. It is always possible that Catullus at least indirectly influenced Petrarch, a proto-Renaissance classical scholar who had unique possession of the newly rediscovered work of the Roman poet, but undoubtedly Latin bible Psalms played their part  – there is an affinity for the spirit of those Psalms which celebrate Jerusalem and Israel as sacred site and Promised Land.

Ad Italiam  which begins  Salve, cara Deo tellus sanctissima, salve is of course more impressive in the Latin in which so much of Petrarch’s poetry was composed (though his famous Canzoniere with its Sonnets to Laura) were in his and Dante’s native Tuscan. One translation I take from the net runs as follows:

Hail, land most holy dear to God, hail!
A land of safety to the good, a land to be feared by the proud,
Land much nobler than other famous shores,
More fertile than the rest, more beautiful than any other country,
Bound by twin seas, shining with famous mountains,
Revered for arms and holy laws,
Home of the Pierian Muses, rich in gold and men.
Art and nature together courted your exceptional favors
And gave a teacher to the world.
Now after a long time I return to you eagerly,
A permanent resident. You will give a welcome resting place
To my tired life, and in the end you will supply enough
Earth to cover my pale bones. How happy I am to see you,
Italy, from the high mountain of leafy Montgenèvre.
The clouds stay behind my back. A clear breeze
Strikes my face, and the air rises to meet me with gentle
Motions. I recognize my homeland and rejoicing I greet it.
Hail, beautiful mother, glory of the earth, hail.


What might be so specially poetic and/or moving about this? Granted the lyric might strike us a little more forcibly if we read it with some poetic biography in mind – I first came across the poem in youth in a book about the Renaissance to which Petrarch was in many respects a founding father. He was so through his revival of the classics and his novel conviction that ancient and modern could be somehow blended because a real continuity should be seen to exist. I read how the poet was leaving France for the second and last time, the land where, due to his father’s business, he had spent a good part of his own youth and early adulthood enjoying success (and serenading Laura) but feeling increasingly dissatisfied and alienated in the corrupt atmosphere of Avignon and its papal court.

So this is a poem of homecoming, of liberation and hopefully of finding oneself at last. At that level almost anyone could appreciate the poem’s feelings even without the precise biographical background against which I first encountered these lines.

In this instance however the easily appreciated emotion is raised to another plane by the fact that something of the prophetic and archetypical functions of poet and poetry are super-added to what is being declared. Quite simply, no such place as Italia/Italy even existed at the time Petrarch was writing, nor would it for centuries.

Italia is a name drawn from Roman politics and geography. Typically, and like Dante so patriotically attached to his Florence, Italians scarcely felt they belonged to any larger national entity and certainly no single language unified them. Petrarch thus simply names and claims Italy, spreading across the geographical region something by way of  old-new Platonic generalization in preference to the Dantesque Aristotelian and medieval detail. It’s a work of poetic making and claiming of which there are few examples – the more archaic, briefer song of the druid Amergin setting foot upon Ireland would be one.

This address to an imagined, effectively archetypal Italia is made from the mountain heights of Montgenèvre and rather like Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo before he dies. (Possibly remembering that example the poet refers to where his own final resting place will be although at the time he was only forty nine and would spend the last twenty one years of his life in Italy). Petrarch was modern or at least pre-romantic in re-discovering the beauty and power of mountains. From curiosity and for pleasure – and madly it seemed to people of his time – he had actually climbed Mt Ventoux in Provence. Here he is traversing lower Alps above the Val Susa and the Turin region to arrive in his “Italy”.

With this generalization about the land below him there is a sudden expansion of feeling, a deeper breathing. The wind that strikes the poet’s face while the clouds are behind him is almost more inspiration itself, a liberation of spirit, than any natural phenomenon even if a breeze was blowing on the heights. Behind him lies France and in effect the sort of things France at the time (and to this day somewhat) represents in terms of scholasticism, a kind of analytical pigeonholing and rationalization of everything that at worst risks preventing the individual from reaching transcendent states of mind and being. For these the poet himself has obvious affinity and he has been able to justify them from especially elements of classical culture. He is thus released to the lyrical, more musical, even operatic impulses that belong with “Italy”.


It is his Platonic generalization which allows the poet statements about Italy which perceive everywhere the sanctity and beauty of the land and culture. Practically, from its medieval banditry to its modern mafia, from its corrupt medieval popes to modern politicians, not to talk of things like ugly modern traffic chaos, Italy carries many blemishes like many another country. But in the more prophetic and archetypal view it is still inspired, spiritual and beautiful, “more beautiful than any other country….” And the fact remains that, quite objectively, Italy is particularly and hauntingly beautiful among nations whether in terms of nature or culture. Even a French painter, Claude Lorraine, would render it a symbol of Arcadia and Promised Land, the Golden Age, the Millennium. Germans would make a cult of the place (Goethe’s Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen bluhn? bespeaks an attachments to Italy as somewhere that offers a beauty that however tangible and immediate also somehow exists as a special longing beyond the immediate). Well before any modern tourist invasions Italy would become homeland and heartland to many, especially artists. The Romantic poets and artists descended upon it with Keats and Shelly managing to die there, Shelley having declared in Julian and Maddalo,

How beautiful is sunset, when the glow
Of heaven descends upon a land like thee
Thou paradise of exiles, Italy.

Beauty of all kinds can corrupt as much as improve, but Italy goes about as far as it is possible to go in redemption of many things through beauty. At any rate many will excuse it much on that account. People may however also identify with and overlook much where Italy is concerned because of a fundamental recognition that in many respects, it is also “us”. It is Europe, the root of many things – the West itself.

It’s Rome that marks a beginning for Europe in a way that Greece never quite does. We are indebted to Greece for many things that make the West the West, but there is also a discontinuity with its legacy. Italy via both its medieval and Renaissance worlds supplies the world a continuous development, a variation upon a theme that we recognize. Rome never quite died whereas Athens did. I feel therefore that when Petrarch prophetically celebrates Italy he celebrates Europe itself by default even while, like Moses rejecting Egypt, he implicitly rejects France for a more lyrical, all-embracing, quasi-operatic worldview. But then the Italian opera that Greece, despite its drama didn’t invent and which didn’t exist in Petrarch’s time, can itself be considered one of the symbols of the West. It, and its lyrical impulse is the sort of thing that allows Petrarch to steal from Greece its claim to be home of the Pierian muses. As said, the poet’s “Italy” is, beyond the actual place, a heart zone and archetypal and he knows what keys to hit….


One can tell this from the all-revealing horoscope for modern Italy (10th June 1946, 6 pm Rome) which with remarkable accuracy registers the force field of cultural identity across time as when we find asteroid Dante together with his prime inspiration Virgil, a doyen of the mythos of Rome and all Italians. They are conjunct on 25 degrees of Gemini, the sign of languages and writing, the sign of Europe, of democracy and of Christianity (born under Gemini with the speaking of tongues) and the sign of modern Italy which has, so far, perhaps most realized Gemini as the division of twins, the mental and other divisions of North and South regions. And since on the physical plane Gemini rules the hands, Italy under Gemini suits the nation that half speaks through hand and gesture.

Petrarch (Petrarca)  is found in the nation’s creative fifth house in initiating Aries. He stands in fortunate trine to a Mars in Leo, Petrarch’s own sign – he was born 28th July Greg 1304 – in the nation’s ninth house of ideas, philosophy and religion. (I can’t report that Petrarca aspects Laura in Italy’s chart but curiously his natal Mars in Cancer does fall exactly on Laura in the national chart).

While Italy’s 1946 pattern naturally represents the modern nation, it echoes its past too as national charts will, even spectacularly so (like Solomon conjunct the Part of Wisdom in the chart of modern Israel). There is little question that Petrarch by helping to birth the Renaissance in a way that Dante and Virgil didn’t, is a major creative influence upon Italy for all time. (Dante and Virgil, famed for visionary journeys to Hades and the Inferno are suitably found together on the same degree in the nation’s eighth house, traditionally the hell house and the house of secrets.

Altogether, Petrarch’s legacy in aspect to Italy’s beliefs house Mars relates to and stimulates what is deemed most typically, perennially Italian in what (despite the Gemini sun) will be the modern nation. This is the tendency to a certain dramatic, leonine extravagance in everything from architecture to entertainment. The popular reputation is for this even when not it is not universally the case; but since Leo is the sign not just of the national Mars but of the Midheaven, a point which describes the destiny and reputation along with leadership profile, the nation will always produce some singularly flamboyant leaders from Mussolini to Berlusconi whether they were Leos or not (Mussolini was!).

When he defines his at once real and dreamed “Italy”, Petrarch defines it not just by the mountains that we know he would automatically favour, but describes it as “bound by twin seas” almost as though it were an island. As if to confirm this emphasis in the real and ideal (or dreamed) image, we find asteroid Italia in the fourth house of land and origins in Pisces, sign of seas but also of dreams and myths. Italy may be sea-girt, but as one cannot emphasize enough, beyond any place it is also a state of mind, a mythos.

Roma is likewise in the same land and origins house and sign though not conjunct Italia – something, but happily by no means everything, is indebted to the Rome of Virgil. Vaticana isn’t in the house and shouldn’t be since modern Italy is separate from Vatican city. (Vaticana like Dante falls in the eighth sector of secrets (which is how many Italians see it, but placed in Cancer at 19 degrees in exact semi-sextile aspect to the 19 degree Gemini sun. This is a relation which betrays how Italians can have both real attachment to yet divided thoughts about the Vatican they won’t fully trust).


Through a brief astrological excursus I’ve aimed to show how a gifted poet will be in touch with the kind of archetypal and symbolic forces that seem to distinguish the more memorable expressions of poetry. Recently Australia’s multi-tasking intellectual Clive James, who is recommending a poetry that avoids some of the excesses of an increasingly tired and non communicating modernism in the arts, has emphasized the old belief that one does not choose poetry (the art that so many try their hand at) but rather is chosen by poetry. To the extent I would agree, I should want to add that sometimes it is as though history itself chooses the poet.

A supreme example in my opinion is the Catullus that Petrarch rediscovered. History has not just been kind to the Roman poet whose work was thought lost for centuries. His times and setting provide him a quite special voice, even an authority that manages to cancel out all failures and lapses of taste in minor pieces. This is a poet who can refer casually to Caesar and Cicero as acquaintances and magisterially to the range of the rapidly growing (late Republican) territories. He carries Italia from its back streets to its urban grandeur and natural wonders on his shoulders, but lightly so as to make any contrasting elegy and sense of loss all the more hauntingly memorable.

At times it can be hard to be quite sure where powers of art or notable social privilege make for the effects, (nearest in literature perhaps to the world-owning internationalism of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra), but there is a sense of capturing something essential and foundational for all time that lends Catullan poetic utterance a stamp of authority that even very good poetry doesn’t necessarily have. Here the poet sings and sees because the times, history itself, make for it, and the effects be so vivid it becomes poignant – one may finish half surprised the poet is even long dead.

Himself inhabiting a turning point of history he helped to make, Petrarch in his prophetic idealizing sets the bar high for Italy, but arguably the poem become a vantage point for any thinking about who and what the nation was, is and can be and, as I have suggested, even in some respects the West that Italy originates and symbolizes.

Looking back at the past and contemplating the near future in which ISIS has promised to attack Italy and Rome and now that already the country is being overwhelmed amid its lifesaving generosity towards impossible numbers of fleeing refugees, a new and different poignancy surrounds any absolutes of vision. Astrologers could well wonder concerning the eclipse that hits Italy’s destiny and leadership Midheaven in 2017, They could also question the presence of the only two Islam-associated asteroids Ahmed, (a name for Mohammed), and Abdulla (the name of Mohammed’s father), in Italy’s ninth house of beliefs and the overseas. The conjunction of Abdulla to the national Saturn in the beliefs house, the proximity of Ahmed to that house’s Pluto (death and transformation) and the proximity of Ahmed to Sicilia, a once Muslim region and one of the regions through which Italy is most likely to suffer invasion, together likely say something. Especially as we then even find Isis in the ninth house in the same kind of aspect to Italy’s destiny Midheaven as Vaticana is to Italy’s identity and leadership giving sun. Will the flag of Islam at one point fly over the Vatican as promised by ISIS?

Petrarch of course envisages an eternal and very Christian Italy. Christian is undoubtedly prominent in the chart on an angle (the descendant) for Italy, but it’s in an odd position which could suggest that a truly Christian identity may be left to struggle against internal and external enemies, everything from mafias internally to IS fighters externally[1].

I do think that seven centuries on from Petrarch and two thousand years and the whole age of Pisces from Virgil, the fate and identity of Italy is once again in dispute and endangered, perhaps more than it quite realizes. But if poetry is sometimes prophecy, I don’t feel I have entirely presumed to conclude Part 4 of my Coming to Syracuse, (which offers a deliberate update and partial critique of Virgil’s overtly prophetic Eclogue 4), with the assurance after many trials of ultimately surviving:  ( Part One Part  Four – there are six parts recorded by actress in Canada).

…And then the fortunate of the coming age
Beneath the shade of beech and elm
Again in midday idleness they’ll sing
And speak of love that’s everywhere and everything
And under clusters of the vine, breathe in
Deep peace and view all Being as benign.

[1] The seventh house is paradoxically the closest partner and ally and/or open enemy of the person or nation (hidden enemies are more involved with the twelfth sector). Christian is directly opposite Italy’s Scorpio ascendant above which in the hidden twelfth is the nation’s moon while below the ascendant in the first house is Palermo in Scorpio. Palermo being the traditional home of mafia with Scorpio its supposed sign and Palermo squaring (i.e.afflicting) the rulership Midheaven, we know immediately there is something hidden about Italy, something not easily seen or known amid the extraversion and which could affect even the government. This will likely be a variety of secret societies and forces. Whatever or whoever precisely they are, Christians are or should usually be their natural enemy, hence, I think, the position of Christian in this chart suggestive of strivings without and within..


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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Poetry


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