I wrote the article below before seeing the film (a risk!). Some of what I wrote remains true enough, perhaps especially as regards the choice for the role of Christ while perhaps for those in certain cultural frames of reference and age groups the film would seem as significant as I speculated it could be at this time. Personally however I did not appreciate and can’t recommend the film and only sat through two thirds of it because irritation and boredom had taken over. My questions and objections came to be many.
Yes, the film gives its subject the desired noir story treatment (even to the point of having too many half whispered conversations) but the much touted objectivity and fidelity to bare fact seemed either absent or undermined not least by the portrayal of the disciples some of whom, especially the interrogated Bartholomew who cackles and giggles and says silly things, would do for a stoned hippie. You have the impression despite all and any facts, that the Roman soldier, Clavius, has got caught in a collective hallucination shared by half daft disciples. Bartholomew is thrilled to assert Yahweh would be “crazy enough” to resurrect someone, and he declares like a triumphant naughty child that Jesus is “everywhere” as though Paul’s doctrine of the Cosmic Christ was well established and known within hours of the resurrection.
Priests don’t enter tombs, it’s the reason John didn’t enter the tomb when Peter did on the Easter morning. So why do we have the high priest checking out Jesus’s tomb? In fact why do we have Clavius discovering a form of Turin shroud showing Jesus’ face at the tomb? It’s all too ridiculous. Despite pretty well universal agreement that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute (an idea introduced in the sixth century by Pope Gregory the Great to find a patron saint for sinners) the film’s implication is that all men have known her and she was a whore. She speaks unlike the disciples in some foreign (Italian?) accent.
I think this could be the year of Jesus material that distorts, at least on film. Soon appearing and in time for Easter is The Young Messiah based on Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord. Although praised in advance for orthodoxy as Risen was for factualism, the reality is this young Jesus is the apocryphal one. He is performing miracles in childhood though the gospels don’t have Jesus performing any before the Spirit descends on him in adulthood, and (it’s a traditional Catholic idea) Jesus’ brothers according to the gospels are offspring of a previous marriage of Joseph because Mary has to perpetually virgin. So the “orthodoxy” is Catholic/apocryphal and based on the writings of an author who was formerly an atheist, who returned to Catholicism and has now left it again. It all gets quite confusing. Rice is supposed to have given us insights into Jesus’ mind and psychology. There are limits to how much we can know of this, but my own work on Jesus has more to offer and should be more known and hopefully this year will be.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF FILM LONG IN THE MAKING
10 years since the idea and scripting for it began the film Risen, nationally released in America from 19th Feb (here in Australia from February 18th), is not any standard cinematic religious fare. Its subject is a theme untreated by Hollywood biblical epics, the mystery surrounding the resurrection and what happened in the immediate aftermath. The mystery is seen through the eyes of Clavius, a sceptical Roman played by Joseph Fiennes, who is set to inquire into the matter.
It’s just one more of the surprising features of what some deem a film cum phenomenon, that its Jesus is played by the 47 year old New Zealand actor of Maori descent, Cliff Curtis. Curtis took his unexpected role so seriously he locked himself away for 20 days before filming to attain something like the right mystical and spiritual mood. The part itself is relatively small within the whole film though from report still compelling.
The significance of the film is at one level easy enough to define and account for. The treatment of its subject, its basically unsentimental would-be neutral examination of the facts (for Fiennes it is like a noir detective tale), if anything belongs to a new trend represented by a book published around the time ideas towards the film first emerged, Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006). This study, something of a scholarly revolution in itself, challenged around a century of “historical Jesus” inquiry whose default position was a basic scepticism towards the scriptural record, especially anything miraculous or mysterious. The man “behind the myth” was someone to be discovered from within existing records, assumed to be late written and/or much edited and not usually allowed to be from eyewitnesses. Bauckham supplies detailed arguments for the claim that eyewitnesses are behind the accounts. It follows that mystery can now be part of the record to absorb or confront and the film’s Clavius does this.
EXTENDING THE MYSTERY
I should however wish to extend the scope of mystery here, not least because I am now asking myself whether this film is part of what could be a larger year of Jesus issues, one in which we shall have to confront more facts and some new ones. (In the last blog I also wondered whether culturally this mightn’t be a bit of a year of Lucifer but perhaps both will be highlighted ). Here are just a few details of a pattern I would take into consideration.
The film was originally slated for release in January but has shifted to February…..I suggest this was fate taking over because some things are only meant to happen and can only happen at certain times…. Accept for one moment that I know quite a few things about Jesus that have so far been ignored or suppressed, facts that also, like the film itself, reach beyond the events of the first Easter day to that other point of contention the departure and/or ascension. I have plenty and rather sensational to report on that. Regardless….
On 19th February the religion planet Jupiter is suitably conjunct Jesus’ natal sun to the degree by transit as it would not have been on any January release. This is not the only contact to Jesus’ sun that the film engages as I mention presently.
On what I can know and demonstrate mark the events of the first Easter morning, a recently named asteroid RISE happened to stand at 15 Sagittarius, the (organized) religion sign. It was conjunct there with RARA (rare, exceptional) at 16 degrees . The latter was also fortunately trine the sun of the Easter day to within minutes of a degree – a rare day and event.
But on February 19th as Risen is released, transiting Saturn will be on 15 Sagittarius in agreement with that first Easter pattern. Granted one might have expected faith-related Jupiter to be there, but since Jupiter will anyway be conjunct Jesus’ sun and can’t be just everywhere, symbolically the message is that the film is what its promoters seem to regard it as being: something more Saturnian i.e. forensic, an inquiry, an examination of the facts enacted from a sceptic’s view. Saturn doubts as easily as Jupiter believes.
And of course anything associated with resurrection (the original title of the film) is controversial. At the first Easter Anastasia (Resurrection) was at 17 Capricorn. On February 19th that point is caught in the explosive and surprising “square” formation of Uranus at 17 Aries and Pluto at 16 Capricorn. Uranus will surprise, Pluto will transform – the film evidently aims to do something of the kind.
As though it was always inscribed there would be such a film as Risen to take the line it does and because the naming and function of asteroids seems to be time transcendent – they will work appropriately before they are seen and named – there looks to be something special about even the main character’s name, Clavius.
A KEY TO MANY THINGS?
The Clavius name was quite obviously chosen to suggest Key from the Latin, Clavis. There is no asteroid for Clavis but medieval French Clavel, little key, derives directly from the Latin. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, within the original Easter pattern (where moreover it is in the place of any grave, the point of Clavius’ contention), asteroid Clavel is found challengingly on an axis with RISE from 15 Gemini.
Clavel is also found on the degree in Jesus’ natus that will be the same degree of the sun at the relevant Easter. This however doesn’t have to refer prophetically to the film but perhaps something beyond it. Resurrection will always need explanation, a key of some sort (everywhere from personal witness to books to films) and could even be thought of as a key to everything, certainly to who and what Jesus most represents. Even so, and whatever it does or does not signify, the position of Clavel is still only minor within the larger patterns…..
Under the rules the person acting Jesus could only be chosen for that part because he had some kind of relation however remote to the subject. Just as I expected to find, Cliff Curtis does have connection. Actually there’s nothing particularly remote about his natal Pluto, the transformations planet, the planet that helps relate to the masses – it’s exactly conjunct Jesus’ natal sun. Jim Caviezel who played a convincing Jesus in an unconvincing film (The Passion of the Christ was built more on Stations of the Cross and saintly visions than scripture) had his Jupiter conjunct Jesus’ sun. But such connections there must be if and when the true data of Christ are in question.
TOWARDS A YEAR OF JESUS ISSUES?
Solar eclipses define major trends with effects for persons and peoples across a year, not necessarily producing their promises immediately. Accordingly last year’s northern autumn eclipse conjunct Jesus’ sun (and this year’s conjunct the position of what I know is the era conjunction and Bethlehem Star of Jesus’ birth) seemed like a promise Jesus would be highlighted or things about him come to light in some way during 2016 and beyond.
I said just this as early as last June to the publisher who prior to the last eclipse (but under that notorious tricky, mind changing factor Mercury in its apparent retrograde!), invited me out to a London hotel to inform me my book on the life and astrology of Jesus had been accepted and then changed his mind almost as soon as I was back in Australia.
Dealing with important Jesus issues is never easy, the opposition level can be tremendous and I have suffered for years under it not least last year from the Australian press, not one of whose leading papers granted me the space for an author and doctor of religion’s opinion piece to speak about the discoveries I have made and which are hardly arbitrary and by chance – they radically develop the claims of two noted astronomers.
Regardless, one is up against just about everything from the intellectual snobbery to the moral cowardice of many if the very word “astrology” is even mentioned. It couldn’t be true, it couldn’t reveal anything (despite the fact the gospels leave us with the mystery of the Magi and whatever they were dealing in). You must be eccentric or a madman not worth dealing with.
And the Christians are no better. Church Times, Christianity Today, The Christian Post etc you name it, they’ll ignore you if they don’t refuse or even insult you, buoyed I suppose by their ignorance that Talmudic rabbis and the Essenes didn’t consider astrology verboten as divination under Jewish law. Ignorance also that the prophetic condemnation of forecasting events from full moons came from pre-astrological times when in effect stars were used as omens for reading like tea leaves in a cup but ignoring all measurement and empirical testing. The fact that I have only ever radically developed well established claims from a couple of notable astronomers will count for nothing.
Not even the astrologers are that much better although those I have personally dealt with or lectured to have agreed on the findings beginning with Australia’s late Gwen Stoney, an expert in German techniques of timing who was immediately impressed by the suitability and accuracy of the data for a particularly painful death. These persons apart, the astrology establishment response you are likely to obtain is that is that you shouldn’t rectify (time) data for unknown birth times (albeit most astrologers do in fact do that – I successfully timed the poet Shelley’s birth long before I was aware there is a certified time to work from). If not that you will be told the mystery was cleared up long ago by the overwhelmingly Piscean and so-called “Moby Dick” chart from Hawaii’s Don Jacobs who provided a pattern which if true would make Jesus more like a travelling scholar than a worker with his hands and a healer.
Anyway, given the extreme difficulties one can have with church and world alike, I was hardly surprised to read that a Hollywood company had tried to buy up Risen with, it was suspected, the aim of insuring it wouldn’t get to audiences. I imagine that between the doubts and denials of just everyone from scientists to liberal theologians of the Spock and Crossan variety to Muslims (who deny Jesus died on the cross) and Hollywood moguls, resurrection is hardly a favoured subject today but rather deemed just divisive…..as indeed any authentic Jesus issue perennially tends to be.
THE FATED AQUARIAN MONTH
I hadn’t previously heard of Risen, but during the first week of February I had been musing whether this month’s lunation on Feb 8th on a degree of what I know to be Jesus’ birth Midheaven angle of destiny, career and reputation in the world – itself almost inevitably in revolutionary, forward looking Aquarius – would release something over the month from the 8th of what I suspected was more generally pending. (The previous lunation had been distinctly less positive – it had overseen everything from the Lucifer TV series to publication of leading America atheist Dan Barker’s God: The Most Unpleasant Character in all Fiction). Then accidentally I came across net information about Risen and so I am now inclined to suspect this could belong as the first major push to the sometimes surprising Jesus scenarios and/or information of this year and into next.
It is this repeated agreement of Jesus’ birth data with Jesus events and issues past and present that makes it impossible to believe that finally the true data have not been found, and found perhaps because at the end of the era Jesus’ birth heralded the truth about the Magi and their knowledge must be known – whether wanted or not. (Many people say they want more exact information about Jesus and theologians and historians endlessly debate, but do they truly want the facts? To establish very provably when Jesus was born and all the rest that develops from that, is nothing short of a or the grail of astrology and some bible studies, a kind of belated fifth gospel itself, but whether people really want to get up this close to the truth I am not so sure.
AS TO THE READER
If all goes well (because within even astrology’s patterns of fate there is a dimension of free will), hopefully and probably before year’s end people will be able to have the information too long ignored, suppressed or opposed which I own. You, the reader of this article, are of course not obliged to read this article passively. You could play your part as people do for matters of much less importance, you could for example be sure to share this article.
Since, as said, there is freewill there have been other if lesser moments of opportunity for this subject in the many years since I first made discovery. If at those times concerned persons had been more energetic to pick up a phone, write something to media, press, publishers, spread news via social media,at least some of the information pertaining to this subject might have got out before now instead of leaving this writer the burden of moral and spiritual courage in this exceptional project.
And if the truth were told, what has been involved amounts to one of the more scandalous cases in the chequered history of media and publishing. I have detailed some of it as it deserves to be detailed in my memoir. It is a story which allows me to say with the poet Shelley (if for rather different reasons but, yes, he does rise on the horizon at my birth) “I have suffered the tyranny of neglect”. Or as the Messiah himself according to Isaiah would put it in condemnation of his generation: “I have trodden the winepress alone” (Is 63.3). It was Isaiah who also recorded the words quoted by Jesus, “Keep listening, but do not comprehend, Keep looking but do not understand”. For your own sake as much as mine, please don’t fall into that kind of condemnation.
ACTOR TOM ELLIS
A NEW FACE FOR AN OLD DEVIL?
Though here in Australia we won’t be viewing it – yet anyway – I see that some Christians (thousands) are upset about and have had a petition going against a Fox channel TV series called Lucifer being premiered in the US on Jan 25th.
In this series a bored devil abandons the hell regions for earth and shows his charming side to persons in California’s LA, City of Angels. Named Lucifer Morningstar he opens a nightclub called Lux (light) and makes people admit the truth about themselves. He even assists the LA police dept in a way that insures some people get punished for their deeds. If as intended the drama extends into series 2 and 3 the devil may even finish reformed and redeemed in variation upon the set text.
The origins of the present story lie in a comic book, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, an English author with a background in Judaism and Scientology, who introduced a Lucifer figure (who stayed first in Perth, Australia rather than LA) and whose image was influenced by the late David Bowie. The series stars someone of very different appearance, the Welsh born actor Tom Ellis who, to judge from the trailer, very much acts his role as the seductive English gentleman with plum Brit accent.
It will be disputed whether this kind of small screen entertainment really matters. Some believers, fearing via comedy a trivialization of evil with some mockery of scriptures and perhaps influenced by the old saying “speak of the devil and he appears”, want the series pulled. Still more protests, and if reports are true with possibly more reason, are already swirling around a comedy series of similar kind, Angel from Hell which premiered in America on Jan 7th.
In fairness, trivialization of evil is a risk anytime, anywhere. Currently there’s plenty of it around and without assistance from any charming L. Morningstars. A notable example might be offerings from Ireland’s rising star of fiction, Rob Doyle, whose first novel Here are the Young Men revels in drug orgies, mindless violence, sadistic porn and deliberate evil for its own sake. The personable Doyle, a philosophy graduate with a half repressed punkish side, apparently found his subject matter for the most part screamingly funny to write and some readers (but far from all) also found it amusing. (One youth fainted out at a Dublin reading which Mephistopheles Doyle, whose next book – out Jan 27th – is This is the Ritual, took to be a good sign of something). Doyle feels we must acknowledge, release and examine our subconscious. He is more certain than some it is chock-a-block full with rape, violence, the ugly and obscene. The trailer for Lucifer, albeit in a lighter vein, suggests a somewhat similar call to “honesty” from everyone.
WHAT THE HEAVENS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE NEW LUCIFER
From curiosity I decided I would look up the position of the asteroid Lucifer on the 25th January. Suitably for a devil come to earth and speaking and acting in quasi-idealistic fashion, Lucifer is at 8 of earth sign Virgo. By itself this might not seem too significant even with the hell asteroid suggestively on a world point (0 degrees of earthy Capricorn). More strikingly however Lucifer’s 8 degrees of Virgo is exactly opposed by Neptune strong in its natural sign of Pisces. Not only is Neptune (negatively) the planetary symbol of deception and false glamour so that the series arrives at a time that can challenge images of evil by fantastically playing around with them and via the mode of film that Neptune rules, but this same Pisces-Virgo axis is the axis of the era we still inhabit on the cusp of the new age.
Late in watery Pisces we are being appropriately “flooded” if not drowned by all manner of desires, addictions, pollutions, hopeless political situations and human disasters – not least at sea – signs of the era’s last gasp or flame burst. A relativisation of good and evil very much belongs to the late era mutability and, however mildly compared with some expressions of the problem, our notions of the devil and the demonic are liable to partake in all this.
Fascinatingly, I also find that on the 25th Jan the devil as light, the mentioned Lucifer at 8 Virgo, is conjunct asteroid Malin (French for devil and the devil as darkness) at 10 Virgo which also means Malin relevantly opposes Morgenstern (Morning Star) at 11 Pisces, an asteroid itself loosely conjunct Neptune. The coincidence is suggestive of an element of darkness behind the light with consequent misunderstanding, confusion and glamourization as regards the real character of Lucifer.
The choice of Tom Ellis for the role of the fallen angel is peculiar in context. If I look at his birth date, (given on the Net as 17th November 1978), we find this oddity as it affects four planets, three of them the outer planets, deemed generational, trend setting and spiritual in meaning. Uranus is at 17 Scorpio, Neptune is at 17 Sagittarius, Pluto has just left 17 Libra by a minute of a degree but Mercury is at 17 Sagittarius conjunct Neptune. Checking the birth of Neil Gaiman, Lucifer’s modern originator, (born Nov 1, 1960) we find Sun at 17 Scorpio and Mars at 17 Cancer while David Bowie was born with sun at 17 Capricorn. What if anything might this signify?
For this writer at least, the interesting thing is that in the birth data for Christ (which I claim to possess and which work for Jesus issues to this day – see below), Lucifer is at 17 degrees of Leo (i.e. trine Sagittarius) surrounded by and aspected from there by plainly relevant, eloquent factors. For the star of the series there is accordingly a spiritual connection of sorts, however ironic or eccentric, to the original Luciferian subject. Speak of the devil and he does appear, if need be through TV screens or a comic images!
None of this means that the forthcoming Lucifer series is automatically the most evil of small screen shows, but it does suggest affinities for the wrong thinking of late era society. There is also the implication that everything is ultimately connected and fated or permitted within an overarching, defining pattern. Thus we can say that Ellis, who was born with Lucifer at 7 of shocking Aquarius opposite Jupiter the religion planet at 8 Leo (a guarantee his work can engage petitions and protests from the religious!), though he’s hardly wickedness incarnate, has been able to land himself a role that not just anyone could. There always have to be these hidden connections to other relevant factors and persons.
REVISIONING AND PUBLISHING LUCIFER THIS YEAR.
As to what the devil is really like, I will be offering – almost trendily it may seem if this is to be a year of the devil – my own portrait in a mini epic Raphael and Lucifer . It will be published later this year in America along with some other visionary/metaphysical poems. My depiction of the fallen angel will actually be a bit more theologically correct than Milton’s – oddly Milton makes Beelzebub a separate spirit rather than a name/aspect of Satan himself – and I should say I render the famed Accuser both more crafty and self-deceived. No one can of course hope to get it all right about such a figure. Still, born as I was with Milton and Shelley, the two poets most concerned with literary portrayal and understanding of Satan, rising conjunct at my birth, I am within my rights to add a few new perspectives after what will have been a strangely long pause in English language writing, poetically at least, in this area.
As regards my claims about Christ’s birth, their proofs must await till probably September for publication and what then ought to be the needed last word on that too long contested issue. The evidence will be harder to critique and oppose than a television series, though doubtless some will try…if they don’t decide it would be safer and better to ignore the whole subject.
“Art is long, life is short” is a saying from Goethe’s Faust. It’s true enough. Unless you are writing ditties or making sketches most art requires your time, researches, even leisure. Life certainly seems to crowd in if you have plans for poetry composition, especially anything epic, even if only mini epics such as I gave example of on this blog with Coming to Syracuse.
Currently I have two mini epics or long poems in mind, one in relation to Dante and another about Europe at this time of migration crisis – the latter stands to change the face of Europe for ever. I am not however sure if I will get round to my subjects soon and therefore at all because so often delay can destroy the force of inspiration…..Be that as it may, for creative purposes too many things are involving or distracting me right now including that finally and happily I have had two books accepted for publication in America later this year: the long delayed Testament of the Magi and a collection of my poetry.
The collection will include some of the poems (the more visionary and metaphysical ones) published on this blog but it will begin with a whole new mini epic, Raphael and Lucifer written last year and not issued here or anywhere before. In style and ideas it is distinctly original and for now not much more need be said except that for promotional purposes I am thinking about having the first section of the epic videoed but using my own voice as isn’t the case with Coming to Syracuse.
All this is to say that I do not reckon for the time being to be posting poems on this blog which can itself take a little rest unless something in the world and current events strikes me as specially demanding a response. By and large I have tended to put passing comments or minor, more vers de circonstance type poems on McCleary’s Additions https://mcclearysadditions.wordpress.com/ rather than here.
What gets read on this blog and who reads it can be rather intriguing at times. I have never understood – and now after 2 years – quite how and why my article Colton Burpo’s Real Heaven, Akiane’s Jesus and New Christ Images, remains quite so popular in so many places. At the same time I can’t understand how and why even for Irish associated material (material that may get read anywhere from France to India) almost no one from Ireland comes in to read it. Ireland is not a land of the thousand welcomes where this citizen is concerned. I have never had a feature or interview there nor has any poem of mine been published in the nation.
Something else I have found most odd is that despite all the advice given out these days about how to self-advertise and increase traffic, traffic is very little determined by whether I promote the blog and its latest article or not. What the pattern might be when I am published overseas will be interesting to see.
Quite recently and very little promoted by myself ( but of course you can always spread the word), I now have a third blog, called gaythoughtsblog. It exists – so far and because I don’t have big plans for it – simply to be a home space for a substantial essay that has been on my mind for a while now.. The essay is called Beyond Marriage Equality, Queer Fantasy and Christian Disinformation, what does being gay today mean? I have today published its second half which covers a wide range of themes from relationships to tantra and the esoterics of the gay body (see http://wp.me/p6Zhz7-1f, ) thus extending some ideas broached in my poem Jeremiah’s Loincloth on the present blog.
Although any astrologer or even just calculator of economic and climate trends would advise you to expect a rocky year, I wish all readers a good one despite. “It’s an ill wind blows no one any good” as the saying goes, and there will still be opportunities for many. And where poetry is concerned it will even be the year in which publishing will let you know what poems make grown women cry, while yours truly will hopefully be providing a new poetic vademecum towards poetry more metaphysical and visionary. Today it’s in short supply. It has yet to be decided if the title of the collection will be Raphael and Lucifer and Other Metaphysical Poems or Other Visionary Poems. It may finish depending upon what kind of art work will grace the cover.
But most important of all we shouldn’t come to next Christmas and year’s end (and quite likely next September) without the Magi of my writings arriving at their destination and letting their long kept secrets known. If anyone will care to dispute the findings I offer, I think they will have a very hard time.
(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.
THAT POETRY MAKING GROWN MEN CRY
A NEW LITERARY EXPERIMENT
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.
SOME LAUGHTER AND THE TEARS TEST?
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.
IT TAKES ALL SORTS….
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.
SO WHAT IS POETRY TODAY?
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!
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 ).
JEREMIAH’S LOINCLOTH: A POEM OF FAITH AND PHALLOS
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
That seemed a 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 – bound,
Attached to their Lord like loincloth to loins .
The prophet knew and 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
Symbol, with the priest’s rod that budded, sacred, 
Part with that all-self the Psalmist said praises. 
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 through him all passed;
As witness he stood to lament or rejoice 
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 doesn’t advise this for gays. Christian therapists with experience of gay cures have other perspectives. For a critique of St Paul on maybe “homosexuality” (a word he didn’t use) see the poem and notes at http://wp.me/p2v96G-yS However, if sex somehow pours through a person without procreative aim, this must say something about libido as something larger, “eros” an energy which is somewhat its own justification. That gays can be 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?). It is most likely 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.
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 http://amzn.to/14aa5Qe
(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.
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?
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.
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.