JESUS AND WABI-SABI
THE MISSING PORTRAIT
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 http://wp.me/p2v96G-lH. 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.
WABI SABI: CONCEPT AND ASTEROID
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.
THE BEAUTY UNDESIRED
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.
SEEING AND SEEING THROUGH
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).
A SOMETHING OR NOTHING AND THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
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, http://wp.me/p2v96G-wZ).The 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.
AN ALTERNATIVE AESTHETICS
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.
A SIMPLE AND UNAFFECTED BEAUTY
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.
WHY PETRARCH’S “TO ITALY” REMAINS SIGNIFICANT
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.
THE POET’S SELF AND HIS ITALIA
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”.
THE ITALY OF WESTERN ORIGINS
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….
ARCHETYPE AND HOROSCOPE
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).
AN ABSOLUTE POETRY
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.
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 https://goo.gl/97NgiO Part Four https://goo.gl/KQZ6kp – 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.
 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..
(The purely literary talents of the late Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet are not disputed, but his ideas are another matter).
QUESTIONING PABLO NERUDA: A POEM
” Is there anything in the world sadder
Than a train standing in rain?”
“The Book of Questions”
Earth sees and knows more tragedy
Than trains that stand alone in rain.
But should a poet question that
Don’t be surprised, pursue his folly
To its source, perceive the logic
In his terms; pity and excuse maybe
The weakness of his vision lost
To everyday existence. It’s viewed
Through that same gross distorting lens
The materialist applies to larger life
At the expense of natural truth and even
Right proportion, held up until
It’s fact and fact alone that wearily
The eyes will see so that emotion then
Hangs loose and tumbles somewhere – anywhere.
But then admit at least it’s true
If rain pours down on silent
Trains or not, that life beneath
The godless skies of era’s end
Is but like grey and quiet
Windless days at stations of those
Branch lines little visited and used
But where vague melancholy plays
Along waste lines and tracks towards
No end until the haunted, musing mind
Stares wonderingly unsure in fascination
At mysteries of quiet decay
Or savours what might seem the void.
But poets, mostly all, have slept
And not well dreamed nor even imagined
Well as spirits of drear modernity
Have passed their way a century long
In halting motions, when not sudden rush
Lamps sometimes blinding yet their vision blurred.
Even so, in what cave, poets, were you hidden
When all the universe outside enlarged
And in your body all cells multiplied?
How was it that when science advanced
Your own mind grew like nearly everyone’s
But more confined, dull time alone
And not eternity become its field.
Though only the transcendent mind
(its origins ignored or unexplained)
Could think in terms of good and ill
And not through lower nature’s ways,
The doubting mind now rails at thought
Of God or any high design
For is not nature in its course but
Inefficient, selfish, simply bad?….
So runs the careless new philosophy
Child to the sound-byte and a world
Of images employed to shock.
What answer could the railing have?
Could, even should, what’s sacred make reply?
Could, even would, an answer then be heard?
At least two levels of separation stand
Between the rationalist’s vision and the
Imagined God or deity of hearsay merely
And of stereotypes, or even just
The sad resentment at misfortune’s turns.
First degree of separation thrives
Upon the ignorance that fails to
Grant or even sense God never is
Outside alone like fact as fact to be
Observed (or even just dismissed
Because as though summed up, controlled
From knowledge of external laws).
God almost more as Spirit is within
To drive the rhythm, forces, even ideas
Of all that’s natural life and shaping
Destiny of those who live, a labour
Quite continuous. It’s soul before
Divisive intellect that must observe
And apprehend the universe.
Ask and look outwards only and you will
Be blind; Look inwards only and
To everything divinity speaks
You may prove deaf for hearing but
Your words alone or feeling only quiet dark,
An all-embracing nothingness. Both
Sight and hearing being compromised,
The second stage of separation from
Core truth is human imperfection’s weight,
Which binds so much, so far
That all transcendent synthesis and
Any light depends at last upon
A will to faith and then to learn
Met by divine desire inclined to grace.
Not even love on which all being must
Depend, can mend what is not firm
And supple, both, within the human will.
For otherwise there is but chaos
In love itself with worship of the limited
And no soul open to perceive
The cosmos with the cosmic soul.
That materialist Lucretius,
Even he was dedicate to Venus.
Thus as confusion’s poet, you Neruda
Would decide (amid mad homage to
The lords of earthly tyranny), that 
Woman owns the universe. It’s She
Plays with its light, who everywhere arrives
In flowers and water, a wonder such
You wish to eat her body’s sunbeams
And her lashes shades. And then,
You marvel at that primal night
Man touches with the senses, only they.
It’s thus we read and hear you chase
Through sea earth and sky, the bosom, belly, mouth
Of women, lovers, the Mother in effect, 
Her value now supreme because – it’s
No surprise – you feel that love’s too short,
Oblivion’s too long and what of soul 
You know gone caught in branches, thickets
Where you gave pursuit. Yet still – and speak
Of no great tragedy again! – the rain
Removes her clothes, its drops, are words,
Your own, that fall on her for you to stroke. 
And surely so your rains must serve
For unbelief will ever thrive and unfaith
Find new shrines to worship the material.
 Even Neruda’s admirers have been embarrassed by his homage to Stalin and Castro.
 “Every day you play with the light of the universe… Poem X1V
 Neruda is a child of the mother. Born with an exceptional 5 planets in Cancer, his imagery suitably embraces, milk, breasts, seas, lakes, crabs, oysters, fishes, boats and dogs (Cancer and Sirius is the sign of dogs). With Woman effectively deified, Neruda’s materialist’s pantheism cancels out the form and character of the women he pursues who are really all the same being anyway. (One is particularized by her unique feet which fits with Neruda’s still more watery Pisces ascendant, a sign which “rules” the feet
 “Love is so short and oblivion so long” in Saddest Poem.
 Love Poem X1V
(Not everyone is familiar with the Yeats sculpture in his Sligo hometown and much about Yeats is still not generally known or understood. The following two poems address that. For other Yeats and Irish poetry related material on this blog see below after the Notes)
THE YEATS BRONZE
Poet of Erin, mystic, seer,
Once out of life you did not take
Your form from any natural shape 
Byzantium’s bronze and smithy’s art
Were put to work as gongs still
Tolled and heavily for another soul
Crossed over its tormented sea. 
And thus a transformation could begin
So terrible beauty might be born:
Your legs grew Daddy-long-legs long
Your noble head and large became
More like a smaller serpent’s crown
Atop a torso bent and spread
And curved and also wide as though
A lettered cobra would shoot forth 
Before a house of Paudeen’s pence 
To challenge crass materialism
Or even prod dull Ulster into song…
If such were possible from between
The narrow lips not frozen quite to fangs
Upon this mask of an inhuman shade,
Near relative to the serpent’s clan 
Still all a-twist within the turning gyres
Of ages, life and death and knowledge of
The Lucifer’s future son. Who’s like
To God if following your magic name
It’s good and evil are the same. 
So…all visitors and devotees beware,
And noble Horseman (if you still exist)
Pass by and soon, where not a cross
Offends memorials nor any pagan soil
On which may drive the reckless motorist
Prone to crash  or Hades worms make way
Through western winding mummy cloths. 
A YEATS SONNET FOR 2015
At once a nation’s father and its child
Through verse and essay, drama, myth
You spoke and wrote, recorded and restyled
A people’s soul made safe against the scythe
Of time well fortified by dream and vision.
And yet you were distracted half your life
By women, two quite to the devil given 
Another, prey to spirits, was your wife.
But then your magic wish and ritual
Was for a new messiah and holy land
To arise from Erin, not from Israel. 
That dawn proved difficult to command.
With age you grew resigned to mask and bluff.
You were great, but not quite great enough.
NOTES FOR THE YEATS BRONZE
 “Once out of nature I shall never take/My bodily form from any natural thing, Sailing to Byzantium
 “That dolphin torn, that gong tormented sea”. Byzantium The idea is that in the mythic, archetypal, spiritual Byzantium a gong announces the transition of each new soul to the other side.
 Yeats’ hood like torso has words from his poems inscribed across it.
 “A House of Paudeen’s Pence” – a bank. The reference is to words of the first two lines of To a Wealthy Man Who Promised a Subscription to The Dublin Municipal Gallery if it were proved the People Wanted Pictures. The Yeats bronze by Rowan Gillespie stands in front of a Sligo Bank.
 The Sligo bank happens to be the Ulster Bank as though the sculpture was challenging lack of Ulster colour and patriotic attachment to greater Ireland.
 Serpent’s clan – a bit severe but it’s an odd that a) in Yeats’ much consulted horoscope a modern reading shows his Mars conjunct Viper and Mars rules sculpture and sculpture has rendered him serpentine if not quite a viper and b) since anyway Mars is also sex connected for especially males, Yeats’ attempt to have astral sex with Maud Gonne got stalled when she alleged he appeared to her as a snake.
 Yeats’ name in the Society of the Golden Dawn was DEDI or Demon est Deus Inversus. (God is the demon or devil inverted). This reflected his belief in the need for the coming age of the child of the Mother by Set or Satan or Lucifer who unifies the opposites. Various scholars like Dionysius Psilopoulos, Yeats and the Chthonic Esoteric Tradition and Susan Johnston-Graf W.B.Yeats: A Twentieth Century Magus have stressed a hidden, darker side of Yeats’ beliefs and involvements which as in my essay Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana are further backed up by some unexpected, striking astrology related information. See http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH
 Yeats’ valedictory Under Ben Bulben poem tells the horseman to pass by and refuses any conventional religious phrase to be associated with his churchyard grave which has no cross either. His sympathies were sufficiently pagan or anti-Christian for the local bishop to have doubts whether he should have a Christian burial, “Prone to crash”. In 2005 a car crashed into the first version of the sculpture.
 “Shade more than man, more image than a shade:/
For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth” Yeats’ Byzantium. The mummy cloth imagery is thought to be associated with western religious iconography especially the tradition of St Veronica’s napkin. Yeats’ Byzantium imagery owes more to impressions of Sicily’s the late Byzantine art than the Byzantium/Istanbul region as such.
NOTES FOR A YEATS SONNET IN 2015
 Yeats was life long obsessed with Maud Gonne who admitted to selling her soul to the devil in her youth while his first mistress, Olivia Shakespear, “hated Christ like the devil” according to Ezra Pound, while according to the poet-mystic AE she lived in rooms populated by yellow devils that intimidated him.
 Yeats, a magician of The Society of the Golden Dawn, performed rituals to return the gods to Ireland and make it the new holy land. His anti Christian position is well represented by the play The Resurrection.
OTHER BLOG FEATURES RELATED TO YEATS AND IRISH POETRY
Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and More http://goo.gl/T3AUV9
Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH
Under Parnassus: An Under Ben Bulben Variation http://bit.ly/1wdsnwa
Judas Stopped at Dublin: A Poem of Spiritual Pollution and Ablution for 2015 http://goo.gl/HZZPU2
Remembering Seamus Heaney http://bit.ly/1bcMbRf
Kevin Kiely Against the Seamus Heaney Cult http://bit.ly/1nkNoNd
POETRY ON MCCLEARY’S ALTERNATIVES and MCCLEARY’S ADDITIONS
There is now a wide range of poetry on these blogs but note that also available in You Tube video are
Coming To Syracuse, a mini epic recorded in 6 parts beginning here : http://goo.gl/49wJww
Songs of Puritania on a Gay Theme(address soon to be given)
Neti, Neti means “Not this, Not this”. It belongs to celebrated claims of the Hindu Upanishads (with affinities for Negative Mysticism in some medieval Christianity) which describes God/Ultimacy not as Creator or Person but what God isn’t. The mystic realizes there is only the being/essence, or “Suchness” like a substance into which by concentration one may yogically hope to merge. This wwareness of Suchness can however co-exist with a world of myth or even created this-worldly forms which have the status of a sort of dream/illusion (Maya) in which the gods are capricious and divided because ultimately they are not real or at least secondary to the higher realm of Brahman and Suchness.
NETI, NETI: A POEM ABOVE GANGOTRI 
Warm images of ancient ones rise up,
Delay and play and circle here, a dazzle
For the inner eyes. There pass the crowds,
The many thousand sons of King Sagara,
And then from him seven generations on
The greater son for whom Mount Bhagirathi
There not far is named. Among the spirit
Train appear ascetics who it’s said
Could swallow seas or scatter wide
Whole multitudes and pulverize with breath
Or fire. Their eyes are alien wild; see
The unearthly stare amid the smiles and play
Of Ganesh and of Hanuman, one plump, one spry
And family icon gods of hearth all coloured
Friendly as a bright bazaar their shapes,
Now firm, now fragile as the eternal
Womb of myth itself which presently
Lies in this would-be yuga age at rest
Upon these valleys,”the abode of gods”.
The moving arc of jostled forms,
That juggernaut of sculpted images
Tight pressed but cheerful as a noisy nursery
To ride the skies and range through earth
(For there are heavens, worlds and realms beneath)
Glows bright and lively as a sun.
Yet Sol’s own rays beam down
Less warmly on what towers ahead,
That bare reality of solemn heights
The granite eminence and glacier wall
Through which the only silence-breaking
Sound that stirs the few and ancient trees
Above the pilgrim’s path is chill,
Crisp gustings from the thin air’s winds.
Even so it’s light alone, and then fast drifted
Strands of cloud that whisper to and brush
The peaks, bring near, as though for merely
Human touch, what’s still remote from here below:
Those heights that partly hide and shelter
This wide cow’s mouth of sacred rock. 
From there, much like a frothing, freezing snow
Pours out the worshipped hoped for one,
The playful She that once gushed forth
From out the highest heavens and deepest earth
To fill dried ocean and to purify
Sagara’s murderous sons and resurrect
Their ashes from the ancient pyres. No will
Of gods or men could halt the impulse
Or her play nor even by Shiva’s locks
Could plunging Ganga be detained. Yet she,
By Brahma sent to purify, even shape lives
And redeem from endless circles of rebirth,
Was too soon stained, (and is those icy heights
Once left behind), dragged, drawn and tossed into
The filth and mire of earth, choked and polluted
In her deepest self, her role scarce more
Than mourner to a universe of pyres.
Now they are gone, as sudden gone as glimpsed,
Shades that imagination feeds who suck
In turn at spirit’s life for nourishment,
Ghosts of this valley, objects of desire half feared
If here adored by those few hardy pilgrim souls
Washed, frozen in the churn of rushing
Ceaseless Ganga flow. Motionless, astare
Eyes fixed or closed, what do they see?
Those Hades shades, an outer or
An inner light, a combination of all these?
What breeze from what Beyond would blow
Through mind as surely as those flags
Staked here and there to mark devotion?
What might minds feel of primal unity
Or plenum emptiness? If reaching there
Could even the devotee avoid and nowise
Sense through nature on the steep ascent
The solemn radiance that won’t reveal,
The weight of melancholic solitude
Which voiceless owns the valleys and the air?
“The gods came later than creation,
Who knows from where this world arose?” Thus
Pondered and in vain would poetize
The Vedic sage.  Indeed! For can those
Peaks be left to soar and mountain purity
Look down except as though to bar
From earthly Edens all remaining paths and
Every sacred conversation?
Before they enter on their final truths
It’s hearing is the last sense dying
Persons know; and surely rightly so
For what is first in the creative urge
Is sound and word, not images which
Hand may draw or mind’s eye see.
From all decay creation’s Lord withdraws
And dwells beyond, where never hand
Has touched nor fixity of concentrated
Thought has merged or can.
Go where you will, dream, chant
Or meditate, pursue the path of intellect,
Seek wisdom at a guru’s feet,
Bathe in the frozen Ganges’ waves
To claim redemption through the pores.
It’s all in vain since soul and spirit
Have not “heard”. God is not “this” or “that”,
Not “here” nor “there” unless you’ve left
The substance for the sound from where
Faith’s fountain flows into all levels
Of the holy worlds. When this is missed
So at the door of “suchness” mind remains,
Soul stays confused and nature mourns
Even though, within all things, near and
Beyond, the deity you did not know
Or long forgot, still waits.
 Gangotri is in India’s northern Uttarakhand province the nearest village below the source of the Ganges. Though I have visited the Himalayas I have not visited specifically Gangotri but with only the slightest help from photos I feel I can sufficiently imagine it. I would also assume that like pilgrims mentioned in Nick Fleming’s photographic record (http://goo.gl/Md1JAQ) I would sense the melancholy (which I associate with many Asian mountain regions and sacred sites) and which for me raises metaphysical questions. So much so that what began aesthetically here as a lyrical evocation of India finished closer to a personal statement somewhat redolent of ideas expressed in my writings such as The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness with its claims about Asia’s lost, unknown God.(see http://amzn.to/128eGOQ)
 Mount Bagiratha. Bagirathi was the descendant of Sagara whose labour of extreme penitence atonement for earlier family crimes attracted Brahman’s attention.
 Existence for Hinduism runs through repeated cycles of four vast yugas (epochs) of which the supposed current Kali Yuga is the worst. The whole area around Gangotri is dubbed Devi Bhoomi, or “abode of the gods”.
 Gomuck means Cow’s mouth and is the point at the end of the glacier from which the Ganges or one of its chief sources of the Ganges emerges above Gangotri.
 Rig Veda 129: 6-7.
This blog and my books are sufficient witness that as writer and poet I don’t oppose criticism of Christians, Christianity or any religion. It is, or should be, a universal democratic right though increasingly non-western religions, not just militant Islam, oppose it. (Hindu nationalism, emboldened under Morsi, shows a sudden increase in persecution of Christians with last Christmas believers even attacked for carol singing!). Even so, I still find unacceptable some levels of lampoon and abuse of beliefs that – practically – are the psychological and cultural equivalent of racism. Their unimpeded expression amounts to a pollution of the social atmosphere. To surround religious issues with gutter talk and obscenities is not “satire” or “free speech”, among other things it’s just aggressive bad manners….
To revive an old issue, but as it happens at a relevant time, Brendan Kennelly’s The Little Book of Judas (2002), a selection with additions to the 400pp The Book of Judas (1991), is a case in point. I was reading Judas in early January before the Paris massacre, but though its poetry is one of a kind, it seems newly topical, especially now those of us outside France finally know more about what Charlie Hebdo beyond the tragedy really represented, and could wonder if Christians didn’t always have more reason than Muslims to be offended by it. (With at last report 70 churches in Niger torched, Christians have paid more than enough for the ultra-secularist rights claimed by the cartoonists and defended by sympathizers as though the quintessence of western freedoms they never quite were). Whatever, I don’t accept that material like Judas can be justified as ‘really” therapy (discover and express your inner Judas!) or a special kind of truth telling society needs. Nothing and nobody terribly needs it………[This introduction is continued below with the notes]
JUDAS STOPPED AT DUBLIN: A POEM OF SPIRITUAL POLLUTION AND ABLUTION IN YEATS 2015 (1)
PART ONE: POLLUTION
Judas I am, so damned I’m full of
The highest of wisdom you wouldn’t
Believe, (though you need to for sure).
A reason don’t pray for me please,
You’ll only be cured of yer Oirish lies
And deceit and forgiven when you stare
Down my tunnel of darkness faithfully
Hearing my own and Beelzebub’s verbiage.
Which I couldn’t stop if I tried.
Just as I couldn’t do ever. You maybe
Heard how, irrepressible always,
My saucy questions and filth made it,
To that Last of the Suppers at which,
You may trust me, I wasn’t blootered (2)
Unlike B Behan being himself as usual.
I had too much to spout out
At that solemn occasion and later
Because, you know, Jesus couldn’t have
Done things so well – “salvation” and all that –
Without me as enabling guide and
A Mouth the better to have your attention.
Consider for even the average occasion
Jesus keeps butting in with his talk
And you’d need to remind him
To pass you the salt. 
My power with words has good nuns transfixed
And they writing me letters, recognizing
My insight which conveys them
More grace and insight than
Counting their beads and swallowing bread,
While the youth of mixed-up new Erin
They come to me just as to Jesus –
Even their favourite old rocker
From Joshua Tree says I fly high as
The Holy Ghost flies (3) (while I talk Spiriteff).(5)
But it’s fine if and when they blaspheme:
Their laureate told them it’s hatred of God
Brings the soul back to God and
Fair needs foul any time.(6)
I’m the very best voodoo. I visit
The poet by night and can raise him
Higher than Keats for skill in that negative
Knowing that absorbs things from
Grass blades to angels. I let him hear
Voices, his own, your own, Erin’s own,
Lucifer’s, you name it, there’s no
Psychic or shaman will be in contention.
Hearing my voices my poet, alert, grabs
His pen or the laptop – instant creation!
Any labour of mystics – and isn’t the poet
A mystic? – that can’t combine all the input
From awareness all’s’ One, has not
Yet found truth, not learned with the Serpent
That truth too’s a lie. Come join me on journeys
Through muck of the mind, for some it’s a way
Of the cross, for others just fun. Whichever
It’s all much the same, your chance for
Some carousel rides at life’s fair where it’s
Laughter will save and purify “soul”.
For you too can hear me, you eventually will,
I really can’t hold back the words more
Than I can my bladder and bowels. Beginning
Is what I most do and am replaying always;
I don’t understand the meaning of “end”.
Nor for that matter “empty”. It’s a fact
The colostomy bag of my verse
Is so full there’s hardly room in
All those houses of Erin that publish
To contain the treasure of dark pearls
And slime that I pour over pages and
People when I’m not wandering
Dublin to see the night sights, the sick
On the streets, the dead in the Liffey.
It all so reminds me of beauty, indeed
Is beauty itself as the pen of the
More mindful of poets always knew
Since Jim Joyce could look out at sea
And think it fine as a nose-dirty hanky.
Humour, it’s something I’ll always retain.
I like to see life’s funny side,
Like Lazarus back from the grave and
Begging for tea or Flanagan asking
How much he’d receive for nailing
You know who to what and just when.
And then that day I was thinking
God was an unmarried mother in
Limerick, somewhere out West. God
Hasn’t heard half my jokes yet. I tip him
Good Morning and suggest that Nazareth
Folklore carries some interest. But I don’t
Have reply. Never mind, I persist in the
Hard work that’s mine though I can’t know
Why it is I’m the chosen any more than
A poet from backwaters Kerry…. You
Want my advice? Off with you all if not
To Lough Derg, then for penance I’ll say
Take a look at yourself, see just who you
Are, like Cromwell, Hitler and lords of IS
I say there lies your labour and duty.
Let nothing constrict your imaginative
Life, your sublime logorrhea or cheek.
PART TWO: ABLUTION
Dismissed but not followed we may pause.
Where are we? Today perhaps anywhere:
Dublin Bay, Dalkey, Killiney, even Dover 
And there surveying the sea you’ve remembered
Or those oceans imagined which are always
Moving within you whose secrets in essence
You know. Whichever, just look and hold
Those waters in view and hear them. For now
It is evening, and the tide is returning
But winds gusting and high waves are rising
With new force under twilight’s soon darkness.
They sweep in, rushing forward the time of the
Curse-ridden final degree of the fishes, 
Its wild depths, long and notoriously site
Of too many drownings, of suicides, losses,
Of lies and betrayal, all that supports
The great sum and weight of human despair.
“Then where”, soul inquires, “is the place for
Our shelter, where the protection that there
Surely must be? Does not even the deepest
Level of darkness precede or hide light?”
Maybe and sometimes indeed, but an age
Must have end and the weather and fashion
Of minds obscures the divine which
Itself is already and mostly withdrawn.
Till all times and seasons will change it’s
Evil that reigns. All rule by the Good,
All justice, protection, these mark but
Intervals only, favours to right deeds
And faith. But if prayer asks the wrong God
Or the right name too late, souls risk
To become or to stay victims still.
Too many voices will silence soul’s hearing
Of God and too many voices lend
The divine many names. Beside the
Oceans of time and of life the peoples
Are waiting, but waiting for what?
For whatever flatters the human,
Appears the most easy and binding.
A new name will arise, but will only deceive.
I thought us alone but he hears us,
The traitor, the one born of this sign.
“No, but how strange”, muses Judas, I take
The so minor role of the old cheeky kisser.
Me? Wouldn’t you think it’s another example
Of how God is always making wrong choice?”
Well, for love neither of God nor of man could
Your choice alter ego, that poet presuming, check
Any words on his tongue or committed to page.
His being could never envisage a too lowly task
On the stage of this so ugly beautiful world
That invites the uses of art…Be assured, then,
Since your mouthpiece in Dublin disfavours
All thought of vocation that’s minor
Your role was never so minor (the while
Its choice was far from divine). Beelzebub
Smelt out the weakness, saw how your mouthpiece
Could finish those non serviam labours
Of JJ, how, using a vocal psychopomp’s aid 
In a few years alone with the laughter of fools
He could spirit whole mesmerized masses away
From reasonable mind, conduct them with flair
To the summits not of Sidhe but the silly.
“Conduct”, can it be I’ve uttered the word,
That word deemed “too archaic” now issuing forth
Like a symbol from out of the maw of
Spiritus Mundi, seven letters of sound 
Forbidding a poet, myself, to be published?
Seven letters, seven, the all-sacred number?
Yet how suitably suspect and banned
When the behind-scenes secular venom
Is busy excluding whatever that’s sacred
It can. For from homes of the poets
To publishing houses the last degree’s
Arts are simply perverse and unholy
Can’t bear or share light, can’t teach or inspire
Too often double-faced to the core,
In feeling or ethics but few levels
Higher than what might fill Dante’s inferno,
Whip and spur into action dark minds in
The houses of Erin’s children abused. 
See them, poets when not raking in muck heaps
Chasing the most arcane, technical word
While injustice enlarges and genocide follows .
Hear them, Judas’ comrades, the artists
Moaning, protesting the power of who or what
Limits and censors, hear them blaspheming
At home yet cowardly docile not to offend
The rule of belief that threatens and struts
In the role of implacable bully abroad.
Saeva Indignatio! Swift,Yeats, who
Could express, who seize the world’s now
Brim full cup of mad reeling?
Who was it the “tolerant” Voltaire pursued?
Whose career was he eager to hinder?
The same one who’d learned the rule is:
Be too kind to be kind at all. It’s the same 
For the good, though alas and by contrast it’s
The small leaven leavens the lump. No poet
Is called to deep feeling and friendship with evil
The project’s too easy, caught and spread
Like a cold. Who is it needs to feel through,
With or for the mind of a traitor?
Why justify (by)ways of Judas to man?
Sing him no more, you need only summon
His name and he’ll come to you and to Dublin –
Be assured he’ll make his home and hearth there.
[ Intro cont ]……In the wake of the Paris massacre it was surely rather irresponsible of Salman Rushdie to propose that all religion “is a medieval form of unreason that deserves “fearless disrespect”. (With 39 people including the author’s Japanese translator dead on account of his The Satanic Verses one feels Rushdie of all people might express himself with more restraint!)
As we have seen, in societies and faiths beyond the West considerably less than Kennelly’s high and persistent level of poetic profanity of which my poem gives only moderate evocation, entails far severer consequences. I don’t of course approve those consequences or agree with their ideological basis, but some permitted western literary freedoms should give us pause to reflect just how long-suffering especially Christians have been, (and shouldn’t have to have been), in relation to the values of a supposedly democratic society. For example, jokes about crucifixions – any crucifixions whether of Christ or anybody – should be deemed unacceptable whether on a religious or humanistic basis. Such gallows humour isn’t humour. The abuse of Christianity being”democratically” tolerated only heightens the impression outside the West that it is not simply “infidel” but is so contemptibly infidel as to be undeserving of respect or rights. (a sort of attitude as in extremist Niger that If you can’t support it over the insult to the prophet, you can’t complain if we destroy your places of worship in retaliation!). Muslims at this point ignore the reason Christians tolerate abuse of their faith which is because, unlike Islam, their belief system is most essentially a faith to be recommended and chosen, not imposed. It is not ultimately a political faith that envisages certain rights to imposition – Islam means Submission – some would maintain globally. Democratically however Christianity and any faith still has rights that could and should be more affirmed to basic respect in the public forum.
Publishers and leaders of opinion in media have something to answer for in what has happened to the sheer values fog overtaking public opinion in recent decades. Personally I don’t believe any publisher would be justified to issue what Kennelly produced. And though undeniably Ireland in the last century has known too much censorship for which Catholicism is not guiltless and though – fittingly for a betrayal theme! – it was a UK rather than an Irish publisher issued Judas, it is still controversial that, so far as I know, the Irish literary establishment has never seriously criticized Kennelly. Rather and as usual they (like the eccentric Bono) hastened to flatter the Kennelly of the profane and obscene ramblings that became a shock value bestseller by at least poetic and Irish standards. It is moreover amazing given the remarkable inflexibility of Ireland’s management of such as its abortion laws, that Kennelly didn’t run anywhere near foul of the existing but never applied blasphemy laws. Be that as it may, in this year of the Paris magazine massacre and Ireland’s Yeats 2015 (see my blog for Nov 2014), we should think again about what western values are and where going. And I do have more right than most poets and writers to protest what (as indicated towards the conclusion of the poem) I claim from long experience is the situation. I don’t incidentally care if my criticisms should chance to give a little belated publicity or sales to poet and the publisher, Bloodaxe. Let them take what’s little better than blood money anyway. It is more important that truth be stated and recognized regardless. It’s the only possibility of some freedom from pollution, some exorcism of the rot.
NOTES TO THE POEM
1) The title echoes Carlo Levi\s memoir, Christ Stopped at Eboli. Dublin has long been the residence of Judas poet Brendan Kennelly, formerly English literature professor at Dublin’s Trinity College.
2) “Blootered”, one of many Irish slang expressions for drunk. In the poem Unauthorized Version, dramatist Brendan Behan arrives at the Last Supper drunk and demanding Jesus to give him more drink. See Brendan Kennelly, The Little Book of Judas, Bloodaxe, 2002 p.78. Another Last Supper poem will speak of Judas preventing a bomb going off.
3) Kennelly op.cit. The Dinner p.167-9
4) There is a kind of person, especially in religion, who will always treat denial as higher affirmation, obscenity as the disclosure of beauty and blasphemy as the greatest praise. With its reviews of Judas publisher Bloodaxe cites Sister Stanislaus Kennedy who declares Kennelly’s “poems shine with the wisdom of somebody who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and familiarity and wonder of life’. Judas/ Kennelly must have laughed.
5).”The Book of Judas – Reviewed by Bono”, http://u2_interviews.tripod.com/id133.html
6) Kennelly, op.cit, SpiritFuck pp.125/6. This poem alone but many others would place Bono decidedly in the wrong in identifying/associating/comparing anything in Kennelly’s work with the Spirit (Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Matt 12:32 is believed to mean calling demonic evil good and divine good evil – Jesus warns the Pharisees not to blaspheme by attributing his work to the devil). The work of Kennelly and Bono, the literary professor and the rocker has been surprisingly intertwined and supported one another as high profile figures in Ireland. While I don’t vouch for all the following evangelically inspired article has to say, the sheer mystery, often just wild ambiguity of Bono’s influential take on Christianity is treated in the following feature http://www.holybibleprophecy.org/2012/08/12/u2-frontman-bono-christian-or-antichrist-by-elliott-nesch/ And I’m bound to say from the astrological standpoint evangelicals wouldn’t care to acknowledge, I am fascinated that for someone who has so played around with Christian doctrines and reguarly acted MacPhisto on stage, we find Lucifer on an angle for Bono and what I empirically judge to be the regularly Antichrist factor, Achristou, conjunct his ruling Saturn, the devil’s planet in the devil’s sign, Capricorn.
7) Reference to Keats’ theory of negative capability whereby one loses oneself in identity with the other. “Hatred of God…” is from Yeats’ Supernatural Songs and ‘fair needs foul” from Yeats’ Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop. While it would be possible to misunderstand Yeats here whose meanings were not negative or radical in the style of Kennelly, some mystery does attach to just what Yeats did believe and what kind of darkness it sometimes embraced for himself and/or Ireland. I examine this in Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana: http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH
8) Beginning is the title of one or Kennelly’s earlier, successful and celebrated persons – fittingly for an Aries, the sign of beginnings but not famous for concluding anything.
9) Dalkey bay is just south of Dublin. For the inclusion of Dover consider Matthew Arnold On Dover Beach and my poem Beyond Dover Beach http://bit.ly/1gLlckG .
10) Dolphins, which can be sometimes seen off Dalkey Bay, were anciently one of the symbols, perhaps the original symbol for the sign of the fishes, Pisces. The 29th degree of Pisces is deemed evil and unfortunate. To live as now at the end of the age of Pisces is comparable to living on the unfortunate last degree of the sign. Especially anything maritime from floods, tsunamis, major pollution of the seas and the drowning of refugees will be highlighted.
11) Although optimistic Christian philosophers and theologians teach otherwise, biblical and early Christian tradition is that the Creator is withdrawn and the devil rules the world. All understanding of and relation to God, all understanding of suffering should be predicated on that ignored belief. See my Cosmic Father, and The Great Circle http://amzn.to/128eGOQ
12) There are ancient traditions to the effect (endorsed in modern times by the seeress Jeane Dixon from alleged vision) that Judas was born under Pisces.
13) JJ is James Joyce to whose negative attitudes I would regard Kennelly as heir. See Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and more. A psychopomp, Mercury being a good example, travels between heaven and earth or between conscious and unconscious. as per Jungian psychology.
14) Sidhe (fairies) is pronounced Shee
15) Yeats:The Second Coming “….A vast image out of the Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight…”
16) The Murphy and Ryan reports shocked Ireland by revealing decades of abuse, some of it almost fit for the Inquisition, practiced without restraint within church institutions like orphanages.
17) Irish and western poets have been almost wholly absent from protest of anything like the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands from Egypt to Pakistan and the genocide in Iraq and Syria.
18) Voltaire had an irrational dislike of the dramatist Marivaux and sought to keep him out of the Academy possibly due to the fact Marivaux was a Catholic who was not a supporter of the Encylopedie.. The celebrated quote about kindness is from Le Jeu de L’Amour and du Hazard.