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ICON WORLD: A POEM

12 Jul
ICON WORLD: A POEM

Except that Icon World is a species of protest poem, the following piece both in its free verse style and – despite references to treatment of the marginalized – its themes, could hardly be more different from last month’s Songs of Puritania. I ought to say I don’t wholly dislike Russian Orthodoxy – I find its music and its icon art, at least viewed as an ensemble rather than as single pictures, beautiful in their way. I am not even against incense in churches, but as the poem says….

I have been putting up poems since April. I don’t expect to do this every month though there is again a very different kind of poem due for next month, August. There should also be something in September related to Catholicism and that in its way will parallel this month on Orthodoxy. There are nevertheless things to say in prose on this Blog ( I include an article this month about publication of Reza Aslan’s Zealot after the poem and its notes) and as regards further poetry, if and when I have time and can actually manage the theme, I do have in mind a more extended kind of poem on the nature of God and creation. Starting it might have to wait till sojourn on a Pacific atoll, but we shall see. (I wouldn’t of course be like Elijah in the desert – there will be some mod cons – but it would be suitably remote and between earth and sky!).

[11th August – Given its sentiments, I feel this poem should be dedicated to the 75 yr old Fr. Pavel Adelgeim of the Russian Orthodox Church tragically murdered 4 days ago by a young madman for his criticism of his church and guarded sympathy for the Pussy Riot girls. It is  reassuring that some self criticism exists within the RO church, but troubling that protest can still engage such risk within Putin’s Russia].

ICON WORLD

“Windows to heaven” declares the reverent priest.
“An icon owns a special light, angelic grace
And so we kiss it in devotion”. I look again,
Elijah in the desert there, or there again
Translated high above the clouds,
But not returned to call down fire on earth
Upon the last day sinners of the world.[1]

What beauty should I glimpse,
What touch of anything divine? Allow those colours
Have their charm, the overall design shows peace.
But mountains more like canine paws
Menace the prophet in his hiding place all draped
In kingly robes as though our spiritual gaze
Was tasked with worshipping whatever’s most improbable.
Must we become Tertullian to ignore the Word is also Reason? [2]

“Truths of the Bible, holy narratives recalled in picture form”
The guide drones on, though clear to see it’s purely code,
For nothing flows of time or life through these rough shapes
As stiff as death. There’s nothing here of common beauty
Or that’s real – perhaps lest some ascetic dream
Return to earth with Solomon’s Song or
What once Athens carved of bodies for delight.
Misshapen forms, and fixity that gold and colour
Strive in vain to harmonize and bless, is all that’s left
And left because, alas, deformity is at the root,
Not faint reflection of sublime Platonic forms.[3]

To that, oh priests, what might be your reply? Of things divine
Beyond these coloured saints, the chief direction of your cult,
You’ve said but little since the three of Cappadocia,[4]
Lost in their “unknowing” clouds, but vain in their philosophy,
Made God the negative ineffable. Though God through fire or
Prophets speak you have not heard, will not describe,
What soul requires or what concerns the ultimate.
Beyond your icons looms but mystery, a dazzling dark,
Infinite energies, no mind or character to define, unless
By higher and more perfect negatives and emptiness.
You only would condemn or praise this world in positives.
Byzantium, Moscow never fell, words serve for politics.

Seven decades long restricted and you’re not more wise[5]
No sooner free than you were straining for the worst forms
Of authority. Your would-be deified souls[6] abandoned their
Exalted aims, it felt enough to be new militants of state.
Like restless hounds you could not wait
But must pursue all those outside your fold for chant and mass.
Even those who helped the sick and homeless in your streets,
You yelped and bayed to send away. Next you opposed
Men who love men to impose on them
A silence more than mystical, indifferent
If they lived or died or suffered injury from hate,[7]
Your mind akin to bigotries of Africa.
Then, though it was not third commandment sin,
Displeased to hear irreverence of your other gods[8]
By women frustrated and hysterical,
The better to impose devotion and belief by force
You made no protest over harshest banishment
And prison terms as though the case was criminal.[9]
All this you did no longer free to hurl your violence
Against God’s covenanted Jews for which
You ought to know you have God’s curse.[10]

But what, unless for creeds and gestures learned, do you possess?
Though earth be shaken, wars declared, and every anguish
Strike the human heart, your labour still is ritual and chant,
(Itself allowed no instrument lest ears be flattered by the sound).
You have no word to preach, scarce scriptures to expound,
Yours is the fixed routine, called “service” though it scarcely
Serves the soul or living Word but is the very thing
The skies declare is chiefest enemy to the holy work:
Tradition, gateway to the Satan’s lies[11], whose darkness
Your black mourner’s garb too well reflects.

Stop swinging censors! The incense smoke chokes ears and eyes
With aromas of hypocrisy!

Stop making chant! Its sounds resolve into one grinding note –
We hear your praise to God for Putin!

Stop kissing icons! None may lock God’s essence in a frame,
Embrace instead the motions of the fluttering Dove!

Stop speaking negatives of God until you reach such emptiness
Your love is for “God’s mother” as a substitute!

Beyond his icon frame may yet the Elijah come.
The age draws to its close;[12] let warning fire, his witness,
Soon descend, consume and purify this world
And all of fallen faith.


[1] The identity of the two witness of Revelation (Rev 11) is uncertain but it is commonly assumed a, rather than the Elijah is one of them including because Elijah must come before the Day of the Lord

[2] Tertullian chose to believe because it was impossible.

[3] Russian Orthodoxy is owing to the Greek Orthodoxy whose theology is broadly Platonistic and, theoretically, icon art deals in ideal reflections.

[4] The Cappadocian fathers were Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, who during the fourth century were behind the formation of much monasticism and “negative” mystical theology, defining God through negatives rather than positives.

[5] Russian Orthodoxy was restricted and persecuted for seventy years under Soviet rule but retains a quality of Stalinism in its liberated form.

[6] “Deification” is the aim of Orthodoxy, mystical exercises, rituals, disciplines, readying the body/soul for acceptance into God.

[7] There are periodic reports of horrific gay bashing, even death in Russia and Ukraine. While theoretically same sex relations are permitted since 1991, through the refusal or propaganda and assembly there is total repression even as regards mentioning the subject – one is not supposed to let the word gay be heard by a person under the age of eighteen lest they be corrupted from heterosexuality. The church doesn’t protest this. It has supported and been much behind a ban on gay rallies lasting 100 years. Recently (May ‘13) an Orthodox believer (waving an icon it seems) attacked one rights demonstrator outside the government buildings so no banner could be displayed. All this is doubly ironic as for centuries Russian Orthodoxy was famous in the West for its widespread toleration of same sex connection. Modern attitudes express less beliefs than bullying prejudices (including merely eccentric fear White Russia will be depopulated) and political repressions.

[8] The third commandment forbids misuse of the sacred name of Yahweh. The Pussy Riot protesters in Moscow’s cathedral were irreverent in relation to Orthodoxy’s as good as divine “Mother of God”. Mary and Putin are their “other gods” Mary being invoked to chase away Putin.

[9] Reference to the protest by the Pussy Riot group in Christ the Saviour Cathedral and the sentences passed upon them. Though the group’s behaviour was controversial, the Church could easily have pressed authorities for a fine or short prison sentence, not accepting banishment from family to Siberia to the direst prisons. But the whole thing is anyway political beyond religious.

[10] The covenant with Abraham has it (Gen 12:3) that, “I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse”. The Orthodox like the Catholic church is prone either to ignore or apply to their own destinies what is specific to the Jews hence they have historically been involved in anti-Semitism.

[11] The reference to what the skies declare is to the way that at the first Pentecost restrictive, political and tradition bound Saturn (itself over the centuries associated with Satan) widely conjuncts the founding sun. Although the promise is that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18) it could be, and manifestly has been, undermined by lifeless traditions and illegitimate alliance with political authorities

[12] Whatever beliefs one has regarding apocalypse, the age of Pisces that has overseen Christianity, born around its inception, is definitely at or close to its end.

THE JESUS PUBLICATION EVENT OF JULY

[The following comments/article continues and completes observations of the March Blog: People Who Write and Talk about Jesus and Why.]

REZA ASLAN’S TAKE ON CHRIST AND THEOLOGY

……Often enough one can reckon to see as much about an author’s beliefs and their impact from the date of a first publication of a book – on Jesus or any theme – as one can from their natal pattern. An interesting, topical example attaches to the Iran born American Muslim, Reza Aslan’s latest work. His  Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth – fanatic is probably the subtext though I mustn’t prejudge a book I don’t know beyond excerpts from Amazon – which is advertised as having a July 16th release date.

As against some writers on Jesus, Reza Aslan (b.May 3rd 1972 according to Wikipedia) shows only moderate connection to Christ’s natal chart, though significant enough in its way. Like Christian atheist Jack Miles (Jesus, A Crisis in the Life of God) his natal Saturn makes restrictive conjunction with Jesus’ ascendant (though less exact at 6.20 of Gemini than Miles with his 8 degrees). Also the fact that Aslan’s natal Venus at almost 24 Gemini and itself conjunct his Mars at 25 trines Jesus’ conjunction of the asteroids for Jesus, Messiah and Christ at 23, 24 and 25 Libra, establishes some opportunity or fortune as regards writing on a Jesus theme. (It does so in rather the same way as my 25 Gemini Uranus – anything to do with astrology – is conected to my writing on specifically the stars of Christ’s birth).

On the 16th July this year the sun stands at 24 Cancer. This means the sun of Zealot’s publication date sets up conflicted/difficulty square to degrees in Jesus’ natus of the asteroids Jesus/Isa at 24 Libra and to Masi (Messiah) at almost 24 Libra. This is immediately relevant to what I would glean from Amazon’s excerpts, namely Aslan’s contention that the bible’s messianic prophecies are a hopeless jumble and that Jesus’ messianism corresponds to no recognizable tradition and certainly bears no connection to notions of divinity which was late developed after Jesus’ death….

THE HIDDEN, IGNORED MESSIANIC TRADITION.

….But this last point is not strictly correct. It is rather that Judaism as it has developed over the centuries, and liberal Christianity as it has developed more recently, have obscured, sometimes deliberately and sometimes in ignorance of the past, just what the Temple/Messianic tradition was. I stress this matter of loss and distortion in the course of my Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency which in some areas endorses and popularizes ideas of Hebrew scholar Margaret Barker. Though herself a liberal, Barker’s increasingly respected researches expose just how much suppression there has been and how this can no longer be accepted if scholarship is to be open and take account of certain facts we are now faced with from the DSScrolls and more. The inconvenient truth is that the divinity theme was present from the outset, inbuilt to a line in messianic expectation by venerable tradition. Tutored by the likes of Harvey Cox of The Secular City fame, Aslan would be in no danger of anyone protesting the veracity of certain early Christian and earlier Jewish notions of the Messiah as Angel of the Lord and Yahweh himself when as a Muslim he would be anyway not be disposed to accept this. (The standard Muslim position is that the Judaeo-Christian scriptures are botched, wrongly edited reports and that God has no Son and could not possibly have one, the sonship being regarded in a particularly literal and biological way).

Details for first publication date of Zealot include a transiting Saturn (principle of restriction and doubt) conjuncting Jesus’ Venus almost to the minute (Jesus’ love will probably be minimally seen) and, since the Venus being transited is natally conjunct Jesus’ Neptune, the Neptune too is under the Saturn factor. The general consensus of modern astrologers is that Neptune is a, or the, planetary symbol of Jesus, albeit this planet was not visible at Jesus’ birth which had more connection with the then messianically associated Jupiter. Natally, Aslan has some difficulty with the meanings of Neptune at any level since it stands for him in difficulty square to his Saturn and the Neptune of this aspect is degree exact conjunct with Christ’s Ehrlich (honest/true) asteroid and at that in the philosophies sign of Sagittarius, so that he might be left to work extra hard to grasp “meaning” where Christ is concerned.

Saturn’s transit conjunct Jesus’ Neptune will, I suspect, reflect and favour, in harmony with the book’s title, an image of Jesus which emphasizes militancy and fanaticism over pacifism and compassion. Whether it does or not, the unquestionably sceptical treatment will carry the important influence of this July’s rare Jupiter/Neptune/Saturn trine exact on July 18th meaning that at least among the floating voters of America’s religious scene it can make an impression and cause the debate or re-think the publishers plainly hope for. It may also satisfy Muslims seeking certain confirmations regarding Jesus. All this would in turn be harmonious with a publication under Sun in Cancer, the moon ruled sign, since events and symbolism of Islam (with its crescent moon) are considerably Cancer linked.

REZA ASLAN AS “THE MODERATE MUSLIM”

One would have incidentally and in conclusion to say it is a tribute to democratic and Christian tolerance (or perhaps just to secular publishing indifference and greed that thrives on promoting controversy for the sake of it) that a Muslim whose religion cannot allow the slightest criticism of its prophet without direst consequences, gets published on the “myth” of Christ while Christians are everywhere grossly persecuted in the author’s own native Iran. (In the case of American Pastor Saeed despite protests from European nations, and over half a million petition signatures in America, Muslim sympathizer Obama remains shamefully silent and Saeed is not given his rights to medical treatment under international law because staff at the prison where he has been tortured and beaten are too devout to touch untouchable Christians). I am not accusing Aslan of endorsing Iranian policies, but (so far as I’m aware) this self-styled “moderate” Muslim has not been notably troubling himself to protest his nation’s intolerance of its religious minorities. As ever the question is, what is a “moderate Muslim” and/or what is their role? Last weekend in Yobe, Nigeria, 42 students were gunned down by fanatical Boko Haram Islamists. Where is the major moderate outcry? The silence is deafening.

[Note for astrologers]. No need to analyse my own books and beliefs from their Amazon dates, especially not the Testament of the Magi – which, rather shamefully for its testable relevance and my qualifications in religion have never been taken up by publishing – since those works that are self published follow the dates of edit and update, not first publication].

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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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