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About rollanmccleary

I'm a published author writing here on a range of controversial themes some of which I still can't easily get to talk about publicly or have published. I'm currently living in rural S.E.Queensland, a beautiful and sub-tropical part of Australia. This blog continues with some of the issues dealt with on and off since '08 in Rollan's Censored Issues Blog.

IS SCOTT MORRISON A VIRTUE-SIGNALLING HYPOCRITE?

IS SCOTT MORRISON A VIRTUE-SIGNALLING HYPOCRITE?

 The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, who passes for some kind of Pentecostal Christian, in answering a privileged media Muslim’s charges of his inadequate management of “Islamophobia”,  declares his coalition party has “no problem with Islam”. Really?

While any decent citizen would hope and assume the nation’s leader wouldn’t indulge in hate speech and spread Islamophobia as such – Christian conversation is supposed to be always gracious (Col 4:6)! –  “no problem”, bespeaks virtue-signalling hypocrisy or just ignorance. No Christian, without disloyalty to the many oppressed in Muslim majority countries, can call themselves Christian who fails to have a few questions and problems around a faith that in so many places denies rights to and seriously oppresses their fellow believers (along with those  of other minority faiths and social groups from women to gays).

ScoMo’s Christianity is too like the “Liberalism” of those feminist Swedish politicians who, despite appeals from Iran (where last year a woman was sentenced to twenty years for removing a hijab in protest), proudly wore Muslim garb to make for goodwill with Muslims leaders. https://goo.gl/s4pq75  It doubtless gave them feelgood highs which is what a lot of political moralizers crave, but it won’t do if truth matters.

Like the return of the repressed following a too long sexual ignorance and repression, to some extent “Islamophobia” flourishes where open statement and simple fact is allowed little to no scope in public forums before the radical screaming begins that aims to shut down free exchange of ideas and free speech  as “far right” or “fascist” or “racist” discourse. Liberal  Sweden is  incidentally one of the worst western offenders in this area. Not to mention  how the will of much of its citizens has been ignored, the PC country is plausibly accused of sending Christians to their death in Muslim countries they tried to escape while the political establishment welcome Muslim migrants with open arms https://goo.gl/iSRMZd  It also has nothing to say that the city of Malmo is now emptied of its long resident Jewish population due to unchecked anti-Semitism.

That there are many good and peace loving Muslims need not be questioned, unless to indicate they don’t tend to be particularly conservative and orthodox. Regardless, what is perhaps most disconcerting about almost any major issue that presents itself concerning Muslims and faith issues,  is  that, as in the case of Waleed Ali calling out the Prime Minister  the protest and the complaint are one-sided.

Unlike Christians and Liberals of the West, the Muslim position evades self-criticism, it is loud in condemnation of perceived prejudice towards itself, but contributes next to nothing that might reform the oppressions across the greater part of the Muslim world, oppressions against which nearly all complaints an Australian Muslim might make are pinpricks. That more Muslim voices aren’t raised against injustice may itself betray some of the constraints adherents of the faith (whose meaning is “submission”) live under. This is usually a degree of pressure exerted by conservatives and fundamentalists who hold much of the power and call the tune and through what is often the apostasy charge or social ostracism threat. Not things in harmony with broad-based human rights.

In fairness, Christians can well ask – and even should ask as Scott Morrison fails to do – is, in how many Muslim majority states would Christians be allowed Ali’s platform and scope to point out that Christ’s final injunction to his followers was to preach the gospel in the whole world?  Evangelism should, like free conversation, be a basic human right of Christians and anyone at all. Islam denies this and much else to Christians like building or repairing  places of worship and whenever possible always has been doing this. Wherever it is a majority the religion  has normally  demanded Christians, Jews and all infidels to be respectfully subordinate and if not converting to pay crippling  jiza taxes  if they are to be tolerated rather than executed. While no Christian would wish to defend the misguided vision and barbarities of the Crusades, it must always be recalled the trigger to the fiasco was an appeal by Middle East Christians to the West to intervene against the level of oppression suffered. .

DON”T USE THE  “ISLAMOPHOBIA” WORD LIGHTLY AND FOR MERE VIRTUE-SIGNALLING

Before anyone starts raising the spectre of “Islamophobia”, they should recall not only the good-willed Muslim neighbours they understandably don’t wish to offend, but the following facts – a few among the all too many which Christians should consider it their duty to protest.

Maldives (quoting from The Guardian UK’s list of the 25 worst places to be Christian in 2018  https://goo.gl/dXDojK      Converting from Islam means forfeiting Maldivian citizenship, and owning a Bible is punishable by death. Churches are banned; Christian migrants and tourists also have to meet in secret and cannot own Bibles.   (No need to list it here but it is quite common in especially Muslim central Asian republics like Kazakhstan for bibles to be confiscated and destroyed and any teaching from it to risk arrest).

Brunei: Jail for celebration of Christmas https://goo.gl/QLhpcd

Algeria you could be forced to worship in a tent, not a church https://goo.gl/xtDnFE

You are not safe among  migrants everyone regards as only and always innocent victims, Christians have been thrown overboard for not converting to Allah https://goo.gl/yiK9as

Christians are not safe in Muslim communities in Netherlands https://goo.gl/oBDD1i
In Germany   https://goo.gl/mSxWFB
even in  England    https://goo.gl/Ht6fid

Christians (thanks largely to PC concerns which favour Muslims) though the most persecuted group in the Middle East are least likely to be selected for immigration https://goo.gl/cwEXzj

Where Pakistan is concerned one hardly know where to begin and what to include the abuse levels are so overwhelming. The infamous blasphemous  laws alone are  used to extort money, property, be revenged on families etc but the abuse is ubiquitous.
Christian children suffer in schools https://goo.gl/FjsibH
Rape, abduction and forced conversions are a major ongoing problem https://goo.gl/NnZ6tS . The case of Asia Bibi is better known than most – she was accused of blasphemy on absurd grounds including the crime as an “unclean” infidel of drinking from a cup of water on a hot day, and after 9 years in solitary, often beaten by vicious guards, she was acquitted of all charges but is still in hiding unable to leave the country because pious Muslims want her dead more than to leave their country as would be best. This isn’t cricket to put it mildly, but why is Australia or anyone playing cricket with Pakistan? Is it too much for ScoMo or his henchmen to suggest the sports will stop till the laws change? What is the all – accusing  Ali saying about the injustices of Pakistan?

Egypt – home of Waleed  Ali’s forebears  is not a safe place for Christians according to Guardian report of last year https://goo.gl/Urd9hQ

None of this touches on the woes, the discrimination against and sometimes massacres of Christians across central Africa from Zanzibar to Cameroons and perhaps especially the endless violence of Sudan whose ultra Muslim president is wanted for war crimes there has been so much genocide of Christians and animists in Sudan. The policies of Boko Haram (somewhat known from a media that rarely reports attacks on Christians), the vigilante groups ;pursuing Christians in homes and colleges in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, all this goes on and on, sometimes more, sometimes less, but generally clearing the world of infidels before Judgement Day as per the fundamentalist vision of things.

I could conclude the links with a heartfelt condemnation from a British journalist and former MP of the indifference of so many people, even sometimes clergy, to the situation of many Christians globally https://goo.gl/3K7zSg  This was back in 2011 and it’s worse now.

It is neither hopelessly irrational nor automatically prejudiced to raise questions about the cultural assimilation potential of some people from these regions.  Fear of being called “racist” , something whipped up by especially the hard left, was what caused police in UK not to deal for years with the scourge of  criminal sex grooming gangs in Newcastle, Rochedale, Rotherham and Oxford  imported from the nation mentioned above for a particularly bad human rights record. It is also post-Christian and controversially so, to rail on the basis of an “equality” fetish, against suggestions that the often most persecuted Middle Eastern group, Christians, should not be given some priority for migrant intake – an “equality” obsession so warped it has actually seen Christians put last and least rather than first and most.

MORE FEMINIST, SECULARIST APPEASEMENT?

Helped by a hefty dose of ignorance where the affairs of religion are concerned, the current religion and rights situation in the world makes not only for injustice but absurdity. One can tell something in the value system is going seriously wrong when the very proper commiseration of the NZ Prime Minister with victims of the Christchurch massacre, passes from commiseration to theatrical identification  by  a donning of the hijab (that Swedish feminist gesture again) and   announcement of the  broadcast of a nation-wide, memorial ceremony with two minutes silence including afterward the Muslim call to prayer in which all were encouraged to join, even men were encouraged to wear scarves in solidarity with Muslims. Though I don’t endorse all that  NZ’s  Brian Tamaki says – he is, a leading pastor of Pentecostal persuasion (like ScoMo) – he has protested the inclusion of the Muslim call to prayer in the broadcast ceremony, and arguably he has a point if one considers what might be intended and could be involved.

The effect of Ardern’s  togetherness gestures is to be  rewarded by her image beamed  onto Dubai’s world highest building and Sheikh Mohammed telling her 1.5 billion Muslims respect  and thank her. Superficially it hardly makes sense Muslims should love the unmarried Great Mother with child  who in parts of Pakistan and Gaza would be more likely to find herself at the bottom of a well for offences to honour and morality! Since however joining in the symphony of praise  is even the tyrannical President Erdogan, (whom to criticize entails the imprisonment that has affected numerous journalists and women), Tamaki is not too far off in feeling he sees a declaration of Allah as the true God of NZ and notes that Ardern has removed mention of Christ from NZ’s parliamentary prayer.  Different cultures and faiths read signs in different ways, What is so appreciated by Muslim millions (and Waleed Ali over in NZ and embracing the infidel PM) is the implicit shift towards mainstream acceptance of their religion, the move towards absorption and submission that New Zealand’s agnostic PM’s appeasement encourages and that ScoMo is not going to question. In his role of politician rather than Christian, Scott Morrison  just hopes for the “indigenization” of Islam in this part of the world, when in fact an increase in its demands and its enlargement are  more to be expected.

INTERROGATE  PCISM  BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Secularist, humanist, post-Christian and hard left dismissal of Christianity has gone so far that (despite even atheist Dawkins’ warning that Christianity is soft against some alternatives) it risks producing a sort of sharia situation by default. Pressing for laws against “hate speech” and “racism”, though Islam is a religion not a race,  by increasingly placing “Islamophobia” under the hate/race category, freedom tof expression and any critical views are compromised. To combine, to be together, is the new religion. But the self congratulating  “tolerant” crowds doing this aren’t and  won’t be mourning  and standing in silence for the innumerable Christian martyrs to blatant intolerance in fact.

These matters are matters for Judgement Day and examination of the ever deceptive human heart.. But today, since the views of the PM and politicians are hardly clear and owe much to pragmatic voting concerns, what Australia needs is a visit by the likes of Douglas Murray (author of The Strange Death of Europe). Such a person is needed to challenge and interrogate the too easily held and expressed views of the arguably ungrateful and presumptuous Waleed Ali…… That’s if the PC screamers wouldn’t start campaigns to ban Murray from these shores and if media, to its disgrace, doesn’t continue the one note mantras about “tolerance”, “diversity”, “equality” and “multiculturalism” in a way to hide truth. The distortions and virtue-signalling  overtaking  public discourse is suggested by the ironic rather than funny opening of Murray’s latest Spectator article:.

“I return to Britain just in time to find some online warriors trying to pin the New Zealand massacre on everyone who has ever spoken out against Islamic extremism or mass immigration, including me”.

Yes, this is the ridiculous level to which public debate and those who lead us have degenerated. And alas, it’s almost symbolized by the likes if Scott Morrison unable to speak up and, bumbling awkwardly before Ali. May Australia have more courageous leadership, honest media  and church leaders with more insight and backbone!

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THE WHO, WHAT AND WHY OF MARY POPPINS

Where and How and When and Why – had nothing to do with them [The Banks children].They knew as far as she [Mary Poppins] was concerned those questions had no answers. The bright shape speeding through the air above them would forever keep its secret”

Late last year,  after more than fifty years and much fanfare, the film Mary Poppins Returns reprised the charm of the original blockbuster Mary Poppins.  This time the update actually had a credible cockney in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Jack;  but despite being a bit closer to the  spirit of the original Mary Poppins books, it still didn’t take us nearer to the mystery  of the peculiar nanny of Pamela Travers’  books – a saga oddly described by her  as her  “autobiography”. Without being either a Travers scholar or a strong MP fan, the following aims to satisfy some curiosity by hopefully solving a few supposedly unsolvable mysteries. (A whole range of academic essays on Poppins and her author does of course exist for those who want theories, and a standard text for those who want to know many facts is Valerie Lawson’s Mary Poppins She Wrote, 2010).

My  Who  of  Mary Poppins defines who Mary Poppins most nearly and essentially is. The What will describe Pamela Travers’ relation to myth and mysticism she is dealing with. The How will examine, in line with Travers’ own fascination with astrology, her birth chart that considerably describes this person who didn’t wish others to know much about her. I believe the following is sufficiently accurate, even definitive. What I remain least certain about is the extent to which some of Travers’ ideas were arrived at, intellectually by research (she was a keen mythographer as her study What the Bee Knows,1989 indicates), or more spontaneously from archetypal affinity and symbolic logic.

That MP remains quite such an unsolved mystery is regrettable. Travers, whom writers like Yeats and AE believed had a touch of genius, despite her general popularity, remains  somewhat unknown and underrated as a writer with  messages to convey. And among other things, Travers, who called herself, not an Australian but “an Irishwoman with a Scotch mother”, represents an interesting and significant case of Celtic displacement. Some things said here complement other observations re Irish life and culture on this site like ” ‘Real Irish’ and Irish Reality” https://wp.me/p2v96G-17D. The subject of Travers is even a bit personal to me because of Ireland, having lived like her  in Queensland, in Dublin and London’s Chelsea, travelled in Asia (where I’ve also lived) and been in and out of love with various Asian ideas and art forms. Travers’  questing thus has some  resonance for me…though I don’t think  I should have greatly enjoyed MP if I had read her as a child!

AUSTRALIAN BEGINNINGS  AND PROBLEMS 

If she had ever been more obviously an Australian writer, P L Travers (1899-1996), who always aspired to be a poet, might have been more appreciated above the entertainment level. However she was seriously out of love with her place of birth where in her late teens and early twenties before leaving Australia in 1924, she had been a successful enough journalist and Shakespearian actress. But though her father had died suddenly of an epileptic seizure when she was only seven and a half, as very much her father’s daughter, she didn’t even wish to belong because he certainly hadn’t.

Pamela Travers was born in 1899 as Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland (the Helen name got dropped and Pamela assumed around the time PL was a Shakespearean  actress in Australia). Ever the fantasist, she claimed her father owned a sugar plantation there, though wealth and standing of this order applied more to her mother’s side – her mother was sister of the premier of Queensland. In fact, her father who remains a bit of a mystery to biography, was a bank manager (shades of Mr Banks) later demoted to a bank clerk possibly for health reasons (he was probably alcoholic). Travers, a name his daughter later assumed for literary reasons, was her father’s first name. His surname was Goff but Travers Robert Goff, who had arrived in Australia via a stint in Ceylon, was related to the Davis Goffs of Wexford and Galway. These were Anglo-Irish, probably rather horsey ones, who would later find PL’s obsession with Irish myth and life alien.

Travers Goff was, or strove to be,  ultra-Irish, carrying Ireland around with him (much as Joyce did Dublin) and insuring everything from horses to clothes would be Irish. Weeping over Irish poetry and past national woes, he was un Goff-like in everything save being Protestant, and managing to be born in London. The family disconnect seems so strong it’s tempting to speculate Travers Robert was illegitimate. (I find that idea more satisfactory than notions he was a talkative East Ender son of a shipping agent with an  improbable obsession with Erin’s isle! But even if his Irish origins constituted an elaborate deception, it should be recalled the mother’s side was Scottish and we are looking at some kind of Celtic family set up).

Though Travers Robert died young and after the family had removed to Allora in New South Wales, he was not the only Irish member of the household which included an Irish maid who liked to cast an air of mystery around herself and who cherished a strange umbrella with a parrot’s head – a first image supplied to the composite of being that would be MP. Although it was northern hemisphere mists and fantasy held the real glamour for PT, Australia had its influence. While PT complained Australians lacked a proper sense of tradition and the light Gaelic (rococo?) touch, numbers of her characters like Nellie Rubina,  Miss Quigley and Mrs Correy are based on persons known and observed in especially Bowral where the family removed after Goffs’ death. But arguably the greatest influence from Australia was the nature and atmosphere. The unusually brilliant and “near” outback  night skies made for a lifelong obsession with the heavens that Mary Poppins is able to touch, arrange or paint. But even more haunting were the  vivid twilights which seemed to convey some principle PT wanted to grasp, a  point and place of transition to which Mary Poppins belonged.

According to Travers, Mary Poppins had “arrived” to her  as a  fully fledged person or vision in 1934, but we know she had written a tale back in 1926 which included a Mary Poppins. So at least the name was well established but her general  tutelage under the poet AE,  (who recommended letting fantasy emerge unfettered and writing something about the adventures of a witch), had been edging the author towards the magical nanny for some time.

Travers is supposed to have seen the MP name written in the book and just liked it, but I suspect she invented it. She possibly saw herself as a Mary from Maryborough who, like MP, who insists her  home is wherever she resides, “popped in” to people and places all the time.  Travers herself would voyage a great deal  internationally, but her true “home” remained an issue for her. However, reaching Ireland and getting involved with especially AE (George Russell), the Irish Blake, an economist, poet and painter, was the beginning of it. It marked her first engagement with her gurus (who would include Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti) because ever since the death of her father troubled the author’s childhood faith, she was on a quest for God and Truth liable to be confused with attachment to father figures.

Seen by many in England as a crackpot, AE  (for  Aeon of the new era)  was editor of The Irish Statesman and respected in Ireland but positively feted as a sage and prophet in America where he dined with Roosevelt and advised the administration. Travers could only feel flattered to be able to be mentored by AE (her “Zeus”)  and stay with him when he was away from Dublin at  Horn Head, Donegal, which he considered the power centre for Irish myth and revelation. There was no  affair – the married AE admitted not quite to understand women and was rather puritanical. And something in the romance of connection began to go wrong and it was Travers’ health. Possibly it was more psychological than physical, but the ailments began that would never quite leave her. AE recommended regimes and diets which sometimes worked but nothing really cured. AE recommended Travers live in England and visit Ireland rather than settle there, as the effect was so strong and she needed the distance. She went along with this and the first version of MP got written in Pound Cottage, Sussex (not to be confused with Stone Cottage in Sussex where Ezra Pound and Yeats sometimes lived and wrote). Later and remembering AE’s recommendations, Travers, who spent most of WW 11 in America, on the suggestion of the Minister for Indian affairs passed a couple of fruitful years in Arizona. It was a region AE  had loved and since Travers was relatively healthy there, one suspects she needed Australian or the similar Arizonian climate  for her precarious health as much as Celtic zones for mind and soul!

AE supplied Travers ideas and riddles to last a lifetime. Calling himself a Pantheist, AE had been involved with Mme Blavatsky’s theosophy which meant Celtic myth blended in his mind with Asian themes (which they sometimes can do). Travers would both assimilate and question themes like the unity of all things. It was a huge loss to Travers when AE died in 1935. It was like another loss of another father and was the first loss of a guru.

The parent/child, teacher/pupil relationship would be more important for Travers than regular love. She never married having loved and lost in relation to the lazy, boozing and affluent bohemian lady’s man, Francis Macnamara. Everyone seemed to like him, even Yeats was willing to help him improve his writing, but he couldn’t be bothered. Despite the manifest weaknesses, Travers seemed able only to idolize him and even confessed that if she had written of MP for anyone it was for this “Irish poet” – who, ironically, admitted he had no care for children’s literature. She had intense relations in Sussex with Madge Burnand (a companion recommended for her English existence by AE) and  Jessie Orage.  There may or may not have been lesbian attachments involved but the greater obsession would finish by being the overwhelming desire of an unmarried woman of forty to have a child. In a sad, mad moment in Dublin in 1940, Travers selfishly and life-destroyingly intervened to adopt only one of two twins, grandsons of  Yeats’ first biographer, Joseph Hone, whose son’s family couldn’t cope with more children.

The repercussions would prove deadly.  The twins, one raised in wealth and one in poverty, accidentally met and finally discovered their identity aged seventeen. Neither quite recovered from the shock and the lies they’d been fed and both would fall victim to alcoholism. If Travers had wanted to assume the role of an intervening Mary Poppins, the experiment seriously failed. Or had she unwittingly demonstrated what was wrong with the character and ideas of her fictional creation whoever precisely she might be?

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WHO: THE KEY QUESTION : WHO IS MARY POPPINS?

     

It’s notorious, and the subject of the itself somewhat fictionalized Saving Mr Banks film, that the author was twenty years wrangling with Walt Disney over how the mysterious nanny should be portrayed. Initially she wept tears of rage over the final result, (though she later settled down and decided the film was good at its own level). But just who and what was the Mary Poppins (i.e most essentially as she combines some traits of the author’s and other people’s character), writing of whose departure caused the author to drench her typewriter with tears. This itself points some  very deep complex and bedrock of feeling –  despite the fact that the nanny was anything but obviously appealing!  !n fact, hardly has children’s fiction ever contained a less attractive lead figure. Julie Andrew’s MP is “never angry, only firm”, but fictional MP is no fairly godmother, rarely smiles, almost always scolds and glares, threatens and berates and proves singularly unsympathetic to any condition a child could suffer like toothache. The children love and cling on to MP and want her back but only because they know, or just suspect, she is the pretext of their unique adventures and she will at least keep them safe.

Mary Poppins is, as the author kept insisting to Walt Disney, a character “with a dark side”. There is a lot of the witch about her and in awareness of the contrary,  difficult side of Travers’ character, her Irish mentor/guru, AE, had suggested she should write something fictional about a witch. However it was merely a trait in her character AE  felt she should express; there was no suggestion she was or should become a witch.  And despite her mystical explorations, Travers never became one, nor did she especially approve of the nowadays often related feminism. It was more a case, Jungian style, of seeing what the shadow self could be made to render up and transform into something positive. However, not to give too much credit to AE, although I have not read any James Stephens in years to check it out, I would suspect this member of AE’s Dublin circle and author of very ironic fantasy tales in urban settings was a likely influence upon Travers’ literary development.

MP wasn’t even conceived as a basis of children’s fiction but for anyone. The first pages were only written by the author for herself (i.e therapeutically), and only got further developed and offered for publication at the insistence of Madge Burnand. So while, for publication and remuneration purposes, it was expedient to keep the connection with children  once begun, I think we could say the real affinity is more with some writings like those of Kafka which will employ a fairy tale format to convey basically philosophical, often dark and grim messages. MP invites inquiry into reality because things aren’t what they appear. There is a whole world of marvels, dreams and mysteries that we should welcome and explore….but not uncritically either.

At their friendliest, MP tales have something of Wisdom literature about them, fable and parable or lyrical moments a bit like the poems of Rilke especially those where he personifies nature.  MP destabilizes and questions. In “Faithful Friends” Michael would repair some items with putty but has been forbidden to do so by Miss Andrew who wants them to stay exactly as they are. “Nothing does that”, interposes MP.  From the life and pen of Travers this  is almost guaranteed to be one of her nods in the direction of Buddhist impermanence teaching. So MP is first and foremost a teacher, more governess than nanny. When she leaves for the last time it’s said, “in the summer days to come…..they would remember Mary Poppins and all she had told them” almost as though some body of doctrine were involved.

Travers was notoriously secretive about herself and her work adopting her mother’s and the admired Beatrix Potter’s “never explain” principle. Accordingly she simply refused to answer questions about her chief creation.  The stern  manner and plain appearance of MP nevertheless owes something to Travers’ calvinistically unbending but well-intentioned Scottish great aunt, Ellie, who was generous towards Travers in her will. I should say, too, that the severities and austerities of the western guru, Gurdjieff, under whose spell Travers existed at one point, added to the emphasis on discipline and severity. The already mentioned Irish maid with the parrot umbrella played her part in building the mystery.

In a more than usually frank interview for the Paris Review but given when she was in her eighties, Travers insists the origins of MP were “entirely spontaneous and not invented”; however she admitted that despite always having had an interest in the Mother Goddess, it had “only recently”[!?] struck her that if one were to look for mythological origins of MP  then she “is either the Mother Goddess or one of her creatures” (1). She didn’t state which one, but I do so below with the greatest certainty possible.

Much earlier on Travers explicitly described the whole MP series as “autobiographical”. Apart from the fact the Cherry  Tree Lane setting is said to have something to do with a corner of Chelsea Travers often lived in (but with no park opposite and whose model might be Kensington Gardens), “autobiographical” has to mean philosophically and mystically. Travers explored many mythical and mystical traditions, East and West, though keeping close to the a degree of western Platonism as seems fairly clear from such as The Children in the Story where the three princes Floritain, Veritain and Amor are the Platonic trinity of Beauty, Truth and Love. The trio also seem to be on a casual basis with MP, able to laugh at her as the Banks children can’t. Again, it might be relevant that AE’s Dublin friends included Oliver St John Gogarty (the Buck Milligan of Joyce’s Ulysses). He took a fancy to Travers that was unreciprocated (perhaps because he was married), but she may have assimilated some of his ideas about bringing Celtic and classical culture closer together (in a sort of revolt against Yeatsian culture that Gogarty shared with Joyce).   

I think we can assume with AE that MP represents a figure of myth, a goddess. Even AE  wasn’t sure which though he suggested Maia who does appear in “Christmas Shopping” but according to the Paris Review article, he  had hinted to her MP might even be a modern version of Hinduism unsettling goddess Kali.  One of the key stories for the identity problem is,  in my opinion,  Full Moon from the first book. This  has adults locked in cages and treated like zoo animals waiting feeding time and the almost morbid atmosphere recalls a tale like Kafka’s “The Starved Man”. (The feeling of being trapped and punished is quite strong in the stories and “Lucky Thursday” in which children are left apparently permanently trapped in the kingdom of the cats, is hardly reassuring bedtime material).

Full moon celebrates a birthday and it’s not a birthday in winter as the children don’t drift out to it in winter clothes. The children  meet the  king of the beasts who is a Lion. The birthday turns out to be   Mary Poppins own, a fact drawn attention to by the hissing voice of a Hamadryad (normally a tree or tree spirit but apparently in this instance a snake)  near to the snakes who bow to her. A bear tells the children the Hamadryad is “Lord of our world” (the animal’s world) – “Lord of the jungle” hiss the snakes and in honour of the nanny the Hamadryad sheds a skin for her. The company call for “The Great Chain” presumably the Great Chain of Being of medieval philosophy. The children eventually wake from a dream but as though in proof it wasn’t that, find the shed skin is around MP’s waist.

This is not a story  that, so far as I know, has captured neo-pagan imagination like the celebrated Pan episode in The Wind in the Willows,  but it is in its way very pagan. It is  certainly making out MP to be a species of deity who has a life apart from that of mere mortals. Indeed, the point is made clear enough early in the first book when Amelia in “Bad Tuesday” asks what MP is doing. She receives the response, “”Oh, just going around the world you know’ said Mary Poppins airily as though going round the world was something you did every day”. So how do we see this? We know that the nanny arrives in Cherry Tree Lane on the East Wind. This could of course symbolize the author coming to Europe from the East, but it can also symbolize a deity nearer to home than Australia. In “The Marble Boy,” we learn MP is close friends with Neptune  in the Isles of Greece.

I think these details, plus the fact that the very last MP story has the nanny as niece of the Man in the Moon, hence lunar related, are enough to be getting on with and even to solve the problem. Travers was born on August 9th, so she is a Leo/Lion traditionally Lord of the Beasts. Is there a deity specifically celebrated in August? Yes. It is the moon goddess Diana, who was born on a Greek island, Delos, and who is herself  a lord of animals, of the hunt and nature. Traditionally Diana’s day could be celebrated in mid August or on any full moon of that month. Diana the huntress is typically portrayed with a hunting bow, but she can be portrayed with a poppy. Does Poppins, hide Diana Poppy? Diana is unmarried and childless, possibly lesbian, yet she can be a patron of children (Travers would disastrously adopt a child) as also, in the ancient world, the common people  and slaves. The latter point, despite Travers’ manifest snobberies and increasingly wealth, fits with her vague quasi-socialism which owes something to AE, to her admired Bernard Shaw and conflicts of her time in the context of which she declared, forced to a choice between Fascism and Communism she would prefer Communism by a small margin.

But Diana equates with MP in another way. Catholicism as opposed to Protestant and Orthodox churches holds a doctrine of the Assumption (or Ascension) of the Virgin into heaven. This festival, probably in rivalry with Dianic/ Artemis cult, got set for 15th August. There seems no question that in “The Other Door” which describes MP’s last of three departures and effectively ends the saga – later written tales belonging to earlier times within it – the highly emotional feeling is a form of Assumption, a religious event. “Then darkness folded its wing about her and hid her from their eyes”. This is a clear echo of the biblical “He was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), especially as it’s said the children will remember what MP has told them as though it’s a body of doctrine to be preserved.

Does the Diana association mean that Travers had crypto-Catholic yearnings or neo-pagan urges? While that could be,  at least consciously I think we are obliged to say she didn’t. To insist otherwise  comes up against hard fact that she remained an Anglican Protestant and when living in Chelsea was a communicant at the local Christchurch.  Her case is a bit like that of the Anglican T.S. Eliot who also underwent a Gurdjieff phase and peppered his verse with references to Asian scriptures. Also, as regards Asian religions Travers significantly denied one of their  fundamentals, namely belief in reincarnation. Travers perceived herself as a pilgrim in line with the famous Bunyan hymn sung at her funeral. But the peculiarly religious tone to MP’s assumption seems underlined by the way in which Travers signs off from this crucial story of the third book with the inscription “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the highest). This, if it doesn’t render MP a divinity or convenient literary divinity substitute in some fashion, at least suggests writing about MP is felt to be Travers’ vocation fulfilled.

Anticipating the why section at this point, I will suggest that MP is definitely a modality of Diana (Gk Artemis), an assumption surely certified by Travers’ birth chart. Original Uranus rising in her chart at 4 Sagittarius, fortunately trines asteroid DIANA at 4 Aries in the house of creativity and which in turn is in positive trine to Venus at 5 Leo in the ninth house of religion and classic writing. As further proof, the Greek equivalent, ARTEMIS, is at midpoint Sun and Venus in the philosophy and classic writing ninth house (Sun 16,  ARTEMIS 10 Leo, Venus at 5 Leo).

 A possible objection to the Diana identification is that MP with her parrot headed umbrella like the maid of Travers childhood ought surely to be a Celtic goddess. The weakness of that idea is that though there are many Celtic goddesses, no single one has the range of functions and characteristics attributable to Diana, a desideratum if one wants to mull widely over philosophical questions or help shape people’s character. (At a pinch, but at the risk of seeming too trite and popular, Travers might have taken the figure of the pagan/Christian Brigit, who cares for children, nature and fire and is an all-rounder Celtic goddess/saint). A lot of Irish goddesses are however either goddesses of war or healing and plainly MP is not that.

But if MP is ultimately Diana/ Artemis, a Graeco-Roman goddess, why is she so ill-tempered as opposed to being transcendently self-controlled and benign? I suppose we could say that like St Paul she and/or her author  doesn’t “suffer fools gladly”, but one can’t easily mention the apostle and the Travers’ alter-ego together as though naturally allied…. St Paul was very much critic and victim of precisely Dianic cult whose devotees caused riots in Ephesus over her. It can be allowed that the cranky side of Travers is reflected in MP’s “philosophical” teaching nanny role, but that can’t cover the whole picture, so one has to ask what else might be involved? This abrasive manner of MP invites questions as to the  teachings the children are meant to remember she told them…

11

WHAT is she saying and showing?

MP and her manner are really one of a piece.  Against neo-pagan romanticism I would submit that the mythic as opposed to the outright divine will  always and inevitably finish to some degree like MP’s persona, a bit ugly, dark and/or unjust. Fairy tales from the Christian era may end happily ever after, but most pagan myth from almost anywhere comes with a sting in the tale, compassion very much a second thought I,f any.. A lot of even elegant Ovidian myth presents situations of rape. Celtic myth which was central to Travers inquiries into existence and “how we should live” questions, is less immoral than amoral. In the introduction to my play “Daughter of the Sea King”, an adaptation of a tale of the Welsh Mabinogion,  I reflect on my realization of the difficulty of working with Celtic material for dramatic purposes. (2)  This is due not only to the abundance of hard to include marvels, but to the lack of moral  structure that normally supports drama whose basis is an element of conflict. For the early Celts, where there isn’t the curse that makes for stasis, there is the mother culture’s all-acceptance that doesn’t lay blame where it could well be laid. Its all-acceptance belongs with a kind of  all-is-one, unitive, near pantheistic philosophy present in the early medieval Irish philosophy of Erigena.

I think that amid the mental corrections, play of ideas and imaginative perspectives of the Mary Poppins saga, Travers demonstrates –  with some honesty and symbolic logic – what certain problems of the imaginative life actually are, especially in relation to any starting point in the legacy of Celtic myth. The strangely dark and Dianic dominated world is where the Celtic dreaming may lead. Travers reveals the structure of myth (or a type of necessity within it), where it wasn’t quite admitted or perceived. We have indications of this in the following which is at once the possibility and limitation of all mythic  and mystical claims that all is one….which is where AE’s Pantheism would lead anyone to suppose it was possible to go. Travers allows for, perhaps hopes for, a mystical/alchemical union of opposites, but cannot honestly affirm that it is a particularly reasonable or likely prospect. If there is unity at some level there is plenty of duality at others. In “Happy Ever After”  unity’s existence at the moment between the old year and the new suggests virtual impossibility. Sleeping Beauty declares:

“And inside the Crack all things are at one. The eternal opposites meet and kiss. The wolf and the lamb lie down together, the dove and the serpent share one nest…..This is the time and place, my darlings – the only time and the only place – where everybody lives happily ever after”.

It is controversial enough, especially in writing supposedly directed to children, even if that isn’t quite the case, to assert there can almost never be happy endings; but it belongs with the way of myth, perhaps especially the Celtic.  I have written elsewhere on this blog of something approaching a Celtic curse and involved with a domination by the wrong archetypes. What is certain about Celtic myth is that, as in for example “The Dream of Oengus”, it has an exquisite, rainbow like beauty based on great longing and that could always be the basis of music and high art, but such writing singularly lacks   satisfactory  endings; and the compromise of having Oengus fly away with his love puts nature and fate well above the human value.

Arguably the most representative Irish myth –  and one can see a modern sculpture of it in Parnell Square, Dublin and  even in Antrim, N. Ireland – is “The Fate of the Children of Lir”. In this a king’s children are placed under a curse and turned into swans by an evil step mother and when they have suffered and survived everything for centuries and the curse is lifted, it is only to find they have so severely aged there is nothing to do but die.

More recent Irish fantasy such as might be compared with Grimm’s fairy tales, doesn’t notably improve on this. The Grimms tales are about problems, mostly overcome with some input from human will and a bit of outside magic, and they finish with happily ever afterwards situations, usually of marriage. There is a clear moral structure informing the whole  – though that could owe something to the Lutheran Grimm brothers’ anxiety to supply improving, positive messages and censoring their sources more than much early Irish myth got censored by the monks. Equivalent Irish fairy tales which usually involve  leprechauns and the little people, are more likely to end unfortunately. The little people are almost objects of fear, their assistance almost a liability and they too can be irritable  like MP. It’s Irish American with a dose of American optimism to arrive at fun and funny leprechauns!

The point of entry to the magic sphere is different. In the Grimms tales this can be familiar and domestic and almost anywhere from home to forest. While this may also apply in the Celtic, there is an undoubted association ever since the druids, of magic, vision  and the Otherworld with the twilight time that so fascinated Travers. In short, magic and its Otherworld source is involved with an alteration, not just of situation but of consciousness itself. It certainly also engages a degree of longing, but the longing may itself prove vampirish.

Faced with two twins  and ignoring advice to adopt both, Travers simply took the more obviously attractive one who also seemed the more manageable to her bossily Poppins-like fancy. Though a weakness for beauty is hardly unique to the Irish, it is sometimes enlarged among them because their Otherworld, when it impinges, is so exceptionally, obviously exquisite  nothing else appears desirable and worth striving for in compariso. The effect is to encourage belief with the (non Irish) Keats that “truth is beauty, beauty truth”. Which can be fatal to judgment as some of the most corrupt persons and cultures can present the highest levels of outward beauty and adornment. Lucifer and his offers can be beautiful, it is part of the seduction. “When the woman saw that the tree…..was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit” (Gen 3:6). The fruit can then be handed to the husband who as male would have been less spontaneously likely to associate Truth with beauty alone, (though many still will do that). In Ireland’s Old/New Spiritual Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126  I example the case of Brian O’Donohue author of the bestselling Anam Cara for whom beauty of nature and soul are effectively sufficient in a way that cancels out more  Christian perspectives the ex-priest  could, superficially, be thought to be defending. 

Once the Edenic style misjudgement has taken place, and the thought initiative in a sensitive area for perception has gone to the side of yin or the female, whose energy is primarily reactive rather than active, psychologically woman takes over….. As she largely does in Celtic myth and then, instead of men speaking it, Truth gets strangely identified with hags who must be taken on trust by revolted males and aspiring kings. It’s the matriarchal situation. Accordingly it is with symbolic logic that Dianic Mary Poppins, the truth teller, though not outright ugly, is certainly not any pretty, graceful or charming woman. If she were to be otherwise within Travers imaginative and Celtic universe, she would be either the goddess herself that St Paul was at variance with, or the Catholic Mary with which some Christians later tried to supplant the goddess.

So, with MP as  Travers’ voice of wisdom,  on the one hand  –  however consciously or unconsciously –  she  finishes with a Christian compromise of sorts. But as her thought develops she also rightly suspects there may be  need to be room for a special kind of realization or teaching beyond the Celtic dream; or put another way, she is on the lookout for a solution mystically, esoterically  by or through “spirit” as opposed to just  O’ Donohue’s “soul”. This is the basis of her (rather Yeatsian) sympathy for especially Japanese culture and Zen because this is a system that wakes people out of the enveloping dream into sudden awareness. Celtic myth contains the latter just a little – homes and palaces may suddenly disappear! – but overall, awakening and Zen’s secular Pentecost seems less desirable than the dream because it is not salvation to another place but rather a new response to the present world. And even Travers herself didn’t like this world  too much! (Some of her demanding nature and snobberies are of the Celtic variety that can never be impressed by anything or anyone of this world because they don’t belong to heaven itself – the novelist Sean O’Faolain, another of AE’s circle, described his mother as someone who could turn the world to ashes!.

111

WHY is she like she is?

Pages could be written on Travers’ very revealing and apparently very accurate birth data. Salient points are the following.

Travers was born Aug 9. 1899 at around 12 pm with the sun in dramatic Leo at 16 degrees conjunct her 17 degree Midheaven career and reputation point and then Saturn in Sagittarius fortunately trines it. Just by itself this combination would incline to success and fame if with some Saturnian struggle and effort along the way not least through the parents and home base. Also, given that Saturn within the core combination is in the religion/philosophy sign, there would be an on-going struggle for self- definition and “meaning”. (Travers’ life story is the story of her reflections, the reason the MP books are “autobiography”)

The sun in regal Leo with Sagittarius rising describes a person with a great sense of entitlement in the course of their progress through life; Sagittarius rising supports, moreover, a self-image as seeker, pilgrim, philosopher. Leo is a sign much associated with children and popular, classic writing for them (Enid Blyton, Edith Nesbit, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, JK Rowling). The tenth house is anything to do with the career; so with communicating Mercury there Travers was well set up to become first a journalist, then a writer…but very much on her own terms. The affliction square (90 degrees) of Mercury to eccentric, nervy Uranus in the first house of style and persona and in the sign of often tactless, bombastic Sagittarius, bespeaks the native worry and celebrated cranky eccemtricity. It gives fair warning of the endless, bizarre quibbling with Disney over Mary Poppins. It is almost certainly only because Disney was a Sagittarian that he put up with quite so much from Travers. And it is only because Jupiter as ruler of a rising Sagittarius pattern rules the whole chart, could Travers lifelong get away with the behaviour and attitudes that would sink many another person and career.

But specifically writing of Mary Poppins was Travers’ fated role. The nanny is mouthpiece of her questing and is fortunate for her because asteroid MARY at 1 Scorpio conjuncts expansive, philosophical Jupiter at 2 Scorpio. The fact that this conjunction is in secretive, fixed sign Scorpio in the twelfth sector of hidden things and the unconscious, bespeaks the fixed and almost exasperating secrecy around MP. The author won’t tell; but sometimes she doesn’t herself know all the answers because this Mary is hidden away in recesses of the mind.

With the sun opposite the Aquarian 4th house cusp of home and father, there could be uneasiness or conflict around home and father, especially with the ruler of the paternal sector being erratic, separative Uranus. Travers would memorably leave home and her father would early depart from her. The apparent accuracy of the chart to what must be within a minute or two of time correct is signalled by, for example, the way that Travers’ sun, ruler of her Leo sign and destiny, would conjunct by transit her fourth house cusp of family, origins and home on the very day, Feb 9,1924, that she memorably sailed away from Australia – she only ever made one return visit..Not liking Australia is reflected in the way asteroid AUSTRALIA at 6 Scorpio is in tension square to Venus (any likes and loves) at 5 Leo.

This compares with the way the moon, a general ruler of home affairs and feelings, at 14 Virgo stands in opportunity aspect to IRELAND at 14 Scorpio. So the Irish affinity was authentic – but in a haunted way as the asteroid is in the 12th of the unconscious and hidden influences. But the fact that IRELAND is also square the author’s sun bespeaks the beginning of health problems there – I said that Australia would probably have been better for Travers’ health and with a sun line through Queensland according to Astrocartography that is likely. Ireland could also compromise Travers’ reputation as much as inspire her. The adoption of the Irish baby, Camillus Hone, was a fiasco that shames her and is Leonine feeling for children gone horribly wrong.

In mitigation it could be said that Travers was not particularly well set up for either marriage or motherhood. Marriage would always be problematic given separative Uranus rising at 4 Uranus opposing the seventh house cusp of unions at 2 Gemini. The house of children (the fifth) is ruled by Neptune in the sign of Gemini (twins) It follows the disaster of her adoption of one of two twins is reflected in the fact Neptune is in affliction square by Mars  – misjudgement about a male child! Between the square of Uranus to Mercury and then of Neptune to Mars there is major potential for bad nerves and ailments of all kinds.

Also for potential bisexuality. It is often speculated that Travers was a lesbian, the theory supported by the intensity of the attachments and arguments between Travers and the women at Stone cottage, the fact that Gurdjieff had a notable lesbian following in Paris where Travers like T.S.Eliot would visit the guru, and because before the time such things were so accepted, Travers let herself be photographed in semi nude shots. The matter of nudity can be discounted in the case of a Leo for  whom it’s almost par for the course. Even Leo Jackie Kennedy was happy to be photographed in the nude; it belongs to the general sun worship and “exhibitionism” of the sign. The long standing crush on Francis MacNamara doesn’t bespeak a lesbian. However, I have always contended that above all other supposed possible signifiers, the basic building block for bisexuality needs to be a stressed/afflicted Neptune –  when Neptune doesn’t idealize and romanticize it dissolves boundaries, sexual, ethical or whatever and under affliction aspect does so in ways that can be problematic. So it looks as though, like Susan Sontag (Saturn opposite Neptune), Travers was bisexual reluctantly and by default from frustration.

It may or may not be coincidental and relevant that at 23 Aquarius the asteroid LONDON is in Travers’ fourth house of home but also, when relevant, any last home. Despite travelling and residing in numbers of place, the author did spend a lot of time and certainly her last years in London’s Chelsea, which had been home to everyone from Henry James to AA Milne of Winnie the Pooh, Some Irish notables like Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) had also lived there but they didn’t gift the area with the fairy dust treatment of Cherry Tree Lane.

Leo is a sign much associated with children and popular, classic writing for them (Enid Blyton, Edith Nesbit, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, JK Rowling). The tenth house is anything to do with the career, so with communicating Mercury there Travers was well set up to become first a journalist, then a writer…but very much on her own terms. The affliction square (90 degrees) of Mercury to eccentric Uranus in the first house of style and persona and in the sign of often tactless, bombastic Sagittarius, bespeaks the native worry and crankiness. It gives fair warning of the endless, bizarre quibbling with Disney over Mary Poppins. It is almost certainly because Disney was a Sagittarian that he put up with quite so much from Travers. And it is only because Jupiter as ruler of a rising Sagittarius rules the whole chart, could Travers get away with the behaviour and attitudes that would sink many another career. Capricorn and its ruler Saturn ruling the second of income and possessions bespeaks both the wealth and fears around it – Travers never left banks, lawyers, agents alone for constant checks and worries about income possibly engendered by some Leonine extravagance but mostly just her bad nerves. Saturn in or ruling the second can indicate the extremes, little or much money or both conditions in the course of a lifetime.

Specifically writing of Mary Poppins was Travers’ fated role. The nanny is mouthpiece of her questing and is fortunate for her because asteroid MARY at 1 Scorpio conjuncts expansive, philosophical Jupiter at 2 Scorpio. The fact that this conjunction is in secretive Scorpio in the twelfth sector of hidden things and the unconscious, bespeaks the fixed and almost exasperating secrecy around MP. The author won’t tell, but sometimes she doesn’t herself know all the answers because this Mary is hidden away in recesses of the mind.

With the sun opposite the Aquarian 4th house cusp of home and father, there could be uneasiness or conflict around home and father especially with ruler of the paternal sector being erratic, separative Uranus. Travers would memorably leave home and her father would early depart from her. The extreme accuracy of the chart to what must be within a minute or two of time is signalled by for example the way that her the sun, ruler of her Leo sign and destiny, conjuncts her fourth house cusp of family, origins and home on the very day, Feb 9,1924, that she memorably sailed away from Australia – she only ever made one return visit..Not liking Australia is reflected in the way that asteroid AUSTRALIA at 6 Scorpio is in tension square to Venus (any likes and loves) at 5 Leo.

This compares with the way the moon, a general ruler of homes and feeling for such, at 14 Virgo stands in opportunity aspect to IRELAND at 14 Scorpio. So the Irish affinity was authentic – but in a haunted way as the asteroid is in the 12th  house of the unconscious and hidden influences. But the fact that IRELAND is also tension square the author’s sun bespeaks the beginning of health problems there – I said that Australia would probably have been better for Travers’ health and with a sun line through Queensland according to Astrocartography that is likely. Ireland could also compromise Travers’ reputation as much as inspire her. The adoption of the Irish boy, Camillus Hone, was a fiasco that shames her and is Leonine feeling for children gone selfishly wrong.

In mitigation it could be said that Travers was not particularly well set up for either marriage or motherhood. Marriage would always be problematic given separative Uranus rising at 4 Uranus opposing the seventh house cusp of unions at 2 Gemini. The house of children (the fifth) is ruled by Neptune in the sign of Gemini (twins) and the disaster of her adoption of one of two twins is reflected in the fact Neptune is in affliction square by Mars. Misjudgement about a male child! Between the square of Uranus to Mercury and then of Neptune to Mars there is major potential for bad nerves and ailments of all kinds.

Also for potential bisexuality. It is often speculated that Travers was a lesbian, the theory supported by intensity of the attachments and arguments between Travers and the women at Stone cottage, the fact that Gurdjieff had a notable lesbian following in Paris where Travers often pursued wisdom  and because before the time such things were so accepted, Travers let herself be photographed in semi- nude shots. The matter of nudity can be discounted in the case of a Leo. Even Leo Jackie Kennedy was happy to be photographed in the nude; it belongs to the sun worship and “exhibitionism” of the sign and recently fans of the Leo tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas were surprised by his Instagram declaration “I like me better naked”. The long standing crush on Francis MacNamara doesn’t bespeak a lesbian. However…..I have always contended that above all other supposed signs, the basic building block of bisexuality is an afflicted Neptune – when it doesn’t idealize and romanticize, Neptune dissolves boundaries, sexual, ethical or whatever and in affliction does so in ways that can be problematic. So it looks as though, like Susan Sontag (Saturn opposite Neptune), was bisexual reluctantly and by default from frustration.

It may or may not be coincidental and relevant that at 23 Aquarius the asteroid LONDON is in Travers’ fourth house of home but also, when relevant, any last home. Despite travelling and residing in numbers of places, the author did spend a lot of time, and certainly her last years, in London’s Chelsea. The place had been home to everyone from Henry James to AA Milne of Winnie the Pooh. Some Irish notables like Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) had also lived there but they didn’t gift the area with the fairy dust treatment of Cherry Tree Lane.  And some fairy dust might as well have been thrown about. In her final years the extravagant Leo settled for an address in the royal borough and, no matter that it was only a terrace house in Shawfield Street, nowadays and not far away I see from press report that Chelsea Crescent is Britain’s most expensive street. The average property price is  x74 the national average and  small terrace  houses sell for 12 million GBP. What  might Mary Poppins say to that, one wonders?

NOTE:

(1)  Paris Review, PL Travers: The Art of Fiction, No 63, Issue 86, Winter 1982

(2).  New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas   https://goo.gl/uz7m95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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THINKING ABOUT THE VATICAN GAY CLOSET

The inevitable response from Catholic critics to Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican is that it lacks substance, he’s got it wrong about his probably 80% gay Vatican and that it’s all worth little more than gossip. While of course it’s possible Martel has got a few facts wrong, one can wonder how often in his over 500 pages. Hadn’t controversial reports since 2015 from such journalists as Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi made no impression or given no warning that more was present to be revealed? I wouldn’t expect the critics to consider any astrological dimension, but the guilty charge is so strong even  “the heavens declare” in this case. Uranus (anything to do with gays) is in the Vatican’s sex sector making easy trine to Mars (any men and sex) in the sector of the hidden!

Though I’m not suggesting Argentina’s Pope Francis is gay, – and Martel insists he isn’t – had conservatives never heard the common saying in the Pope’s nation of origin, “todas las curas son maricones” (all priests are faggots)? People get the idea, even if most priests won’t be as hypocritical  or on occasion blatant as some Vatican gays about their preference. Hidden, undeclared (closeted) homosexual clerics is a massive problem for Catholicism .  But Martel makes no claim that his 80% are all active. The most many can be accused of, but it’s bad enough,  is assisting cover-ups through complicit silence, sometimes reluctant, of serious scandals. That situation is surely even a reason why, when given the opportunity by an outsider (in this case a gay French writer) to just talk, so many are ready to blab to someone  used almost as a therapist or father confessor.

Before offering a few original perspectives and imagining improvements, I must emphasize what should be obvious, namely that for professed Christians hypocrisy is unacceptable and corruption more so and there’s no cure for them but repentance. Scandals known before Martel’s expose like the 2017 revelations about a top Vatican official, Msgr Luigi Capozzi’s cocaine-fuelled gay orgies iare disgusting; and it’s unpleasant to hear of sexually harassed Swiss guards and arrogant, high placed clerics using migrant male prostitutes whom they insult and underpay (others who do pay properly feel so guilty they get embarrassingly tender with them).

This said, I am neither so shocked as conservative Catholics at the given picture nor smugly assured like some American evangelicals that we are only witnessing further proof of the “end times” evil of the Roman “Whore of Babylon” soon to fall – which the Vatican might anyway do, because how much scandal bad press can any institution sustain? What  however I believe is finally coming to light is a more perennial, ingrained problem that is too often a tragedy for those involved and the result of chronic misunderstandings of theology and psychology that must be addressed, though I am not confident they will be.

Years ago in Latin America I was invited to give a talk to a group of self-confessed gay priests. It was the rather neat, pretty but queeny priest among them who took sudden exception as utterly ridiculous something I said about the book of Revelation  as regards the erotic (see the sub section “An erotic and esoteric moment” in ‘Apocalypse as a Gay Issue”. https://wp.me/p2v96G-1eT . The fact he didn’t grasp or refused to consider the rather obvious point involved, has its connection with the ongoing problem of gay priests in the Vatican and beyond it.  Because there really shouldn’t be quite such a problem with homosexuality. And what the gay Martel perceives as an irony – the strangely “homoerotic” Vatican with its images from Michelangelo including the ignudi (nude youths) painted around the Sistine Chapel alongside a clothed prophet Jeremiah a figure with whom the artist identified himself,  carries its own hint towards the solution. 

THE TRAGEDY OF IGNORANCE

But first things first. The “tragedy” I refer to is the one well represented by Martel’s lead-in story with ex-priest, Francesco Lepore. For him as for so many youths in Italy until quite recently, there were few places beyond entering orders for the more introverted, sensitive type of youth to go to hide or cure an attraction to the same sex. He might hope to self-cure through denial, or, if he couldn’t quite achieve that, as one who was often mother’s boy, he could feel the Great Mother, Mary, would always forgive him anyway. But there was often something more.

Lepore admits to how the church positively drew him towards itself through the senses, the scents, sounds, colours, the mysterious rituals and costumes in which you could lose yourself – plainly a bit like being in mother’s skirts and in parallel to the way gays almost dominate the woman’s fashion industry. And  that’s a point I take to be rather important because of things that emerged pre-Martel among the earlier revelations from Fittipaldi and Nuzzi.

In harmony with the tendency of especially people of Latin background to assume a role or pose (recall singer Madonna’s hit, Vogue, with its “strike a pose”) some Vatican clerics felt easy with being distributors of mass when dressed for the ritual, but equally easy with going to gay bars for fun nights and pick-ups once they were in civvies. Dress made and unmade the man, the personalities, their roles and responsibilities.

Something is going wrong here and it’s more than a case, as evangelicals might plausibly maintain that these priests were never remotely “born again”, because similar problems can be found among the community of the born agains too. It’s more like a whole historic blind spot is involved, one that can’t imagine being gay to be anything but (as Pope Benedict had it) a condition “objectively disordered” if not plain evil rather than in the majority of cases something perfectly natural to those involved, inborn, and even in its way vital to religion.

It is customary to start citing Leviticus 18 or Romans 1 (Protestants) or Natural Law (Catholics) against any idea of anyone being born different and meaningfully so. However, if I am not to get immediately and lengthily bogged down in answering the objections (which can be done), I must say directly that, psychologically and spiritually dominated as it clearly is by the Puer archetype, Christianity is “ascenional”. It is earth-denying and/or nature-denying more than any other faith. To that extent it is arguably the most “gay spiritual” of the world faiths with Buddhism perhaps some rival (its monks and attitudes are often quite gay),

This means Christianity is indirectly, and in some fashion that needn’t automatically affect woman’s rights (though ignorantly and crudely it may do so) against the feminine, the Dionysian swamp or raw nature. The point is well stated in Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae which underlines the vital importance and inevitability of gay vision to human culture which is ultimately always a war against nature.

So much about Christianity is anti-gravitational, “contra naturam” – St Paul even says divine election and salvation itself are “against nature” – that just this standpoint is likely a cause, psychologically and historically, the faith sets its face against anyone or anything that, as though in rivalry, claims to be “naturally” against nature. Witness the tirade of St Paul in Romans 1 which I am quite prepared to state (as I do say in the poem and notes to A Saint’s Mistake https://wp.me/p2v96G-yS ) includes some real error and exaggeration and constitutes something Jesus never intended or would approve, something one can tell given certain hidden, unexplained facts concerning even Jesus’ original address to Paul which speak to him at more than one level. 

POSSIBLE REMEDIES

In quest of remedies for the gay clerics problem, it must of course be acknowledged there can be none at all without first some transparency, especially for those within the Vatican which is supposed to function as beacon and example for all of Catholic persuasion. It’s unholy to remain silent in the face of, say, child abuse, from fear you yourself might be outed as gay (which is not the same things as paedophile). Better to be openly gay and better far to be able to affirm the positive value of being so.

So, for a start obviously and ideally one would  simply hope that the gay priest could sooner or later be out as gay (not automatically banned from orders as is increasingly proposed) and  free to find the soul mate …..which might also be the best term for whatever partnership could be established and hopefully not changed by the week.

Gay marriage (described by Pope Benedict as “the legislation of evil”) and the drive to so-called “gay marriage equality” represents an essentially secular ideal involved with wider social movements to equality. It was originally necessitated by legal problems over inheritance and adoption. Marriage is nonetheless very much about the making of families and this is not what gay relationships are usually or chiefly about. They are friendships, partnerships, unions and should probably be called such, and in the case of priests perhaps not even too precisely defined. Who knows precisely how the unmarried prophet Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch with whom he lived might have described their connection, or again the centurion with his boy/servant that Jesus healed in what is the nearest thing to a blessing accorded a same sex union?  I don’t consider there should be any need to formalize the connection except by personal declaration. (David and Jonathan declared they had a berith, which can mean variously covenant or marriage, but the matter was purely between themselves, not subject to public ceremony). To whatever extent the priestly relation would be sexual (and I would define chastity in this case as principally involving sincerity and fidelity) would likewise be a private decision perhaps influenced by – despite everything! – such principles as St Paul’s “better to marry than to burn”.

 I say all this because I believe, ideally and usually, relationship should be aimed for and as far as possible acknowledged too because it is vitally  important not to be attached  –  as plainly many  Vatican and non Vatican clerics are attached – to the closet. This reduces life to a kind of perverse game filled with rumours, secrets, gossip and an often demeaning humour. At times it is a sort of Catholic version of Genet’s The Maids with the priest as a species of bitter drag queen rather than any representative of God. In this uncertain space whose very repressions are almost loved, objections like the Latin American priest’s can be raised as soon as eros and change are frankly broached, and Mother Mary’s pardon can be lazily preferred to any engagement in the life of the Creator. Indeed, as Martel emphasizes, some of the most ardently homophobic, traditionalist priests are the most self-indulgently gay. This truly is unacceptable, but one might have to go into the subject of the poles of pleasure and self-denial to understand how the contradictions involved might ever come about.

THE PRINCIPLE OF PHALLOS

It can be made to seem, and in the early Christianity of the Fathers, influenced not least by ascetical values of Greek philosophical thought, it was made to seem that Christianity is all about self-denial, especially where any eros is concerned. We are, after all, told to take up the cross and deny ourselves (Matt 1:24)…so shouldn’t we be denying sexual pleasure? As with so much of the bible there is paradox and apparent contradictions to resolve. Jesus also tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves, an almost impossible task if one is to hate one’s deepest, most self-defining urges. It is even easy for some to claim just this is meant if one takes the statement that if possible we should be eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:12), eunuchs however being by Jesus’ time a broad term that didn’t automatically signify castrate or even chaste but instead different and out of the family way. Origen who decided to take Jesus literally and castrated himself, later believed this was sin.

It was certainly rather crazy too, but was related to the idea that God somehow disapproves pleasure and punishes those who desire it. However, as has been observed, and most recently so by would-be church sex reformer Nadia Bolz-Weber, God created the clitoris which has no function at all outside of female pleasure. So we may well ask, is it likely God would wish to deny men all pleasure?

In the post-Freudian, post neo-Buddhist world that shapes our vocabulary and expression, I think we would be well justified to understand the demand to deny our selves as meaning something more akin to denying the ego with its wilfulness and cravings, while to love our selves means not ego but our deeper, greater selves that are related to God and others. We are not meant to be pleasure addicts, but we should still love our natural being and be able to take some pleasure in its affirmation.  And men, certainly, should not, like the neo-platonically minded St Augustine, regard every sexual feeling as arrogant uprising by the flesh in defiance of a holy God.

For gay men, and even to a degree straight men (for whom the penis is a form of power, or competition and at worst inclining to just control and even rape), there has to be a new acceptance and appreciation of phallos, the physical but also, beyond it, the spiritual dimension of the phallic. Something to the effect could hardly be more stressed in the inevitably little commented, little known story of Jeremiah’s loin cloth which again I have poeticized https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

From the beginning of life when the Jewish male is circumcised, the phallus is made to seem of interest to God, something that belongs to and, as it were, partakes in God. What this may do and mean for women is a subject in itself that need not be dealt with here; sufficient to affirm there is a subtle danger that amid contemporary emphasis on the rights of (and wrongs done) women, a new kind of de-spiritualizing, emasculating of men sets in that is not healthy but which unexpectedly gay men and vision might even help to overcome.

Emasculation did not take place in the case of the gay Michelangelo who stands in the Vatican pointing a way out of the confusion Vatican society has got itself into. Like Jeremiah who opposed the cult of the Queen of Heaven, but unlike the Vatican gays who look to mercy from Mother Mary, for the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement fresco, Michelangelo’s Mary, hardly any queen, is almost cowering away from the decrees of her Son. But at the same time, beyond the wall fresco and between the depictions of the prophets on the ceiling frescoes are the twenty Ignudi, the naked youths. The late art critic, Sister Wendy Beckett, found them highly enigmatic. She couldn’t understand their function (and nor really has any art critic unless to say they represent a perfection) but I think this should not be so difficult to grasp. It is simply a complement to other tendencies of Michelangelo’s essentially gay thought and vision.

SOME NAKED TRUTH?

   

Only recently a new star tennis player, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, shocked and puzzled fans by posting to social media: “I like me better naked….when you put clothes on you immediately put a character on. Clothes are adjectives, they are indicators….When you don’t have any clothes on it’s just you, raw and you can’t hide”.

Quite so. While the side of nudity one tends to hear about from  religion is some version of a “naked and ashamed” theme, this isn’t the only side the scriptures present, and neither is the “just sex” meaning that a secular world gives to nudity by contrast. The prophet Micah, for example, declares “I will go stripped and naked” (Mic 1:8).  There are a variety of functions and meanings to nudity (I interrogate this subject in Naked in Thessaloniki: Riddle and Signhttps://wp.me/p4kNWg-fD), but what is certain is that the prophetic tradition that the Vatican tends to downplay in favour of its rituals, is a rather nudity-as-truth one.

It is psychologically and symbolically correct that Jeremiah and Isaiah (another “naked” seer) should be set among the ignudi. It’s all part of the same thing: the clothed and the unclothed psychologically complement one another and interact; and in many respects nudity as for the ancient Greeks is a male, not a female theme. As a point of symbolism, it is male nudity that symbolizes “truth” because the male genitalia are exposed, exterior to the body, “solar”, not hidden as for females and “lunar”. Woman can symbolize truth as beauty, but truth is not always only beautiful. A mixture of Christian and secular values have rendered art and Hollywood and Playboy’s display of women natural in a way it traditionally wasn’t and spontaneously, symbolically isn’t. Put on an event like the World Naked Bike Ride that is legally able to dodge the “indecent exposure” charge and there will be more males, often gay, in attendance. Throughout nature it is the male of the species is colourful and/or exhibitionist.

At the risk of more self reference, I would point to the message of a chance realization in my poem Baroque https://wp.me/p2v96G-IS  It is based on an experience had while in Sicily where I visited a church, not without charm and power of a kind, but ultimately oppressive in its highly ornamented style (like a weighed down, over-decorated wedding cake – the pic below is not the place in question but a typification). Because I didn’t care to sensationalize,  I didn’t outright state the chief thought  prompting  the piece. This was the feeling upon stepping outside into a sunlit square, of an imperious need for a kind of renewal by just light, sun, and endless sky being naked to which would be like a  baptism in its own right. Enough to say the poem which ends

The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.

carries  more the thought of the second image than the first.

   

The statement is a purely personal one. It doesn’t belong with any programmes queer or other encouraging people to disrobe inside or outside of churches to protest something. However I would say that, just as Martel found some of the most rabidly homophobic Vatican clergy were the most actively gay, I am suspicious of those gay clergy and some non clerical gays  who too readily deny any real value to eros for their own or anyone’s condition and so treat nudity as little more than something else to ban, and little more than an aspect of modern pornography.

What dismissal of the erotic as part of the gay equation (which is taken up instead with rituals of the closet) can mean in real terms, is a flight from reality and change. It can accompany a disappearance into Mamma’s, or Mother Church’s or Mother Mary’s skirts, with a whole idolatry of clothes and ceremony  at the expense of a more “naked” and abrasive “male” truth. And  this must sometimes be pursued if there is ever to be reform. The ignudi as symbol of truth, change and perfection got painted in the right place.

 

 

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APOCALYPSE AS A GAY ISSUE

APOCALYPSE AS A GAY ISSUE

Improbable though it sounds, upon examination Apocalypse and associated themes like Antichrist and era change can be considered a rather gay theme both as regards its definition and opposition to  the idea. I don’t say this –  however relevant it is in a minor way – simply because of a recent controversy in Philadelphia. That American city, it means brotherly love and is name of one of the seven churches of Revelation (Rev 3 7-13), has had strife around a drag queen, hired in the interests of “diversity”, to storytell to children in a public library.  Controversially  the drag queen is named Annie Christ.

The Drag Queen Story Hour, not itself new, was launched in San Francisco in 2015 but struck a more radically odd note in 2017 when a drag queen called Xochi Mochi, dressed ominously as a five horned god/demon, “entertained”, if she didn’t frighten, children at Long Beach. What’s different now is that Philadelphia’s storyteller is suggestively named Annie Christ (quickly spoken Antichrist)…. Well, at least she didn’t call herself “Rapture”, something implicitly promised to those souls past and present symbolized by Revelation’s church of Philadelphia.

RAPTURE AND THE ARCHETYPAL

There are Christians who question whether the doctrine of so-called Rapture (of the believing prepared section of the church) was ever traditionally held, though something of the kind does seem indicated by certain parables of Jesus and St Paul to the Thessalonians. Some maintain it was the nineteenth century invention of an Anglo-Irish priest, but that’s disinformation (see Ireland’s Apocalyptic puzzles https://wp.me/p2v96G-19s ).

Yet even if Rapture belief could be proved to be only modern, that still wouldn’t favour its automatic disqualification from consideration. Since truth about the end times is said to be largely sealed up until its time approaches (Dan 12:9), new realizations are theoretically possible with the passing of time.

By those who emphasize it, the end is usually forecast as something due “soon”, though suddenly or quickly would seem nearer both the original sense and the perennial one. Whether one believes Rapture teaching is old or new, it should be recognized that parallel to the biblical theme there’s a more mythic/archetypal one.

The chief mythical/archetypal equivalent of Rapture to heaven and the marriage banquet of the Lamb, is the story of the youth Ganymede suddenly snatched to heaven to serve at the banqueting table of Zeus who seizes him in the form of an eagle. Over time, suddenly  disappearing Ganymede would even became a symbol of resurrection in a Christian art that stressed an immortality that entails being specifically, materially, raised from earth to heaven. The Thessalonian account of Rapture has those in their graves first taken up before the living are snatched away (1 Thess 4:7).

Jupiter is the Bethlehem Star and thus a major planetary symbol of Christianity (see Christianity and the Jupiter Difference, https://wp.me/p4kNWg-mb ), but the largest moon in the solar system orbits Jupiter and has been called Ganymede.

The Jupiter/Ganymede connection represented symbolic logic for sky-mapping astronomers, but for skygazers and as regards Christianity, the connection of this unlikely pair overlooks how in essence Ganymede also represents a gay myth and archetypally Jung’s ascensional Puer (child, boy or youth) impulse more psychologically. As such it has all the elements of special fate, shock, novelty, separation and speed liable to surround gay persons and/or issues. It’s a typology which, however, has more to do celestially with Uranus than Jupiter or any moon of Jupiter. Suitably, at the Pentecost birth in AD 30 of a would-be raptured Christian church, Jupiter and Uranus were in perfect fortunate aspect.

Myths of Uranus (Father Air) symbolically encompass birth control (Uranus tries to prevent Gaia from giving birth) and also castration; Uranus is castrated by his son Saturn who is restrictive Father Time – Uranus is a free principle outside of or ahead of time and the times one lives in, and this allies Uranus with the futuristic/prophetic grand plan of anything.

PROPHETIC URANIANS

Given the wide and shifting range of reference, it follows that Uranus enjoys associations not just with the prominent castration theme of his story, but “different” sex, or at least whatever or whoever is out of the family way – mythically Uranus is not well related or even clearly related in any family terms. His origin is abnormally uncertain – he can be fathered by Aethyr, or by Chaos or parthenogenically by Gaia. He can be born from day (Hemera) or from night (Nyx) or Gaia who can be seen as his mother parthenogenically but may also be his wife!

In harmony with  such fabulous levels of variation, across time and cultures we find the crucial “eunuch” word linked to Uranus’ castration theme can itself prove ambiguous and changeable. It’s a floating signifier that may or may not be taken literally where castration is concerned. Cross culturally, and certainly by Jesus’ time, eunuch was a quite loose, broad term that could include anyone different and out of the family way.  It was  thus nearest to the modern concept of “gay” or traditionally suggestive expressions like “confirmed bachelor”. All astrologers know that unless Uranus is somehow prominent and emphasized in a (male) birth chart, the individual will not be same sex inclined. It’s the reason in the early modern period that produced the first Gay Lib movements in Germany, gays were called Uranians (surely a more accurately descriptive term than gay or queer!).

Apocalypse is associated with above all two biblical figures, the prophet Daniel and John the Revelator who plainly knew the book of Daniel very well, while Daniel admits to some major influence from the much less apocalyptic Jeremiah but nonetheless revolutionary, almost heretical proponent of a “new” covenant.(Jer 31:31). What joins all three prophets is a strong handle upon the Uranian principle in some fashion.

DANIEL THE EUNUCH

According to Jewish tradition, including Josephus, Daniel was a eunuch in Babylon. We can’t be certain of this but it’s highly likely and the claim lets character and themes fall into better place. The prophet Isaiah anyway tells King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:18) that even some of his sons will be taken away and made eunuchs in Babylon, and undeniably it was common for royals and elite males of defeated nations to be rendered eunuchs.

It is indicated from the outset that Daniel belongs in the royal/aristocratic bracket (Dan 1:3). That he was chosen with some other Hebrew youths for a special courtly education and because he was “handsome and without blemish”, might just indicate he was not castrate; but in context and for the king who had ordered it, castration would not be deemed any blemish in the way it could be for Jews to whom it would impose an outsider status. (You couldn’t enter the temple, but this would soon be destroyed, so Daniel would not be affected at that level). Also relevant is that nowhere do we read of Daniel’s marriage or offspring.

It is impossible to tell whether Daniel’s radically protesting Puer style character could have owed more to inborn traits or the psychological effects of castration (though it’s said unless castration occurs before adolescence there is no real alteration to the nature and direction of the sex drive); but in no time the Uranian, in-your-face type factor kicks in. Though Daniel  sits at the royal table, he does not wish “to defile himself” with the king’s (doubtless non-kosher) food and drink, so he appeals to Ashpenaz, the palace master of eunuchs to help him and his immediate Hebrew friends.

Many Christian conservatives are obsessively attached to the supposed superiority of the dated, often inaccurate King James bible; but it is believed at this point in the story the KJV is more accurate than newer versions with its “God brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the chief of eunuchs” (Dan 1:9). Ashpenaz is sympathetic but fears for his own head if Daniel should look worse for wear on a different diet; however he doesn’t interfere with his  guard or steward with specific care for Daniel who agrees to a test that Daniel and his friends, drawn into the challenge, must look as well or better after ten days for their vegetarian and teetotal regime. This test they manage to pass with flying colours and in consequence the steward arranges for them them to continue the whole of their royal training under the same conditions again with success which after three years the king recognizes.

It’s pretty clear what’s going on here. Handsome eunuch Daniel has taken the fancy of the eunuch/gay palace master, sympathetic to his style. Uranian tastes run to the original, different, revolutionary and futuristic, so the palace master is more willing than most would be to lend a sympathetic  ear to an attractive stirrer.

There is some parallel to the case of Jeremiah (who for all sorts of reasons we should assume was gay). When his prophecies bring him to imprisonment in a miry pit, it’s a kindly Ethiopian palace eunuch appeals to the king to secure his rescue. (As though to repay the deed centuries later, it is an Ethiopian eunuch through the intervention of the apostle Philip, becomes the first African Christian and noticeably, though not himself a eunuch, Philip is uniquely recorded as being raptured away from the eunuch’s sight (Acts 8:39)  – horizontally, not vertically like Elijah,  but my point is that “eunuchs” and rapture themes have a way of going together (and if Elijah wasn’t a eunuch, then his unusual lack of family and his running war with an aggressive woman, Jezebel, puts him somewhat within the Uranian frame).

Reverting to Ashpenaz,  the club, the gay grape vine exist and things happen. Favouring needn’t automatically imply it’s done for expected sexual returns. Looking back I could cite at least three cases where I have radically intervened in lives, pulling strings in a way that changed personal prospects, and for little more than that I had an idle fancy for or curiosity about the youth concerned. Of course such interference in fate happens outside gay society too and notoriously so in the casting couch as the #MeToo movement keeps reminding us, but it  has traditionally happened rather more within gay circles due to their being at society’s margins.

Involved in the case of Daniel is the rather spectacular point that – so far as I know – not even gay theology has stressed and developed, namely that God is seen as using and working through the Ashpenaz connection and its attraction. In which case, how much are you prepared to argue God disapproved and never intended the nature of such attraction?

Daniel survives his diet and worse (most famously the lion’s den – celestially the lion is the opposite sign to Uranus-ruled, skies and air associated Aquarius) and with suitable originality went on to describe, as no biblical figure had ever done before, the grand plan and course of the ages. He is shown into the far future and the finale of the little horn, the presumptuous prince, the Anti Messiah who becomes the Antichrist and Great Beast of John’s Revelation.

JOHN THE BELOVED

This youngest of the disciples who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper has been portrayed in traditional Christian art as coy or feminine for doing so. Art’s “feminine” John tradition (the basis of Dan Brown’s crazy theory that Leonardo’s Last Supper John is really the Magdalene) perhaps began as art’s nod to the way that believers, male as well as female, are (almost queerly) rendered “brides” of Christ. This however can ignore the church is also a “male child” snatched/raptured to heaven (Rev 12:5) like Ganymede. However, historic John was not notably either bride or child but rather  Jesus’ “son of thunder”, bold enough to be at the cross unlike other disciples, and another of the “in your face” protesting types as I think we can detect from his writing.

If in line with tradition and Jung, who detected psychological connections between the Gospel and Revelation, you believe that John authored Revelation, then the “son of Thunder” certainly found his voice and his roar in the last book of the bible! As against much of the bible, Revelation is pictorial to the point of cinematic, and I would suspect that there are points in the text where its words simply attempt equivalence to something seen or felt rather than anything uttered for the author’s hearing.

Given how unlike Jesus’ voice-print and usual expression it is, one might question whether the Jesus of Revelation specifically said he will spit or vomit the Laodiceans from his mouth, as opposed to just indicating severe disapproval. The given words (Rev 3:16) sound more like a “son of Thunder” utterance!

In the same way, no matter what the mystery of the 144,000 of Israel symbolizes, it sounds more like John interpreting    something  than the reported angel speaking to him when  the Revelator is shown  a crowd of  men who it’s said  are virgins who haven’t “defiled themselves with women” (Rev 14:4). Though I will attempt an explanation near the conclusion here, at face value this is a rather impossible idea. It is in contradiction of such as the biblical statement the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4). So unless, improbably, orgiastic extremes were envisaged, the men couldn’t  automatically be defiled with women. But just like Daniel who doesn’t want to “defile himself” with royal foods, thundering John doesn’t want sex with women; he favours in-your-face attitudes from protesting persons with lives lived according to Uranian impulses favourable to separation and difference, persons who belong like Uranus more to heaven than earth. Even if, as is quite possible, the real meaning is  these men have not been spiritually defiled by the world/earth (often identified with the female principle), the choice of imagery making that point, still raises a few questions about the author.

The character, attitudes and eros of the Beloved Disciple is a subject in itself. I interrogate it in Part Two of Testament of the Magi, (https://goo.gl/x8KASy) so there’s no call to enlarge on it here. But this much can be said. We do know a few things about John from extra-biblical sources which, whether they represent literal historical truth or more likely just reflect a general impression of him, are still in keeping with the rather Uranian profile proposed here, like for example the explosion against the heretic Cerenthinus in the bath house or the strange doting on a rather church-troubling nuisance of a youth at Smyrna as reported  in  Eusebius The Church History  sourced from Clement of Alexandria.

AN EROTIC AND ESOTERIC MOMENT

And then, in Revelation itself, surely one of the most futuristic, in-your-face testaments of all time, there is a strange, almost erotic but certainly esoteric moment when the Revelator sees the triumphant Christ returning to earth as the White Horse rider. His robe is evidently fluttering and raised by the speed of the horse, allowing the Revelator to glimpse the name “inscribed” (tattooed?) upon his thigh.

It happens that by tradition Jupiter is not just arbiter of truth, exponent of any doctrines or philosophies but also ruler of horses and in medical astrology ruler of the thighs, For someone like Jesus born under Jupiter, that planet’s bodily zone can quite appropriately declare the identity of the person, especially when it also amounts in itself to a doctrine of divinity: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16). But to be realistic here, nothing quite alters that where we focus attention is a key to our mind and preferences. And in the final analysis, it cannot be said that the average straight male will usually direct focus on the thighs of other men.

However true and revealing John’s observation may be in itself, at this point there is still surely something homoerotic in the vision and uranian in the mention of it. But then there may be things one might need to be uranian to be able to see or know at all, which is perhaps why Isaiah controversially implicitly ranks the eunuch higher than those who have offspring (Is 56:5).

THE TURNING OF THE AGES, CHRISTIAN AND AQUARIAN

Isaiah may not  rank the heteronormative as high as some conservative Christians, but almost by convention nowadays among those who anticipate a “soon” Rapture,Tribulation, Antichrist and Millennial age under a returned Christ, the gay revolution, or even just social toleration of gays, is itself regarded as a harbinger of the end. It’s all part of “as in the days of Noah, as in the day of Lot”  (Luk 17:28). So in their view Sodom and Gomorrah necessarily returns. And disregarded amid this despite everything scholars remind them,  is that the men who want Lot’s daughter, (not to say sex with angels!), are clearly bisexual, even satanistic rapists; but even at that, and no matter how irregular Sodom’s sex may have been, sex sin in not even cited by Ezekiel in his summary of the city’s evils (Ezek 16:49/50).

As there’s no smoke without fire there is  however no point denying that there can be an element of Sodom returned in, for example, the kind of exploitation of the under-aged in everything from prostitution to porn that the highly politicized gay establishment hasn’t help correct lest exposure harm the reputation of the larger community; and there has been a controversial hostility towards freedom of  conscience and belief in the sometimes vindictive cases brought against Christian businesses by gay activists. And let’s not talk about problems like the behaviour of exhibitionists and  those drag queens who interrupt Christian services and suggest a kind of demonic opposition a la Annie Christ.

But none of this is the whole or even the main story; and certainly it is not because any Antichrist is approaching that there are more gays in the world and we keep hearing things gay. Obviously gays are more visible and “come out” because there is no longer legal ban on their very existence and voice. But it’s more complex than that, and in belongs with what might seem to some the “mystery” that so many people are also turning vegan or that there is a move to renewable energy and that technology makes remarkable advances.

Quite simply, while on the one hand society is disintegrating and in ways consistent with the sign of the current era, Pisces, and negatively so through such themes as drugs, addiction, fake news, confused mysticism and misplaced permissiveness  to the point of decadence, as against this situation themes of the incoming Aquarian age also impinge. The general drive is thus increasingly towards Uranian individualism, self-perfection, a refusal of the earth-bound, (which can even include consumption of meat). Increasingly the impulses are Uranian, upwards and aerial, a case of “there’s nowhere to go but up” a la Ganymede. But along with this, sex and relating themselves becomes more Uranian, which means there will be more same sex attraction and less standardized gender roles – many Aquarians like Princess Stephanie of Monaco have always even looked more androgynous than the average person.

Unless as regards the terrible hypocrisy and corruption allowed to surround it, there are no “signs of the times”, and there should not even be extreme shock, in the revelations concerning the Vatican and its ubiquitous (supposedly 80%) homosexuality just revealed in Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican.  An institution supposedly run on total celibacy is not going to attract too many red blooded heterosexuals and the chart of the Vatican shows gay relevant Uranus in the house of sex in easy trine to a hidden Mars (men) in the hidden twelfth; so that matter was always pretty obvious and hardly any news.

Quite what the new customs, values and laws and even understanding of love might be when the Aquarian age is finally, fully arrived we can’t yet  know. It is however impossible that the gay/Uranian theme which biblically and in many societies is  only a hidden stream in previous ages, under a specifically Uranus-ruled age will not become more accepted and mainstream. The controversy around gays  is a battle that conservative theology and attitudes will lose. Rather like insisting on the basis of the bible that the earth is flat, conservative insistence on the inherent evil of anything gay associated as already caused irreparable damage to individuals and churches in its failure to reach new understandings;  but one reason it can and will hang on to its position  in the immediate is because what I have been saying can be too easily dismissed as explanation through the supposedly verboten, or just foolish distorting lens of mere astrology. There is, it will be said, no behaviour and values modifying  Aquarian age on the horizon, there is no such thing…….Really?

WHY THE BIBLICAL MILLENIUM SEEMS NECESSARILY IDENTICAL WITH THE AGE OF AQUARIUS.

  

It should be noted that in Revelation Jesus is pictured more than once as a Lion, the lion of the tribe of Judah. The ideal or lodestar of an era will always be in its opposite sign, which for Aquarius is Leo, the lion. In the currently ending era of Pisces, Jesus, born under Virgo, sign of bread and the wheatsheaf, is the bread come down from heaven, the ideal of many in the Piscean era. But more is involved than just this.

The Second Advent proper, which is the visible return of Christ to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation, (not any more hidden Rapture event which furnishes the opportunity to escape the Tribulation time), is plainly envisaged as an Aquarian/Uranian event. The symbol glyph of Aquarius is lightning and the Coming of the Son of Man is compared to the lightning which crosses the heavens (Matt 24:27). But this is still not the clincher.

During the Millennium, a vast temple is to be built. It is described in great length and technical detail by the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezek 41: 18-19 we learn of the interior: “And on all the walls all around in the inner room and the nave  there was a pattern. It was formed of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned towards the palm tree on the one side and the face of a young lion turned towards the palm tree on the other side.

There are echoes here of Ezekiel’s introductory vision of the divine chariot with the four living creatures with their faces, one of a human, to the right the face of a lion, to the left the face of an ox and then an eagle. These are clearly the four elements (air, fire, earth and water respectively) and also their signs Aquarius, Leo, Taurus and Scorpio, the latter anciently often represented by an eagle rather than a scorpion. Whereas however Ezekiel’s initial and initiatory vision is on the level of all that’s permanent in existence, the millennial temple keeps to the symbolism of the age: the axis polarity sign  of the human but would-be angelic/cherubic Aquarius is with the more divine, messianic lion.

GUYS FEELING “DEFILED” BY WOMEN.

I will now have a speculative go at interpreting the almost impossibly strange statement from John the Revelator about the 144000 Virgin Israelite males who have not “defiled” themselves with women. As I’ve said, this is not even a regular biblical idea – it sounds almost more like a gay one than anything. It does so even though it can be conceded many men do feel a little compromised in their being by women to the extent woman is “earth”, the Dionysian swamp of nature so vividly described by anti-feminist feminist Camille Paglia who is sympathetic to those men, often gay, whose masculine protest against the female principle has functioned as a motor to much civilisation.  On the religious plain, however, I think immediately of the gay poet, Auden, who was pretty self-indulgent around men, yet felt he had sinned against God when he went to bed with a woman. It wasn’t natural to him to do it.

Whatever else the 144,000 are and mean,  when they are first referenced in Rev 7 they are to be ‘sealed” (protected?) before Tribulation plagues can manifest, so they stand at the midpoint of something – specifically the ages or aions. It would be symbolically fitting if the dying age of Pisces, “ruled” by Neptune which is about mysteries, the hidden and disappeared, ended with the disappearance of the Rapture  and   “Behold I show you a mystery” writes St Paul in connection to that subject. It would  also fit if, by contrast, the new age of Aquarius were birthed at the return like lightning across the skies of Christ’s return to Jerusalem. But whatever one envisages or believes, in-between an end and a new beginning John seems to assume an interval between the two ages, an interval taken up with the marriage in heaven and the Tribulation on earth. The 144.000 could thus be seen as marking a crucial transition point, a  point of rest, reversal and a taking breath rather like the half hour of silence in heaven at the beginning of Rev 8 which follows the first reference to the 144,000 in the previous chapter.

To appreciate the meaning one  also has to consider how Revelation  presents its extreme subject matter.  It describes in the only way anyone would be able to millennia in advance,  what sounds like and could be a description of a super-destructive global conflict, a WW111. It describes these effects as though direct judgements God, a sort of Jove’s thunderbolts rather than what God permits, though biblically “the wrath of God”, like damnation is really always the absence of God. Mindful of just this kind of active/passive reversal, on the same basis, if we were conveying the same vision today, we might as  easily speak of the 144,000 women who had not defiled themselves with men. It could well amount to the same thing as men not defiling themselves with women, if it reflected those concerned  were are all essentially Uranian and  they had not, like Auden, done what was unnatural to themselves.

I don’t wish to suggest my speculation unlocks the only possible meaning of the very real mystery of the 144,000, but it would make a degree of symbolic sense that, at what is effectively the brief interval or midpoint of two ages during which a marriage is celebrated and one which itself queerly renders both sexes involved a “bride of Christ”, there should be a still point. At this point and with and through some persons or principle can occur the  reversal of energies towards the new age which releases a new eros with a fresh sense of what’s  natural and will unite people. The 144,000 who sing “a new song” ( Rev 14:3) can represent the new force of  reversal.

CONVERGING PERSPECTIVES

To  admit the archetypal and symbolic to the subject of revealed apocalypse is liable to place a more perennial, eternal “now” upon the more future orientated “soon” of prophecy. The big question of our times is nonetheless whether the two perspectives are drawing ever closer together towards a more literal crisis and fulfilment. What about the uptick of quakes and volcanoes, the radical climate changes, the fact that according to a centuries old prophecy the current pope is the last, that prominent Jewish rabbis expect the third temple will soon be built, that their Messiah will soon arrive (even this year) and even a red heifer necessary for dedicating the new temple has been born?

In some articles on this site and also McCleary’s Additions, I have tried to keep up with developing ideas and possibly significant events in this area. These are not trivial questions, certainly they are more serious than the irreverent trivializations of the subject into which the people of Philadelphia have been caught.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in culture, ethics, gay, Mysteries, psychology, religion

 

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DISSIDENT ABOUT DANTE

DANTE AND HIS STATUS

To have problems with either Dante or Shakespeare might be to have problems with western civilisation itself. According to T. S. Eliot, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third”.

If you can ignore Goethe, for literature that may be true enough  – in music we might substitute Bach and Wagner – but what renders Dante and Shakespeare a crucial pair  is not just their similarity in terms of poetic brilliance but their complementary difference. Dante aspires heavenwards as surely as a gothic spire, while Shakespeare, world-conquering as a Renaissance mariner, explores outwards. One is explicitly religious, the other implicitly (as in Macbeth).

Some people, especially the Irish, see the two poets in competition and keep asking who wins? Having lost both their historic language and culture, the bard’s linguistic freedom appeals in one direction while the architectonics of Dante in another. The Catholic side of Ireland would like to think Dante wins by a slight margin, which in effect he does if a rare poetic sublimity as opposed to general elevation of tone is the overriding consideration.

T.S. Eliot felt nothing in western poetry quite compares to parts of the Paradiso and certainly little enough in English does – the nearest comparison would be a piece influenced by Dante, Shelley’s Epipsychidion, with its waves of orgasmic emotion, while outside English there is the ecstatic conclusion of Goethe’s Faust. The Protestant Yeats allows Dante to be the “greatest imagination in Christendom”. But here my unusual problems with Dante begin, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt I should pursue to its source my at times real irritation with him. It has led me to a radical conclusion about what and  how the West thinks and believes, things which, beyond his originality and encyclopaedic range, Dante often simply reflects almost too well.

A PARADISO PROBLEM

Because it is great and sublime poetry I should like to like Dante, but as regards especially the Paradiso, I can only manage reading it in short spurts to get through it at all because something about it grates and jars and it gives me a hard-to-describe feeling of being cheated.

It must be immediately stated this is not, or not fully, based on reactions either Protestant or modern. It’s true that Protestants only began to discover Dante after the hauntingly beautiful  Commedia  illustrations of William Blake caught their attention two centuries ago and they have usually hesitated before a Purgatario (arguably the most charming and colourful part of the Commedia) they don’t believe in. However, many read it as just symbolic of a “sanctification” process associated more with this life than the next. And in some respects, especially in his criticism of the popes and Rome and given his quite extensive biblical literacy, Dante can anyway strike a quite “Protestant” note.

Nor is my problem the “modern” one which regards the whole of Dante as terribly “medieval” and its Paradiso, drenched in light, as good as someone on drugs gone bonkers. (The drugs theory of Dante’s inspiration owes something to the fact the poet belonged to the guild of apothecaries who also functioned as booksellers  in Florence for the latest manuscripts. So it’s possible Dante enhanced a natural visionary sense with chemicals).

The fact is you can be a modern unbeliever and still be entranced by Dante like Samuel Beckett for whom Dante was some of his preferred reading, and  atheist Clive James who has produced his own critically praised translation and who says somewhere that if there is any work should qualify as a bible, it should be Dante’s Commedia. Certainly there are people for whom Dante is a kind of bible. There is for example a Daily Dante Lenten Discipline of reading him!

But with that kind of recommendation I am a bit nearer to my visceral problem with the poet. He challenges, denies or revises at times to the point of near blasphemy, everything from scripture to the nature of inspiration and the poetic role itself in order to unfold, and often impose his vision.

I remain to be convinced that Petrarch’s cool response to Dante and his legacy marks simple resentment and jealousy as opposed to discretion. I suggest that as a poet with himself at times a “prophetic” message, he was simply unhappy with things Dante and his opus represent; and these did have critics from the first. But the sheer popular success of Dante as a new style poet employing  the vernacular would soon render his legacy hard for especially any Italian to question without bringing the house down.

The very language Italians now speak is the dialect of Florence which, by a nineteenth century political fiat it was decided, because of Dante, would be privileged above all other dialects as the national tongue. And for all time the vignettes of Dante’s cosmic journey have captured essential Italian character as surely as his contemporary, Masaccio, captured still recognizable Italian looks. Dante is taught in schools like so much bible and Shakespeare. So many of his lines are undeniably haunting like the famous “E’n la sua volantade e nostra pace / ell e quel mare al qual tutto se move “, (in his will is our peace/ that is the sea towards which all being moves”) words which seem to come from afar, drifting like a bird over a bright scene.

PROPHETIC SEEING OR FAKING JUST WHAT?

So altogether Dante can’t be avoided, so much so that as a national or international treasure he can scarcely be criticized either. He himself, with shameless vanity, declares himself as early as Inferno’s Limbo region, equal companion with Homer, Ovid, Virgil and others. He doesn’t go so far as to say he is the equal of the biblical prophets; he nevertheless as good as assumes their mantle as though he was one of them, especially as (even while admitting he has forgotten and can’t describe much of it), he claims to have seen or visited heaven itself. Biblically at least, it is only prophets who have been admitted to heaven and the council of Yahweh (Jer 23:18).

Any errors or memory lapses are plastered over and concealed, with exclamations “I saw, I saw” as though he really did see. Affirmations get chanted in tones fit for Isaiah and offered as though pure scripture …. at the same time as the poet incongruously calls upon Apollo to be his muse and evidently thinks so highly of this figure of pagan myth, he even seems to approve his cruel skinning of his musical rival. the satyr Myrsus. While obviously I am not Dante, I chance to be one of the very few today who has produced anything like visionary/metaphysical poetry and I know I could not, whether seriously or in play, treat of inspiration in Dante’s cavalier manner. One stresses as a sort of honest courtesy to readers what any inspiration means. (1)

By the time Dante arrives at the Paradiso, he has learned some lessons, but the overall impression is still of a rather self-glorifying and at times unforgiving soul. The enraged cursing of the already damned Filippo Argenti in Canto 8 of Inferno and still more the treatment of Bocca in Canto 32 where Dante actively tortures a hideously damned soul whom he impels to speak through a promise he doesn’t keep, has something obscene about it, while having Virgil exclaim in praise of the poet’s rage against Argenti, “Blessed the womb that bore you….” is disconcerting if not distasteful.

In presenting himself and/or Beatrice as redeemed, enlightened spokespersons for the inspiration of a world in spiritual darkness, Dante is necessarily compelled into some painful exaggerations or scripture-ignoring distortions at times preposterous. For example in Paradiso Canto 21, Beatrice (who has become Dante’s mentor in place of Virgil and as a vehicle of grace is teaching him including through her celestial beauty), become brighter than the sun itself in the heaven of Saturn, can’t now smile at Dante lest he be burned to a crisp. It is not possible, especially not before the general resurrection of believers, that Beatrice could be either so powerful or transformed as to do this. Dante has already accorded her power beyond perhaps the angels.

IMAGINATION AND IMAGE

But in modification of this severe judgement and to repeat Yeats, the latter was, however unintentionally, right to define Dante is the imagination of Christendom. Yeats meant this approvingly but “imagination” can have a downside and be deceptive. In religion it can bolster the vain dreams of the false prophets (Jer 23:16) and Dante largely reflects directions of the western imagination  to whose shape his vision conforms. It does so even when it makes assumptions of a kind which turn the Judaeo-Christian tradition on its head and psychologically into a kind of idolatrous expression of soul over spirit.

Dante’s is the supreme religious literary expression of a larger western idolatry of the image, and thus of the desire to see rather than to hear God, to contemplate as opposed to interact with God and to shift ordinary religious experience into a matter of seeking favours and contacting with intermediaries from saints to angels rather than deity. Dante himself embarks on his saving quest through the intervention of no less than Beatrice, St Lucy and the Virgin working together. What he discovers  about God is arguably less than what one might derive from the seventeenth century Metaphysical poets.

While, as said, Dante like many people today claiming NDEs, admits that he has forgotten much of his paradise vision and that he can only reconstruct it, the reconstruction is too often unsatisfactory no matter how glorious the poetic tones and images that sustain it. It corresponds neither to what the scripture he otherwise often refers to in the Commedia indicates about the afterlife, nor to the kind of things we might reasonably generalize from the diverse testimonies of NDE experiences today.

Nor does it satisfy the ethical sense or spiritual feeling to read of the dubious persons supposedly enjoying high blessedness in heaven like for example the emperor Justinian (seen as super corrupt and even demon possessed by some Greek Christians according to Procopius’ The Secret History). Numbers of Dante’s glorified notables have been chosen largely to fit the poet’s political theories and bolster his underlying conviction about the need for a secular saviour. This should be someone in the style of Emperor Henry V11 who had inconveniently died, someone independent of the corruptions of the papacy and ruling within an ideally church/state divided world, fulfilling the greater destiny of Rome first outlined by Virgil, Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

ODD HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP

Because the emperor Constantine’s established toleration of Christianity in 312 rendered the Virgilian ideal at least possible, this ruler (albeit criticized by Dante’s Justinian for transferring the imperial capital from  West to East ), is still glorified in heaven. The level of distinction is in blind disregard  that this emperor only formally converted on his deathbed, having largely used the church to further his position and support imperial unity, while he himself was guilty of murdering his wife and son. Arguably Constantine also stands as chief inspiration of the evil of most subsequent holy wars because of his dream that he could win battle victory under the sign of the cross. (Here, if ever, was a lying dream no Christians should have ever endorsed, given its source in a clearly unrighteous person not even at the time adhering to the faith).

The Holy War ideal is nonetheless celebrated in Dante’s heaven of Mars where knights of Christ, crusaders etc, have their reward. The whole of Paradiso is divided up into heavens of the seven planets (lowest moon and highest Saturn) in accordance with some notion of universal “justice” which with “love” should rule all things including celestial cycles. Saturn as a symbol of highest heaven below the Empyrean is odd given that across history, and certainly in medieval times, Saturn was a devil planet, source of misfortune, and misery. Dante places in this exalted sphere the dubiously uncorrupted St Peter Damien, a fanatical ascetic whose enthusiastic condemnation of gays had inquisitorial effects. St Dominic, a major promoter of the Inquisition, is found in Dante’s heaven of the sun.

In fairness, it would obviously be hard for anyone from poet to theologian to convincingly imagine the divisions and rewards of heaven; all would probably be unsatisfactory. Dante’s celestial levels at which souls are able to manifest to him (they really dwell in the Empyrean and elsewhere) are a sort of appearance only within the larger celestial rose, an exquisite garden overseen by the Virgin for Christ. It may sound all terribly mystical, but Dante’s distribution of bliss and glory is really quasi-philosophical; and as opposed to the would-be objective, schematic arrangements that ensues, it would have been closer to Christian tradition to have simply housed souls according to either or both of

a) how closely the individual had been to fulfilling the divine will and generally “knowing” the heart and mind of God (like the Beloved Disciple or the prophet Jeremiah to whom some of his contemporaries compared Jesus) or

b) emphasising the qualities of the planets over their order outwards to the Empyrean. Thus the poet could have put the heaven of Venus (signifying love) at the summit, if only because the Christ of the last things, the apocalyptic Christ, is self-declared as “the Bright Morning Star” (i.e.Venus) who has overcome Venus as Lucifer who is source of evil). Or again, since the Paradiso describes a progressive increase of light, Dante could have placed the Sun at the planetary summit.

One of the weakest points of the celestial organization (indeed of the Commedia’s entire system of value judgement at its three levels) is exemplified by the treatment of Cunizza da Ramono within   the level of Venus. Having earlier doomed to the hell of incontinence the unfortunate Francesca da Rimini, who surely had some case for divine forgiveness, Dante lets off the also real life Cunizza lightly, even glorifies her. A sort of Good Wife of Bath figure, she had had four husbands and two lovers, and left the first husband to become mistress of the poet Sordello, (whom Dante meets up with in Purgatorio). She is permitted to rejoice and she even laughs that she has forgiven herself because she has at last found the meaning of love in its divine aspect and thus she can make what was her occasion of sin the basis of redeemed life.

Ignoring that one could well stress God alone forgives sins (Mk 22:7) and that all redemption has something to do with “predestination” (as higher up even St Bernard concedes) never human choice alone, Dante’s depiction has to be understood against his system of values more generally. According to this – and it would have seemed more meaningful to medieval persons imposed on by tradition and parental authority – we have an inborn nature that must be fulfilled. Denied, it becomes unhealthy and will run to evil. This is true enough, as is also a belief that if God forgives us we need to forgive ourselves too. Even so, here and at points throughout the Commedia, Dante’s treatment of evil finishes over-rationalized, at times shallow vis this emphasis (perhaps never more so than when he attributes what today we would call homosexuality to mostly bad wives). To cite an Italian example against him, Italy today is the chief centre of revived practices of exorcism. Its exorcists would be the first to insist evil can run deep, and some bad impulses can even result from such as occult involvements and family curses, a case of the sins of the fathers visited to the fourth generation ( Ex 20:5). Much more is involved than a few thwarted impulses.

MARIA AND BERNARD OBSESSIONS

Having read and written in the past on this subject of exorcism and its effectiveness (2), I would further add that the effectiveness of exorcism (some are carried on over years!) can be weakened by another factor which features as one of the stand-out contradictions of the Paradiso and which I would associate with especially St Bernard of Clairvaux.

At almost its highest point of the Paradiso, from the Empyrean emerges Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. St Bernard is one of the most important figures in the Paradiso because it is his prayers to the Virgin permit the poet to “see” God. However, even if by divine grace Dante was granted some kind of visionary glimpse of the Beyond, we can rest assured he did not see St Bernard in highest heaven. Not only do the gospels famously declare “The first shall be last and the last, first” but Bernard could be grateful if he was even permitted the level of Dante’s moon.

At one time the almost uncrowned ruler of Europe for sheer influence with its rulers, as a preacher of the Crusades that caused the unnecessary death of thousands and an interferer in lives – his unrelenting attacks upon the philosopher Abelard as a heretic was behind the attack on him and castration, Bernard was one of the maddest of the Catholic mystics. This was less because he was so unwashed his fragrance was hard for his devotees to manage, but because he was an eccentric who believed the Virgin had fed him drops of her breast milk. Bernard couldn’t doubt this and nor could Dante and all devotees  because had not Bernard declared one only needed to have the Virgin perpetually in one’s mind never to be deceived?

Bernard’s devotion to the Virgin which Dante so trendily follows, helped form a vision which turned the West towards a cult of the Virgin exceeding anything prior to it. As in Dante’s vision, Christ for Bernard, though notionally acknowledged as redeemer, becomes as good as subordinate to an all-encompassing vision of the Virgin’s glory, “empress” of heaven.

Standard Catholic teaching is that the Virgin is venerated, not worshipped, but practically that can hardly be said to hold and one needn’t look far in the Paradiso to trace the effects of Bernard’s doctrines upon Dante’s representatively western/catholic spirituality as they are already dramatically present in the Purgatorio. In Canto 5 there is the case of Da Montefeltro the leader whose place of death was unknown but to whom the poet endeavours to supply an ending and a pious one to somebody religiously indifferent. Staggering towards the river losing his lifeblood.

There my sight failed me and my last word sped/ Forth in the name of Mary; there headlong/ I fell; there left only my body dead.

Hell shrieks in rage at this saving of this soul, in effect by Mary at a very last minute call. Here if ever is the neo-medieval gospel according to St Bernard. Last minute conversions are not a feature of biblical record, the individual is supposed to be working out their salvation in the virtual purgatory of this life (Phil 2:12); but there is undeniably the case of the thief on the cross – whose same day transfer to Paradise itself bespeaks a system of grace in which the toils and waiting of Purgatory have no place. The thief however makes appeal to the crucified Jesus, not to the Mary beneath the cross. This is entirely consistent with two lead statements from earliest tradition and which exclude Mary from any salvation equation: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved “ (Rom 10:13) and “there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven, given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

SEEING AND APPROACHING GOD: BEATIFIC VISION

Dante’s Bernard-inspired distortions of the original doctrine, are not limited to this rather crucial point. They enter to infect the whole aim, attitude and basis of his Paradiso vision, which is to “see” God, the Beatific Vision. In Canto 32 we read, what by some standards could be called pious blasphemy, the following words of Bernard to Dante: “See that face resembling Christ/closer than all; for that bright light alone/can make you fit to look on Christ”. This is then followed by around a page of the bliss and glories of Mary as the angels chant “Salve Regina” to heaven’s own “empress”.

There is much that’s between ignorant and shocking here. Fit to see Christ? Dante and Bernard should be aware that in numerous instances like 1 Pet 1,2 the original message it is the Spirit who sanctifies and prepares whether souls or church to become faithful disciples or devoted bride of Christ. Moreover – at least theoretically – there should never anyway be any problems about “seeing” Christ any time, anywhere.

As the human face of God, as divine incarnation and mediator, Jesus is simply available, as in his lifetime, to be approached. In Revelation the redeemed of many nations plainly see the enthroned Redeemer as a matter of course (Rev 7:9,10). Nothing could be further from the author of Hebrews with its “let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Heb 4:16) than this remarkably over-awed approach to a Jesus so unavailable that it takes Bernard and the Virgin working together to make even the hope of seeing him possible. This is a whole new alternative religion and absolutely no longer one of “to God through Christ” than “to Christ through Mary” and in a way to render the Trinity virtually irrelevant save as Dante’s parting, suitably abstract and impersonal image of the intermeshed circles which sustain existence. This is scarcely Christianity; it is a colourful new form of neo-platonism.

And before briefly descending to Inferno level, reverting to the point made about weakness and contradiction introduced by the influential St Bernard, practically his Marian cult would successfully undermine fundamental spiritual energies of the faith. One arguably sees this in even the embarrassing failure of two modern popes to be able to exorcise. This was something which early Christians were well known for doing without prior permission of bishops and boards of clerics and in the name of Christ alone, not Mary and the saints under whose patronage, amid elaborate rituals, the exercise now exists to what is often its confusion – absurdly, modern exorcisms can function like therapy sessions that are carried on over years, never coming to any real conclusion, just as Dante never – quite – gets to see God despite the prayers of Bernard and the Virgin!

THE INFERNO

Even as a teenager when I first encountered Dante, I was disappointed with the conclusion of Inferno which has an almost pantomime Satan at the bottom of hell, tormenting not just Judas Iscariot but Brutus and Cassius. Surely this pair who rid the world of the tyrannical Julius Caesar, himself opposed by righteous individuals like Cicero (accorded a place in Limbo), couldn’t deserve the lowest point of hell for being “traitors”. Shouldn’t figures like, say, Caiaphas (who is higher up among the hypocrites) and Nero (who’s nowhere) be there? Of course it makes no sense – except that Dante is fixated on the need for a just imperial ruler and Brutus and Cassius interfered with the foundations of the empire he admires. But condemning the pair with Judas is like making Julius Caesar a Christ figure he very obviously wasn’t.

Which reminds us how much Dante’s is a political text and a semi-pagan one. The sins of hell are not organized as they could be according to, say, the ten commandments, but rather notions of virtue and vice as defined by Cicero and Aristotle (the latter being appropriated around the time by the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas). Thus the sins of love and lust can’t be covered by the circle of incontinence alone which carries the adulterous tragedy of Francesca da Rimini, but much further down hell will deal with seducers and panders under the head of Fraud. “Sodomites” and suicides are treated under the head of, and thus in the circle of, Violence because they have been “violent” against nature or the body. It all gets quite intricate and involved, more so than Purgatorio and Paradiso which have fewer sections. It also gets colder as Dante and Virgil descend rather than hotter, though sight is never really lost to effects of any nether gloom such as would apply to the nether gloom of especially Tartarus, prison of the fallen angels, that Dante doesn’t portray.

If Irish otherworld journeys influenced Purgatorio, it is believed the third century apocryphal Apocalypse of St Paul was the main inspiration for the Inferno and its gruesome, torture chamber type details and its icy lower depths. Necessarily so since the bible has little to say about hell apart from affirming its existence and declaring that (through a body of death rather than of resurrection), there is a gnashing of teeth and some torment by worms and by thirst, and then that at the end of time as we understand it, the Hell/Hades zone gets thrown into a lake of fire for “eternity”.

The Inferno is nonetheless truer than other parts of the Commedia to things we can know about the afterlife, if not from the Bible then negative NDEs. Those persons who report experiences of hell, frequently refer to pain and harm vented on them from tormenting demons. These demons moreover seem to torment people in relation to a single sin, or if demons don’t do that, the person torments themselves in relation to one besetting sin, like the alcoholic who is thirsting for and being burned by alcohol.

I struggled over this in my own poetic experiment, an attempt at an updated Danteque journey as in The Hell Passage (3). The poem drew upon especially one reported vision from South America of a visit to hell led there by Jesus. The sinners allegedly encountered on this journey sometimes had their besetting sin branded on them as surely as Dante can know the sinners and their sin by the circle they inhabit. Is this even likely, whether literally or more symbolically, since sin is of all kinds and is present in everyone?

FINAL IDENTITY TAGS

My (provisional) conclusion is that since hell is most essentially about separation from God and whatever makes for that, it could be that one besetting sin is what confirms that separation. And since everyone’s final identity is with and through God, in hell personal identity becomes whatever is not God. Alternatively some inhabitants are shown as branded (as none of Dante’s sinners are) not with a sin but with 666, evidently people who have taken the mark or who willingly would do so given the chance, an action which insures separation.

The activity of tormenting devils seems hardly credible or fair – if they are really fallen angels, why aren’t they themselves tormented? – but perhaps their role should be seen as the equivalent of biblical claims to the effect that (until finally overcome by the returning Christ) the world belongs to the realms of evil. Ultimate damnation would include the tormenting demons too. The final destination of damned souls is not Hades/Hell but the Lake of Fire, evidently a mirror of God who is “fire”, and entails an existence through God as fire but nothing else, hence God negatively experienced in proportion to the degree of spiritual separation.

Given how much Dante is prepared to send doubtful cases like Francesca da Rimini to hell and blast the already suffering damned, curiously, if generously, he is still concerned about who is lost and saved according to their beliefs. It prompts him to allow the good pagans Cato and Statius a place in Purgatory and the Trojan prince warrior Riphaeus even a place in heaven’s sphere of Jupiter for his righteousness. And it obviously pains Dante that Virgil has to return to the Limbo of the good pagans (among whom he includes that author of the arts of seduction, Ovid!). It was for this kind of juggling with doctrine some early critics considered Dante’s work heresy, but the salvation problem he wrestles with is and should always have been a non question.

Despite his wide reading in bible, Dante, like many to this day, never absorbed how St Paul teaches that ignorant pagans outside the Law will be judged “or perhaps excused” by their thoughts at the Last Judgement (Rom 2: 14,15). While undeniably the bible appears to assume that once the individual has heard and understood the gospel, they have responsibility for their decisions, no one is automatically damned for what they cannot even hope to know. Besides which, the whole subject of ultimate salvation is anyway subject to the statement, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom 9:15), which however is not a give-away. It is certainly no justification for notions that Dante sometimes borders on and that a modern Catholic mystic like Thomas Merton renders explicit, namely that each soul independently “chooses” whether they will be saved or damned.

READING DANTE TODAY

There are many benefits from reading Dante, and today perhaps especially from the enforced work of imagination which takes the reader outside of normal existence to hear people doing what everyone should periodically do, which is to assess their lives and motivations. The contemporary restlessness and materialism virtually imposed on everyone by media and the rat race, renders this imagining and self-distancing task increasingly difficult.

At the same time, we may also be drawn to awareness of something else we ought to know.  Dante is an imaginative summation of a particularly European way of perceiving reality but which is a distortion, at times even a negation of the Christianity it seeks to defend. There is a reason why deity for the poet, even as the love that moves all things, is so remote and abstract while women from Beatrice to Maria are so magnified, and a reason the religion of Jesus and the prophets becomes a faith politicized to the point of violence and corruption. The noted rationalism and romanticism of Europe are all of one psychological and philosophical piece.

Around the fourth century and the times of SS Augustine and Jerome, who between them rid Christianity of its chiliastic legacy (the prophetic dimension that believed Christ must return to Israel to rule in the Millennium – for Dante the Second Coming is reduced to the Last Judgement), it was reported that spiritual gifts (the charismata) of the early church were rare to non existent. One of the features of especially speaking in tongues was that the person did not usually know what it was they were saying to God (1 Cor 14:2). This was the original Christian via negativa, the not knowing which is nonetheless revelation and an uttering of the mysteries. This element of secrecy apart, it was assumed that individuals should relate to God more or less directly in a basically personal way and entering before the throne of grace boldly (Heb 4:16). And even if the glorified Christ or the enthroned God the Father were not exactly like humans, the long tradition of biblical references to their hands and eyes indicated an essential identity with the human. Christ is even described as the “icon”(image) of the invisible God (Col 1:15)

FROM CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE TO NEO-PLATONIC VISIONS

The fourth century revolution began a movement away from anything like this, and  it transposed practice to another level. It was no longer a case of saying unknown things to God but rather of not knowing or describing deity at all who must be described in negation (not good because beyond good etc) reached through the darkness and silence (the language of heaven itself according to the late medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart!) or who perhaps even was darkness or a superior Nothingness, attained by mental exercises rather than any more spontaneous means. These exercises needed to travel far, high and long as God became ever more remote, much helped by the influence of one of Dante’s own inspirations via Thomas Aquinas, (the latter high in the realm of the Sun) ,namely the Greek Pseudo-Dionysius.

Dante didn’t fall for the deception of the Donation of Constantine, but like many directly or indirectly he fell for Dionysius. Medievals decided this mendacious writer must be identical, as he tried to make out he was, with St Paul’s philosophical convert in Athens, not some fifth century subtle underminer of the entire Christian tradition via neo-platonic means.

Greek philosophy which was favourable to contemplation, almost despised the body as a prison of the soul and which held notions of a remote unmoved, mover deity, had never been entirely at home with the Hebrew legacy and its anthropomorphism dismissed in passing remarks of Dionysius. The Greek church had moreover been introduced to poisonous levels of anti-Semitism (Hitler would even approve it) through the Golden Mouth preacher St John Chrysostom. Pseudo-Dionysius is almost the summation of a Greek dissociation from a disdained Hebrew legacy. At the height of Pseudo-D’s system are angels, who, far from being co-workers with the faithful as per Rev 22:9, are exalted beings like Platonic ideas virtually barring the way to the hidden deity.

The anti Hebraic mindset of the Greeks was for all practical purposes sealed by the 8th Council of Constantinople in 869 which rid itself of the bible’s trichotomy or threefold anthropology of the self with its, Body, Soul and Spirit, substituting in line with Greek rationalism, a dichotomy of simply Body and Soul. Soul was now  what contained Spirit, a spirit as intellective spirit more or less reduced to Reason, the same Reason that underlines Dante’s entire rationalizing treatment of evil.

Originally, however, human spirit under the influence of Holy Spirit is what shapes and helps organize the imagination of soul. Soul (Gk psyche) is the reactive yin type function, the Hebrew/biblical nephesh or animal soul (the basic radiant aura or astral body of esoteric traditions). It is often what St Paul means when he refers to the “flesh” or lower nature which is more than just “body”  and which  is perceived as in conflict with the spirit (Gk pneuma, Heb  ruach) which should be allowed to dominate it. (One can picture the trichotomy as either body and animal soul nephesh together, with beyond it  spirit ruach  and then neshamah, the divine lamp,spark or higher soul, or you can portray the trichotomy as simply body, soul and spirit. Either way you have a possible reflection of the interactive Trinity that the simple soul/body dichotomy does not permit),

SPIRIT AND SOUL

If one reduces the whole drama of the self to simply a dualistic contrast and conflict of soul with body which in no way reflects the interactions of the Trinity, one is left with Logos or Word seen as purely masculine Reason tasked with dominating an unruly and despised purely feminine body. Whether in religious or cultural contexts, this distorts the masculine yang factor in man and God alike. What is masculine becomes a fixed, often cold, inflexible Reason, not a higher lyrical, adaptive, creative force. God is not a Creator whose creation can be also be poetry and sung over ( Zeph 3:7).

There is a Spirit of God, but there is also a Soul and Christ is that Soul; and because Soul is for humans the problem of what’s “fallen”, it is into the image of the perfected Christ to which the believer is supposed to be conformed (Rom 8:29). This does not and cannot happen in Dante where Christ is a dim figure, a cross, a griffen, “our pelican”, a wheel, because soul function  through the form and the work of woman (a Goethean  Ewig Weibliche  Eternal Feminine leading us ever on), has almost completely taken over obscuring the person. Dante in his ascent  instructed by Beatrice as a model of divine grace, is also teaching him via the beauty she embodies. This is problematic. Beauty is a reactive  yin force, its power dependent upon power before or beyond it.

Effectively substituting for the person of Christ, Beatrice even examines Dante in what is the equivalent of the believer’s presentation before the bema or judgement seat of Christ (Rom 8:10, 1 Cor 3:15). The entire image of Jesus  in the Commedia is suitably odd, empty or just vague. As said, it can be glimpsed (reflected in Beatrice’s eyes! ) from the head of the Christ-linked griffin in Purgatorio, to the forming and reforming cross of the heaven of Mars whose inhabitants are supposed to be close to Christ because, as or like crusaders, they literally took up the cross! And Dante at this level of heaven even identifies himself as a kind of Christ figure because of his exiled life! But ultimately, unlike other, especially female figures of the Paradiso, Christ is never quite clearly drawn, never quite characterized. He is an object of catechism, a sort of functionary to manage salvation, a precious symbol, but never quite either a recognizable person or inspiration. (Admittedly, over seven centuries later this treatment remains basically consistent with controversial statements  from  Pope Francis in July 2017 to the effect any claims to personal knowledge of or relation with Jesus can be dangerous and harmful; it is collectively through the mediation of the Church community and Mary that one may know of him).

On the social plain, the spiritual result of mis-vision in Dante’s style is that the very abuses he hated can still thrive because the outer forms (objectivised Reason) are respected as a sufficient perfection  and spiritual development (through controlled exercises rather than inspiration) can continue. And they can and will do so because they take individuals the way of soul rather than spirit. This is liable also to mean via the inspiration of women, for Dante from Beatrice to the Virgin. But this is not the way of will-shaping and correcting Spirit working on spirit as indicated by Jesus from the first in rejecting the salutations of the woman who praises the mother who bore him and the breasts that gave him suck (Luk 11:27), insisting only those that do the divine will are blessed.

DANTE THE MAN

A brilliant, erudite walking encyclopaedia of a man, Dante with his quirks is almost the epitome of the “mad” genius and poet, perhaps starting with the near crazy obsession with the indifferent and early deceased Beatrice dei Portinari. Eros and sexuality (the realm of especially “soul”) is one way to understanding the poet and not just of the Commedia but La Vita Nuova where he discovers Lady Philosophia.

Dante scholar Barbara Reynolds points to a connection in feeling and reference between the treatment of the sodomites Brunetto Latini in hell and Forsi in purgatory which she takes as a virtual confession of homosexual involvement (4). While we needn’t greatly doubt her – Florence like ancient Athens was a leading centre of openly expressed same sex feeling and art in especially the Renaissance, and Dante’s mentor Brunetto Latini was gay. But I am just not sure why Reynolds speaks of “homosexuality” when obviously in Dante’s case she should be speaking of bisexuality.

One of the clues that this orientation was the case is the astonishing way, often noted, that Dante simply never mentions his wife (from an arranged marriage) and mother of his children,Gemma (to whom he is anyway believed to have been unfaithful). I am however less surprised than some by the silent avoidance. It may not be quite  PC to say it, but it should be recognized that bisexually inclined men are often seriously bad news for wives. Dante exquisitely joins two other major  bisexually inclined poets: Shakespeare who famously bequeathed the wife he hardly lived with his second best bed, and the bible’s King David who loved Jonathan but banished one of his wives, Michal, from his bed without reprieve lifelong. From the outset doubtless Beatrice represented at any rate one way for Dante of dealing with his creative and erotic complexity. Obviously she represents an anima figure who carries the weight of his massive imagination at the same time as her inaccessibility helps prevent his being too overwhelmed by the opposite sex and by eros generally.

If Dante has been more “homosexual” even within his bisexuality, he would likely have developed spiritually more along the lines of Michelangelo who reflected himself in the rather anti woman and even rather gay prophet Jeremiah (5). And he would have given a quite different emphasis to portrayal of the Virgin. Rather notoriously, Michelangelo’s Last Judgement  fresco portrays a very human Virgin figure, almost cowering away from a commanding Christ figure. Anyway, I  consider Dante’s sexuality could use more critical attention as it affects his work. So too could another theme, not liable to be emphasized and even downplayed in academic circles.

As he enters the region of the fixed stars, Dante makes it very clear he was born under and takes the character of Gemini, the celestial sign of words and communication but also division. In a way, this is a vital piece of information for all sorts of reasons (including to some extent the poet’s rather experimental, flitting eros). Europe is traditionally put under Gemini and certainly Christianity, born at Pentecost amid a speaking in tongues, belongs to the sign. Also born under Gemini was modern Italy which has taken Dante’s language for its own (reflecting the indelible role of Dante,incredibly the horoscope for Italy shows a conjunction of asteroids Dante and Virgilius in the hell section of the chart) (6),  and so too were Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds who have translated and popularized Dante in modern times. Even if you say that politics is of Capricorn, the fact is that democracy itself, the idea of divided church and state, a prominent Dantean theme, is of Gemini. Quite simply Dante is a Geminian person broaching a mass of Geminian themes  and thus for better or for worse his opinions can both reflect and make what the West is in itself – which has been a rather dark/light, changeable phenomenon in harmony with the sign’s “mutable” status.

FAITH AND VISION SOULED OUT

Dante never went to any heaven, or if he did it wasn’t like the one he described. The Paradiso is the equivalent of Bernini’s stunning  but questionable The Ecstasy of St Teresa in sculpture. Dante was a visionary poet who incomparably faked rather too much of his vision because ultimately it arose out of  soul function rather than descended on him through the spirit function and depended too much on virtual orgasm. That vision and mystical religion  could  be thus dependent to  some extent is inevitable and we needn’t automatically dismiss it for that – unless  it’s allowed to become  the whole story which, when soul takes over at the expense of the impulses of Spirit, it risks doing so that religion falls towards the sensationalist idolatry which is also materialism.

I am not saying that Dante was a false prophet (if he had a sin it was overweening vanity!) but that he was sometimes victim to those who were, and that he expressed their beliefs by default at a particular point in history to which he was somewhat hostage and has left others hostage too. Dante is, as Yeats had it, the imagination of Christendom, but sometimes unfortunately so. Because what the European imagination in its Christian mode has too often done, is, like a divided Gemini,  run in one or other of the opposed directions of  elaborate superstition and reductive humanism, pursuing a religion of numerous pious forms or alternatively political agendas because in both cases it is not grasping God aright at the centre.

Dante’s God of (remote and static) light and love joined to his dream of an elusive perfect ruler,  a Roman rather than the early Christians’ Christ of history, the Millennium and Jerusalem (Dante turns the Second Advent  within historical time into the Last Judgement beyond it), is also remote  from original and authentic Christianity. It is so adrift in a sea of intricate symbols and allegories (each episode organized to give four different possible meanings) it could be appropriated by almost anyone today from New Agers to one world, one religion Globalists. The turns of history and culture are so peculiar such might yet even be the case.

NOTES

1) In Raphael and Lucifer p 10 I write:

So may you, Inspiration, now draw near
To assist, reveal, declare because
More felt than seen by me or anyone
The forces are too bright and dark
Too fair and foul to be directly held….
It’s thus by symbol and through fantasy
You will convey the truths unrealized…..

2) Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency esp Chapter 6   https://goo.gl/Xi1jv8

3) The Hell Passage https://wp.me/p2v96G-7e

4) Barbara Reynolds, Dante  p.296

5) Jeremiah’s Loincloth   https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

6). A Picture of Italian Life and Mind  https://wp.me/p2v96G-Nc

 

 

 

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STAGING SWEENEY FRENZY: Irish parable or problem?

 

The legend of Sweeney’s frenzy or madness ( Buile Suibhne) carries a variety of messages and can be read as a parable of unresolved issues in Irish life.

If only for some impressive poetry, it has received occasional literary attention as in Flann O’Brien’s rather Joycean dense and difficult At Swim Two Birds,  Sweeney finds echoes in T.S. Eliot and the late Seamus Heaney  provided a modern “version”, basically a  translation, Sweeney Astray. But  the legend itself  has never really undergone the more psychological examination it deserves. It’s only in recent years that psychiatrist, Peter O’Connor of Melbourne, (in Beyond the Mist) has given any Jungian interpretations of even standard Irish myth, never mind medieval legend…Perhaps one needs to be here at the safe distance of Australia to conduct objective inquiries into the Irish psyche?!  Arguably the last word in displaced Celtic  consciousness and resultant inquiry was the case of born in Australia  PL Travers of Mary Poppins fame. (See https://wp.me/p2v96G-1gU).

This has been Sweeney’s year, at least in music –  a Sweeney song cycle  by  composer Neil Martin was premiered in Dublin on St Patrick’s day and I see that in July that Clonmel Junction Arts Festival in Tipperary combined music with readings from the legend.  (I gather that this year a mad Sweeney character is in  a TV series American Gods but I haven’t seen this and know nothing about it, not even if the above images owe anything to it). But staging Sweeney, the original mythical character?

At the beginning of this month I had one of those moments of apparent enlightenment where everything clicks and connects and I realized things I had not seen many years ago in this story. I began to envisage its dramatic re-telling as outrageous tragi-comedy. For presentation and style it should be somewhere between Beckett’s minimalist dead pan and Denis Johnston’s more flamboyant and dream filled The Old Lady Says No, but anyway something recalling revelatory moments of Irish drama while telling us something about the current spiritual condition of Ireland.

At first blush, it seemed one could hardly go wrong if I tried – I was at Swim three or four Birds.  All sorts of issues and questions nicely and neatly  lined up for the tragic or comic treatment on a stage I imagined riven by flashing lights and sudden intervals of darkness suggesting confusion and general destabilization of familiar thought and worlds. Sweeney’s “madness” could be a mental condition, a case of bad nerves and undiagnosed tinnitus, or part of a larger unacknowledged element of troubled spirituality within the culture. All this could be suggested in the course of extracting the true meaning from behind the layers of high fantasy and propaganda interwoven with  the sources of a complex tale.

Things begin with an excitable “King” Sweeney (more like a local lord) who hates the sound of a saint’s bell and the thought a  church can built on his land without permission. But that someone could be cursed  by a saint to perpetual nakedness for his reactions (and  later to  die by spear point, a curse not able to be undone by another saint more merciful), invites questions like what really is a curse in Ireland  – many have long felt Ireland has existed under one!  It also raises question the significance of nudity in religious and secular terms, (I happened to have recently explored the latter theme  in the unusual perspectives of Naked in Thessaloniki: Riddle and Sign https://wp.me/p4kNWg-fD). Especially near its conclusion, the Sweeney saga in its kitchen level humiliation of the king drinking milk from a bowl of cow dung, has an element of the hidden, unfamiliar, sadistic Ireland that has sometimes lurked in the shadows behind the walls of orphanages, schools and  convents. Finally exposed, it has half traumatized the nation some of whose once trusted leaders had apparently been acquiescent in unacceptable conditions that have woken many from easy past loyalties,    

So, here were themes like plums for the picking. Sweeney  seemed an open sesame to some catharsis and national therapy session via drama. The characters were forming in my mind and making themselves heard……

Eorann:  What are you doing there, putting your hands to your ears? You should be ashamed of yourself, a silly paganish man that calls himself a king but can’t stand the sight and sound of a handsome bell resting on the sacred bosom of a holy saint. 

Sweeney:  You know the sound grates on me something terrible. 

Eorann:  More like the holy man grates on your dull conscience and you don’t want to sing a psalm of praise or repentance when it’s time to do so.

The character of Saint Ronan would obviously be crucial. Behind all the hagiography about “God’s faithful servant”, he is a vindictive wretch and one who opens up questions about what may have been flawed in the practice and beliefs of some Irish religion over the centuries.

Ronan:  Sweeney was in such devilish frenzies he seized hold of my painted psalter and threw it into the lake. Screaming against my bell, he said he preferred the sound of birds in the trees and the rushing waters of the glens. I stayed calm, rewarded with heaven’s blessing. An otter rescued my psalter. Brought it to the bank, not one precious painted page damaged by water. A miracle! A reason I could forgive Sweeney his unspeakable wickedness. I did so for a good example, though it’s not right or possible  to  pardon fully. Given heaven’s clear mandate to rid us of druids and replace their power, there must be signs of authority with impositions of penance. And my curse has the salutary grace of that. What upstart heresy was it taught grace was free and forgiveness absolute? For the good of all, Sweeney must suffer to shiver  naked in the night airs as long as he lives. He can hardly complain when I have brothers singing psalms stood  night long in the freezing waves of the ocean.

I was not sure if the sufferings of Job element to Sweeney’s story and his laments call for a treatment by chorus as he makes his way to the perhaps historically real Valley of the Madmen in Donegal or whether his faithful companion Loingsechan would be sufficient for the role. I envisaged the character of Loingsechan as an appearing and disappearing figure, almost a stage Irish type, a wise/naïve who sounds and acts a bit dim at the same time as he knows quite a lot. Sweeney is liable to forget who he is….

Loingsechan:  Forgotten again? Well, I’m used to it. I’m Loingsechan that some say is your natural brother and some say is your foster brother. But that’s only the beginning of the confusions people have around me  because they can’t agree what my name is, or should be, or if I’m under a curse like Ham that saw his father naked. Some say my real name should be the word that can’t be mentioned among Christians, whatever that is. I’m not striving to discover. I don’t draw attention to myself talking to people, even to my wife who’s disappeared off, the saints alone know where. I just keep travelling and keeping myself to myself when you’re not in one of your moods for the lively talking.  

However he later complains:

Loingsechan:  Aren’t I the loyal relative that’s always going around collecting peat or sticks to burn to keep your head and feet head warm against the night airs? And don’t I say to the holy prudes who keep looking or refuse to look, King Sweeney of the blond locks and the blue eyes, he doesn’t look too bad at all, now does he…? I mean, with or without clothes there’s not a man among us can have quite the fabled beauty of Naoise that Deidre loved. What do they expect?

The weird nature of the curses on Sweeney which I imagine Loingsechan asl confusing with a curse on Ham whose true meaning he will need to discover, may in the original texts  have been intended to evoke memories of the more striking effects of Gaulish Celtic warfare which included spear carrying naked warriors as recounted by  Posidonius.

NAMING A BLOCK OR WHAT ?

So far so good, but then after a few pages of notes, outline and sensing the voices, I suddenly stopped. It’s not advisable to do this mid flight because inspiration should be taken at the flood. It may not return at a  later date. Even so  I stopped, consented to it, willed it.

“Never say never” is sound popular wisdom and I don’t say it’s impossible I would resume. I just don’t sense it’s likely. It’s true that following some ghastly weather I felt suddenly tired and in my experience you need to be in top form to write even a poem – there’s something a bit athletic about the process. But that alone can’t explain my complex and conflicted mind in the matter. It was somewhere between just not wanting to finish, imagining there was no point (it’s hard to get anything to stage these days and my track record for being heard for anything in Ireland is abysmal) and that it probably wasn’t quite my fate to engage with the themes involved. These are points I return to in conclusion.

But if anyone wanted to be almost superstitious in the matter, it could be suggested that there was something else. It could be argued the Sweeney name partakes in, or itself names, a kind of curse that hampers expression, a reason it might be better to leave him to music! Consider that T.S.Eliot, beyond a couple of fragments, could never finish his Sweeney Agonistes which, despite its modernist content and non Irish setting, was influenced by awareness of the Irish material. The artist can never quite dissociate from whatever energies  the archetypes represent.

The early Irish gave a high status to poets, not least because they associated them with prophets and prophecy. It’s not hard to see how they might think so. The poet wouldn’t need to be any Nostradamus; things would need only to happen around them. I have given an example in the introduction to my first poetry collection Puer Poems.(https://goo.gl/avJhm7).In it I recount how I presented a copy of the introductory poem, Puer, celebrating the  archetype, to an actor who I felt exemplified the type. The poem happened to include the words, “and if he fell he’d bleed and bleed”. I managed to give this to the actor around the time he would shortly be performing  in a play with blood in its title. But he would also fall badly during performance, getting rushed off to hospital having bled across the stage or the dressing room, I’m not clear on this. The matter was never fully explained to me and that could have been because a notable star of screen may have been more responsible for events surrounding this than some would care to admit. All I know is that I was disconcerted by the news.

THE SAINT, CURSES AND A BIT OF THEOLOGY

There are twelve Celtic St Ronans, one of them a venerated evangelist to Brittany, so I have no idea to which Ronan the above icon applies. The half or wholly mythic saint of Sweeney’s Frenzy was St Ronan of Finn.  That St Ronan’s cursing is nonetheless  as good as canonical hagiography is bizarre and raises questions. Christians, not even saints and especially not saints can pronounce a curse as opposed to stopping and binding them. Ronan curses Sweeney more than once. That an Irish saint would even be thought to do this reflects a strong identity of early medieval clerics with the earlier druids much feared for their bans and curses. It also reflects a one time liturgical over-reliance on the Psalms and chanting them, which we know the Irish did. Some communities kept a perpetual round the clock chant. The psalms are more emotional than strictly theological and do thus include a few imprecations. Any influence from this might have been more balanced out if the liturgical  exercise (employed like a spell)  hadn’t been almost at the expense of the rest of the Old and New Testaments and theological teaching in general.

I looked into the often ignored, rather complex esoteric field of curses and exorcisms in Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency  (https://goo.gl/Xi1jv8 ).  Here I”ll just say it would be possible for someone to as good as curse themselves, a point of which presently; but the nearest any Christian leader might come to pronouncing outright curse on someone would be to refuse to declare a sin forgiven, normally if it was believed it was never genuinely repented in the first place (Joh 21:23 ). More in condemnation than outright curse, the disciples can shake the dust from off their feet against those who won’t hear their message (Matt 10;14). But in Christianity everyone is deemed under a curse anyway so that without divine intervention, often the result of prayer, individuals are constantly open to forces of evil whose powers over the earth it was the purpose of Christ’s incarnation to undo (“The Son of God was revealed…to destroy the works of the devil” 1 Joh 3:8). This is a work not completed until the Second Advent when the earth is reclaimed from the end times Antichrist.

St Ronan, either as cleric or person, fails to forgive (in the first instance almost comically because he feels disrespected that an infuriated  Sweeney dashes in  naked after his wife tears the clothes off his back). This offence taking is so unchristian it has to represent druidism. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” ( Matt 6:14,15). Such would be the standard Christian position, though in cases of extreme offence (such as some Irish have suffered under child abuse where time is needed to heal and it’s a special virtue to forgive at all), even if and when seeking justice, the victim still needs – for their own good since hatred corrodes – to “let go”, accepting that “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom 12:19).

The fact that the early Irish church promoted tales like those of St Ronan, is proof positive that no matter what St Patrick may have taught more evangelically, there would be little clear notion of forgiveness in the early Irish churches. We know there wasn’t or there could never have been the perverse labour of the Irish Penitentials that would greatly influence medieval Europe through some of  Ireland’s missionary monks. These imply the very opposite of any “amazing grace” but serve instead  a religion of salvation by works in harmony with the British Celtic heretic monk, Pelagius, for whom Christ was a perfect example, not a redeemer. What sociologically the penitential system bolsters is clerical power modelled on the ways of the druids and the value system of the Brehon lawyers.

Quite why Ireland was so merciless to sin and committed to the most difficult possible salvation by law and works is a mystery. A contributing factor could be the “matriarchal” dimension to the culture. Women are liable to be both more and less forgiving than men. They may forgive in pity and emotion, but alternatively may feel they augment their power by withholding forgiveness or behaving like witches to apply curses.

As I pointed out in a previous article on Ireland’s perennial spiritual problems (https://wp.me/p2v96G-126),  the crucial issue of the Irish and grace is anticipated by St Paul epistle to the Galatians i.e. to a basically Celtic – if by the apostle’s time fairly Romanized – Christian community. Oddly enough, however, exceptionally for the whole New Testament and almost against what I have just said above, the apostle declares to his Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let him be accursed…I repeat if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let that one be accursed” (Gal 1: 8,9)….We might interpret this as tantamount to declaring: let St Ronan and the brehon lawyers who inspire the legalistic spirit of  the penitentials be accursed”!

But St Paul doesn’t direct church members to pronounce curses on legalists. As I also said above, within Christianity people can only really be self-cursed. Rather as “the wrath of God” is not like Jove throwing thunderbolts but more like what happens when a basic fund of divine protection is removed so that evil takes its full and natural course, so it is with any “curse” in the Christian context. The Hebrew style that colours much of the bible’s expression is “extraverted” and often says God does something when it plainly means God allows it. Harmonious with this, what the Jewish  apostle effectively declares to the Galatians re potential self-curse, is that if certain fundamental principles of the spiritual realm are ignored, benefits are almost automatically deactivated or even go into reverse, backfiring on the individual.

Spiritually gifted though the Irish may be, arguably their Penitentials applied by a few ruthless saints (like Colmcille in permanent penance for starting a tribal war), indicate they have given away their spiritual power and rights, handing them over to  bureaucrats of religion who dole out more duties than inspiring ideals. “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse” (Gal 3:10). This situation is seen as  ruling out, or lessening, any claim upon divine blessing and protection, the more so if one doesn’t also reject the spirits of place, the apostle’s “elementary spirits of the earth” (Gal 4:3). He associates them with precisely Galatian practice and certainly feminist post-Christian thealogians like outspoken Irish American Mary Daly would gladly restore them.  I considered this old gods matter in Ireland’s Old/New Spiritual Problems (https://wp.me/p2v96G-126 ) where I suggested the nation remains in strange psychological thrall to especially the deathly Morrigan archetype (which some ill-advised neo-pagans are attempting to contact and channel !)

SWEENEY AND THE ULSTER SHADOW

At the everyday level, I don’t wish to imply that the Irish are chronically unforgiving. They are not. If anything they are more conciliatory than the at times rather shrilly self-righteous and intransigent citizens of Ulster.  Influenced by Calvinism, those north of the border are  less inclined to share the view further south that everyone’s a sinner, but more prone to take the moral high ground permitting attitudes too close for comfort to siege mentality and  cultural apartheid. But whether  the Irish, especially historically, have quite forgiven themselves or left matters of forgiveness to God, is another matter, and confusion in that area may have  had  a few consequences for the spiritual life and collective destiny.

I find an odd and potent symbolism in the fact the Sweeney legend is based in the kingdom of Dalriada, a province of historic Ulster. Sweeney banished to a tree within the kingdom of both the  High King and the original centre of Irish Christianity, is like a symbol for Ireland itself and even perhaps  a warning of its destiny. Sweeny as Ireland is someone doomed to lose history and culture to those who take the heartland, dismissing what it represents as little more than a threat to the settlers’ indelible connection to an idolized Britain and/or King Billy, a  point to which I add a few words in note (1).  At this level of reading one could perceive  the Irish destiny as subjection to an essentially materialistic system (which despite the Bible and Calvinism is what Ulster, supreme servant of Victoria’s empire, has always represented) and subject to this because a potential spiritual liberty was never quite accepted and claimed. Ulster and its plantation then  arrives to function as a kind of psychological cum spiritual shadow to what Ireland is, could or should be. It was often remarked that Viking and Norman settlers in Ireland became “more Irish than the Irish”. With Ulstermen development seemed to be in the opposite direction, the desire to more British than the British and thus truly an opposite or shadow force.

Yet if only mythically, the centrality or supremacy of Ulster for Ireland cannot quite die. It would be Belfast born writer C.S.Lewis invented Narnia with its high king at Cair Paravel (its model Dunluce Caste in Antrim). Ulster is a  strange “game of thrones” territory and one is hardly surprised that the super-successful TV series  (based on novels that can’t be attributed to any Irish American author though they are as intricate in their way as The Book of Kells)  should be mainly filmed in Ulster with its rather bleak landscapes in harmony with the region’s bleak and contested history.

But beyond any shadows, Ireland’s beloved emerald colour esoterically relates to transcendent, high ray spirituality and is the Venusian colour of love. The colour emerald subsuming the colours of the rainbow, surrounds God’s throne (Rev 4:3); but in a variety of myths emerald is also the colour or stone of Lucifer, Hermes et al who steal or claim to possess it. There’s no need dismiss this symbolism as entirely irrelevant to Irish destiny. I pointed out in the ” ‘Real Irish’ and Irish Reality’”  feature (https://wp.me/p2v96G-17D ) the rather astonishing fact that in the chart for modern Ireland, asteroids Lucifer and Theotes (Godhead) are locked in close combative conjunction. Eire  represents among other things spiritual influence and conflict

TO LAY MY BURDEN DOWN

I don’t think Sweeney means just one thing, but if it’s true he can equate with Ireland, its loss and  its silencing, then I think I should avoid the bullet he might deliver me in the role of interpretive artist. Years ago the director of the film Jesus of Montreal remarked he hoped its lead actor wouldn’t perform the part too well or it might not be fortunate for him. The archetypal dimension really can impose and take over in creative, original ventures.

I have had to learn that especially in trying to convey to the world that, (enlarging on the theories of astronomers  D’Occhieppo and Hughes) I have well and truly solved the mystery of Jesus’ birth astrologically down to the last asteroid, impossibly supplying data of a kind even the layperson can grasp, like the names of Jesus’ ancestors in his house of origins. But no matter the truth level involved and that the pattern still works today, when it comes to Christ truths, the principle “he was despised and rejected” (Is 53:3)  is par for the course . Even as a doctor of religious studies, published author and astrologer, and even while every tin pot, half crazed theory about Jesus gets proposed and promoted, I have never in years been officially published in this area or allowed so much as an author’s op-ed in the press of Australia, UK or Ireland on this vital theme, in its way like some Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery. (the relevant Op-ed is included in “The Magi at Era’s End” https://wp.me/p2v96G-ip

In the one exceptional case of major Jesus-related material, one must just be resigned and leave a blind and secular world to its devices – “make the hearts of the people dull…..lest they understand with their hearts…” (Is 6:10). But otherwise I’m not prepared to hurt myself going around with begging bowls to  literary and artistic elites for Irish and Sweeney material. As it is, my treatment by what Kevin Kiely would call Ireland’s more or less West Briton set prominent in relevant elites where I’m concerned, already beggars description. It could put in the shade what James Joyce suffered in Ireland around publishing the single word “bloody”. My part in Sweeney madness was for even a day or two to imagine composing anything in the line that might register somewhere.

The hugely conflicted but at times unconsciously hilarious Louis MacNeice where Ireland is concerned, exclaims (in Autumn Journal) “Why should I want to go back/To you, Ireland, my Ireland? The blots on the page are so black/That they cannot be covered with shamrock…”  A bit extreme, but even so I might need to remember, and people should perhaps be more aware (although I know there’s wisdom in the old saw “never complain never explain) that:

  • I have never had a single poem published or broadcast in Ireland. This is odd given a poetic Celtic drama of mine managed to get performed here in Australia and other poetry would have been broadcast had it been published first.  Fortunately I forget which literary or culture critic of The Irish Times it was (possibly  Fintan O’Toole)  who never even acknowledged receipt of a book, handed them by a would-be helpful fellow journalist, that contained the relevant play with some of my poetry. I do remember I had to ask a Dublin friend to go and collect it.
  • Last year the RTE national broadcaster refused to showcase anything poetic of mine because legally  it has already been published, even if only on the Net or Indi – the exact opposite situation to the mentioned Australian one where not being published was the problem! They required I offer something virgin. When I did so, rather efficiently and quickly on return to Australia, I never received acknowledgement.
  • I have never got a smidgen of  real interest  out of Poetry Ireland whether visiting in person or contacting with by email with material. When I last visited their centre and spoke  to a polite enough  couple of the team, I left behind for their publication manager a copy of my Raphael and Lucifer and other Visionary Poems https://goo.gl/DWsnZH with its updated Miltonics.  I explained it had been described by one of the few UK houses to accept metaphysical verse, as poetry to the highest standards. It had been recently refused solely  because of promotion problems. It was deemed unhelpful that I neither live in Europe nor am already known as a performance poet. Promised a reply from Poetry Ireland, which might have tried to help as I am an Irish not UK citizen, I would no more hear further than from the RTE.
  • The Irish Times has never given me a voice for anything whatsoever, its religion editor, uninterested back in 2016 even to allow me space to comment on, or be interviewed topically about, the same sex marriage referendum. This is despite my published doctorate on the varieties of gay spirituality marking a world first from any religious studies department.( https://goo.gl/1Pr94i ) so that I could well be considered an expert voice. Other subjects I proposed like the Christ material were simply ignored.
  • I have never got material into the Irish press  of a more tabloid kind like Is the Patrick Prophecy for Ireland Encoded? (https://wp.me/p2v96G-MR) . “We don’t do anything like that” was the brief response from The Irish Examiner to which I had been recommended to apply. With regard to the potentially popular astrological Christ theme, after being left waiting to see Jerome O’Reilly at The Irish Independent, this journalist took time  to glance at only the title of the page handed him and declared “We wouldn’t do anything like that”. In which case just what would he/they do or even take the time to considering to do? The title was “Proving an Historic Discovery and Answering Pope Benedict’s Question“. I’m not a Catholic, but let none say the Irish Press doesn’t do news and  features on Popes! Pope Benedict had openly wondered what we should think about the eminently plausible D’Occhieppo/ Hughes thesis on Christ’s birth. I alone have the answer and proofs.

This by no means exhausts the list of complaints, it merely lists some ironic highlights that I remember and that are relevant here.  Nobody needs this and I’m finally at an age (my Sweeney inspiration came hard upon my 71st) I am not  prepared to trouble myself with needless, abrupt dismissals or to waste time promoting myself night and day on the Net to obtain some gone viral status that protests an unjust treatment.

The ironies are nonetheless exquisite. If it weren’t that boasting has been an allowed part of Irish culture, I wouldn’t say here (what’s nonetheless a truth  it might by now be embarrassing for some to admit),  that I am closest, at least thematically and sometimes more, to the tradition of Yeats. Also that the standard at which I sometimes write can reach to better than much that gets published and called “Irish poetry” today. If, following Seamus Heaney’s decease, Brendan Kennelly is supposed to be Ireland’s leading poet, then I can write to and above that standard as should be apparent from even just my Judas stopped at Dublin ( https://wp.me/p2v96G-Bm ) which is satirical of Kennelly’s distasteful and super-profane Judas cycle of poems. I consider the limitations of modern Irish poetry  in Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and more (https://wp.me/p2v96G-xA).

Enough said!  As the Taoist sages would have it, “to retire is best” and I  can’t disagree. Nunc dimittis! Why burden myself further?  I’ll not start quoting the gospels on such as casting pearls, but where Ireland is concerned it’s tempting to conclude with Yeats’ words over the Synge controversy: “You have disgraced yourself again”. And, as I would see it, by not living up to full potential….. I only regret that Ireland has never helped me, starting long ago when in the late ’80s I first offered some poetry, to live up to my own full potential.

NOTE (1). Ulster is not simply a place or a controversial  intervention in Irish history, it is almost an entire mind-set and worldview insufficiently interrogated. As such it has had major influence on international values and is so much an Other to Ireland it really is a species of shadow. Ulster mind has been influential through especially Scots Irish emigration to America, Several signatories to the  Declaration of Independence and several presidents including the ruthless Andrew Jackson of bad reputation for his treatment of Amerinidians, have been of Scots Irish origin. America’s religion of the radical fundamentalist and homophobic kind, its gospels of the prosperity and no gun control variety and even its masonic mysticism, all these have links to the heritage of the Scots Irish who took their exclusiveness to America where they established societies that banned Irish immigrants. I don’t wish to get into partisan politics and write as though there was never wrong on the Irish side, but there is nonetheless something particularly objectionable, even and especially at the spiritual level, in the Ulster/King Billy connection. Idolized for winning the Battle of the Boyne against the Irish and saving a  beleaguered Londonderry, the fact is William represents Real-Politik lies and deceit on steroids. King Billy only warred in Ireland because he obtained support from The Dutch, Germans, Danes and even exceptionally the Pope, to be against what England’s James 11 was trying to do through Ireland.  Billy had support solely on the grounds that if, as was likely, the international force would win, William would protect Catholic rights. At Limerick following Ireland’s last stand at the Battle of Aughrim, the Irish sued for peace on the basis they could avoid persecution. William agreed. When he returned to England he went back on all agreements with Europe and Ireland, the old pattern of confiscations returned and the whole system of crippling Penal Laws that would ruin native Ireland for a century went into place. Busy thanking God for their saint, King Billy, Ulster never protested for Ireland and never has. Into the modern era, Home Rule to Brexit Ulster has never ceded an inch in respect of Irish aspirations in their own land; it has not appreciated and scarcely admitted Irish culture even exists. Britain has always existed to serve a monstrous sense of entitlement without concern for  or appreciation of the place the descendants of the planted  have made their home. This sort of thing breeds misunderstanding and infects the spiritual life of a people.
 
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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in creativity, culture, Mysteries, religion

 

NO ONE COMPARES 2 SINEAD O’CONNOR, OUT AND PROUD AS A MUSLIM

THE BURDEN OF SINEAD

The ongoing saga of the life of Sinead O’Connor, aka Magda Davitt, and now Shuhada (Martyr)  Davitt to reflect Muslim identity, is liable to evoke sympathy and exasperation in equal amounts. She’s had a hard time from her abused childhood, but she has also played up, even openly admitting to enjoy being a trouble maker.

Who really is this strikingly chameleon, name changing singer and just what is she doing? To what extent is she victim of dire circumstances and a delicate psychological balance – she has at times threatened and attempted suicide – or is she, despite everything, a genuinely, independent moral and intellectual agent? A common enough, if half whispered Irish reaction to her painful, very public saga is, “she’s mad, God help her”. But is that quite true and the proper reaction? (It’s increasingly recognized Ireland could use more psychology and mental health care).

I heard the sad/mad evaluation being  expressed back in 2016 when Sinead had gone off the radar somewhere in  America and was threatening to end her life. When dining outside in sunshine at a restaurant overlooking the beach at Bray, I was told I was close to Sinead’s then Dublin home (since sold off to pay various debts). What struck me having wandered down the seafront to see the house, was how unkempt and untidy the garden was. Obviously this latest Vicar of Bray couldn’t be expected to wow fans and the curious by doing tidy-up beneath their gaze, but couldn’t a gardener have been hired? The condition of the place seemed a metaphor for a larger issue, not necessarily madness but some unresolved confusion of which arguably we now witness the latest episode.

The news this October is that the singer is now at last “very very very happy”  as an out and proud convert to Islam which is the summation of truth that renders all scriptures redundant. This turn of events certainly adds colour to the increasingly diverse, quirky and troubled Irish spiritual scene, helped along by another rock star, Bono, Christian promoter of the profane and virtually  Satanistic poetry of Brendan Kennelly’s Judas cycle. (See  my Judas Stopped at Dublin https://wp.me/p2v96G-Bm ). But even so, Sinead is almost sui generis in reflecting and enlarging certain problems.

In fairness to surprised and bewildered Irish onlookers, it’s not as though already and for years now Sinead not been rather vocally Christian, following her definition of that, as an ordained, dog-collared, whopping crucifix-wearing priest of the Irish Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church communion. In this phase she was “the property of Jesus” and asserted it was Christian beliefs helped her through the torment of her abused early years (for which her brother certifies) and believed the Trinity (which Islam denies) is real.

The breakaway Catholic sect to which Sinead belonged from the early nineties was evidently a very broad church because its pop star priest  managed to be and remain ordained within it despite her status of mother to four children through four marriages and known both to have significant relationships with several other men too before outing herself as a lesbian (in preference, it seems, to admitting to what looks more like free wheeling bisexuality).

RELIGIOUS THEATRICS ?

   

It is too easy to dismiss all this as only “madness”. It is not as mad as Jesus person Britney Spears shaving her head to  print 666 on it. In fact it corresponds rather neatly, if in the most extreme form, to something quite distinctive which is not so rare. It belongs to the behaviour of  persons born like Shuhada (and Spears) under the religion and philosophy sign of Sagittarius, a “mutable”, travelling sign (of the pilgrim and pilgrimage) disposed to often spectacular changes of belief, opinion and lifestyles triggering many disputes with friends and foes alike.

For reasons of space and discretion, I will cite only one notable example that I have had direct interaction with, namely the late Buddhist scholar and art critic, Danish born Tove Neville, author of the definitive work on The Eleven-Headed Avalokitesvara in Asia. She, like Sinead, could also tell you of a very difficult childhood though not quite to the level of Shuhada’s. But when I stayed with Tove in Kyoto many years ago I came away feeling one would need twelve heads to manage  all she was saying and doing.

Tove had converted to Buddhism and been initiated to one of its esoteric orders some years before and was practicing the faith with a zeal fit to outdo the apostles. She felt compelled to stop in the middle of a street to pay homage to gods in wayside shrines; if we entered a temple she had the Japanese aghast at how she broke the silence to sing in praise of all Buddhas. If someone did something wrong they received lectures and even hell fire sermons from her. She conveyed me an esoteric secret (one that is not supposed to be revealed if it applies to you), that she was a bodhisattva come to bring peace on earth. This exalted position in the Buddhist hierarchy meant she was truly enlightened, the reason she saw fit to do various un-Buddhist things like landing  into Japanese steaks and drinking fine wines. She informed me she was entitled to live beyond the rules due to her initiated enlightened status.

Tove, a former journalist with White House connections was a scholar, a pleasant enough person in herself and quite  sane too, if eccentric, but eccentric like another Sagittarian, the German poet Rilke. He likewise suffered from inflation and exaggeration of religious affect to the point he thought, as in Love Poems to God, there was no barrier between him and deity so that he  even added to and helped complete and perfect God: “Are you then the All….Am I not the whole?”. It was this constant sense of either being or needing or deserving  to be in unmediated contact with the All which towards the end of Rilke’s life made him, like Sinead, sympathetic to the Islam which declares God has no Son/Mediator. (Even in her priestly phase Sinead was super-inclusive  evading any problems around salvation maintaining God saves everyone whether they want it or not).

Like Tove, Rilke’s sense of enligtenment was the indulgent one. Mean and even cruel to his wife, he was lifelong promiscuous, in short lacked any sense of his much vaunted sacred in terms of the holy or the unholy (sin)  which is why any Christian style mediation of the divine was never in question. No one has quite the sense of entitlement and a preacher’s moral high ground as Sagittarius whose “do as I say, not do as I do” attitude could describe many a problem within the religious circles in which they are prominent.

Almost predictably a Sagittarian was John Bunyan of Pilgrim’s Progress and I wonder if his sometimes excessive, opposite feeling of extreme sin and unworthiness to the point of black depression is what inflation in the style of Tove Neville and Rilke is trying to avoid. Balance is just not easily achieved, or perhaps not even desired, under this sign ruled by Jupiter (the Bethlehem star itself) which is involved with forgiveness and inclusion but not absolutely.

In fact, the philosophy of this sign and its planet of affinity favour theory, hence doctrine and dogma; and this element of affairs is emerging in Sinead in no uncertain fashion when she declares all scripture is redundant in the light of Islam and warns she will tolerate no anti Muslim statements to her site.

PAINTED INTO A CORNER?

In effect, Sinead could have a problem that a trendy, Hollywood style conversion to Buddhism might have helped her avoid – she even now sometimes looks rather  like Diane Perry, aka Tenzin Palmo, the Londoner who spent twelve years meditating Tibetan Buddhism in a Himalayan cave! Sinead likes change and development (emphasized under Buddhism’s “Impermanence” doctrine), but Shuhada has painted her mutable self into a traditionally strict and fixed corner from which she cannot now disengage short of the life threatening option of turning infidel. Her whole body she reports, trembles with ecstasy as the hijab is put on her. Other women might by contrast shake with horror that a woman in Iran who removed her hijab this year in protest for women’s rights has been sentenced to twenty years jail where she could well rot and die besides since against International law Iran doesn’t trouble to give medical assistance to its prisoners.

Our too often blind or timid media fail  to stress, and almost certainly Shuhada hasn’t researched, how almost every Muslim majority country is between dangerous to nightmarish for Christians and all religious and social minorities including of course gays as Sinead should know. In Pakistan Christians as infidels can even be deemed “unclean” rather like untouchables in India and popularly spoken of as fit only to clean toilets. It is because she had drunk from a Muslim cup of water on a hot day that Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has been nine years in solitary confinement on death’s row for blaspheming Mohamed by her action….indirect blasphemy it would seem so sensitive are Pakistani sensibilities, yet sensibilities hardly anyone would dare criticize lest they be considered “racist”, the reason police in UK didn’t deal with Asian child sex gangs for years, the reason it’s only Christian, not Muslim child abuse is liable to hog the news !

Everyone knows Bibi didn’t really blaspheme Mohammed but the courts have so much popular opposition with murder threats against both them and Bibi from Muslim fanatics if ever the unfortunate woman is released, that justice is delayed or even can’t be done. This and many other unspeakably unacceptable situations in not just Pakistan ( consider the bashings and murders, the attacks on homes and churches everywhere from Egypt to Khazakhstan) should make us question those like Sinead who now demand an almost one-sided toleration, in effect censorship across society, on behalf of all persons and things Muslim. Perhaps Shuhada is “very very very happy” that she is inevitably reported and celebrated in minorities oppressive  Pakistan like a trophy. Anyway  it’s her stern warning against criticism that finally breaks the pity spell for me as regards this “martyr” who doesn’t know what real martyrdom is.

As said, I think that for the “mutable” person Sinead is she has made a poor choice for one of her theatrical temperament because, unless age will now tire and subdue her verve, she has nowhere dramatic to go in religion unless she does something still more radical….like donning a burqa or leading a wholesale crusade to turn the Emerald Isle a Muslim Green. And I suppose she could always change her name to Fatima.

But you never know what Shuhada will do. Given her influence, one can only hope she doesn’t confuse Ireland’s confused, half traumatized religious situation still further, though it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if she did.

A MIRROR OF FATE

In describing the remarkable mirror of Irish life and destiny presented by the 1948 Irish Republic chart (see article  https://wp.me/p2v96G-17D), I mentioned how Ireland exceptionally showed a close conjunction of asteroids Theotes (Godhead/Trinity) with Lucifer indicative of almost a transcendent spiritual conflict developed at the heart of modern Irish life (and just  possibly reflecting the late Fr Malachi Martin’s extreme claims about a measure of actual Satanism among Catholic leaders).

However Shuhada’s own pattern shows tensions rather similar. In her ninth house of religion and beliefs she shows a remarkable conjunction of surprising, separative, controversial Uranus at 24 Virgo bracketed by Lucifer at 24 and Theotes at 23.  (It’s the sun rules her religion sector and it has been the transiting sun that in its conjunction to her expressive natal Moon conjunct Church conjunction, brings news of her final separation from her priestly church role).

I will not say more concerning her chart than to point out that Mars ruling her home and family origins and perhaps her mother, is conjunct her destiny and career Midheaven which reflects how she constantly brings her family issues into the public arena.

Shuhada’s pain and depression has more to do with a natal affliction square between Venus and Saturn, always a bad aspect but especially for a woman as it undermines esteem and leaves an unloved feeling and in this case martyrdom too since Chiron the wounded healer conjuncts Saturn worsening it. But I am not so sure that apart from this unenviably negative aspect the chart is really quite that bad or difficult. There would not have been so much fame, success and sympathy if things were otherwise.

A case could be made this person is dramatizing to some degree and enjoying it. Whether she is or not, this latest turn in the saga with its don’t criticize tone, if it does not exhaust my stock of sympathy it does rather deplete it.

 

[For the interface between types of belief and the expression of beliefs following astrological factors, see  The Astrology of Beliefs  https://goo.gl/oN9aQe ]

For more on the poet Rilke see two articles on this site  Rilke,Singer of Hades Parts 1 and 2  https://wp.me/p2v96G-mM

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in astrology, culture, Mysteries, psychology, religion

 
 
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