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A PICTURE OF ITALIAN LIFE AND MIND

italy2

A STELLAR ITALIAN CASE

Italians have never needed much encouragement to believe in a wisdom of the stars, but if you want to prove astrology to the average layperson today, arguably the best and easiest way is via the new study of asteroids. One scarcely needs to know or understand astrology to absorb their evidence. Asteroids truly help describe not just persons but even the characteristics and concerns of nations and peoples.

I will demonstrate this through the fascinating case of modern Italy which became a republic after being a kingdom on 10th June 1946 (at 6 pm in Rome) thus finally realizing earlier nationalist aims begun by Mazzini in the nineteenth century. Italy is an ideal test case because it has an abundance of asteroids that can be applied to its pattern and famous figures. But in a few paragraphs I shall first set the scene by briefly describing salient features of the nation’s chart from the traditional standpoint that emphasizes planets and houses and against whose pattern the asteroids appear and interact with such great descriptive accuracy against chance.

italy

Italy’s sun resides in the sign of Gemini, the Twins and division. This reflects how ever since Romulus and Remus there has been something of a civil war or at least competition taking place through the Italian peninsula. City has been against city, north against south, the Papal states against the rest. Even Italian art is a story of many rivalries between artists. But Gemini is also the sign of language and the late achieved Italian nationhood would entail imposition of a single language upon the peninsula’s numerous dialects. Even before nationhood, the country’s Renaissance was itself very much a linguistic revolution dependent upon the discovery and translation of ancient texts. Nationhood finally settled upon a language, one based on the Florentine employed by the Gemini poet, Dante. Gemini is also the sign of the hands and no country in the world has more by way of a language of signs through the hands.

The national sun is conjuncted by the natural ruler of futuristic Aquarius, Uranus, a pointer to independence even to the point of anarchy, originality and the periodic flashes of a Renaissance type genius. The national sun is in the eighth house of secrets and the hidden, of sex, death  – Italy loves big funerals and has drivers with something of a death wish! –  shared resources and debts. Italy is full of secrets and has been home to a variety of secret societies and financial scandals. Yet most things will surface and become visible eventually. With the sun and all the planets in the upper half of the birth pattern, the nation is essentially extravert, ideas and feelings are demonstrated and shown.

Self-image, image before the world, national mythos and the body of the people will nonetheless all be described by the first house with its rising/ascendant sign. This is Scorpio, typically the sign of sex, death, mysteries, the occult  (Renaissance magus Marsilio Ficino was a Scorpio) and mega power. Positively this has something to do with Italians feeling themselves to be inheritors of the Roman empire which bore its power across the world beneath the eagle of Scorpio. Italy celebrates the traditional birth of Rome under opposite sign, Taurus, but the long lasting empire was of the Taurus/Scorpio axis.

Scorpio rises at 17 degrees to define the first house, but the national moon representing emotions, home, women and mothers falls behind the ascendant angle at 4 Scorpio somewhat obscured in the twelfth house of dreams, films, loss, the unconscious and mysticism. With the moon here, home has something private and absolute about it and might actually be lost (as through massive emigration and natural disaster) while women could be seen as the great mystery and/or a notable sex object especially in this also films-associated sector.

The most personal emotions run deep and strong and could at worst be vengeful (the Italian vengeance drama is celebrated) and despite popular ideas about Latin temperament,  Italians are not wholly spontaneous – Italian watcher John Hooper even writes of “the people who don’t  dance”, (they don’t just jump up and down like Spaniards to express joy, they prefer a little more dignity and calculated effects). Scorpionic Italy can be serious and it’s obviously the Italy of Mafia and ecclesiastical mysteries, the shadowy and at times coarser and angrier side of an otherwise physically and temperamentally bright and polite society, indeed so bright many might doubt intense Scorpio could ever possibly rise and assume the defining role it does.

scorpio

The seeming contradiction of a national brightness hiding an also essential dark is due to the exact aspect of a genial Jupiter at 17 Libra to the 17 degree Scorpio ascendant angle. Added to which the national Jupiter is in a robust fortunate trine aspect to the 19 Gemini national Sun. Jupiter in Libra aspecting both ascendant and sun and from the eleventh sector of friends, hopes and wishes, bespeaks style, refinement, optimism, the arts, l’amore, a disinclination to fight, elements of dolce vita, a certain will to be happily idle (dolce fa niente) and both to establish and ignore many laws. Italian-American Heritage month falls in Libra’s month, October. This Libran Jupiter is definitely a major key to at any rate the most visible and popular side of Italian character and culture.

By contrast, it’s not the eighth house that carries the sun nor the eleventh that carries Jupiter but the ninth house of beliefs and religion which contains Jupiter’s opposite: serious Saturn. It’s a planet without natural affinity for the house (Jupiter is the ninth’s natural affinity). Its position bespeaks especially Catholicism as bastion of order and tradition not to say some ongoing national difficulties with, even cynicism around, an often politicized religion which via the Great Mother sign of Cancer inclines to Marian devotion. Catholicism is Roman Catholicism, and anticipating the concern here with the asteroids, it is noticeable that Saturn aspects Romulus, builder of Rome’s first temple. Only because Jupiter (whose highest octave is religious and philosophical)  is so strong in the national chart does Italy work with the Saturnian nature of the predominant faith to the extent it does.

The ninth house always covers aspects of a nation’s legal profile, especially its judges. Saturn here points to the notoriously slow dealings of the national legal system and its relative ineffectiveness in punishment of crime, a situation helped by the mentioned Jupiter in Libra, sign of laws, which in its negative expression can simply inflate the number of legal dealings at the same time as it may indulgently permit too many loopholes. Close to Saturn from just inside the previous eighth sector, Venus’ conjunction to Saturn signals various things, including that love/eros in Italy is related to a few mama mia complexes (the phenomenon of mammoni sons) rather as in Israel Venus in Cancer bespeaks some yiddishe momma issues. However, three planets in Cancer  including quick witted, inventive Mercury and within conjunction of a world point (0 Cancer) and then with even Essen (Ger.food) in the sign, clearly announces the importance of food and dining for the entire culture and its world fame besides.

Finally I note that the celebrated drama and grandeur of Italy, the tendency where possible to build a palace rather than a house, a cathedral rather than a church, is linked to a Leonine factor. Both Mars and Pluto fall in Leo in the ninth house, Mars being within conjunction of a destiny, reputation and leadership related Midheaven angle also in Leo – big building Mussolini was a Leo – and conjunct the fixed star Regulus, a bestower of honours and fame. More could be said, but this is enough to supply the main features of the chart in traditional, planetary terms.

SEEING THROUGH THE ASTEROID WINDOW

asteroids

Although as in striking instances given presently a national chart will recapitulate a cultural past, obviously it describes what is developing at the time of birth. For Italy this was the nation’s new expression in 1946 as a republic; any asteroids in the first house of image and mythos are therefore significant for that. The chart affirms the republican ideal whose chief founder and exponent was if anyone Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872). Accordingly asteroid Mazzini rises in the first house at O Sagittarius, sign of theories and ideals and he is followed at 6 degrees by Unitas the principle beloved of nationalist theory. This pair have been preceded at 23 Scorpio by Verdi, whose operas early functioned as a national unifier. His chorus of the Hebrew Slaves in Nabucco, rapidly became an anthem for the national independence and unification movement now finding new expression. But Italians are anyway a people who sing – of freedom, love or whatever. Asteroid Chant (Fr. Song) rises behind Verdi at 5 Sagittarius close to the Unitas the nation desires and from where it makes almost to the minute perfect aspect to a 5 degree Libran Neptune, ruler of anything musical. In short, it’s a signature for a people of opera in their past, present and future. Monteverdi with whom opera seriously begins, rises just within the first at 15 Sagittarius.

Even so, the rising Scorpio that defines the first house surely puts its stamp on the whole by the way it contains asteroid UmbertoEco, author of the complex murder mystery, The Name of the Rose rising at 28 Scorpio (and even in trine to asteroid Rosa in the eighth house of death!). Below him, still just within the first house and reflecting an image some have of Italy less as home of the cheerful enthusiast than the radical cynic or even nay-saying melancholic behind the smiles, is a conjunction of Renaissance philosopher Machiavelli with tragic, Romantic era atheist poet Leopardi at 12 and 13 Sagittarius respectively.

As stressed, modern Italian identity is unusually based upon discovery and imposition of a language. Language and writing are related to the third house whose affinity is with the third sign, Gemini. It’s surely against chance that we find in precisely this house asteroid Manzoni whose classic novel The Betrothed, virtually established what form Italian must assume, namely an updated version of the Florentine Tuscan dialect employed by Dante. Dante’s crucial move to use the vernacular rather than Latin was anticipated by St Francis of Assisi who wrote poetry in Umbrian. If Francis can stand for St Francis (and he likely should since there is no other asteroid could be used and he widely conjuncts Clara besides), then Francis is just within the third house at 27 of original Aquarius . From there he also opposes the Midheaven of any national leadership which for such an anti-establishment figure seems correct.

There are two other points of relevance in this third house. Though late developed, Italian is one of the Romance languages whose roots are in Latin. So we find asteroid Roman is strong and pointing to novelty at 0 Aquarius in this house of language. Interestingly too its cusp is conjuncted by Pinocchio, a book which though now internationally famous as a child’s fairytale, some consider to be something of an adult’s fairytale that portrays important elements of the national character.

Sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly, national pictures will recapitulate cultures and character (a principle wonderfully exemplified in the chart for modern Israel whose Solomon is conjuncted by The Part of Wisdom). For Italy what may be the most striking case is how asteroids Dante and Vergilius form conjunction in the eighth house at 25 Gemini. The conjunction is remarkable seeing that, as is well known, Dante employed Virgil as his literary model and spiritual mentor who conducts him through Hell and Purgatory, Virgil’s Aeneid itself having conducted its readers to Hades. Both poets fall in the eighth house which can cover for any debt, death, hell and transformation issues. Yet neither asteroids are in the house of national language with Manzoni. But again, and remarkably against chance, at 25 degrees they are making exact quincunx aspect (150 degree ) to Manzoni and a meaning of that aspect is “adjustments must be made”. Precisely adjustments are what Manzoni would deliver in forming modern Italian out of the tradition of Dante.

Due to the great amount of information available, for brevity’s sake I shall select and divide up material into three sections 1) politics and the land, 2) art and creativity 3) Philosophy, Faith and Values.

POLITICS AND THE LAND.

land

The enduring division of Italy along with its mafia and secretive side is well reflected in the way Puglia (a major underdeveloped region of the south at 18 Virgo is in direct stress square aspect to the national sun. In rather the same way Sicilia (Sicily) at 4 Leo is in exact stress square to the nation’s Scorpio moon. This suggests the island’s long history and cultural identity is at risk of being undermined by hidden forces, not least because at 27 Scorpio, Palermo, a major centre of Mafia, makes stress square to the Midheaven of leadership and destiny – the government can be beholden to hidden forces! Italy’s Gemini sun “rules” the Leo destiny/career/leadership Midheaven, but Gemini itself being a mutable sign, this potentially encourages frequent changes in government and leadership following 1946. Although no asteroid for South exists, the long standing North/South tension seems reflected in the way that asteroid Nord (North) at 17 Taurus exactly opposes the national ascendant, in some respects an opposition to the general interest, the body of the people at large.

There is no asteroid for Milan unless Mediolanum, its Latin name, but this happens to be both in semi-sextile aspect (often deemed a financial aspect) to Nord from 18 Aries and in opportunity sextile aspect to the native sun. So Milan can drive the necessary economic machine but not necessarily to the benefit of the South. At the same time Milan/Mediolanum is perennially a, or the, major creative hub of Italy in arts, science, industry and also religion – even western Christianity as exemplified by Roman Catholicism was largely formed by Ss Augustine and Ambrose working in ancient Milan in the century after the Edict of Milan had made Christianity legal. Suitably Augustinus at 19 Leo in the religion house sextiles the national sun at 19 Gemini and trines Mediolanum at 18 Aries a sign of Augustine’s enduring influence on attitudes and policies.

The fourth sector of any chart is the place of origins, ancestors, home and its territory, the land itself. Italy’s origins house contains Italia at 0 of oceanic Pisces. This seems relevant to being a largely sea-girt peninsula much of whose traditional wealth derived from sea trade. Within the same house is Roma at 13 Pisces, an indication Italy is the descendant of imperial Rome. (The great classicist Petrarch called his homeland of many warring states Italia simply because the Romans once called the peninsula by that name). The more specifically Christian legacy is represented by San Pedro at 23 Pisces. Here St Peter is not simply a forefather in faith but one who gives his name to an actual piece of land as far as St Peter’s basilica and the related Vatican territory is concerned and so, unsurprisingly, San Pedro trines the crucial religion house Saturn, a suggestion of Papal states or property. With Aquarius (accidents, surprises) on the fourth cusp exactly opposed from fiery Leo by Vesuvius (itself loosely conjunct Etna), some disposition to natural disaster seems to attach to the land and at any time Italy might come to an end it would likely be through fire, quake and volcano.

ART AND CREATIVITY.

boccaccio

Anything to do with the arts, especially visual arts, is associated with Venus. There is accordingly significance in the fact that Venus at 21 Cancer (the chief sign for painting) at the end of the eighth house is bracketed by Saturn at 23 Cancer in the ninth of Religion and Vaticana in the eighth of shared resources at 19 Cancer. What all this means is that the artists and their art will have a special relation to the church as patron and also to the ancient classical world (Saturn) drawing upon its traditions and ideals. Since however the eighth is the house of eros, it follows sex, or at least the sensuous, will colour the arts in everything from the way that the artist’s mistress might portray a Madonna or the baroque style engage sensation.

Creativity itself is generally of the fifth house so it seems relevant that within it at 19 Aries is asteroid Imago with its implication – despite Dante, Verdi et al including the novelist Moravia whose asteroid falls on this degree, – for the supremacy of the visual in Italian creative endeavour.

There are obviously lacunae, but many names in Italian art and music have their asteroid. One would need a very thorough knowledge of art and biography to interpret each position, some are clearer than others. Asteroid Bernini at 6 of original Aquarius connected by trine to Neptune (any dreams) at 5 Libra marks the sculptor who more than any other realized the beauty of motion and dream in marble. Michelangelo, all of sculptor, painter, poet and architect, is in the house of destiny and reputation as undoubtedly one of Italy’s most completely iconic figures at 14 Virgo from where he connects by trine – just – to another Renaissance genius, Leonardo at 16 Capricorn. The latter’s rather unexpected sign and position (second house) likely reflects the heavy scientific input (Capricorn) to his work and his concern with money and pay for his work (second house). In terms of real connection however, through their work on St Peter’s it is notable that Michelangelo connects to High Renaissance architect Bramante by semi-sextile (a meetings/connections aspect) at 13 Leo.

If Italian painting may be said to begin with Cimabue and Giotto, then that seems reflected in the way that at 0 and 11 of Gemini respectively this pair introduced some of the realism, humanism and expression of this mutable sign away from the pure fixity of the Byzantine art of icon and mosaic which has more natural affinity with the previous sign of “fixed” Taurus.

Overall, like Michelangelo and Leonardo, leading Italian artists tend to take the middle degrees of a sign from around 13 to 18: Leopardi 13 Sagittarius, Vivaldi 14 Gemini, Monteverdi 15 Sagittarius, Puccini 16 Aries, Fellini 17 Cancer, Botticelli 18 Aries. If they don’t there’s some reason like the brilliant but unfortunate Tasso at 24 of shocking Aquarius in the writing house opposite Mars, an aspect involved with the misfortunes of his madness and painful dealings with authorities. Rebel and virtual criminal Caravaggio at 9 Taurus is almost predictably in exact stress square to the power and religion factor of Pluto at 9 Leo in the religion house. Raphaela (originally asteroids were registered in female form) conjuncts the leadership Midheaven itself conjunct the star of fame, Regulus. This has to reflect not just Raphael’s extreme popularity internationally (reproductions of his Sistine Madonna in so many Catholic homes), but the unusually easy favour he enjoyed as an artist with precisely the papacy and leaders. (No asteroid I know of for Italy or elsewhere covers for Pope or Papacy unless at 17 Aquarius for Italy and 19 Capricorn for the Vatican it’s possibly the father asteroid Abbe,  a matter that may become clearer over the next couple of years as Italy and Vatican undergo distinct challenges).

Still more descriptive is Petrarca’s 23 Aries in the creative fifth house in tense square to Catholicism’s Saturn at 23 in the religious/philosophical ninth. This suggests the poet’s controversial Christian humanist theory against late medieval religion that Christianity in some respects continues and fulfils the classical world, a theory that helped facilitate the Renaissance synthesis. By contrast Petrarca trines Ungaretti at 23 Sagittarius. In the last century Ungaretti reformed Italian poetry (towards Modernism) as Petrarch in his generation helped reform poetry through especially the Sonnet form.

It could be harder to understand why Pavarotti (in stress square to Verdi !) and Paganini are in the “religious”  sector, but as that house also covers principles (philosophy) this may be pointing to questions Pavarotti’s personal life and career raised (including as regards the commercialization of opera), while the dissolute Paganini was always seen as evil and believed to have sold his soul to the devil, a question for religion, certainly. An odd ball heretic philosopher who likewise raised questions for religion, Giordano Bruno, makes his way into the ninth via the Giordano asteroid. Paganini was heterosexual, but if so many notable culture heroes like Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Donatello and more recently such as Visconti, Versace, Zeffirelli and Pasolini have been gay this must be referred to the national sun conjunct Uranus. A symbol at one level of intellectual brilliance and difference at another, Uranus often points to homosexuality. The Renaissance was born in the exceptionally gay-friendly Florence while only today more information is emerging about the practice of same-sex marriages in Renaissance Rome. Definitely Italy is not to be described through Casanova (though for better or worse he is so iconic he does make it like Michelangelo to the tenth sector of national reputation).

What is most distinctive about Italian art of all kinds is a certain urge towards the ideal and beautiful. This is supported by especially two factors. First that asteroid Bella (beautiful) at 16 Gemini is conjunct the national Uranus (its genius, the exceptional) at 17 (and more loosely the sun at 19) and then trine Jupiter at 17 of Libra, the often artistic sign of good form and balance. La bella figura is what Italy and Italians seek to present. They will also speak la bella lingua. Beauty rules and also poetry, or at least the poetizing of things because Poesia at 28 plus of Pisces is within conjunction of the 0 degree Aries (a world point) cusp of the fifth house of general creativity (and any love affairs….and yes, Italy does have Amor in the house!). This is beauty that can go international and which in modern times would spawn a major fashion industry. However, the Bella word and concept unusually defines the ethics of Italy almost replacing the ethical with the aesthetic judgement.  E bello, (it’s beautiful/lovely) also means it’s good within a language where bueno (good) as in buongiorno is not that strong. And this leads to the final and most complex issue of what Italians really think and believe. It’s a fascinating subject in which my observations are influenced by two notable recent studies, John Hooper’s The Italians and Tobias Jones’ The Dark Heart of Italy (broadcaster and journalist Jones is a Scorpio with his sun conjunct Italy’s moon –he can tell you a few things!).

PHILOSOPHY, FAITH AND VALUES.

aquinas

The chart shows two forms of Italian philosophy. With Philosophia conjunct the Italian sun, arguably the core philosophy may be simply the Italian way of life itself. Formal philosophy however is represented by ThomasAquinas at 19 Cancer exact conjunct Vaticana which last still pronounces under that philosopher’s influence which in some respects means under the influence of Aristotle too. The universe of Dante is set out and judged following certain ethical principles of Aristotle which don’t in all cases correspond to either biblical or common sense. Aquinas also had a strong line on beauty but associated it rather with the intellect and recognition of harmonies than the senses as such.   Dante would famously declare  “beauty awakens the soul to act” .  If what’s good is assessed against what looks good, (or even measured against abstract reason and the intellect), can what’s right be quite known? The spirit which is unique to humans as opposed to the soul (biblical nephesh which even animals possess in order to exist), may need more than beauty. Warning signals against recourse to the easy subjective aesthetic judgement is supplied in the way that Italy’s Lucifer (the devil as light) at 17 Cancer makes exact semi-sextile, a meeting aspect, to precisely Bella and exact easy trine to the imagination-defining ascendant.

A hint that Italy might actually be somewhat confused about good and evil is offered by the conjunction in the philosophy sign Sagittarius of asteroids Goode at I degree and Veritas at 2 degrees, with Malus (Bad) at 1 degree. Conjunctions are very for or against something, a mark of harmony or conflict depending – here it’s clearly conflict (in the way that Plato and Boccaccio conjunct at 29 Cancer are like reason against instinct, gay against straight etc!). Further confirmation of some conflict and confusion is given by the way Christen (Ger. Christians) at 8 Leo in the religion house makes easy trine to Malin (the devil as darkness)) at 8 of religion/philosophy sign Sagittarius. Apart from the fact that this likely reflects how it is in Italy exorcism has been revived and is more taught and used among Catholics in Italy than anywhere, it also implies it might be easy to deceive Christians about what’s right and wrong in and out of religion. Like Pinocchio’s nose which grows with every lie, untruth is perhaps one of the greatest problems for Italy compounded as it is, to follow Hooper, by a tendency towards free flowing fantasy, not necessarily malicious but which can make up reality as it goes. The same kind of extravagance can cast so many veils over the facts you may never quite get to the bottom of any major scandal or crimes as Jones demonstrates – even history with its facts is called storia in Italian!

The crucial influence of untruth whether deliberate or more fanciful, seems shown by asteroid Lie conjunct Christian strong on the descendant angle directly opposing the rising – the body of people, their image and mythos. Since conjunctions are very harmonious or conflicted, this could mean either there are too many Christians who lie, or more likely that from the seventh house of war and peace the Lie is the great enemy of national life so that Christians need to fight its power, though they will put themselves against the body social if they do so, much as those who fight the Mafia have their problems.

What do Italians really believe? It’s an intriguing question. Hooper cites statistics which reveal Padre Pio (no asteroid) is vastly more prayed to than Jesus and even the traditionally favoured Virgin. Maria at 20 Cancer conjuncts Venus at 21 and thus she haunts the imagination through numerous images everywhere displayed and sold throughout Italy. Years of life in Italy persuade Jones that Italians are so concerned with the saints, relation to God hardly exists. It’s almost too democratic! If so, again our data provide some clues how and why this situation comes about. With asteroid Credo in pragmatic, conservative Capricorn in opposition to the Venus/Saturn conjunction associated here with Catholicism, it looks as though Italians are liable to be challenged by and will sustain a love/hate relation to Catholicism, but we can go a bit further…..

rome

Asteroid Theotes (God or Divinity) is caught in one of those conflicted conjunctions, this time at 13 Sagittarius with virtual and actual atheists Machiavelli and Leopardi; but from the struggles of this bed of doubt it makes a trine to Isa (Ar. Jesus) at 14 of regal Leo in the religion house. It’s a connection which would support all and any Christ the King type images. Otherwise, and influenced by ubiquitous images of crucifixion and pietà, Jesus gets associated almost more with death than life. Indeed, what regularly functions as the Christ asteroid, namely Christa (traditionally most asteroids have been registered in feminine form), is found conjunct Requiem in the death house in the sign of the mother, Cancer – clearly a signature for the widespread pietà and Stabat Mater images! Despite this and suggestively, the asteroid Spirit does conjunct Christa possibly reflecting traditions like that of Gioacchino da Fiore who looked towards a Christian age of the Spirit.

I subscribe and for empirical reasons to the view that in their highest octaves the three outer “generational” and “spiritual” planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) symbolize the persons of the Trinity in any strictly religious frame of reference with Pluto symbol of the Creator/Father. Suitably for a Catholic nation, Pluto in the religion house stands in one sense for God. And since Pluto is also Italy’s chart ruler (because Scorpio rises) God rules or at least haunts the people’s mind as ultimate Plutonic power or fate. But Pluto does not connect with Theotes, rather it’s conjunct two asteroids, Fantasia and Aristoteles (though that is meaningful as I will indicate). In similar non-connection, neither Jesus nor even Maria feature as notable figures in terms of actual salvation – asteroid Salavat (Ar. Salvation) at 4 Leo is unrelated whether to Jesus or Mary and is in stress square to the national moon. Relations with God are liable to be  left to the mystics; and given Amor in the fifth of love affairs in aspect to the Plutonic deity symbol, this love can finish unusually sensuous as in the case of Blessed John of Verna who kept kissing and being kissed by Jesus or Angela of Foligno whom the Holy Spirit assured her she was more sweet to him than any in the vale of Spoleto!

Harmonious with the bureaucratized nature of Italy, the intercessor figure tends to be one to whom one takes petitions rather than relates more spiritually. Despite the suggestively spiritual Logos conjunct the verbalizing national sun, Italians are more a people of the image (Imago) than the book. Religious cultures of the book are more inclined to approach faith in terms of paradox and the interaction of persons and minds following narrative account of salvation history. Noticeably, one of the two bible asteroids Biblioran (Old Testament) from 19 Sagittarius opposes the national sun and Logos.

If today the saints still assume importance and are even what the national religion is largely about, it is not simply because they are the natural extension of a traditional Marian devotion. It’s rather more because common images of God render their involvement almost imperative. With God conjunct Fantasia, deity can receive some of that fantasia highlighted by Hooper. There can be all manner of popular speculation on the character of the divine; however and more officially, the image of deity remains essentially that of Dante via Aristotle, i.e. the Unmoved Mover with which the Paradiso ends. Dante’s God is “love”, but with it he scarcely any prophetic, biblical or paternal deity to oversee or interact with history or know “every sparrow that falls”. That’s more for his servants the saints! And Dante’s souls, saintly or otherwise, are such free agents it is effectively they, not God, who choose, and very largely work out, their own salvation, without any suggestion of Pauline predestination involved. Ironically it’s the classicist Petrarch who is in some respects more Christian than Dante, God being addressed by him as Father.

stars

There is so much material to detail and interpret where Italy’s chart is concerned that one must leave it incomplete; but it is appropriate to do so where Dante leaves the Paradiso, with a declaration before ultimate mystery and pointing to the stars. Except that in this instance we could cite the biblical statement. “The night skies utter knowledge” (Ps 19:2). It has never been very clear what this means, but while scientists and even religious authorities unite for their different reasons to dismiss astrology as any proper study, I suggest that especially the new micro-astrology of asteroids brings us nearer to understanding what night skies uttering knowledge is likely to mean.

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Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT LUCIFER

   Lucifer  ACTOR TOM ELLIS

A NEW FACE FOR AN OLD DEVIL?

Though here in Australia we won’t be viewing it – yet anyway – I  see that some Christians (thousands) are upset about and have had a petition going against a Fox channel TV series called Lucifer being premiered in the US on Jan 25th.

In this series a bored devil abandons the hell regions for earth and shows his charming side to persons in California’s LA, City of Angels. Named Lucifer Morningstar he opens a nightclub called Lux (light) and makes people admit the truth about themselves. He even  assists the LA police dept in a way that insures some people get punished for their deeds. If as intended the drama extends into series 2 and 3 the devil may even finish reformed and redeemed in variation upon the set text.

The origins of the present story lie in a comic book, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, an English author with a background in Judaism and Scientology, who introduced a Lucifer figure (who stayed first in Perth, Australia rather than LA) and whose image was influenced by the late David Bowie. The series stars someone of very different appearance, the Welsh born actor Tom Ellis who, to judge from the trailer, very much acts his role as the seductive English gentleman with plum Brit accent.

It will be disputed whether this kind of small screen entertainment really matters. Some believers, fearing via comedy a trivialization of evil with some mockery of scriptures and perhaps influenced by the old saying “speak of the devil and he appears”, want the series pulled. Still more protests, and if reports are true with possibly more reason, are already swirling around a comedy  series of similar kind, Angel from Hell which premiered in America on Jan 7th.

In fairness, trivialization of evil is a risk anytime, anywhere. Currently there’s plenty of it around and without assistance from any charming L. Morningstars. A notable example might be offerings from Ireland’s rising star of fiction, Rob Doyle, whose first novel Here are the Young Men revels in drug orgies, mindless violence, sadistic porn and deliberate evil for its own sake. The personable Doyle, a philosophy graduate with a half repressed punkish side, apparently found his subject matter for the most part screamingly funny to write and some readers (but far from all) also found it amusing. (One youth fainted out at a Dublin reading which Mephistopheles Doyle, whose next book – out Jan 27th – is This is the Ritual, took to be a good sign of something). Doyle feels we must acknowledge, release and examine our subconscious. He is more certain than some it is chock-a-block full with rape, violence, the ugly and obscene. The trailer for Lucifer,  albeit in a lighter vein, suggests a somewhat similar call to “honesty” from everyone.

WHAT THE HEAVENS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE NEW LUCIFER

From curiosity I decided I would look up the position of the asteroid Lucifer on the 25th January. Suitably for a devil come to earth and speaking and acting in quasi-idealistic fashion, Lucifer is at 8 of earth sign Virgo. By itself this might not seem too significant even with the hell asteroid suggestively on a world point (0 degrees of earthy Capricorn). More strikingly however Lucifer’s 8 degrees of Virgo is exactly opposed by Neptune strong in its natural sign of Pisces. Not only is Neptune (negatively) the planetary symbol of deception and false glamour so that the series arrives at a time that can challenge images of evil by  fantastically playing around with them and via the mode of film that Neptune rules, but this same Pisces-Virgo axis is the axis of the era we still inhabit on the cusp of the new age.

Late in watery Pisces we are being appropriately “flooded” if not drowned by all manner of desires, addictions, pollutions, hopeless political situations and human disasters – not least at sea –  signs of the era’s last gasp or flame burst. A relativisation of good and evil very much belongs to the late era mutability and, however mildly compared with some expressions of the problem, our notions of the devil and the demonic are liable to partake in all this.

Fascinatingly, I also find that on the 25th Jan the devil as light, the mentioned Lucifer at 8 Virgo, is conjunct asteroid Malin (French for devil and the devil as darkness)  at 10 Virgo which also means Malin relevantly opposes Morgenstern (Morning Star) at 11 Pisces, an asteroid itself loosely conjunct Neptune. The coincidence is suggestive of an element of darkness behind the light with consequent misunderstanding, confusion and glamourization as regards the real character of Lucifer.

The choice of Tom Ellis for the role of the fallen angel is peculiar in context. If I look at his birth date, (given on the Net as 17th November 1978), we find this oddity as it affects four planets, three of them the outer planets, deemed generational, trend setting and spiritual in meaning. Uranus is at 17 Scorpio, Neptune is at 17 Sagittarius, Pluto has just left 17 Libra by a minute of a degree but Mercury is at 17 Sagittarius conjunct Neptune. Checking the birth of Neil Gaiman, Lucifer’s modern originator, (born Nov 1, 1960) we find Sun at 17 Scorpio and Mars at 17 Cancer while David Bowie was born with sun at 17 Capricorn. What if anything might this signify?

For this writer at least, the interesting thing is that in the birth data for Christ (which I claim to possess and which work for Jesus issues to this day – see below), Lucifer is at 17 degrees of Leo (i.e. trine Sagittarius) surrounded by and aspected from there by plainly relevant, eloquent factors. For the star of the series there is accordingly a spiritual connection of sorts, however ironic or eccentric, to the original Luciferian subject. Speak of the devil and he does appear, if need be through TV screens or a comic images!

None of this means that the forthcoming Lucifer  series is automatically the most evil of small screen shows, but it does suggest affinities for the wrong thinking of late era society. There is also the implication that everything is ultimately connected and fated or permitted within an overarching, defining pattern. Thus we can say that Ellis, who was born with Lucifer at 7 of shocking Aquarius opposite Jupiter the religion planet at 8 Leo (a guarantee his work can engage petitions and protests from the religious!), though he’s hardly wickedness incarnate, has been able to land himself a role that not just anyone could. There always have to be these hidden connections to other relevant factors and persons.

REVISIONING AND PUBLISHING LUCIFER THIS YEAR.

As to what the devil is really like, I will be offering – almost trendily it may seem if this is to be a year of the devil – my own portrait in a mini epic Raphael and Lucifer . It will be published later this year in America along with some other visionary/metaphysical poems. My depiction of the fallen angel will actually be a bit more theologically correct than Milton’s – oddly Milton makes Beelzebub a separate spirit rather than a name/aspect of Satan himself – and I should say I render the famed Accuser both more crafty and self-deceived. No one can of course hope to get it all right about such a figure. Still, born as I was with Milton and Shelley, the two poets most concerned with literary portrayal and understanding of Satan, rising conjunct at my birth, I am within my rights to add a few new perspectives after what will have been a strangely long pause in English language writing, poetically at least, in this area.

As regards my claims about Christ’s birth, their proofs must await till probably September for publication and what then ought to be the needed last word on that too long contested issue. The evidence will be harder to critique and oppose than a television series, though doubtless some will try…if they don’t decide it would be safer and better to ignore the whole subject.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in religion, Uncategorized

 

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LIFE AND POETRY IN 2016

Geothe3

“Art is long, life is short” is a saying from Goethe’s Faust. It’s true enough. Unless you are writing ditties or making sketches most art requires your time, researches, even leisure. Life certainly seems to crowd in if you have plans for poetry composition, especially anything epic, even if only mini epics such as I gave example of on this blog with Coming to Syracuse.

Currently I have two mini epics or long poems in mind, one in relation to Dante and another about Europe at this time of migration crisis – the latter stands to change the face of Europe for ever. I am not however sure if I will get round to my subjects soon and therefore at all because so often delay can destroy the force of inspiration…..Be that as it may, for creative purposes too many things are involving or distracting me right now including that finally and happily I have had two books accepted for publication in America later this year: the long delayed Testament of the Magi and a collection of my poetry.

The collection will include some of the poems (the more visionary and metaphysical ones) published on this blog but it will begin with a whole new mini epic, Raphael and Lucifer written last year and not issued here or anywhere before. In style and ideas it is distinctly original and for now not much more need be said except that for promotional purposes I am thinking about having the first section of the epic videoed but using my own voice as isn’t the case with Coming to Syracuse.

All this is to say that I do not reckon for the time being  to be posting poems on this blog which can itself take a little rest unless something in the world and current events strikes me as specially demanding a response. By and large I have tended to put passing comments or minor, more vers de circonstance type poems on McCleary’s Additions https://mcclearysadditions.wordpress.com/  rather than here.

What gets read on this blog and who reads it can be rather intriguing at times. I have never understood – and now after 2 years – quite how and why my article Colton Burpo’s Real Heaven, Akiane’s Jesus and New Christ Images, remains quite so popular in so many places. At the same time I can’t understand how and why even for Irish associated material (material that may get read anywhere from France to India) almost no one from Ireland comes in to read it. Ireland is not a land of the thousand welcomes where this citizen is concerned. I have never had a feature or interview there nor has any poem of mine been published in the nation.

Something else I have found most odd is that despite all the advice given out these days about how to self-advertise and increase traffic, traffic is very little determined by whether I promote the blog and its latest article or not. What the pattern might be when I am published overseas will be interesting to see.

Quite recently and very little promoted by myself ( but of course you can always spread the word), I now have a third blog, called gaythoughtsblog. It exists – so far and because I don’t have big plans for it – simply to be a home space for a substantial essay that has been on my mind for a while now.. The essay is called Beyond Marriage Equality, Queer Fantasy and Christian Disinformation, what does being gay today mean? I have today published its second half which covers a wide range of themes from relationships to tantra and the esoterics of the gay body  (see  http://wp.me/p6Zhz7-1f, ) thus extending some ideas broached in my poem Jeremiah’s Loincloth on the present blog.

Although any astrologer or even just calculator of economic and climate trends would advise you to expect a rocky year, I wish all readers a good one despite. “It’s an ill wind blows no one any good” as the saying goes, and there will still be opportunities for many. And where poetry is concerned it will even be the year in which publishing will let you know what poems make grown women cry, while yours truly will hopefully be providing a new poetic vademecum towards poetry more metaphysical and visionary. Today it’s in short supply.  It has yet to be decided if the title of the collection will be Raphael and Lucifer and Other Metaphysical Poems or Other Visionary Poems. It may finish depending upon what kind of art work will grace the cover.

But most important of all we shouldn’t come to next Christmas and year’s end (and quite likely next September) without the Magi of my writings arriving at their destination and letting their long kept secrets known. If anyone will care to dispute the findings I offer, I think they will have a very hard time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

BAROQUE: A POEM

BAROQUE

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

BAROQUE

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

 

THAT POETRY MAKING GROWN MEN CRY

CRYINGMEN

THAT POETRY MAKING GROWN MEN CRY

A NEW LITERARY EXPERIMENT

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

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

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

SOME LAUGHTER AND THE TEARS TEST?

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

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

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

IT TAKES ALL SORTS….

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

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

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

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

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

SO WHAT IS POETRY TODAY?

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

OVID FOR EVER and PAUL JANKA FOR SOMETIMES

Ovid         OVMETA       Janka    Pickup

OVID FOR EVER AND PAUL JANKA FOR SOMETIMES

A POET MADE FOR FAME

Ovid can well be considered one of the most important poets of all time, along with Shakespeare for whom Ovidius was his favourite classical writer. An entire line in romance, courtly love and even typical western portrayal of love as a battle of the sexes, is hugely indebted to an Ovidian legacy.

The bard of Stratford owed rather more to the bard of Sulmo than is acknowledged and not simply because of references to myths preserved in Ovid’s celebrated Metamorphoses which for Shakespeare as for many poets (and musicians, painters and sculptors, supremely Bernini) has been a treasure house to plunder. One thinks rather of the influence of such as Heroides in which women soliloquize about their fate and experiences with men (mostly in modification or contradiction of the existing accounts of their stories from Homer and others). This anticipates the role of females in Shakespeare’s plays (or even just the poetry of confession in the likes of Richard 11  meditating on his life). Ovid’s work is, scintillating, witty, critical, dramatic and unusually psychological for his era. He wrote drama as well as poetry – we know of his Medea which is lost to posterity.

Ovid (March 20th 43 BC Julian/-42 Greg – 17/18 AD) was prolific and his memory for the myths, ancient sources and customs he refers to was prodigious too. He claimed, as was surely necessarily the case, that he wrote in poetry almost as naturally as prose. His natural facility must have given him the confidence from his only middle class origins to leave the legal career expected of him by his father and social background for a purely literary career which seems to have been launched as early as eighteen.

Despite the obvious delight in myth as in the Metamorphoses and in traditions as in the Fasti, Ovid can sometimes be sceptical and cynical about both and in a way that adds to our impression almost nobody in the ancient world was quite so modern as Ovid. He is the Italian artist and cinematographer before the time. He is very much the western individualist in preparation on the cusp of the new age (of Pisces), the age which would propel western humanity to the forefront in historical/cultural terms. All the ancient writers and poets, no matter how insightful and enduringly relevant can still seem somehow archaic in comparison. Arguably Thucydides is rather modern, but on the whole, especially the Greeks, almost plod in comparison with Ovid whose only possible rival for a contemporary feel among the Latins is Catullus.

Ovid has been so influential it can well be asked whatever does anyone have to do to become  a famous, prolific writer of major verse like Ovid and Shakespeare who dashed off the work that almost all other poets worldwide have had to labour over because poetry is an art of excellence and often compression akin to the work of sculpture or mosaics?

Here the astrologer can affirm something others can’t. Both Ovid and Shakespeare have their writer’s Mercury at 16 of cardinal, (action orientated) Aries. Things just flow out of them, the energy is boundless and it’s likely most of the time that, like Shakespeare according to Ben Jonson, Ovid never blotted a line…albeit he is on record as wishing to have polished the Metamorphoses except that exile and disgrace got in his way. (The astrological effect may extend to a degree or two either side. A lesser but still major prolific poet for all occasions, Wordsworth, had his sun at 18 Aries).

But if we can observe this, are there other things the birth pattern can help us perceive? I believe that crucially we can do so but I shall say a little more about the poet and his life first.

OVID MYSTERIES

There are all sorts of mysteries around Ovid, his motivation, his themes, his exile but they might be said to begin and end with an overwhelming conviction that his fame would endure for ever, or at least, as he declared at the end of the Metamorphoses, for as long as anyone uttered the name of Rome. Metamorphoses is not however the only place he forecasts a uniquely privileged future. Where did this obsessive, insistent conviction and its self-confidence derive from? I will come to this presently.

Particular mystery attaches to the poets banishment from Rome in 8 BC to the miserable outpost of Tomis (modern Constantia) on the Black Sea on the order of the Emperor Augustus.

Two reasons are given for this most celebrated of literary experiences of exile. The first was that the poet was a corrupter of Roman morals (through his Amores and Ars Amoris, the Loves and the Art of Love) which Ovid would later claim represented fantasies and follies not reflective of his personal life. He will also protest that there was little cause for blame given the already well-established “wanton verse” of such as Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus in the generation before him. And it is undeniably strange given that legacy, that any strongly felt charges of corruption weren’t brought earlier. On the love theme Ovid had been published and known for years before perhaps jealous rivals of the successful poet influenced the Emperor whose reform of the marriage laws in 18 BC was challenged by Ovid’s permissive oeuvre. (It is of course a popular myth that Roman society was engaged in almost continuous orgy before Christianity came along – one has for example only to read the atheist poet Lucretius’ negative account of sex and love to recognize Ovid was far from expressing or catering to some unquestioned norm. Ovid himself describes concern with adultery as “provincial” which is to affirm it existed). Even if we allow that Augustus in seeking to reform morals could begin with punishing a living writer rather than just speaking against dead ones, the emperor may have had more private reasons.

The second cause of banishment was involved with the fact the poet had witnessed or been involved in something of which we aren’t clearly told by either Augustus or the poet. Ovid’s poems of exile admit only to some folly, (perhaps witnessing or speaking of something he shouldn’t have), but he insists there was nothing criminal or of criminal intent behind it. Since however the order occurred the same year as the Emperor’s daughter, Julia, was also sent into banishment for (persistent) adultery, it is not inconceivable that the well-connected Ovid had been some witness to, or an influence behind events which ran counter to Augustus’ new moral laws aimed to reform the ultra-permissive lifestyles of the Rome’s wealthy new upper classes. They certainly didn’t serve the militaristic values of the Roman empire. Ovid effectively turns away from this offering not an expansionist epic but a comedy of the wars of the sexes.

OVID AND MORALITY

Before looking further into this I will say something about Ovid and morals.

Endearing, charming, amusing and often kindly though Ovid can be – he abhorred mistresses being cruel to servants, he was appalled at easy abortion – and though his 26 year long sufferings till death in the wilds of Tomis are heartbreaking, I think one is bound to agree that few have argued more blatantly and strongly for adultery. He tells his readers how to go about it and to treat it all as a love game, chiefly but not wholly to a man’s advantage. Ovid is not obscene, but he is frankly, boastfully immoral and in a way that argues against his own comparison with the Latin poets before him.

Love poets of the previous generation like Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus represent a unique experiment and moment in history. Comparable in some respects to the medieval troubadours, they were born to be upper class men of leisure in a way Ovid wasn’t. They had sought love and an exploration of female character in a very individual, independent way against the strictures of the old Republican and very patriarchal world. There weren’t many places for adventuring poets to go except prostitutes or other men’s wives – Catullus famously pursued “Lesbia”, the wife of the absent Metellus Celer and Propertius pursued the high class prostitute Cynthia. Quite whom dreaming Tibullus and his Delia and other women represent is less clear. But in the case of Catullus and Propertius not only was there some genuine and memorable even painfully memorable love involved, but when it didn’t work out there was frank recognition of the fact. Moreover some of Catullus’ poems celebrate marriage and more traditional values. Propertius too admires the faithful traditional wife. One may be left with the sense of some lessons learned, an evolution of ideas and character.

Though Heroides does sympathize with abandoned lovers and ill treated wives and is almost feminist, nothing like this attaches to Ovid’s erotic verse which is full of glittering, throw away cynicism. Its tricks to further seduction, chiefly of the wives of other men whom one is delighted to deceive, would leave a legacy in the rituals of elegant but decadent courtly and aristocratic lifestyles across the centuries. Augustus surely had a point about writing that corrupts, though we might need to consider if the emperor didn’t have motives apart from the moral ones and associated rather with his developing religious policies that he didn’t openly declare in this particular case.

But in turn did Ovid have a point in protesting that his erotic verse did not represent the facts of his life and experience? There could have been some truth in that claim even if it was made with some exaggeration in order to plead the case for release from exile.

The Heroides does in fact suggest an author with as strong a feeling for virtue and loyalty as anything opposite. It is therefore possible – just – that the love poetry could be thought of as largely a satire of nouveau riche Roman morals but voiced through the mask of a Casanova. The claim to private innocence amid public folly would even be consistent with Ovid’s birth sign, Pisces, which imagines much.

One need only read the adultery filled fiction of the devout, church going John Updike to see  the Piscean comparison and ( because people are rarely too honest about sex and love and whatever his precise birth date) the poetry of the cavalier clergyman Robert Herrick. Herrick even writes as though he had a variety of mistresses he never had. He even uses the name of Ovid’s supposed chief mistress, Corinna. But just who was the original Corinna whose name Herrick borrows? For fame, influence and scandal in some respects an even closer comparison to Ovid, though a non poetic one, would be with Piscean Erika Leonard/ E.L.James (7.3.1963) author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Again like Ovid we have a Piscean with a moon in Leo, and though apparently long term happily married, Mrs Leonard takes the world by storm with her unbridled sexual fantasies.

Ovid had three wives. He was married off to the first very young and he described her as “useless” and divorced from her as from a second wife divorced before he was thirty for reasons unknown. His third well connected wife was left in Rome guarding the family home when he went into exile. (By imperial favour the poet’s home and goods weren’t taken from him. Perhaps Augustus realized the Tomis would be prison and purgatory enough as proved to be the case). Ovid declared he had been faithful to his (third) wife. He may have exaggerated or lied, yet he had a case to make for his release and he had been well known in sometimes critical Roman circles. Could he have professed the innocence he maintained and not had it all easily denied if it was all manifestly untrue?

Some critics detecting that Ovid must be describing his own home in the Amores, have suspected that Corinna was not the mistress but a record of the ultimately detested first wife. It is my own suspicion that it was from this rather extravagant, free living Lady Gaga style character that Ovid discovered what the tricks of seduction were (in addition to what he would have easily enough learned from earlier poets). I suggest a way to read The Art of Love is a virtual satire on existing Roman mores while the tricks of seduction constitute a revenge upon the first wife. Why? Because at one level there is an Ovid who is genuinely sympathetic and romantic towards women – he could never have written whole tracts of his work and the Heroides if that were not the case – but there is another Ovid who wants to be revenged upon women. He despises them and offers the love game and seduction as the way to be revenged. 1: 646 et seq of Ars Amoris might well be the key to the whole work and its author’s psychology when he declares against women:

They’re cheats, so cheat them; most are dumb and
Unscrupulous: let them
Fall into the traps they’ve set themselves…
So let perjuries gull the perjured
Let woman smart from the wounds she first dealt out!  (tr Peter Green)

I suggest a long suffering cuckold is talking, one saving face by pretending to strings of conquests he never had. After all, he does declare in the Corinna centred Amores, “your morals turn me off, your body on” and he pleads she will at least pretend to be faithful so he won’t be too hurt.

If true this of course still can’t automatically and fully exonerate Ovid. His sins may not be of commission but they could be of the imagination. To the extent he is blasé about rape (by the gods in Metamorphoses) and teaches heartless cynical infidelity in a big way that will influence society for generations to come, he can’t be deemed only an innocent and thus only the victim his nightmare banishment made him. One could even argue that here is the culture hero who acts as one of Satan’s little helpers. Whether he was or not we must surely see something remarkably symbolic in the moment of cultural and ethical conflict that marks his life.

OVID AND THE NEW AGE

I said that Ovid was born under Pisces, the age that was dawning in his lifetime. Christ was born in 7 BC the year following Ovid’s banishment and (as maintained on various blog article on this site) Christ was born, as we know the Emperor Augustus was, under the sign of Virgo – in late Virgo with his sun opposing Ovid’s late Pisces sun and exactly so: 27 Virgo to 27 Pisces which didn’t help Ovid.

Everything Virgo as being both opposition and complement of Pisces would represent the ideal or better half of the new age; and while that “feminine” era would advance such themes as romance, compassion, tolerance and the status of women to some degree, it would necessarily do so through the filter and mode of its Virgoan ideal. That  would mean it would oppose any mere confusion and permissiveness, just as the end of that same era (now) things would tend to sink back into permissiveness and the confusion of values that in its negative expression Pisces too often represents. The parables of Jesus are almost built on a Pisces/Virgo axis of imagery, his hearers are even counseled not to be drunk with the servants (Pisces is a servant sign, a sign of inebriation and addiction). Something in Ovid even adumbrates the Christian feeling of the coming era. Hypermestra to Lynceus in the Heroides is already giving us the martyr’s sacrifice, the suffering, the higher love, the forgiveness, attachment to the ideals of virtue, even a virtue that will be its own reward.

Ironically it may have been the more spiritual side of Ovid which contributed as much as anything else to his mystery-ridden downfall. In harmony of sorts with the incoming era the Virgo born Augustus Caesar, himself in power when Jesus was born, sought to direct his own and Roman authority towards a new imperial cult. The emperor would be increasingly viewed as divi filius, son of God. Arguably Ovid could be seen as undermining the trend. He had always been rather sceptical about the gods but in his incomplete Fasti, a record of the various cults and festivals of Rome he is at once independent doubter and believer through the way in which he has interviews with or visions of deities to sort out mythic/theological issues with them. There are vague intimations here of a Protestant independence, reliance upon the personal belief or revelations.

This individualistic approach could end as unhelpful to Augustus as the Ars Amoris to his reformist marriage laws and perhaps more so. I am even inclined to think those critics who emphasize this point are on the right track. There is a strong hint from the birth pattern that Ovid was a victim to religious policy.

OVID’S HOROSCOPE

OVIDCHART

Even without a birth time to help us (the above chart is set for midday) the day of Ovid’s birth is striking enough for his fate and character and because it is it isn’t too difficult to guess at an approximate birth time. (see below)

The obsession with and conviction about fame is strikingly staked out by the rare way in which five planets planets can be considered as being on world points (it is usual to allow 1.30 by way of conjunction). There is little to compare in other writers, not even in Shakespeare (who suitably for his pattern took his role as dramatist rather lightly and half despised it as not quite respectable).

Pluto at 0.43 Cancer

Mars at 1.03 Cancer

Saturn at 0.24 Capricorn

Uranus at 1.26 Libra (just within the 1.30 limit)

Neptune at 14.11 Leo (WP is 15 Leo)

The fact that shocking, revolutionary Uranus is in the marriage/unions sign, Libra, just by itself bespeaks the destabilizing of marriage ideals.

This is then backed up by Venus in separative and different Aquarius at 13 Aquarius opposed to romantic Neptune in the Leo sign of passion and big loves. The moon has to be somewhere in Leo that day presumably within conjunction of Neptune which is the poet’s romantic/mythic imagination directed upon the life of the gods in Metamorphoses. Albeit Leo is a fixed sign, the metamorphosis theme is linked to the mutability of the natal Pisces sign which Neptune rules. Also in Aquarius is Jupiter which reflects the modernity of Ovid’s outlook on and treatment of almost any theme. The fact that 15 Leo is deemed the most unfortunate of the six world points and Venus is basically opposed to it is an invitation for the things of Venus to be in trouble.

However, far and away the most distinctive feature is the world points involved in a tight, difficult, tension-giving T square of the malefic planets or even, if one includes the position of the sun which is not closely conjunct the Aries world point, that frustrating signature, the Grand Cross, thus:

                         SUN

MARS/PLUTO           SATURN

                       URANUS

Somewhere along the line Ovid was going to run into big trouble, even big political trouble because Saturn on a world point in the sign it rules points to such problems and they could be exacerbated by the in itself very difficult and frustrating close Mars/Pluto conjunction. (The latter conjunction incidentally renders it doubtful Ovid would be too easily successful in love and sex; and with the opposition from Saturn any embittered cuckold theory gains some weight). Shakespeare had Mars in Cancer (but not on the same degree) but for Ovid Mars placed here with Pluto and in the sign of homes and hearths, this has also to be the aspect of the long and frustrating exile from the home base.

Given Ovid’s various interests, his modes of seduction and a great loquaciousness to which he admitted, it is fairly clear he was probably born between 11 am and 12 pm with late Gemini or early Cancer rising this then making the difficult T square or Grand Cross central to the pattern and Saturn (political authority, the emperor), opposed to the rising from the house of open enemies.

But what is then interesting is that if we run the chart for Augustus (there is an asteroid Augusta which since asteroids were originally registered in feminine form is the appropriate asteroid for Augustus, we don’t find it conjunct Saturn…. or not closely. Instead at nearly 26 Sagittarius it is in difficulty square to Ovid’s identity-giving sun at 27 Pisces. Sagittarius is the sign of philosophy and (organized) religions. The hint is surely that Ovid offended the political authority of Augustus most nearly through what material like the Fasti represented for the emperor’s emerging state religion. The morals come into it, but not necessarily as the prime consideration.

PAUL JANKA AND PICK-UP ARTISTRY

At the end of the Piscean era which from its outset the Piscean Ovid was able after a fashion to haunt and dominate culturally, comes Paul Janka author of How to Get Laid in New York City (2004). He is not a poet and, on 1st June 1975, he was not born under Pisces but rather Gemini. However certain links with Ovid are interesting.

First of all, that sensitive degree again. Where is Janka’s Jupiter (his beliefs, his religion almost)? Sure enough it’s on that fatal 16 Aries from which Ovid was able to write so much (including about pick-ups and seduction in a big way) and again Uranus is destabilizing notions of unions but now at 28 degrees and thus the end rather than the beginning of marriage signs Libra as for Ovid.

Janka was propelled into his search for formulae by what he originally considered to be the great difficulty for him and for men, even good looking males, to attract women or to attract them in the way desired – especially for exciting quickies. (Ovid is more interested in landing a suitable mistress). This block is reflected in the exact square of restricting Saturn at 16 Cancer to that sensitive 16 Aries which carries Janka’s Jupiter. Even on top of his game Janka will speak Saturnian style of “the discipline” of working his technique.

As Janka’s sun is at 9 Gemini and his Mercury at 23 Gemini, one wonders if either of those two degrees wouldn’t correspond to Ovid’s unknown birth time and ascendant. (In favour of a Gemini ascendant for style and appearance Ovid was, beside his loquaciousness, slim and reedy as is Janka who corresponds in many ways to the text book version of Gemini-in one of his interviews it is even admitted he is not too concerned with erotica, it is conversation turns him on. Ovid is more concerned with women’s appearance and advises them in some detail how to enhance beauty and present themselves to advantage). If he is telling the truth about his past he nonetheless seems to have begun much like Janka.

………I’m the poor man’s poet,
Was poor myself as a lover, couldn’t afford
Gifts so spun words. Poor suitors must woo with caution,
Watch their tongues, bear much that the rich
Would never put up with

I haven’t analyzed Ovid’s theory of seduction and I haven’t read up on Janka’s theories of same which are the subject of whole courses and seminars in especially New York. In both cases however there is an unwavering belief in the power and ability of simply “technique” (a Geminian theme – Janka has spreadsheets and detailed records) and technique has a lot to do with saying the right things on cue and time (another Geminian theme) and at the right place. Both have a sense of place, the proper sites of opportunity, though one wonders if it doesn’t betray elements of Ovidian fantasy when the poet suggests the ardent lover could hover around Rome’s Jewish synagogue. Did Ovid harbour desires for a Jewish mistress, indeed had he read Genesis, a point of scholarly debate given oddly biblical elements in the creation story with which the Metamorphoses opens?

Ovid insists upon agreeing with almost anything a woman says and thinks provided one has her attention. Likewise promise anything. Janka is also very verbal but concerned  American style with a quick kill, the bang. In effect though, he agrees with Ovid in not wasting time pursuing uncertain, elusive cases. Grasping a woman’s interest and attention fast and insuring it’s strong enough to be worked upon later can be certified through the simple expedient of just obtaining her phone number. Janka  wants as many numbers as possible as then one is always assured of a certain percentage however small. Ovid more interested in mistresses and affairs, is both the eternal Latin and natural Piscean (sign of service) in insisting on being at woman’s service. Promise a woman anything, flatter her, pick up whatever she drops, give her whatever she wants, solicitously follow her. “Don’t jib at a slavish task like holding/her mirror; slavish or not such attentions please…”

Both evidently believe that woman’s vanity and/or curiosity can carry things along if only once the foot is in the door. This incidentally allows at least Ovid to stray in non PC, Christian Grey directions which may have some kernel of truth, especially for the less verbal when he declares:

It’s all right to use force……
What in fact they love to yield…
They’d rather have stolen. Rough seduction
Delights them. The audacity of near rape
Is a compliment – so the girl who could have been forced, yet somehow
Got away unscathed, may feign delight, but in fact
Feels sadly let down. Hilairia and Phoebe, both ravished
Both fell for their ravishers

In the case of both Ovid and Janka all such statements rest upon a certain understanding of the sexes which, whether true or false and they do seem exaggerated (and they are fascinatingly different from anything one might say about authentic same sex relations), are nonetheless promoted to boost male confidence to go on the attack. Essentially both assume and assure their audiences that women want it badly if only the right note can be struck.

Like men, girls love stolen passion,
But are better at camouflaging their desires.
If masculine custom precluded courtship of women
You’d find each besotted girl
Taking the lead herself. A heifer amid lush pastures
Lows to the bull, a mare
Whinnies at stallions, but our male libido’s milder,
Less rabid….

Really? To the extent the animal and human kingdoms can be compared and there is truth here, it is a half truth and linked to something Asia and the Bible better grasp as stressed in my Solomon’s Tantric Song  (amzn.to/14aa5Qe). The woman leads sexually as at the beginning of the Song of Solomon once some kind of relation is established. (The mystery of just what has been established with whom in the case of the elusive Song is something I attempt to establish in the book).

Janka has had both a lot of praise and criticism for his techniques, but his most recent shock delivered to his followers has been settling into monogamy and even getting married to his latest girlfriend.  I suppose this possibility was always present given the fact that not just Uranus but transformative Pluto is also in the unions sign Libra and opposite his sun. He would be challenged, even compelled, at some stage to rethink and change direction somewhat.

So, despite all critics and enemies calling him a creep and worse, the half Czech Janke has not gone into any exiles unless voluntary to Europe and he might even end up happily ever after. Since however he is not a poet and belongs most essentially to the ephemeral world of New York rather than the more eternal one of Rome and was born with no links to any world points, it is likely his eventual fate is to be disappear and be forgotten in a way it is unlikely Ovid who foresaw his destiny ever will be. And curiously readers might feel it is Ovid who is more alive and real. It is sometimes hard to think he isn’t with us still and that we didn’t meet him last week.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A SAINT’S MISTAKE: A POEM OF ST PAUL

[It’s arguable that tradition is wrong and St Paul never quite maintained what is popularly believed as regards “homosexuals” and “homosexuality” – words not used in his time. But belief about what he famously or notoriously wrote in Romans still has effects. Yet if the Apostle did say things along the line attributed to him,  both popular and scholarly understanding does not consider the evidence for  an element within Pauline experience which suggests the possibility of real error in his outlook in this area, one divinely anticipated and disapproved. Within poetic limits that difficult and controversial point is addressed. Related notes add a little more. Ideas for the poem came to me after reading the  outrageous extent of homelessness of gay people in America as a result of some ongoing conservative Christian attitudes]

Conversion

(The Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus, by Caravaggio c. 1600)

A SAINT’S MISTAKE: A POEM OF ST PAUL

From birth those energies defining life
May be transformed but keep their force,
There’s limit set upon the chance for change.
The angry youth may live to father revolution
But, lifelong, yearning visionaries may never
Grasp all truth; the times, society, a weakness of
The vehicle determines where and how each will
May grow. Light can enlighten when not blind,
But sight may need what’s heard to truly see.
Let eyes be opened, ready for the sun
Of Truth, but still recall that Logos speaks
Across the universe of space and time
Through ages, not one age alone which ends,
As ours, its spiritual life enfeebled,
Lacking true prophetic view, even
Ignoring such as you, St Paul, wilful,
Doubting or perhaps confused, refused
The words of Agabus. [1]
Upon Damascus road met by great Light,
You saw, you gazed, you fell and then
Three days remained alone in darkness, blind,
Till, helped by human hands, scales fell like leaves
From off your eyes. But what was that your ears
Had heard? Your mind in shock no doubt turned much
Upon a sacred history, ancient Law,
The Lord, but had you in that solitude
Absorbed the fullness of the uttered words
And even when preaching soon the Christ as
Son, repressed and left unlearned what echoed
Through the flashing of celestial light?
Even God had seen you on the road
Not just as Jew devout to last extremity,
But kin to pagan Pentheus face set against
The worlds of women and of difference
And spoke to you the words of question and
Rebuke once given by Agathon’s lover to the god
Of ecstasy and the flourishing vine.[2]
Of this, though Christ alone is truly he,
The shadow also speaks to depths of mind for
In yourself and God a Gentile dwells as
In the Gentile there’s a Jew. To soul within
And world without your call was to a wider field
Than even you would quite allow, lands and lives
Not only to address with a new gospel
Of deliverance and transcendent Law
But in their essence to reclaim. Such would require
Not only persons of the Way not fall sad victim
To persecutions of your policy
But – what and who are more remote to
The conservative, devoted mind – also
Minorities, the outsider, the enslaved.
The stubborn ox resists the goad, so hard
It is for even the good to heed God’s voice;
But harder life then weighs on many more
If that same voice is disregarded or misheard.
It drawsa canker to redemption’s rose,
It hid a poison in the new and good,
And justified whole centuries of harm,
Of inquisition, secrecy and dull despair
Of suicide, of souls denied the family home,
Of youth made objects of improper cure
Confused by a false loathing of the self,
Lives lived as though beneath a curse,
And so because you never learned, not even
From Jeremiah in his difference,
That never the leopard lost his spots
Nor did the Ethiopian his skin.[3]
The pedantry and prejudice of one once
Proudly Pharisee, stayed blind to what
In nature, art, and even just humanity
Might teach. You failed, as even great Luther
Later failed the Jews. [4]
Within a Roman world whose ruling might
Your angry will alone could hope to oppose,
Scarce noticing the slavery and pleasure
Taken in refinement of all cruelties,
You made a scapegoat and the symbol
Of most vice and sin, (almost the fall
Of this whole world and worthy of death itself),
Those whose eros and whose loves inclined them
To one side, their own, by this made
Enemies of a “Law” – transcended and fulfilled,
You taught – yet holding you still much in thrall.[5]
Not only was the scapegoat harmed but also
Spiritual lives identified most narrowly
With nature’s way. [6] Vague rumour, petty hate
In place of information or of love, worldly
Obsession with oppressive law and politics
Sometimes rank violence on the streets,
Such was and is the legacy to those
Whose loyalty is wholly to “God’s word”
And your authority, all ignorant
Of just how little the Spirit spoke
To you on the contested theme but
Rather echoes of Apocrypha, pressures
And customs of your familiar world.[7]
Like Peter struck with vision by the sea
But who denied the wisdom shown because
It seemed to oppose a written source, [8]
Likewise idolatry of tradition and of text
Chokes inspiration of the Living Word.
Oh Spirit who should lead to Truth and who
In your own being is the Truth, descend
Upon the human mind that thought
May rise to judgements on a higher plane,
Not timeless only but aware of time, its cycles
And those changes they intend. [9] Together let
Inspiration, scriptures and the kairos speak,
And not one source alone lest faith’s whole vessel
Run aground or sink.
No theory, no philosophy, no abstract
Statement of a rule will summarize
The Spirit’s truth whose will embraces
Situations and hurt souls as even
Holy Law was forced to do for daughters
Of Zelophehad.[10] Alas that Tarsus
Was the home not just of you, St Paul,
But to that Stoic thought defining
Nature, pleasure and a universal law
Too abstractly in the face of plain
Reality and human need. How hard
It was for you to accept the nature of
Even that youth, the gospeller Mark. [11]

11

These facts despite, the Good can redirect
And heal what harms. But wrong’s a wild weed
Reproduced and strong, and stronger still
When unacknowledged where it grows. Within
The fields of faith yet worse than choking weed
Stands visible and alone the bending,
Stricken tree of noxious fruit. It should
Be left to perish in its place, but those
Encircling it for its defence as though to guard
A relic’s power, and then their foes (seeing
More the persons than the tree), both these
Partake in what corrupts at root and branch.
Truth is feared and inconvenient to both;
Those who defend the tree will not admit
Beyond all claims of justice and of evidence
Their saint and scripture might be wrong – even while
They do not dare to cite them now on
Due obedience of slaves. They are themselves
Enslaved to Paul, so much they’ll even join
Their voice and vote with unbelievers in Christ’s
Name if only still to impose their way. [12]
Their mouths speak lies and foolish summary:
Difference becomes but “lifestyle” and a “choice”,
Let none admit it should exist lest youth be
Tempted to perversion. talk of discrimination,
Harassment can be ignored, just as indeed
They always were, the righteous mute before
While witness to a thousand wrongs, even
Approving marriages in name alone
(But these deemed holy –  other kinds impure).
This way “the unnatural” could be simply
Punished or erased and heaven’s blessings,
Not its wrath, shower down upon a Pauline
World sore needing knowledge more divine
Of being and persons in themselves. For
Grace itself is para physin – Paul
Deemed it work against the natural. [13]

Those who attack tradition’s tree and tribe
Are but soul brothers of their tyranny.
They’re almost what was so long feared
Or banned or damned, emerged like hell’s
Own self to manifest in monstrous style
A beast conformed to worst imagination.
Revenge lends savour to its policies
And once again an abstract value – now
“Equality” – spreads widely a new chaos.
The sacred, soon a target for the secular,
The atheist and hedonist demand full
Equal rights for ceremony and employ
All places from the college class to
Altar’s rail. Appeals to conscience, failures [14]
To welcome well or grant request,
All can be deemed new forms of insult
Or discrimination, grounds to pursue
A case at law, if need be, ruin livelihoods
And lives. For now what’s spiritual seems only
False and what is ethical but relative
Though what is sexual can seem true –
Even honest as pornography,
Itself a model for new modes of life.
It’s why beyond love’s rights, sometimes
Demanded with fanatic zeal, too often
Lies what’s scarcely more than sex as sport,
And heartless exploitation of the young.
And while the theorist and the litigant
Hold forth, indifference meets the
Youthful homeless and perplexed. But then,
Beyond “acceptance” at all costs, what
Will the monster’s tribe provide for life
And health beyond its empty round of
Party revel or narcotic haze?

III

Enough! The false can only bring forth
Lies again. The conflict of inflexible minds,
Harms everything and everyone, disturbs
The life of faith and human rights alike
With argument too close to cavil and to kvetch. [15]
Both parties see repeatedly but
One another to their shame in that dark
Mirror of St Paul. [16] In him, amid
Deep revolutions for the mind and age
And strivings with a hostile world, what seemed
Like sordid issues round the few, bore little
Weight save something to dismiss, deride,
Though history would prove that wrong
Like any utterance on a theme
When one admits to “think”, not fully know,
Just what the Spirit of God declares [17]
Or by pure silence does not judge. Even so…

Unless to say it can be that the first
Are last [18], amid the sufferings and long
Martyrdom of life, let none too quickly
Judge the words of you, St Paul. For scarcely
Will the saint or sage (and others less)
Attain full knowledge with perfection.
Each soul needs a Damascus with its light…
Yet there, let even saints not only see
But hear what makes for life and should set free.

NOTES

[1] Acts 21:10. The prophet Agabus warns Paul against going to Rome and the Christians beseech him not to go but he goes anyway. It is not clear how much he believes the forecast and how much God is understood to give a choice in the matter through the warning, but anyway Paul remains adamant. He had always intended or wanted to go to Rome (Acts 19:21) though it is not specifically stated the Spirit told him to go there as opposed to Achaia.
[2] Jesus is self-described as the true vine (Joh 15:1) so by implication the vine god, Dionysius (whom Gentiles believed was the God of the Jewish Temple) is the false. However the archetype is still relevant. We now know even pious Jews attended the pagan theatre and there is reason to suppose both Jesus and Paul could have known the celebrated Bacchae of Euripides (“the lover of Agathon”, Agathon being one of Athens’ most beautiful men). In the play Dionysius manifests like Christ to Paul, to accuse Pentheus of disregarding and persecuting him…”a man defying god”. Although Acts 24:16 says Paul heard  in Hebrew, the apparent quote from Euripides’ Greek is exact. It has unnecessarily kept the dramatist’s plural form of kentra goad/necessity (which would fit rather with a common proverb in the singular) that Euripides employs when Pentheus says,  “You disregard my words…and kick against necessity/the goads”. Euripides has only pluralized to make his poetic metre go. It is also important to note that the necessity/the goad could have sexual implications which the KJV bible’s “kick against the pricks” accidentally reflects. Though I don’t accept theories Paul was a closet gay, it’s possible the conversion narrative contains a hint Paul needs to examine his sexual being and attitudes at deep levels, as otherwise they could affect his teachings, treatment of people and understanding of what Jesus himself is like.
[3] Jer 13:23, On the basically gay/queer character of Jeremiah see for example Chapter 8 of my Cosmic Father: Spirituality as Relationship. It is beyond present scope but contained in my writings that some persons do, or appear to make, at least partial change from their orientation. There are reasons for this but in most instances persons are what they are and remain what they are  from childhood.
[4]  Luther reformed much and lit a torch for liberty in Europe generally, but his record of anti-Semitic prejudice (he proposed synagogues should be burned down) left a legacy in Germany facilitating Nazi attitudes centuries later, a case of a great man making great mistakes.
[5] It could be that Paul’s famous/infamous Romans 1 describes male prostitution, paedophilia, recreational bisexuality or just blasts the extreme indulgence of ancient Rome. Practically however, this is rant influenced by the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon on sex and idolatry. But by referring to whatever precisely same sex as “degrading passions”, “shameless acts” “degrading of the body” etc “for which they deserve to die” this part of scripture works out as hate speech and a life sentence if not a hell sentence for anyone remotely same sex attracted. It is what makes for a great proportion of the homeless of America being gays thrown out of the house by “good” Christians. Christian rejection was the reason of the now eternally remorseful Linda Robertson’s son took to drugs and overdosed at eighteen. Romans 1 would have been better never written and it should be excised from our bibles for the damage it does. For vastly less good reason even the sola scriptura Luther declared the epistle of James “an epistle of straw” that should be censored from our bibles. At the same time, it must be allowed Paul and Christians past and present have a perfect right to maintain that “homosexuality” like heterosexuality can be the basis for excessive, immoral, decadent behaviour (such as really does exist in America as in ancient Rome) It is troubling that the defence of gay rights now so often today also seeks to indite all and any criticism of gay behaviour as “homophobic”, even an indictable offence. Queer theory doesn’t accept the notion of morality in any normal sense and there is much to legitimately question in the work of leaders of gay/queer theory.
[6] i.e. associating sex with nothing but reproduction like the pagan Stoics which is scarcely biblical – Paul seems not to have read or absorbed the Song of Solomon..
[7] Paul’s diatribe is owing to the Apocyphal Wisdom of Solomon and is not untypical of his society and times – numbers of pagan writers like the satirist Juvenal spit out hatred of effeminates or any male who seems “different” from some militaristic masculine norm. The subject was confused by various class and military factors that no longer apply today. Any male passive towards another male was disgraced, the reason sodomy was used on prisoners of war. Masters could use slaves sexually. Doubtless because so many non gay persons were made to function that way that St Paul confuses values to this day by talking about “and such were some of you” ( 1 Cor 6:11) still the scriptural basis for praying or exorcising the gay away.
[8] Acts 10:14. Peter wrongly rejects the vision given him (three times!) because it contradicts or modifies scripture.
[9] The point is little stressed hence unfamiliar, but that the Spirit is God as Truth is indicated by 1 Joh 5:6. It is suggested here that the Spirit oversees/interprets the ages and cycles of time which promote changes and the new which are meant to be accepted.
[10] Numbers 27 recounts how these women petitioned to have the inheritance laws changed. This would imply the Law, (apart from core covenant with its Ten Commandments), is not written to be and beyond questioning and negotiation. All secondary law is besides for organization of the society of the covenanted Jews. It is not presented as any universal prescription and it is controversial if St Paul (and various Popes and councils) privilege and universalize only items almost at random following generalizing philosophical principles which is what Paul does re laws even his Jewish contemporary Philo believed applied to sacred prostitution.
[11]  St Paul did not get on well with the young John Mark, probably because his character was different in some way – perhaps gay/queer. Various controversies around Mark like The Secret Gospel, however heretical nonetheless likely reflect traditional suspicions around this gospeller’s character.
[12] In India minority Christians have successfully joined with Muslims (who elsewhere persecute their faith), to campaign for a recriminalizing of homosexuality laws against which were repealed in 2009. In 2014 conservative Christian pastor and politician Danny Nalliah who has been constantly opposed by or opposed to Muslims in Australia has recently supported them in opposition to gays.
[13]  Paul fails to see the irony that at the same time as he will approve whatever is unnatural, God works against his nature (his perfection) in grafting Gentiles onto the tree of Israel and salvation. Rom 11.24
[14]   Politically correct Gay/Queer rights are theoretically inclusive of atheist or libertarian gays having the right to teach religion classes or run church and university religion clubs etc or, in some radically liberal churches, to be priests without beliefs or usual  moral standards. While religious people can be blinkered bigots,even the individual bigot may still appreciate and support a larger community sense of the sacred which the rationalist libertarian may not. A community should have the right to retain what makes for the sacred, and arguably the owner of property (such as a hotel) should have some right to set the rules which may include a preference against gay couples? Conscience should be educated rather than state  coerced by laws, and where gays conspire to coerce Christians they are not better than those they oppose. Presently churches  are just being split apart and charity services curtailed due to arguments and court cases over gays and their rights.
[15] kveth is Yiddish for ceaseless outlandish complaining, grumbling, blaming. It is suggested St Paul somewhat indulges this in Romans 1
[16] St Paul famously states we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12), a principle forgotten when writing on things and persons “unnatural”!
[17] 1 Cor 7:39. It seems controversial that in pronouncing on marriage and divorce St Paul can only say he “thinks” he has the Spirit of God on the matter. He should surely know in making rules so vital to people’s lives, though one could say it’s liberating in that it leaves the door open for alternatives and exceptions. But if he only “thinks” re divorce, how much more likely is it he would have “thought” what he claims about same sex loving and lovers about which even just humanly and socially he would know so much less?
[18]  Matt 20:16

 

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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