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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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WHY IRELAND NEEDS YEATS 2015…AND MORE

YEATS2015         YEATSCard

WHY IRELAND NEEDS YEATS 2015….AND MORE

Ireland has designated 2015 the year of Yeats – it’s the 150th anniversary of his birth. Celebration is appropriate, not least because this is a poet who sounds surprisingly modern and relevant – lines from such as The Second Coming are often cited today as people observe IS and worldwide turmoil. And unlike the also Nobel prize winning Seamus Heaney, Yeats was always willing to be engaged in politics and with almost any subject.

Yeats’ legacy is however at once something notable and negligible. It can seem like the latter in terms of real influence upon modern Irish poetry which I will argue, despite its contemporary profusion and the cult of Heaney, has –  by and large –  lost steam and been in decline since Yeats’ death in 1939. It has been so despite Ireland’s earlier and celebrated history of bards and schools of poetry. The situation is radical because now even the very notion of poetry is in eclipse in Ireland. This is evident when one reads for example that Michael Davitt (1950-2005) was “…one of modern Ireland’s finest poets in either of the nation’s languages, (according to critic Philip O’Leary in The Irish Literary Supplement, 22.3.04)). As translated by another of Ireland’s “leading” poets, Paul Muldoon, the kind of adolescent, “avant-garde” level at which Davitt worked as in To Pound from God, was in the order of:

“ I suppose you’ll want me to wipe your bum
Or open a tin of Pedigree Chum….

At least, and unlike Trinity College’s now retired Professor of Modern Literature Brendan Kennelly, Davitt didn’t write a collection of verse called Poetry My Arse and opine that the subject of poetry as he understands it is “basically a celebration of human inadequacy and failure” ( cited An Anthology of Irish Poetry, ed.Wes Davies, p.307).

Those seeking by contrast a confident secular sublime, can always try verse from poetry festival organizer, poetry prize winner and university lecturer in creative literature and poetry, Conor O’Callaghan. The first verse of his two verse poem Comma  runs

Infinite
blip that
a flyover
sped beneath
scores into
a down-

(and the second verse begins with the word ‘pour’).

Nowadays you are almost more likely to find the spirit of Irish verse and vision in some prose works like Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim Two Boys or in the work of Colm Toibin, a writer who always wanted and intended to be a poet rather than the novelist he has become. So…what happened? And what might Yeats teach us if poetry is to be significantly revived today in West Europe’s former home of many muses, or at least aisling sky women?

NATIONALISM AND SOUL AS POETIC INGREDIENTS

Yeats

I will  presently give more examples (they could, alas, be greatly multiplied) to suggest just how seriously something is amiss in the emerald fields of Hibernian poesia, but I can state from the outset what is wrong as regards the general direction of the verse since Yeats.

It is of course possible – just – to  be anti-Yeats and produce some good poetry as the work of such as Northern Ireland’s Seamus Deane ( b.1940) indicates, but the first de-potentiating mistake of Irish poets was, however politely and surreptitiously, to dismiss or swerve from Yeats as any exemplar. It was felt he was too nationalist in inspiration and there could be no value or future in that because, with Ireland independently established, literature should become international (pursue Modernism in effect). Those who still wanted to admit some national and/or mythic elements like Austin Clarke, employed features like half rhymes admitted in Gaelic but which don’t really work in English and left a prosy rather than poetic/bardic impression. Ironically, Yeats, despite his ignorance of Gaelige could present a more Irish tone to verse by astute use of English. His “Anglo-Irish” English also carried a note of authority, The more “Gaelic-English” would encourage less bardism than  a sort of improvising, provisional half self or selves. This though it might be entertaining as in the case of Paul Durcan,(b.1944) risked being a new form of stage Irishry leading  nowhere special, certainly not to the engagement the new Ireland would  always need and Yeats as senator tried to provide.

The international/modernist trend began mildly with a diplomat of the newly independent Ireland, Denis Devlin (1908-1959), but soon it would gather pace and even become a torrent. Rejection of the Yeatsian poetic could hardly go further than in the irony of Celtic Twilight from Brendan Kennelly (b.1936). Instead of any sense of myth or “magic”, the poem evokes a Dublin of prowling decrepit whores and a Grand Canal in whose “rank waters bloated corpses float”. Even studies of Yeats – and even last September’s curiously early London launch of Yeats 2015 somewhat – tend to place the undeclared laureate somewhere apart, in a disappeared society and time past because of his obvious contribution to foundational events of 1916. The psychological and cultural reality however is that by understanding a national history and ethos a poet may better understand and reach into the world at large.

I would hardly be the first person to stress that point – it’s almost a commonplace. Walt Whitman voiced and helped shape American democracy but also espoused universal ideas beyond it while Goethe was the very cosmopolitan founder of a liberal Germanic tradition. But I know for certain the national/international principle is true as regards Yeats from having lived in Asia. I found him to be appreciated there and I might be asked to read from him. Some of Yeats’ verses like Lapis Lazuli are mentally or geographically located in Asia, while it’s well known some of the poet’s best verse dramas draw upon traditions of Japanese Noh. At least one accomplished poet, Desmond O’Grady (1935-2014). author of The Wandering Celt, is an exception to prove the national/international rule within Ireland. He does manage to combine Celtic with wider themes and like Yeats at one point he was strongly influenced by Pound – perhaps too much so when he got side-tracked into mammoth labours of poetic translation. But though appreciated, O’ Grady enjoys neither the status nor the influence of a Heaney or Muldoon, both poets of the North; and the troubled North has attracted a lot of attention in Irish poetry.

Although Yeats’ affinity for Asia owes something to his attachment to the theosophy and theories of magic many could never accept, more generally he was simply following the wisdom of the archetypes with which most serious poetry will always be involved. Genuine introspection will bring one there. Intense affinity with just place may not. Influenced by Joyce, a notable poet, Patrick Kavanagh, believed that one could be universal by devotion to a place, a notion that owed not a little to Joyce’s Dublincentric imagination. He risked becoming, as I think he often was, merely parochial because place will not quite generate the same imaginative verve as society or nation which can be a matter almost of soul. Linked to the archetypes one could say that Yeats was about – in the broadest sense – “soul”, something which, like contemporary Western poetry generally, modern Irish verse singularly isn’t despite the reputation of the Celts for spirituality.

But poetry itself is first and foremost spiritual. If you don’t believe that, then you must at least accept spirituality is what many people either assume poetry is about or appear to want from it – the biggest selling poet in the world today is, like it or not, the medieval Sufi mystic, Rumi. Poetry is Orphic and originated in the ecstatic, prophetic function and the serious poet, i.e. one who offers something beyond the entertainment or instruction which have their place, can never quite escape that root function….and/or the love theme which will often accompany it as we see everywhere from the Bible’s Hosea to Dante in the Vita Nuova.  Even major atheist poets like Lucretius and Shelley have dealt in the universe, large vistas and the sublime.

At its highest and best, poetry heals, inspires and creates – including whole peoples. Critic Harold Bloom may exaggerate but is essentially correct to propose Shakespeare has helped form modern humanity; Bloom maintains the bard did not only reflect humanity, he also made it and we have become his characters. In somewhat similar fashion, the rhapsodies of Isaiah inspired and remade a lost Hebrew society and largely through introducing new images of God and the self that allowed a new synthesis for a new age to emerge. Dante half created the modern Italian language itself amid his visions. The poets of the Romantic era expressed and half made the age they inhabited.

Sometimes, just sometimes, poets can and do change the world (though of course the noncommittal Seamus Heaney predictably denied it). Granted most poets cannot and need not aspire to such a degree of achievement. No nation is anyway likely to produce more than four or five really outstanding poets in a century, and society needs not just seers and culture heroes but minstrels, balladeers, teachers and entertainers. Poets nonetheless need to avoid through resentment, dullness or, sloth merely subverting the almost alchemical Great Work to which at varying levels their tribe contributes across time. What seems to have happened post Yeats is that any national/collective issues and feelings have been transferred onto the issue of what one can broadly call “voice”, writing and thinking with a Gaelic tone and style. At this level at least, especially in such as Pearse Hutchinson and Desmond O’Grady and whether one is writing in Irish (like Sean O’Riordain) or not, something vital emerges, but not as  strongly as where the Yeatsian emphasis on symbolic/archetypal prevails.

THE JOYCE/BECKETT PROBLEM

JJOYCE         BECKETTPHOTO

What could and should have been the ongoing influence of Yeats on modern Irish poetry has, I believe, been blocked and limited within his homeland by the strong competing legacy of Joyce and his admirer cum devotee, Beckett. Both these Modernist writers have cast long shadows. Though both composed a few poems they were essentially authors of prose and both were unspiritual or very negatively spiritual. (Beckett’s prize winning and obscure Whoroscope, written in a hurry to pay Paris rent and rewarded by the heiress Nancy Cunard, if and when it can be understood is arguably one of the most nihilistic, sordid and profane poems in the canon of verse. It surely belongs to “the throne of the faecal inlet” it refers to). The prose of the Joyce/Beckett duo has nevertheless been more weighty in influence upon modern Irish poetry than any poetic antecedents. Some want to claim it for life itself. I admire the wide-ranging erudition on most things Irish of Declan Kiberd, but I can’t accept as per his Ulysses and Us that Ulysses is really any notable guide to the management and celebration of life.

Although Yeats was something of a heretic in relation to most beliefs and traditions, his origins were Protestant. This has been held against him, or at least left him less favoured as a model for novice writers and poets than the by comparison more street-wise, democratic (sometimes), Catholic-raised Joyce who managed to voice those feelings of frustration and discontent many Irish Catholics have felt at least now and again. By contrast, and although Joyce himself could demonstrate an almost non serviam Luciferian pride, Yeats’ Protestant voice would be regarded as imperious and elitist, in short merely Anglo-Irish of the past, something Yeats scarcely even sounded like in real life. (To hear recordings of his voice which is neither very Irish nor English and not particularly emphatic, can come as a surprise and challenges the image some have of him). Patrick Kavanagh reflecting an all too familiar social resentment in a poem called Yeats  exclaims, “Yes Yeats, it was damn easy for you protected/ By the middle classes and the Big  Houses”. This is green-eyed nonsense like the whole poem in effect, highly proficient and well crafted though it is  –  Yeats faced enormous struggles in all directions and rightly called himself poor until well into middle age and winning the Nobel prize.

So the class objection was again a mistake fostering further error because even though with age Yeats undeniably evolved some dubiously elitist, even loosely “fascist” notions (partly in disgust at the sheer ruin the ultra-Catholic Ireland of De Valera was doing to hard won new freedoms), the fact is that poetry of the serious, bardic kind will often sound or seem elitist. Such poetry declaims, declares, reveals from the higher mind or worlds and as such is not about the everyday nor issues describable in its terms. Even England’s witty, socialist Auden decided in his latter years that what poetry needed next was to get back to the high style. Getting back there could nonetheless prove harder in our egalitarian times than leaving it behind. Ireland especially would seem to have to prepare for a very steep climb. It might even need to engage a bit of “censorship”, a self-censorship of a new and not merely puritanical kind to arrive there and at least try to be serious.

It may be mildly entertaining, but does a poem like James Simmons’ Epigrams constitute something – anything – worthy of a place in Wes Davies’ critically acclaimed and all-encompassing Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry? Epigrams 2 and 4 run:

Declining appetite
Made him polite

Now my faculties give in
I see the need for discipline.

Modern Irish poetry could use some discipline. Too many contemporary offerings such as one can read at  PoetHead on the Net which has showcased new Irish women poets, seem just self-indulgent and trite.

Award winning Denise Blake, an advisor to the RTE national broadcaster on poetry (like the mentioned Michael Davitt – no wonder poetry is in some trouble!) begins her poem, Adjusting,

The saucepan is full of left over potatoes
And I keep cooking too much rice and pasta
Three placemats still sit on our dining table

In musing on an absent son in Beyond the Front Door she writes of

“Cold pizza slices in a cardboard box, an empty coke can
lying on the table”

Subject matter for Irish still life art perhaps? Doubtless Mrs Blake is a caring family person and her sentiments genuine enough, but one finds nothing here and elsewhere that couldn’t be said as well or better in prose. But possibly she was remembering precedents like Beckett’s in Whoroscope with its ridiculous and profane reference to Hovis bread.

Dr Emily Cullen, noted harpist, short story writer and much else if one can quite locate her anywhere, seems willing to inhabit the same kind of kitchen zone if more impishly than  Mrs Blake.. In Galway Mould  we learn

For fun I bought you mouldy cheese,
Last night it took revenge on me
Inducing a vivid dream
Of a while chandelier of mould
That slowly lowered
Through our kitchen space.

Although without question Mairtin O’ Direain of Aran (1910-1988) can be hailed, as he has been by some, as a gifted poet of real distinction, apart from him let no one imagine any back-to-Gaelic direction such as Sean O’Riordain  (1916-1977) and Michael Hartnett (1941-1999) took would improve much inside or out of any Irish kitchens and better preserve the true Ireland. O’Riordain was a good and proficient if somewhat overrated poet whose illness and dramatic depressions seem like an unintended metaphor for the sad fate of things Gaelic he must be commended for helping preserve before present times when (for non poetic, non literary reasons) Gailige has become almost trendy in some circles. Hartnett is sometimes good but also sometimes gratuitously weird as in Death of an Irishwoman where she is described as “a card game where a nose was broken…a child’s purse, full of useless things”. If this is the latest incarnation of Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan, that lady is now in serious trouble and indeed a bit useless!

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill born in the Kerry Gaeltacht in1952 has devoted herself to verse in Irish. Translated, one of her poems begins,  “I wake up and my hands are sticky/With the smell of blood” and it concludes…”I’m stuck forever with this stink of blood/That’s on my hands”. In the course of the poem she has reduced bars of Sunlight Soap to slivers trying to rid herself of the smell at the tap. Nowhere is it explained what this blood represents or why it sticks. Does it symbolize, war, Ulster Troubles, the poet or anyone from history or myth? In his Nobel prize address Heaney compared poetic inspiration to breeze over a scullery bucket. Why not the kitchen sinks and dustbins of Hibernia? Well, at least with the likes of Vona Groarke (b.1964) you may find yourself in the open air, kitchen observations exchanged a sort of gardener’s diary verse – “I let the gooseberries / Rot for not knowing when to pick them”.

But let it be said, Ireland’s contemporary female bards are more delicate than the menfolk, including the revered Heaney who (as only one example of the gratuitously sordid) writes – in Mycenae Outlook – having just referred to a vision of webbed blood and bodies raining down on the speaker “like tattered meat” –

“I would feel my tongue
Like the dropped gang plank of a cattle truck
Trampled and rattled, running piss and muck
All swimmy-trembly…

Not to consider what an über baroque evocation of a state of tension this is, it is really just more from the stock of sensationalist Joycean prose with its “snot green, scrotum tightening sea”, the world as a human theatre where people are holding on to or letting out their urine and never quite forgetting urine like Bloom who enjoys “grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”.

JOYCE: FROM REALISM TO NIHILISM

chastened

If it belongs anywhere, modernist realism of the Joycean kind belongs principally with prose whose main sphere is the factual report and which is not something designed to the same degree as poetry to convey or reach the transcendent. But post-Yeats Irish poetry has constantly, pedantically and monotonously appropriated the themes and style of Joycean realism and cynicism for verse. We need to ask why.

As said, Joyce spoke for those of the Catholic background that Yeats and his advisor in things Gaelic, Lady Gregory, did not share. Jesuit educated Joyce did not however pronounce on religion in any way prophetically – he was closer to a satirist, even just lampoonist of Irish and Catholic traditions. He had no alternative vision that might help reform, modify or substitute for Catholicism; he did not even reject it like an atheist. Like the true Luciferian he sometimes was, and possibly even aspired to be, Joyce simply subverts and renders toxic, contributing by his example to the also unhelpful example of the (Protestant raised) Beckett’s extreme paralysis of thought and action, his Murphy/Molloy/Belacquaism sitting in a corner cursing and despairing of existence – when not farting, evacuating, or masturbating. Inclusion of the latter theme to the field of poetry, (and rather insultingly to the Irish farmer as in Kavanagh’s half good poem, The Great Hunger,) can be traced back to Joyce, Ulysses and its anti-hero Bloom.

In accepting Joyce as high literature and a suitable object of academic study (he quite intended us to make it our life work!) we risk, and Ireland has risked, accepting him more metaphysically by osmosis. And the sad fact is that despite his obvious and undisputed brilliance, Joyce is at root unhealthy, certainly almost the last thing any new nation, not to say nascent poetic circles, should look to for prime inspiration, and if he wrote about the common man, apart from some early work, he certainly didn’t write what the common man could ever hope to understand.. Even just humanly Joyce does not come up to the mark, straining the kind of tolerance society normally reckons to extend to artists. Ignoring his questionable treatment of both parents at their death, this was a person so ungratefully arrogant he could turn even his main benefactor Harriet Weaver from the door. This was a person so merely contrary that having been keen to make Nora Barnacle his mistress, he prevented publication of his first biography because Nora was not portrayed in it as his wife. If Joyce wasn’t Lucifer he was periodically Judas and to follow him leads inexorably to precisely the Judas theme – it receives its fullest treatment in Brendan Kennelly’s bombastic, overflowing  succes de scandale,  Book of Judas (1991) which supplies the Messiah the traitors he is assumed to need to be himself and identifies Ireland itself with a species of Judas complex. (Jung considered both Joyce and Beckett Antichrist writers)

Such perspectives apart, practically, Joyce’s values were never truly liberal of an exemplary kind for us to follow; they were merely rebellious designed to shock like the basically unnecessary, irrelevant incest theme of Finnegan’s Wake. Even the repulsive reference in Ulysses to “the snot green, scrotum tightening sea” is merely a sideward glance to Dublin’s Forty Foot nude beach often frequented by gays. Anyone from his friends to the Trinity (as in the famous “my Mother’s a Jew, my father’s a bird” etc doggerel ditty) were the pretext of largely aimless, self-congratulatory Joycean humour and cynicism.

The Joyce and Beckett effect has been to divert energies from, rather than to encourage attention to the needed reform and development of modern Irish life including not least its spiritual life to which poetry might have been expected to contribute. One doesn’t need to plough through the earnest examination of the Catholic theme in modern verse that Andrew Auge pursues in  A Chastened Communion (2013), to realize that the poets, like the people at large, have  few religious ideas to offer (though it does have something – such poets as Padraig O’Tuoma and Micheal O’ Siadhail , both poets are respected including among theologians outside Ireland, a reason perhaps that  Wes Davis’s huge Anthology of Modern Irish poetry almost insultingly in the of academic secularism gives them no space or acknowledgement).  Mainstream Irish religion has been and remains too weak in theology and philosophy in the first place. This nonetheless means that once the roof has been blown off traditional pieties and reverence there is little substance left but instead just hollow, trivializing profanity like Patrick Fiacc’s whose poem Our Father begins, “Our Father who art a Belfast night /Pub bouncer”. Or again the purely bizarre like Brendan Kennelly’s God’s Laughter. This pictures God unable to stop laughing or “freezing in fear” when he hears words. As fear is a negative emotion plainly it could not be a meaningful attribute of any true deity. But at least Kennelly’s half dotty admirer, U2 frontsman Bono, (who has used the poem for U2’s pop theology), hasn’t controversially praised it as he did Kennelly’s The Book of Judas as poetry flying “as high as the Holy Spirit flies” for sheer inspiration!).

Scriptures and especially the reformist/prophetic Hebrew tradition scarcely register for Ireland despite some natural Celtic affinity for such, a reason perhaps that the Irish and Jews have been so associated, at least politically, in America. Irish Catholicism is, alas, more a matter of devotions, rituals and folk religion, not to say superstition, though in earlier centuries and before Catholicism invaded via England like Protestantism later, the Celts produced the likes of Pelagius and Erigena in theology and philosophy. The convolutions of Joycean thought which could serve an almost “rabbinical” examination of life and literature, are expended by Joyce and his imitators on what is often little more than lavatory wall scribble. The attack upon Irish religion given Joycean example has become a matter of aesthetics rather than thought, and there the matter has become largely stuck. Reform and development are highjacked by aimless, passive complaint which the poetry echoes. Joyce’s interest in Ireland may at one level have been futuristic in revolt against nationalist nostalgias of his time, but paradoxically his labours (eighteen years alone on the still almost unreadable, Finnegans’s Wake whose best effects are contained in the first and last sentences!) catch the culture in a circling, repetitive torpor from which it seems unable to emerge.

If it wasn’t clearer earlier, it is fully apparent in the wake of the Murphy and Ryan reports and ongoing church scandals, that the Catholic church has failed Ireland abysmally.The country has survived less because of Catholicism as long popularly maintained, than despite it. For long the hierarchy opposed most Irish moves and calls to independence, (notoriously one prelate declared that hell wasn’t hot enough nor eternity wasn’t long enough to punish Fenians). Meanwhile, hidden in  orphanages, monasteries and nunneries was behaviour fit for the Inquisition. Some of it (and despite the vein of quasi-Wildean preciousness in a lot of Irish culture) seems as though arisen from some, satanic, nightmare level of Celtic consciousness which the modern poetry almost celebrates in its vision of existence as virtual vomitorium and lavatory, a dream world in which one falls in a shower of waste as in a ridiculous short poem Free Falls by Thomas Kinsella. (You can read it with a commentary many times its length in Britain’s Guardian newspaper’s Poem of the Week for 9.12.13 where you will be assured Kinsella b.1928, “significantly helped shape the course of poetry in Ireland, and beyond”. By conducting it to Sam Beckett’s lavatory?)

Only Catholicism whose semper idem principle has almost automatically opposed change, fails to recognize the at once psychological and spiritual principle, that there is a duty to seek change for the sake of soul, and even for spiritual health and progress to question religion as mere tradition and “to let the dead bury their dead”. Biblically God is portrayed as departing from the Jerusalem temple (Ezek 10:18) when a certain level of evil is exceeded, this in itself a declaration that no institution however venerable is automatically, eternally sacrosanct in the eyes of God. The Judaeo-Christian tradition always declares “come out of her my people” (Rev 18:4 ) the reason being “so that you do not partake in her sins….so that you do not share in her plagues”. Christianity is, or should be, less about tradition than the in-break and formation of the new. In our own times and faced with certain features of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has proposed, (what Christians seem fearful of doing even while Christians are persecuted by Muslims and denied the legal right to use the Allah word in some places), namely that Muslims should reject their faith and become either atheists or Christians or (more recently she concedes) at least definitively reject the traditions of Sharia Law.

In The Invention of Ireland  (1995) Declan Kiberd proposes the Protestant perspective could have been more used and useful to Ireland. I agree. Maybe reform is yet possible for Irish Catholicism, but as the author of Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency who believes religion must work for people, I feel I could go further than Kiberd and maintain it’s probably high time Ireland abandoned the Catholicism it seems no longer able to trust, love and believe – not abandon for pure secularism which would be defeatist and perhaps even impossible given certain features of the Celtic mind, but some alternative. Obviously one would not recommend surrender to anything like Paisleyite Protestantism and Ireland wouldn’t go there anyway. But anything from Orthodoxy to Charismatics might serve….anything in order to start again and actually to exert a spiritual will, to integrate the levels of Celtic vision. This, where it is strong in persons, is currently sinking back into the vaguest neo-paganism, new ageism or  perhaps Buddhism, going everywhere and nowhere like the repeated ambiguities of Bono lyrics or an agnostic Heaney advising in Doubletake,

….“Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells”.

If even Latin America has been casting off Catholicism usually for Protestant alternatives, why not Ireland if it would help cauterize the wounds and go somewhere definite?

I think there can be no question but that influences on Irish leaders of opinion stemming from Joyce and Beckett and their often slavish successors colour the social outlook and have favoured poetic themes in a way to justify a certain victimology, a culture of complaint and aimless protest much of it just a Beckettian sinking Winnie passivity. And we readers of such authors are even encouraged by the guides and critics of their productions to take a “poor Joyce” and still more a “poor Beckett” line in estimation of their lives and work. Contrary to Yeats’ meaningful dictum “in dreams begin responsibilities”, it as though these artists’ deliberate life choices meant little or nothing. Especially depression in the style of Beckett somehow excuses speaking darkness and a sitting-Murphy despair to the rest of the world at every opportunity –the sort of thing some of us like myself, who has suffered clinical depression, have made actual effort to avoid.

We need moreover to wake up and realize that like the bad tree which can only produce bad fruit, in pursuit of their aims these persons have, however unwittingly, contributed to establish new and unacceptable restrictions. Obviously much censorship in Joyce’ youth was absurd and we have all heard of how the accomplished prose of Dubliners got refused for publication because of inclusion of the word bloody. Yet a century later admirers and inheritors of the Joycean legacy are not themselves without their prejudices and the society which readily tolerates what today would have the likes of Beckett executed if he were a Muslim for repeated profanities, behind the scenes can prove  controversially censoring in the area of religion and much else. Even to include such words as “conduct” and “bestow” can be sufficient to refuse you publication.

I had no special intention to make this article personal, and I don’t really have any need now that the scandals and injustices experienced in relation to persons of the literary establishments and publishing is available for anyone to read as an aspect of my memoir Reflections of an Only Child. (amzn.to/1rRagvl). However if I do include a personal note at this point, it’s because while preparing this article I received from The Irish Review, and not unexpectedly – I only applied to satisfy pressures on me to do so – an incoherent refusal from a writer (ironically and almost hilariously of all people  the author of Deconstructing Ireland) as regards a request for some exposure of my poetry.

ROAOC     NPTCDRAMAS

I was informed in one and half lines they couldn’t publish “it”, whatever poem could have been meant by “it”, since I’d suggested seeing a collection of verse (New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas) from which something might have been selected. As self-recommendation I had pointed out a poetic drama of mine on a Celtic theme had been performed in Australia. I also suggested my Coming To Syracuse mini epic could  be looked at on my blog [it’s now a 6 part Canadian made You Tube video at http://bit.ly/1pi8Hn1 ] as proof of some basic competence in poetry (It would be too long for their publication so I didn’t offer it for such). As no one from specifically Ireland visited the poem between my sending the email and receiving the refusal two days later, plainly those of The Irish Review didn’t bother to check.

Had he/they done so, it would have been clear, apart from shortage of space or a special theme of the month such as could have been told me, there would be at least no moral right to refuse me. Any occasionally expressed claim of mine to be writing and as a Protestant of Irish nationality closest to Yeats in theme and style is not any boast but a statement of fact. I am more inclined to the mythic, metaphysical and visionary theme, and I deserve the attention denied me and not for the first time, but continuously in Ireland for anything poetic or otherwise. And I could well demand it in the face of the sometimes insulting and selfish way those of the diaspora are too easily dismissed as having no inheritance, no stake in anything Irish at all. (I can’t imagine Jews or Italians suffering the same kind of treatment). I suspect what the refused “it” was and which damned me, was that I also mentioned, (and I admit I was testing the waters!), that he could also look on the Net at my (quite popular) Remembering Seamus Heaney. No one today is allowed to blaspheme the Heaney god. He is Irish poetry, even if some of us like Camille Paglia (who refused to anthologize him) would consider him third class Yeats.

“OUT OF SHAPE FROM TOE TO TOP”

Heaneyverse

Well might Yeats’ valedictory Under Ben Bulben almost prophetically declare:

Irish poets learn your trade
Sing whatever is well made
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top…

Well made” here is key. Poetry (above the simple entertainment level) is first and foremost the art of excellence. It’s because it is about excellence that Yeats like his virtual mentor, Shelley, often felt that what he had produced was not quite good enough. ”True” poetry is what is as distinctively finished as a piece of sculpture or memorable as the strains of a major  symphony. And despite the self-doubt, it was this absolute quality that at his best Yeats was able to achieve and it’s why he continues to be internationally celebrated. Obviously he wouldn’t have appreciated those many Irish poets who have followed him who are too often writing what is almost an anti-poetry that has not issued from heart and intellect working in harmony. And there is something else here.

It is an admitted embarrassment that the elderly Yeats should have leaned towards fascist views of genetics and eugenics and that his Under Ben Bulben too baldly refers to the new Irish poets in terms of:

Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base born products of base beds

but there is arguably a kernel of truth here to be considered.

POETRY THAT REMEMBERS

Ben Bulben

It was and still is yet another mistake of post-Yeats poetry that it too lightly assumed there is scarcely anything Irish to represent whether through the “remembering” of Yeats’ Great Memory (read Collective Unconscious) or raw temperament. By the latter I mean those things like a sense of rhythm, pattern, even a way of observing people and objects that seems as distinctive as La Tène Celtic art yet spontaneous and minimally acquired through cultural means.

There are two ways in which persons belong or deeply feel they belong to a country. One may do so, as the perhaps more Anglo-Irish than Irish Yeats seemed to, namely by some hard-to-understand and as good as occult principle of earth consciousness of the kind Jung accepted. It is a belief that the land itself can leave some imprint beyond any effects of culture or the length of time spent there. (Like actress Joanna Lumley, unquestionably many Anglos born in India have felt there is some “touch” of Asia left on them that time and cultural education away from it will not erase or explain). Plainly there was something in Yeats that would always want to arise and go to Innisfree or stand beneath Ben Bulben even when dying in France. Just recently I read on the Net the poem of an Irish American plainly in the grip of the same kind draw to the Irish earth itself. Some accomplished late poems of the mostly self-exiled C.Day Lewis could be deriving their strength from the principle.

The other important way one belongs to a people is – likely enough – genetically. It is almost taboo in a multicultural society to speak of race as any determinant of anything, but there may even be a hidden injustice to that position, one which obscures certain realities. How do we explain (as the last week that I have been writing this, one hears of the Lebanese son of an Australian mother and the Libyan son of a French Canadian mother, both feeling themselves different and maladjusted and turning against family, homeland and every sensible advantage to become IS fanatics.

Multiculturalism is a value system relying much on the empirical/pragmatic outlook Yeats held suspect, and it is apparent the kind of society it encourages too often produces divided, discontented even tormented individuals left to feel an impulse to realize – precisely what? It may be, and probably is, the ineradicable drumbeats of something profoundly genetic that feels unaccepted, inalienably different and struggles to reach expression beyond whatever a post-enlightenment culture of reason lays out. I have myself protested in Reflections of an Only Child what seems like the blithe indifference to questions of race and inheritance among Irish leaders of opinion. If some nations have had too much race theory, Ireland has arguably had too little, even almost none though of no people group might something like racial inheritance be more obvious – the character of the Celts is easily recognizable in the descriptions of the ancients over two millennia ago. It is too easily imagined in Ireland (and originally because pragmatic, empirical England had assumed something of the kind) that as long as a person can make a living and be fed, it doesn’t much matter where on the face of the globe they reside. Accordingly, immigration is almost regarded as necessary and convenient even while it may in fact prove quite disorientating and take a real psychological toll on individuals.

Reacquainting myself after many years with Irish poetry and its issues, I found a reading of Stan Smith’s Irish Poetry and the Construction of Modern Identity (2005) and Wes Davies’ compendious An Anthology of Irish Verse (2013) dispiriting. There were fine examples of poetry from numbers of poets, but overall I would judge the collection, especially as it covers the scene over the last two generations, trashy. Too often it presents a punkish anti-poetry in which the only Irish thing about it is the will to act and pose, in this case to act out not being Irish, to uncharacteristically understate oneself, to be cool because it’s hip, sophisticated and neo-international to be so. (As I shall inevitably be accused of exaggeration, I was pleased to read a Paris Review interview (The Art of Fiction. no 82) in which even Edna O’Brien, whose concern is with prose fiction not poetry, charging modern Ireland with just imitating Anglo-American mores).

“STILL THE INDOMITABLE IRISHY”?

Shamrocks

If I hardly recognize any distinctive, perennial Celtic character in the poetry of especially the last thirty years (beyond perhaps, however negatively, a quality of  violent/surrealistic “vision” in elements of Brendan Kennelly), it is because something counter-intuitional is going on. There is a refusal of the “remembering” which Yeats rightly considered essential to poetry, Irish or any other. It will be protested that Heaney, a poseur if ever there was one, does remember – he remembers a dark ancient bog past and a rough farmland present or recent past. But his roughness is either inauthentic or unnecessary or both. If he genuinely aimed to represent a rural coarseness he should not have weighed his verse down like an over burdened Christmas tree with jargon and obscure technical vocabulary that avoids, or substitutes for, real emotion or committed statement (a really great and passionate poet could, like Racine, say everything with only two thousand words). Also if Heaney is indifferent (as in The Early Purges) to the killing and drowning of kittens and pups, then he was just a rough cur who we can and should just dismiss as such. I can only say, as indicated in my memoir, my own forebears in Ireland didn’t take that kind of attitude towards animals despite being raised on a farm and I know plenty of Irish didn’t and don’t either. Indeed I looked up an article on the Net where some protested similar things, in one case someone insisted their people had been farmers not far from the Heaneys and didn’t approve such views. Heaney’s sentiments cannot just be excused on the basis they are only “representative” of Irish life and farmers.

In response to Early Purges words like

….Still, living displaces false sentiments
And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown
I just shrug, “Bloody pups”, it makes sense.

one disgusted correspondent was even moved to extemporize:

Seamus is dead thank God
I hated the words of this man
Cruel and unthinking and more than a little odd
Now he’s gone, give his work an outright ban

My chief overall impression of modern Irish poetry is of so much quasi-journalism presuming to call itself verse. (And again, having arrived at that conclusion, I was again fascinated to note that from her different sphere Edna O’Brien opines in the mentioned interview that the trouble today is so many writers are just journalists). Ireland’s poets sound too often depressed, glum, sullen, resentful, mocking and shocking, even occasionally cruel like Michael Hartnett – his Pigkilling belongs with Heaney for indifference to animals – almost totally devoid of a smile and certainly lacking any good story to tell. Indeed it’s can be so remote from any light touch that isn’t outright clown-silly with Paul Muldoon (”with a stink and a stink and a stinky-stick”) that it’s hard to imagine Oscar Wilde ever came out of Ireland. It’s typical of what’s wrong that a quite well known, almost popular poem by Sean O’Riorain called Saoirse (Freedom) includes such sentiments as:

I’ll bear affection for people
without anything original
in their stockthoughts.

One can of course do that; it belongs today to various relativist and egalitarian tendencies – Yeats’ “levelling wind” – but if you surrender to the humdrum in this way you won’t be going on any Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage to anywhere (certainly not to Yeats’ Byzantium)  and have much to say or be at all. Ultimately most modern Irish poetry, like too much poetry elsewhere, is just a bore, an activity for in-groups, precisely the scene Yeats would encourage us to turn from and even scorn. And necessarily so if one doesn’t want to lose all sense of social, let alone literary direction.

According to one of his reviewers, the essential idea behind Colin Graham’s The Deconstruction of Ireland (2001)  is that what’s called ‘Ireland’ just “stages its own deconstruction and that at every turn the idea unravels and reforms itself, always in anticipation of the next act of definition and criticism which…will be inadequately applied to it”. It follows that both affirmation and deconstruction for Ireland are but a “momentary stop on a seemingly runaway train” and Ireland, itself a concept in flux, “is a future which is always posited and never attained”.

Undeniably Ireland and our world is changing, but change is not everything; and notions of an ungraspable, indefinable “Ireland” bespeak how things are – or will just feel and seem – to the secular consciousness for which there is no “remembering” in the Yeatsian sense, little or no scope for poetry in the broadest sense as contributing to culture, and perhaps most importantly as indicated, no personal or collective willingness to take real control of the spiritual life from which so much else flows.

We inhabit an almost post-poetic age in which the magic, the mystery, the spirit of the poetic art has been lost, but which the policy direction behind the granting of  bursaries, prizes, professorships of poetry, publications are almost busy helping us lose, putting what was once a fairly public medium – even when difficult, Isaiah, Dante and Shakespeare were essentially for everyone – into the hands of cliques. Yeats, even in his greatness may not be the perfect poet – who is? – and most could never reckon to follow him into ritual magic. But if poets and modern Ireland cannot regain some grip upon his magic and the magic of existence, we shall continue in the shallows rather than the heights of literature if we don’t bring it to near  outright extinction. Hopefully Yeats 2015 will provide new inspiration and beginnings.

IRISH AUSTRALIAN  (Irish Australian Heritage Flag)

 

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UNDER PARNASSUS (An Under Ben Bulben variation)

[The aim of this experiment in poetry is not to rival Yeats’ impressive valedictory Under Ben Bulben.  It aims rather to offer a variation upon it, to “correct”, so to speak, the poem’s theories ranging from reincarnation to  dubious, quasi-fascist notions of eugenics and war which have grated with me as with many. Some of my beliefs re especially poetry colour the piece, but I have not exactly encapsulated my beliefs on poetry or anything;  it would not be possible given I have confined myself to following, however loosely, themes and development of Yeats’ own poem. Arguably I should have just composed my own poetic and spiritual credo but I think the exercise has its value. This poem with  others is included in a new edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas,http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr  .  This  month another very different poem, can be found on my other Additions blog at http://bit.ly/1sUmAsO %5D. 

Parnassus

UNDER PARNASSUS (AN UNDER BEN BULBEN VARIATION) 

1

Swear by what the sages spoke
At Corycian Cave [1] and Sinai’s side
That Orpheus and Elijah [2] knew,
They who for darkness of the earth
Seized fire from fields of paradise.

Swear by those seers, those bards,
Names only known, their earthly form
Obscured as though by mists of dawn
Even while their Mosaic faces shine
Like light of noon upon the mount.[3]
They view the fated journeys done
The paths from Troy to Ithaca and Rome [4]
And Egypt into Jericho all won.

Here’s what that lasting radiance means:

11

Once only does man live and die
Through measureless eternity,
What earth or ashes cover now
In grave or in memorial urn
Awaits but only more decease if not
A resurrection. This is because,
Soul’s core is most like fires
Of God (or self-consuming will alone),
Its natural end and flight thus primed
For highest light or lowest dark;
And vision and poetry declare
Truth’s quest can only reach above,
For wisdom lies with choosing life.[5]

111

All you who heard a call to war
And thought it served both God and world
Go into none, unless with self
Or for the defenceless of the earth.
Time’s past when for some greater good
Peace was established by the sword,
And strength and merit lay in power.
For if it was blind Homer failed
Most sightless was his “unchristened heart” [6]
For which, though what’s most noble,
Is most calm, mere violence made for majesty.

1V

Poets like sculptors do your work
Shape into sound as they to sight
What is most sure in form and style
And brings to mind eternal lines.

With Isaiah and with Aeschylus
Personality through verse began
Then Plato taught the archetypes
And Pentecost spread wide the Word.
If measurement began our might
It bore as well with Aristotle
Division for the heart and mind
So that increasingly we dwelt with earth
And lost most vision of the higher,
First source of ecstasy and song.
But then, even Plato could be wrong.
His God was passionless, his poets
Banned since poetry is music too
And not just thought and words alone.

Renaissance and Baroque in verse
Through Shakespeare, Milton and beyond
Knew passion and a God of same
While taking Plato for the forms.
Then Wordsworth, later, part agreed
But Shelley cursed the Miltonic God
And saved most love for Lucifer [7]
And after that much poetry fell
From vision to a Satanic hell
Words found less meaning, feeling took
A lesser place, until it’s
Mostly objects steal the scene.

The passing ages run their course,
Now lightning of Aquarius waits
To make again and to renew and
Like great Michelangelo’s roof
To save Platonic forms and also show
Supposed unnatural’s natural too.[8]

V

But poets still perfect your art
One never learned but always given
Which speaks to where it cannot grow,
The crowd which throngs about below
The sacred mount you must ascend
Charged with the elect vocation.
Then sing the music of the spheres
Stars, planets, symbols, history, [9]
Great lyric loves and ways of God,
All shapes and forms of mysteries.
Ignore the upstart trivial kind
Whose labour is to strain at words
And mire the mind in earthiness.
Such make a show for passing days
Your work serves what it is transcends:
The task is vision’s truth and
Even the truth you are alone.

V1

Beneath Parnassus poets lie or else
Their soul is everywhere. On Nebo’s side
Where Moses died remains unknown
And since they fled into the night,
Doubt must surround the Magi’s tombs [10].
But whether in earth, or with Elijah
Into sky, small matter where the poet
Ends, nor what carved epitaphs declare.
Let only the work and vision stay,
Words echoed to eternity
Paths pointing still to ecstasy.

NOTES

[1] The Corycian cave on Parnassus was the home of the  Muses of poetry. Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting Sinai.
[2]  Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting.
[3]  When he had bee on Sinai and spoken with God his face shone so that it had to be covered with a veil. (Ex 34: 29-35)
[4]  Troy to Ithaca refers to the Odyssey and  “Tory to Rome”  is a  reference to Virgil and his epic of Rome’s foundation, The Aeneid.
[5]  As in “For the wise the path of life leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol below” (Pro 14:24) and “all who hate me[Wisdom] love death” (Pro 8:36).”Choose life…”(Deut 30:19)
[6]  Yeats identifies with Homer and his “unchristened heart” in Vacillation V111, without perhaps thinking out all implications of this.
[7] Shelley is radically atheistic as in Queen Mab and crypto satanistic in Prometheus where Jupiter is symbolic for the Miltonic God who must be overthrown. For Shelley the devil is heroic and light bringing.
[8]  Although Michelangelo’s art, mentioned by Yeats, followed a version of Christian Neo-Platonism, his inspiration and nature was essentially gay and the coming age of Aquarius is the sign of freedom and often of the homosexuality which the age may be expected to accept as part of nature itself. Yeats curiously suggests the artist’s work incites particularly female desire.
[9] Orpheus traditionally proclaimed star lore and astrology.
[10] A disputed tombs of the Magi site does exist in Iran to the south of the capital Tehran. Reputed remains of the Magi found their way to a shrine in Cologne via Constantinople.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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RILKE: SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality )

RILKE: SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality )

 

RILKE, SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality)

The personal spiritual and artistic development of the poet Rilke could be said to anticipate and summarize almost the whole modern spiritual predicament and its various  mystical/new age strivings, certainly its now familiar “spiritual not religious” aims. It’s therefore important for modern religion and poetry, and in some respects even morality, to understand where Rilke could be considered most right and wrong about the highly original direction his work and vision took.

What Rilke was unconsciously and consciously doing amid his “soul making” has been charted at great but readable and illuminating length (700 pages) by Daniel Joseph Polikoff in his In the Image of Orpheus: Rilke a Soul History (2011). Its interpretations draw upon insights from the work of neo-Jungian theorist James Hillman. Hillman was a psychiatrist who sought to dethrone the overdone Freudian Oedipal theory in favour of a new theory of psychoanalysis based on the myth of Psyche, she who after many adventures engages the sacred marriage with the Eros she almost loses. Polikoff regards Rilke as all about Psyche. I agree and would regard a lot of modern spirituality about the same – both for better and for worse. Hillman also sought to restore a “polytheistic” imagination over a “monotheistic” one. This doesn’t exactly mean restoring all the old gods but, in a way Polikoff regards Rilke as exemplifying, instead overcoming fundamental familiar western splits like body and mind, life and death etc to perceive energies and symbols operating everywhere.

Under the influence of especially the Danish novelist Jens Jacobsen, Rilke had briefly turned atheist in his late teens. This phase was nonetheless soon abandoned for a more psychological approach to religion which variously allowed for soul-making and a search for, or even construction of, an alternative god. Both Rilke and his lover the early Freudian theorist, Lou Andreas-Salome, whom he met in Munich in 1897, loved the Bible that they didn’t believe in and often read it to one another. Their anti-Christian convictions nevertheless preferred the Old Testament many of whose figures and ideas weave in and out of Rilke’s verse. There is however particularly one OT verse that seems relevant to the poet’s spiritual progress and the mystery of his  final illness that Lou couldn’t explain for him – Rilke believed in dying one’s own death that would express one’s personal beliefs and entire life. The verse is: “For the path of the Wise leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol [Hades] below”. (Prov 15:24). In what I dare say the kind of Hillmanesque psychology just mentioned would regard as only and even the needed reaction against historic religious over-cultivation of spirit as against soul and thus an appropriate openness to unconscious depths, it is declared in the early collection Das Stundenbuch The Book of Hours:

Doch wie ich mich auch in mich selber neige:

Mein Gott is dunkel und wie ein Gewebe

Von hundert Wurzeln, welche schweigsam trinken.

This is loosely rendered in the popular Barrows and Macy translation as:

But when I lean over the chasm of myself/it seems/my God is dark/and like a web; a hundred roots/silently drinking.

The Book of Hours and this statement anticipates the direction Rilke would go.  Even if we should find something (or even much) of God in the unconscious, the claim is immediately religiously problematic to the extent God is “the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17) and “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Joh 1:5). Like the Rilke devotee, Stephanie Dowrick, many find the foundational early lyrics (voiced through the alter ego of an icon painting monk), poignant, honest and expressive for many seekers today. They are felt to represent those to whom God doesn’t respond but who sense he is or must be found somewhere and even everywhere.

But this is to read Rilke as almost an elegist of a lost modern belief which isn’t quite the case, Rilke’s sense of elegy being more about what can’t be readily achieved in life and spiritual quests. There is never any notable regret for lost faith. Rilke had early imbibed the American Unitarian Emerson’s “self reliance” doctrine which had no need for a helper deity reached by prayer – his Russian monk even speaks of God’s care as “being a nightmare to us”. What Rilke always wants is spiritual/mystical reality, a certain connection with the All, a feeling of reverence before the World, Earth and Existence which is like religion. But effectively the problem is stated (if indeed the trap for the rest hasn’t been set) by, in effect, not just encountering something of God in the soul/unconscious, but by treating the soul itself as God (a rather Jungian position and opening upon Hillman’s “polytheism”).

Before the above cited lines about God as darkness, Rilke’s monk has mentioned, (reflecting the poet’s own experiences with Italy and Renaissance art and religion prior to his definitive Russian experiences), that down in the South, God becomes “an ardent flame”. This is rather important for the whole picture. Biblically God, or God the Creator/Father (whom the Russian monk even wants to make his son instead) is primarily fire as per the visions of Ezekiel and Heb 12:29. Himself born of fiery Sagittarius, Rilke under-represents and even represses “fire” in his quest and this has certain consequences. It is even key to the whole life and opus. But to this I can return.

Despite the radical rejection of Christ, Christianity and organized religion, as Polikoff reminds us Rilke, however incongruously, lifelong also remained a devoted reader of St Augustine and we need to understand why. It is in Rilke’s attraction to and rejection of Augustine (asteroid Augustinus suggestively rises in his birth chart to heighten any sympathetic identification!) we have a clue to at any rate what is most positive and challenging to religion about the poet’s work and I can begin with that.

AN IMAGINATIVE ERROR: AUGUSTINE’S COSMOS AND INDIVIDUALISM

Augustine stands very much behind the development of modern individualism itself. He was highly self-conscious defining the self over against God and world, and Rilke adheres strongly to what has been this ever growing western tradition of autonomy. Augustine’s selfhood, like that of many romantics centuries later, is located in the cor (heart) which certifies his feelings which are in turn related to memoria.

According to Hillman, Augustine and the ancient world’s memoria is more like our unconscious and imagination – imagination needless to say being crucial to any poet and poetry. I was incidentally prompted by Hillman’s claim to look up where asteroid Memoria was placed in my ever relevant and working data for Christ’s birth. (Who wouldn’t want clues to Jesus’ “unconscious”?!). Sure enough it was conjunct Poesia, an indication that the mind of Christ was nothing if not poetic as indeed many scholars have long claimed pointing out that translated back into the Aramaic Jesus spoke, the Sermon on the Mount becomes poetry. Also relevant is that Christ’s Neptune, a factor that  itself is much symbol, dream and imagination- linked, conjuncts his Eros.

Hillman maintains religion is inevitably and rightly focussed on “soul”, but that paradoxically Christianity, like the western secularism influenced by a legacy of Christianity and science together (even if in strife), is anti-soul. And Augustine unwittingly leads the field in being anti-soul. Yet how can this be if Augustine was a mystic and theologian? Basically because he believes in ex-nihilo creation. God creates a cosmos which is separate from him and which once humanity “falls” is very separate indeed. It leaves all nature as rejected and evil. There is no longer as for the ancient world any animus mundi (world soul) providing a relation however reduced to God or the gods. God is not immanent and present through anything but wholly transcendent. Result: imagination and  itssymbols, the mediator between soul and spirit, psyche and eros, have no place. The world is disenchanted, empty. The only way out of it is via the dictates of doctrine and morals literally understood much like a scientific principle. (Hillman even finds something “unimaginative”, depersonalized in Augustine’s conversion to Christ which is little better than a formularized submission to morality).

Is this true? Somewhat and even essentially yes. Augustinian Christianity which is inadequately biblical and  Judaeo-Christian (though foundational for medieval Catholic philosophy), is fatally flawed and in error about the world. The “soul of the world” is effectively the Cosmic Christ of Paul’s epistles and the world is upheld by God in this way because, as Jewish mysticism realized, the world is created from God even if because God first created a womb-like space within himself  in which to create and sustain. If ‘nothing’ could exist outside God it would be a rival to God. Everything must be through God. The needed correction to ex nihilo doctrine which as much as anything is a logical point, is important for life, poetry and much else. As argued in my Solomon’s Tantric Song (http://amzn.to/14aa5Qe), one will not adequately interpret the poetry of the Song (it is always taken too spiritually or materially) unless it is understood that God is behind and through all things, including or even sometimes even especially Eros.

What about imagination and morality that Hillman wants to connect? Undeniably it’s possible to be so “imaginative” and subjective that like Rilke one accepts virtually no objective, given moral principles. Truth can be deemed so immanent and immediate as opposed to transcendent and eternal that one indulges every whim even to making poetry depend upon the latest liaison! After all, undeniably “soul life” is connective on the way to its ultimate connection with spiritual Eros!. Even so and practically, morality does need to be “imaginative” to a degree or it becomes oppressive, inflexible legalism.   An example is how Christian literalists cannot give any sympathetic or socially realistic reading to the existence of gays, failing to see those scriptural hints and directions which suggest things beyond the apparent ban of Leviticus. Without the imagination born of soul, religion becomes dry theology and formal observance and there is nothing that can be felt in or out of life as we know it.

JESUS THE IMAGINATION

Before going further I will say something already emphasized in several of my books and first set out in Cosmic Father. The at any rate Christian relation to art which Rilke supremely doesn’t represent, is or should be this. It needs to be recognized, even if for different reasons from William Blake, that Jesus is “Jesus The Imagination”. Arguably the ban on images in the Old Testament dispensation (which corresponds to the Age of Aries) is a purification and preparation for the New Testament dispensation (of the Age of Pisces “ruled” by imaginative, symbol rich Neptune) in which Jesus is recognized as Cosmic Christ who is the Animus Mundi. And this cosmic soul contains the symbols which despite everything, and in however hidden a way, is also Eros (which actually conjuncts Jesus’ Neptune natally). It is as Christ “dwells within” organizing the mass of floating symbols that the soul can hope to reach Spirit and that Spirit can reach down to soul.

With that thought in mind we can see how the Rilke who chose for this world and the material over against a God assumed to be totally transcendent, went wrong and, in my opinion, misled himself and misled others. Indeed he even finished up with a very strange last illness he begged his mistress and guru Lou Salome to “explain” but which she couldn’t do. Rilke had imagined (perhaps most clearly in the Elegies) that by correctly naming and declaring things like a magus one could connect all things symbolically from animal to angel. In the course of this operation one helps transform oneself and things from visible to invisible nature in which everything eternally exists  – at least as a kind of vibration cum symbol it seems. There is no death in the sense that all life is just the flip side of an all-embracing death vibration, something akin to, though not acknowledged by Rilke as, a Buddhist style Plenum Void.  This  is however a Void to which Rilke does not appear to allow any reincarnations – they would only savour of the fragmentation his Whole negates. The Elegies are most insistent upon the uniqueness of life. Elegy 9 declares “ Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more/And we also once. Never again”….Some of Rilke’s sense of tragedy and elegy depends upon exactly this belief/feeling, that to all appearances some persons will have lived happy lives and other merely wretched ones though as in his poems on the urban poor he seems to think a truly summarizing death helps redeem things in an inexplicable way and is almost a gift.

Lou, though a former mistress/lover came to be seen by herself and by Rilke as a kind of twin from a time before incest was known. Given the nature of Rilke’s relation to her and to many other women subsequently, I think one may come to see why (as per statements of my February blog re Matthew Vines and gay theology) there is much to be said for the notion that all Christians need to become slightly gay and “eunuchs for the kingdom”. A lot of the symbolism, complexes and input as from the Puer archetype for the kind of alternative psychic/spiritual development Hillman envisages and Rilke implies, are almost nearer to those associated with homosexuality.  We should note that  after having lost his wife to Hades the mythic Orpheus becomes founder of same sex love according to Ovid’s rendering of the myth. This is a datum that Rilke’s journey into the Orpheus archetype ignores). And the poet’s symbols and complexes would probably work more easily within homosexuality and with less dire consequences than the confusion and heartbreak Rilke’s amours entailed for many of the women appropriated to his markedly heterosexual pilgrimage of the spiritual terrain. There is a strange almost sinister poem Don Juans Auswahl (Don Juan’s Election) in New Poems, one of two devoted to the subject of Don Juan, though really about Rilke himself, in which an angel arrives to tell DJ to let him give him all the women who are going to be “ripened” by the experience of solitude (which it seems the seduction and abandonment of the women will supply!).

It is a difficult saying but in some respects Christianity, psychologically regarded, is a somewhat “gay” spirituality. Salvation and Resurrection themselves are (psychologically and archetypally speaking) Puer issues. It is in part because Rilke is insufficiently “gay” in the broadest sense that he does not and cannot absorb salvation and resurrection but is simply forced to love the earth and unite life and death and is even swallowed up by them or more precisely by death, frantically trying to declare death and/or its centre Hades to be life itself. Another biblical verse seems relevant:   “For whoever finds me [Wisdom/the divine feminine] finds life….but those who miss me injure themselves, all who hate me love death”. (Pro 8: 35/6).

THE FOUR STAGES OF RILKE’S DEVELOPMENT

Be that as it may…..Rilke begins with a not unreasonable rejection of the Augustinian universe in favour of the one that Sagittarians prefer and of which we have some example in the philosophy of Spinoza. This will be a perfect unity (of sorts) in which one is optimistically involved in “life”, a great Whole founded in this earth that we can mystically intuit as one thing. It follows that there must and need be no mediator with God to sully the immediacy of perception involved. Christ is simply in the way of perceiving ‘God’ and anyway he can’t help anyone. Rilke’s little studied and conveniently ignored (because at points almost Satanistic) early composed Visions of Christ (1898) had inclined to this position that Jesus was a thoroughly failed Messiah. In one of the poems he is a person unable to comfort an orphan girl, in another he is portrayed in a brothel himself needing help from a modern Magdalene.

Rilke was encouraged in his outlook by Lou Salome and her book Jesus the Jew which expounded the theory Jesus arrived at disappointment and failure through the hubris of imagining he was God. Lou believed God and the gods were originally created by human need, though devotion to them created a kind of “back effect” that made them real at a certain purely psychological level. Both Rilke and Lou were influenced by Nietzsche causing Rilke at one point (as in his short story The Apostle) to be against Christ or Christianity because it represented the kind of pity and compassion that undermines life. (While some of Rilke’s later poetry as about the urban poor and sick or trapped animals does suggest a level of pity and compassion it is almost despite himself. There is no record of Rilke ever engaging in any notable acts of charity or campaigning for social change; he simply observed and recorded and of course wished a good, self-expressive death on them).

Rilke’s development is as follows and it corresponds approximately to the emphases of four main collections of poetry, first The Book of Hours, then New Poems (1907) plus New Poems the Other Part (1908), then Duino Elegies (1922), and finally Sonnets to Orpheus (1922). These chart and express

  • A phase in which he will choose and create his own god by simply imagining deity. He wants “God” to reply, but becomes more or less resigned to silence and even desires it for his work of deity creation.
  • A phase in which no longer awaiting revelation and connection of whatever kind, his “Thing Poems” perceive the radiance in objects and people that issue from the Whole.
  • A phase in which he accepts the need if not for a mediator, then a transformer or witness for the energies of earth in the form of “the Angel”. This is a time when feeling ever more alienated from Christianity Rilke experiences some attraction to Islam, to its unmediated “one” God who has no son. His poetic/spiritual mission at this point is to name things, to give messages in the style of Mohammed, to evoke “initiation” itself (along Hermetic lines in Rilke’s case – the last elegy looks towards Egypt) with its multilayered concerns and sensations evoking the great Whole.
  • A phase, prompted by the death of a young woman who haunts the collection in which with life and death unified as part of the One, “the or a god” emerges in the form of the poet semi divinity Orpheus who in some respects is the poet of Hades.

These four stages show considerable correspondence to features of new age spirituality whether or not in the same order.

  • Rejecting “religion”, “doctrine” or “tradition” one goes within and chooses the deity or system that best fits individual striving, self creation and what can be felt – direct experience of “God”. Practically, one is simply building soul apart from notions of deity, especially of God as Creator or in any way omnipotent.
  • With God firmly absent one lives a more aesthetic life, cultivates Zen gardens or flower arrangements, finding para-divine experiences in the way and spirit of things. There emerges a new relation to objects, nature, food, the body, food etc (Rilke was trendily attracted to vegetarianism and nudism). Art becomes a spirituality or religion in itself – Rilke spent a great time studying and writing about art.
  • Various spiritual practices like yoga may suddenly produce shocks and visions or “initiation” as when kundalini energies unexpectedly rise. At this point God and/or spirits assume more importance at least as organizing, controlling factors akin to Rilke’s enigmatic angels. Alienation from Christian traditions may as for Rilke produce at least temporary attraction to Islam. Much of Rilke’s poetry is anyway deemed to have affinities with Sufism (a mystical heresy of Islam). The soul function tries to manage spirit, make the soul itself, save it, initiate it.
  • The or a new god or at least guru appears. Heidegger thought of poets as harbingers of the new revelation of a/the god some await. It is the artist Benjamin Creme who declares the soon advent of Maitreya/Christ. Rilke reintroduces the god of poetry, Orpheus, to the world.

Can the new god save us? It depends upon what you are looking for and believe “salvation” implies, but I would suggest that Rilke does not and cannot solve the problems and quest he sets himself. It is not possible in Christian terms and not especially possible, even just psychologically, as regards many faith systems to approach God unmediated. Philosophy may think otherwise and Sagittarius is both philosophical and very optimistic about what it sets out to do, but experience denies it. Some kind of lens is required. Even Tibetan Buddhism which denies the existence of a Creator virtually renders the guru a mediating divine figure.By repudiating (Christian) mediation one simply opens oneself up (to the extent one does touch ultimacy at all) to horror. As the opening lines of the Duino Elegies have it:

Who if I shouted, among the hierarchy of angels

Would hear me? And supposing one of them

Took me suddenly to his heart, I would perish

Before his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing

But the beginning of terror……..Every angel of terrible

One might add to this perception that “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Rilke sort of knows but ignores this. If early on his alter ego monk had conceded that outside of Russia God was a flame, he didn’t absorb this himself. Polikoff’s psychological analysis of the poet’s soul life has things to say about his experience of Coagulatio, (earth phase) Solutio (water phase) and Sublimatio (air phase) i.e. those mental states, especially Coagulatio’s black depression or Nigredo, that are terms borrowed from alchemy and used by Jung to describe mental states and processes towards individuation. But Calcinatio, the process of purification by fire scarcely features. In alchemy the Lion screams as his paws are burned off in the destruction of pride. As a fire sign Sagittarius can have a great sense of entitlement with affinities to the pride of Leo the lion. Rilke, even at his most humble or vulnerable, is still full of entitlement towards God and Life (his prose work, Tales of God, could be considered distinctly presumptuous if not blasphemous). Considering that in his early Visions of Christ, in the poem Jewish Cemetery Jesus raves against God invoking powers at an occult Rabbi’s tomb to curse the world with destruction by fire, there is a special irony in the poet’s death which he experienced as fiery. It is as though a certain repression of psychological/spiritual “fire” and the feelings of the fiery Christ curse manifest in him.

This is why I have called Rilke the poet of Hades which biblically is one of the words for hell. Rilke intends to join all things. Life must be joined to death, even is itself death so that death should be sung as much as life. Orpheus himself is a kind of death god. In Christianity hell itself is effectively experience of God, (since all things do exist through God), but it’s experience as only fire, not any of the other elemental cum psychological states possible. Having refused the fiery Creator God, Rilke is consumed by him. He wanted to have, as he wished for everyone, their own death and in effect he evoked his own. (Granted much of what he felt during his last illness was simply common to leukaemia, but his relation to it was psychologically peculiar – he even believed he could know the very first moment it began, and plainly there was as much psychological as physical going on in his case. He needed to explain it because he almost seems to have thought he gave his illnesses permission, which at a certain level is just possible).

UTTERANCES AND AFFIRMATIONS

It is impossible to summarize the work of Rilke to make it merely easy, but one can evoke it through lines of or references to his poetry particularly the first and most popular Book of  Hours.  It anticipates so much else even if it’s more about deity making than the later soul making. The book is divided into three sections The Book of Monastic Life, The Book of Pilgrimage and The Book of Poverty and Death, the last written part reflecting a hard time in the poet’s life and his very negative initial impressions of urban life in especially Paris. The poems have no titles. The collection’s sub-title is Love Poems to God, but the feeling is closer to a one-sided argument, love attaches rather to the atmosphere of art and religion

Poem 1:1 affirms in harmony with the Idealist strain in German philosophy that “nothing has ever been real/without my beholding it/ All becoming has needed me”. This helps set the collection’s attitude towards God, even though the poet is willing to describe himself as like “a tree rustling over a gravesite” (1:5) which already justifies my description of Rilke as very Hades identified.

The approach to God is quirky and petulant. Living next door to God, the icon painter declares: “If you should be thirsty/ there’s no one to get you a glass of water…I wait listening”   (1:6).   Psychologically significant is 1: 11’s admission “I love you more than the flame that limits the world” and this because “the dark embraces everything….I believe in the night”. Conflict with the Christian view that “This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light” ( Joh 3:19) is patent here.

There is anyway no submission to the divine whether as darkness or light because (and it’s very modern!) “I want to know my own will/ and to move with it” ( 1:13). In Rilke’s attitude to God even where a trace of conventional humility enters, it is never from any sense of shortcoming. The attitude has affinity for the resentment of other Sagittarian poets towards the divine like Emily Dickinson and Heinrich   Heine.

Though the poet is more interested in knowing himself, there’s hope for God yet: “You are not dead yet; it’s not too late/ To Enter your depths” ( 1:14)

Also according to (1:25), God is the great homesickness (Heimweh) we could never shake off.

The same poet who doesn’t believe that death can remain a sorrow or a need for us asks:

“What will you do God, when I die?/I am your pitcher when you shatter (1:36)

Poem 1:44 is almost an ultimatum. Having said that God’s first word was light, that his second birthed man and fear, the poet doesn’t now want to hear the third word. Admitting he sometimes prays he says, “Please don’t talk/Let all your gesture be by doing only……Be our shepherd but never call us”. Plainly this God is not the Word. Silence like darkness is required of him or it.

1:55 wants to make God “complete” (without speech?!) because that will make the poet complete.

Anticipating the spirit of New Poems 1: 61 wants to love “the things”.

1:62 is a little more conventionally pious. The “deep power” is thanked that he/it works with the poet ever more lightly, and this feeling carries over to the beginning of book 2 on Pilgrimage.

In 2:2 the poet yearns to belong to something and be contained in an all-embracing divine mind which however significantly will need to perceive him “as a single thing”.

2:3 sees God as the Being without voice to whom all bow, but inquires is the poet himself not “the whole” and asks if God is distracted from hearing him by “some whining little tune”.   He wishes God were back inside him in the darkness that grew him.

In 2: 4 the poet decides he loves God as his son. In 2:6 he affirms it would create a gulf between them if God were to be thought of as any father. Sons are superior to fathers. (I imagine some of Rilke’s contempt for his own father colours this!)

2:16 anticipates many later poems in its declaration “if we surrendered to earth’s intelligence/ we could rise up rooted like trees”. 2:25 dismisses all yearning for the afterlife, all looking for a beyond, all belittling of death. We should long for what belongs to us and “serve earth” (a very new age sentiment). 2:26 declares we won’t be herded in churches, God meets us in solitude only).

In Book 3 on poverty and death the poet still goes on seeing God in places and situations he would rather not. 3:1 declares the big cities are lost and rotting. Perceiving that people live unfulfilled lives in cities, again anticipating various developments in 3:6 the poet asks God to give us our own death   “The dying that proceeds/From each of our lives”. 3:7 speaks of the “The great death that each of us carries inside”.   Pursuing the wretchedness of city life it is suggested in 3:18 that God is “the diseased one/whom we fear to touch”. 3:31 condemns cities for caring for only what is theirs and in effect for being totally unspiritual. There is a block here which the next main collection of verse will somewhat resolve.

Prior to Paris Rilke was prone to wait for inspiration to fall however long it took. Under the influence of the workaholic Rodin he went to the other extreme of believing he must force himself to create poetry rather like sculpture, working at it, rather than waiting for it, carving it from the block of existence which will release radiance, epiphanies. Some of the poems of New Poems, parts 1 and 2 are Rilke’s best loved like The Carousel known to most schoolchildren in Germany. The most famous and exemplary for the whole collection is the celebrated Archaic Torso of Apollo which is about the power of art and its capacity to contain and convey life itself. It is somewhat the power of eros that is conveyed since though headless and broken the image still smiles at the viewer, still holds the power of its loins. The image is the kind of living imprint alive and dead that belongs to existence and immortality Rilke style.

The poems reflect simply life as in The Square, or The Lady Before her Mirror and the well known Venice poems. There are also some memorable poems about animals like The Panther (a Sagittarian speciality as for example Blake’s The Tiger). However the religious theme persists throughout in such as Abishag, David Sings Before Saul, Joshua’s Council, The Olive Garden, The Prophet, The Angel, The Departure of the Prodigal Son and many more. Numbers of these anticipate queer theology with its revisionings of familiar scriptural stories. The Olive Garden presents a Jesus who feels he couldn’t succeed, has had a lot to put up from a Father who doesn’t exist “Oh ineffable shame”. It is affirmed no angel ever came to Gethsemane as reported, only night did and it was only like any other night anyway. The Crucifixion portrays the soldiers wanting something special from Jesus’ death but all they get is Mary screaming and Christ bellowing and “caving in”. There are two poems about the Buddha – The Buddha in Glory even finishes the collection. But it is the Buddha’s power to reflect, to be and influence life along perhaps with the artistic beauty of his image that seems to be the attraction since Rilke was far from a believer having more affinity with Mohammed though it is unlikely Muslims would be quite delighted with the peculiar Mohammed’s Summoning which has the prophet at first resisting an angel who then worships him for his ability to read. The relatively long Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes loosely anticipates Sonnets to Orpheus in establishing a certain association with the Hermetic and to my mind casts a few doubts on how completely spontaneous the vision of the Sonnets should be considered.

The organ peals of the highly if jaggedly lyrical dense and oracular Duino Elegies arguably constitute Rilke’s finest work. They take him nearest to the role of prophet or shaman to which, Sagittarian style, he always seemed to aspire. The vision of the poetry traverses several levels and the material is not easy to understand and is not meant to be. It comes from some Beyond and is to be meditated like so much scripture. At least some of the verse borders on glossolalia, a speaking in tongues though it never quite reaches the surrealistic incoherence of a Dylan Thomas. (The likely meaning of each elegy is neatly summarized in the McIntyre’s German/English version of 1961, but there will always be some level of difference over the exact meanings even as we sense the drift of the whole).

The Elegies are elegies to the extent their subject is the lamentable difficulty of life, our attempts to get things right amid the sorrows of existence and not being able to reach to the level of the inspirational, numinous (“terrible”), energy transforming angels. (The angels are Mohammedan not Christian ones from the period in which following a trip to Southern Spain Rilke felt an attraction to the Koran and Islam). The poem is most essentially about soul-making and the need of soul to hold within itself the underlying substance of spirit (Hillman’s Psyche/Eros theme). This is often assisted by love as exemplified by the great lovers of history and others… “then sing the girls who were lovers /the fame of their passion has not made them immortal enough” and “when we love, arises in our arms/the sap from immemorial ages”. Love of all or any kind thus helps link us to the great Whole, to Life-in-itself beyond just life and death – significantly the angels, unlike us, don’t know if they move among the quick or the dead.

Especially the second half of the Elegies (Elegies 5 to 10) is about the poverty of life and its perception short of realizing the pure consciousness inhabiting it and the things and the animals who may have wisdom we lack. “Nowhere beloved can world exist but within/ our life is spent in changing”. There is a certain emphasis upon wind and space or the Open (Das Offene), space being a symbol for the mystic experience itself and effectively an initiatory one which arguably the poetry is directly evoking by its disorientation of the reader through the shock of its images, unexpected connections and declarations. Eventually realization of Truth creates simply praise. Working through the numerous paradoxes of the elegies the poet exclaims in Elegy 9, “Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly to arise in us? Is it not your dream/to be some day invisible? Earth Invisible!/ What if not transformation, is your insistent commission? Earth, dear one, I will!”.   This in my opinion is almost the core of the work, the affirmation of and commitment to a kind of quasi-Spinozan pantheism which worships and praises Life-in-itself and “the things” and which, whether visible or invisible (and ultimate energies are invisible) is one, now and eternal.

Although apart from the many New Poems Rilke relied upon “inspiration”, this was never so pronounced as for the Sonnets to Orpheus. Unlike other inspirations he experienced these as gift and virtual dictation or revelation from the god (i.e. Orpheus, mythic founder of music and poetry and escapee from the Hades where he lost his wife). Certainly all 55 were completed in an incredible few days in February 1922, the month which also saw the completion of the long unfinished Elegies. The sole possible triggers were an image of Orpheus bought in a local shop in Switzerland where Rilke was living and at the beginning of February news of the premature death at twenty of the highly talented Vera Ouckama Knoop, daughter of a friend. It was the kind of death that for Rilke was the worst, the life not lived, not come to “ripeness”, apparently wasted and for which we want comfort or explanations even if God and afterlife present no answers.

As opposed to the oracular often philosophical statements of the Elegies, the Sonnets are more like sensory and sensuous, showings of what transcendence into life in the whole through or as the god of poetry and music really is. What this is borders at times upon a surrealism. Obviously referring to Vera’s recent decease Sonnet 2 (again the poems are untitled) begins “Almost a girl it was and issued forth……She made herself a bed inside my ear/ And slept in me. And all things were her sleep”. It was the miracle of the singing god that he so perfected her she had no desire to awake or she arose and slept at once. In short once again for Rilke death and life are ultimately the same and he can sing this power of Hades/Orpheus to make it so.

Sonnet 15 which is one of the most eccentric and confusing may be one of the most typical and closest to what the poet felt, meant and taught. It begins “Wait…that tastes good….it’s already in flight”. It then encourages the girls to dance the taste of the fruit they have experienced. “Dance the orange” which it is declared is something they have possessed but which has been converted into them and therefore they can dance it. They can create a relationship to the rind and to the juice in the orange.

In the first poem of the second half of the collection “the open” is stressed’ “World space in pure/Interchange with our own being”. It’s a counterpoise within which the poet is happening rhythmically. He asks the air if it realizes how many of the places within it have already been in him. Many winds have been like his sons and they are like a leaf containing his words. The earth also contains all and by the end of the collection everything is flowing into everything else. The last lines are

Say to the still earth: I flow

To the rapid water: I   am

Overall Rilke seems to be saying in the Sonnets that all life is composed of energies, hence rhythm. This fact automatically supplies Orpheus and his disciples, the poets and musicians, some higher understanding; but at the same time it is at least implied that the organizational power of death/Hades is what most makes sense of the life which must be grasped as a whole. There is a sort of refusal of negativity, an optimism based on an idea of the Elegies that “our life is spent in changing”, which is almost ultra-Sagittarian (the sign is “mutable”) and philosophical though not necessarily convincing as philosophy. The sound of it is better than the sense, and if Rilke is “In the Image of Orpheus” according to Polikoff, less positively his message is simply that of Death and Hades.

I could be accused of religious prejudice here, but not only has one of the few guides to meaning in the Sonnets Rilke ever gave (to a Polish translator) declared one should perceive nothing Christian about afterlife etc in them because he is ever more departed from any Christian ideas, haven’t the Sonnets as good as declared the poet’s overriding attachment is to Hades and to a god of death rather than life? In Sonnet 13 of Part 2 we are advised to “ Be ever dead in Eurydice [i.e.the one whom Hades claimed and took back]….. know the condition/Of not-being , the infinite ground of your deep vibration”. This seems to give the last word to darkness and death as existence-controlling and is even the core message of a wonderfully gifted poet of a vision strange and limited and with psychological effects that came back to bite him. The poetry offers a special experience and in especially the Elegies marks a defining moment for the modern in art. However it is surely a great contemporary error to treat Rilke as any kind of life guru.

 

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

IS THERE MEANING IN ITALY’S DEATH BY FALLING CRUCIFIX?

Crucifix    Crushed

IS THERE MEANING IN ITALY’S DEATH BY FALLING CRUCIFIX?

ACCIDENT OR BAD OMEN?

According to Silvio Citroni, mayor of Cevo village in Brescia, the tragic death beneath a suddenly falling massive crucifix of 21 year old Marco Gusmini on Thursday 24th April (some reports say Wednesday 23rd) was “inexplicable tragedy”. The Repubblica newspaper declared  “Everyone is seeing a hidden hand, an undeclared meaning, connecting details that have no connection in reality”. Some Italians saw it as a bad omen for Italy. Lina Wertmuller, widow of Enrico Job, sculptor of the 600 kilogram Christ figure attached to the strange and almost sinister curved cross, also spoke of the tragedy and how silly it now seemed to regard the crucifix as a symbol for Italy and its protection.

The cross was dedicated to John Paul 11 and some Catholics have suspected divine disapproval of the canonization of this controversial Pope. The disaster occurred only days before  his elevation to sainthood on Sunday 27th, and on the same day that the Vatican was  hosting a press conference with the Costa Rican woman whose reported miracle had been a needed proof for the new status.  In Cevo village pilgrims were celebrating the forthcoming ceremony for this pontiff who years before had visited their region of Lombardy and to whom, as said, the cross was dedicated. It seems a sudden wind loosed the giant 30 metre high cross from where it has for years been anchored to earth by cables tested for safety last year.

The accident in the run up to the double canonization in which John Paul was joined in sainthood with the reformist Pope John XX111 has seemed stranger still in light of the fact the pilgrim victim to the  cross lived in a street named for…..Pope John XX111. It is the sort of thing that has helped take the event somewhat out of the range of just unfortunate occurrences into the realm of synchronicity and special messages.

But if so, just what messages?  While the following makes no claim to be direct revelation from on high, I will present some uniquely suggestive information for what this event could signify. Due to the fact I have claimed for years now to possess the true birth data for Jesus (as per my Testament of the Magi,  http://bit.ly/Y43dvj ) and provably so in that it also works for Christ events to this day, I was rather confident I should find something tellingly relevant and I feel that I have done so.

A “GRAND CROSS” SETTING TO BEGIN WITH

To place all this in context however, any astrologer would want to stress that on the 24th we had just passed exactitude  of (and on the 23rd were still within) a stressed formation of the planets that stargazers had not liked the look of for some time. It stood moreover at the midpoint of 2 eclipses – the first being the lunar blood moon, first of the notorious blood tetrad which can have relevance to especially wars and affairs of Israel. Personally I suspect these recent signs were involved with the Ukraine crisis which could be seeding what will develop into something larger…..Be that as it may….the Italian crucifix disaster basically belongs within a celestial stress pattern called of all things The Grand Cross. This had lined up Mars at 13 Libra, Jupiter at 13 Cancer, Uranus at 13 Aries and Pluto at 13 Capricorn (though on the 24th Jupiter was just entering 14 degrees from 13 Cancer slightly easing the tension).

Libra, Cancer, Aries and Capricorn are what are called “cardinal” signs and they provoke action. 13 degrees of these signs are also deemed “critical”. This means they are accented, strong, liable to trigger events. Something serious had to happen. Mars itself is anyway an action planet, one often making for violence too. Uranus is any accidents, shocks and surprises. Pluto is force majeure, an extreme planet which I believe can be used as symbol for God as Creator and Judge.

Jupiter is the religion planet and was even the original Star of Bethlehem at Christ’s birth, (to be precise it was at 19 Pisces on the day of birth and if the day of the accident was the 24th as most claim, peaceful Venus at 20 Pisces had just departed from conjunction with that position, a point on which I can comment later). The crucifix that killed the unfortunate Marco was more the heavy sculpture of Christ’s body than the cross itself. Accidents are most essentially Mars/Uranus events. With these thoughts in mind, what was happening on the day to the chart of Christ?

ON THE ARMS OF THE GRAND CROSS

Uranus at 13 ARIES was conjunct the asteroid ITALIA at 13 Aries in Jesus’ birth chart. Italy would be deeply involved and shocked. And on the 24th itself ITALIA was transiting at 0 Aries, in other words on a world point. This was an Italian event the world would certainly hear of.

Opposite Uranus  (and recall an accident event is itself a Uranus/Mars one), at 13 Libra stood Mars. But in the chart of Jesus 13 Libra is special. It is the position of Mercury, “ruler” of his body and even the whole birth pattern because the Mercurial sign of Gemini rises at the moment of birth. But for Jesus this degree is also the same as his  Part of Death and the asteroid GRATIA (Grace). One could say the body of Christ was vowed to death, sacrificed to it, and full of physical and spiritual grace. But could contact with even the image of his body risk death  under such as a Mars transit to this position?

Nothing of significance falls on 13 Capricorn in Jesus’ natus, but to the extent we might look at the chart of Christianity (taken from Pentecost AD 30) as a supplementary source for what is after all also a church involving event, 13 Capricorn  happens to be the degree of REQUIEM (rest). And as it happens the Jupiter arm of the Grand Cross formation that I haven’t so far mentioned, is conjunct Jesus’ FRIEDEN (Peace) carrying the same kind of message. It may be assumed Marco went straight to God and Paradise – there is no Marco asteroid but its French equivalent, MARC, was strangely enough at the time of the accident at 0 degrees of dangerous Aquarius on an axis opposite to PARADISE at 0 Leo.

……But however interesting, none of this notably hints at the meaning of the event as any sign. We must look further.

THE DAY AND THE MEANING

On the 24th April the all-important sun at 4 Taurus exactly conjuncted the HELL asteroid in Christ’s chart [1]. Obviously some would be inclined to blame precisely hell for the day’s disaster – the forces of evil busy trying to make the cross a symbol feared, rejected or neglected or even staking claims to a victim because the religious community had got too far outside the divine will. Moreover Saturn, planet of restriction and woe and often Satan-identified, at 21 of Scorpio ( a strong “critical” degree for “fixed” signs like Scorpio) was degree exact on Jesus’ own action releasing Mars, along with his FIDES (Faith) and SALAVAT (Salvation). Needless to say faith was severely challenged by the accident at Cevo!

But then on the other hand, and no matter at what precise time the accident occurred (around lunchtime is all I can find), the moon was in Pisces in 2 or 3 degrees conjunct the CHRIST asteroid for the day [2]. What  we have to consider in light of this and other factors (like this same difficult Sun fortunately trine  COELUM/Heaven on the day) and that I shan’t include lest we finish with too many factors, is whether the meaning is something which could proceed from the forces of evil at the same time as it is could still be willed, or at least permitted and used by God as a specific sign of something.

I will immediately state I think there is as suspected something here about John Paul and his approaching canonization which the villagers and pilgrims were celebrating at a cross dedicated to him, because though I don’t know the precise time (I have guessed around 12.30 pm since lunch preparations were being made) for a start it is very likely for any “lunchtime”  that JP11’s destiny and reputation sign of Leo would be rising,  Also asteroid JEANPAUL is very strangely and weakly placed at 29.33 of Aquarius, the sign that Uranus of the shocks and surprises rules. Jean Paul associates with the accident event from its last degree as MARC(o) does from its first.

In order to comment and deduce anything at all from the data, before continuing a very few words about divine providence are appropriate. God doesn’t desire the death of persons through accidents and those who die in them aren’t automatically more guilty than anybody else – Jesus affirmed as much about those who died in the tower of Siloam (Luk 13:4). However, at least according to biblical rather than later philosophical Christianity that colours a lot of Catholic thought, the world most essentially belongs to the forces of evil and Jesus appears on earth to begin resistance to that rule. The original idea was also, rather as in continental law where one is assumed guilty unless proved innocent rather than innocent until proved guilty, that people – perhaps not everyone and certainly not children but in broad principle – are deemed simply guilty before God and needing ransom back from the devil who “owns” them. God does not deal with realms of sin, so prayer is important in invoking the protection and involvement God does not normally reckon to engage before the end of time and evil.

So……it follows that in an imperfect world God will permit evil, will refuse or withdraw any specific cover against it, especially so when evil and error pass beyond a certain point – the “wrath” of God usually signifies withdrawal of protection to let chaos have its natural way. But that same refusal, even leading on to disaster itself like the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 BC, then becomes prophetic lesson and sign. Something of the sort could well be the case in the bizarre, spectacular death of the unfortunate Mario.

JOHN PAUL A FALSE SAINT?

The crowd was celebrating the soon canonization of John Paul at John Paul’s own cross. Let’s not even dwell on the fact that at least Protestants would protest any cult of the saints amounted to practice of a species of  forbidden idolatry or necromancy  – it is biblically forbidden to attempt contact with the spirits of the dead Deut 18:11, even the righteous dead like King Saul attempting to contact the prophet Samuel. Prayer and worship is supposed to be directed to God alone. On this basis the fact that revered “saints” may give occasional well certified cures such as the Vatican was highlighting on the day of the accident, could be deemed irrelevant, especially as exorcists know that devils can be forced to withdraw a curse and thus cure people. So healing may not have the assumed source and might serve a wider deception.

But even assuming the cult of saints can be theologically justified, could and should it really be practiced in the case of specifically John Paul? His canonization has been rushed through by normal standards on public demand (the other Pope John XX111 has not even been required to supply the usual second miracle!). It is believed Pope Francis has been happy to waive rules because he wants the symbolism of joining  an in some respects very traditionalist pontiff (John Paul) with a reformist, modern one (John X111).

But the more that is known and written about John Paul the more shady he becomes and in his way non-traditional and even heretical. Those who have suffered child abuse believe no one who ignored that phenomenon to the extent John Paul did in the face of evidence can be called a saint. But he anyway presents serious contradictions. On the one hand his cult of the Virgin was extreme (should not self-dedication like his Totus Tuus “only yours” be reserved for God not Mary?) while at Assisi in 1986 he virtually opened the door to some kind of new universalism when he prayed with leaders of a hundred different faiths and allowed such as a Buddha image over the tabernacle and various non-Christian rites to be performed in front of the altar.

Certainly things were not limited to the Assisi gathering but manifest amid the pontiff’s numerous travels. This Pope had the sign of Shiva painted on his forehead in India. He kissed and bowed towards the Koran in the presence of Muslim leaders which, all matters of doctrine apart, was felt to be outrageous to the suffering of Christian minorities in places such as Iraq. There was also  woeful irony in the fact that this Pope, famed for his reconciling attitude to the Jews, should have venerated the Koran on of all days 14th May  (in 1999), in short the birthday of the Jewish state which at least some Muslims would wish to see destroyed since on some readings of the Koran the Jews need to be annihilated in jihad at the time of the end. In Benin John Paul was a cheerful spectator at a witch doctor’s snake worshipping ceremony and in Togo he prayed alongside Animists. For things like this some Catholics denounced John Paul as an anti-Pope and apostate.  Might he even have been preparing the way for the late Catholic Seeress, Jeane Dixon’s false prophet who will succeed to the last Pope and inaugurate a world faith through Rome?

Let’s not go into the controversies that still surround the story of John Paul’s finances and politics which last, if it had some positive features in relation to Poland and East European Communism, is itself not beyond criticism – he may have had inappropriate dealings with the CIA. I don’t know and don’t need to know or judge for present purposes. However, although I don’t personally lend it credence, I am aware that Latin America has been fascinated by some young woman claiming Jesus showed her various celebrities in hell including John Paul 11 whom she claims privately was anything but saintly. Again I can’t and won’t comment on what I don’t know, but this much can be known….

It was mentioned that on the day of the Cevo, accident the sun of the day was conjunct hell. It is hard to avoid the impression John Paul doesn’t release mayhem, if not hell in some way. For example, on Oct 21st 2012, the same day that a relic related to Jean Paul arrived in Lourdes, the town was seriously and rarely flooded.  Then again in 2013 on June 18th, the day it was announced a second miracle certified John Paul’s sainthood, Lourdes was flooded once again.

Oddly enough for John Paul’s  associations with chaos, the Vatican chart reveals asteroid JOHNPAUL at 29 Cancer in direct sextile (i.e opportunity aspect) to HELL at 28 Taurus. This pontiff therefore risks releasing mayhem in some  fashion as, let us be frank, does Jupiter the religion planet itself which stands in the Vatican’s house of religion conjunct JP on the same degree. A chaos apt to be released, not least perhaps through precisely Lourdes of the floods?! It should not be forgotten that originally St Bernadette of Lourdes thought it was the devil rather than the Virgin had appeared to her there, and originally the French clergy were opposed to the whole false notion, as it seemed to them, of Immaculate Conception. It was essentially a papal overruling endorsed Bernadette’s highly dubious vision  – for why it is dubious see notes to my poem Maryianity  at http://bit.ly/17NTJeh

What I would agree about with the nonetheless probably delusionary young visionary who places John Paul in hell, is that God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). If someone including a Pope does not behave well they do not obtain divine approval or convey anybody any blessings (recall how John Paul was unable to exorcize a girl screaming blasphemies in the Vatican)  even if they don’t finish up in precisely hell. It is not for believers to put any person of obvious known errors and failures upon a pedestal thereby distracting from the prayer and attention supposed to be directed upon God. (And if by chance John Paul were in hell, it would needless to say be the final irony and judgement-invoking sin for Christians to be making him the object of a cult!). The odd, so-called, “void of course”, weak position of JEANPAUL at the time of the Cevo accident bespeaks his odd relation  to believers. Those celebrating him shouldn’t really be doing so as he is no presence to save and help them. Nor really is the Cevo image of Christ which is effectively an upside down one faced towards earth and not declaring anything like Christ’s victory through and amid suffering and its effect in a subsequently heaven borne direction.

A SERIOUS CALL TO CHANGE

Beyond even these negatives,  those who erected the cross shouldn’t be saying or believing that it is any symbol of Italy and/or of its protection. I don’t write as someone against crucifixes and images per se, but the evident notion that the image just in and of itself is a kind of protective talisman is a subtle idolatry that should be rejected. If one persists with false beliefs God will answer according to one’s idols and permit the false visions that ensue (Ezek 14:4) but also remove such protection as may be hoped for from God within a fallen world. The collapsed crucifix is an event of a fallen world in which accidents occur. It may however also be an effect of the forces of evil like the winds that blew the life threatening storm on Galilee, and which in this case wish to overthrow the power of the cross. But  whether that’s so or not, it  could still be a sign of divine disapproval of John Paul, or at least a warning sign for a church to abandon the cover-ups and elements of creeping idolatry that John Paul’s reign saw too much of. It may be a bit more than even that and I rather suspect so.

I have had Italy much on my mind in recent months and it’s a reason I shall briefly be visiting there (no, not to Rome) while in Europe this year. Just as I wrote the quasi-prophetic Beyond Dover Beach,( http://bit.ly/1gLlckG)  I suspect there is something to know and that I may be able to write on the ground concerning Italy. Anyway, I think it would be unwise for Catholics to dismiss as lightly as they have done that the present Pope is the last according to the long disputed prophecies of St Malachy. At the time of the recent suggestively symbolic accident, peaceful and fortunate Venus was moving away from the star of Christianity itself in Pisces. Things are ending and there are attitudes and beliefs that need to be abandoned.

[1]. The hell asteroid is HELLA because originally all asteroids were recorded in feminine form hence Nelsonia  and Washingtonia for Nelson and Washington

[2]  The Christ asteroid is CHRISTA.  As said above originally all asteroids were recorded in feminine form but empirically this asteroid does work for Christ issues as does ISA (the Arabic name of Jesus).

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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