The Black Madonna of Hergiswald

One of the most stunning Black Madonna chapels in Switzerland is located near Lucerne on a hill with a view of the mountains and Lake Lucerne. It was built in the seventeenth century after a Capuchin Friar Ludwig von Wyl had a dream of Our lady of Loreto, entreating him to build a chapel for her in Hergiswald. The distance of the chapel from the lake is exactly the same as the distance of The Holy House of Loreto to the sea.

The original Italian statue of the Black Madonna of Loreto burnt in the fire in 1921. The current remade statue displayed in Loreto was modelled after its Swiss copy in Hergiswald.

The Swiss chapel is a part of St Jacob’s Way – one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. It is a lovely Baroque building erected by a clear mountain stream. The gentle sound of the water accompanies the pilgrim entering the chapel. The stream disappears in the forest leading to a hermitage, which was built in the fifteenth century and was the original place of pilgrimage in the area.

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The hermitage

What appears in front of a pilgrim who enters the chapel is simply breathtaking. The whole ceiling is adorned with 324 painted emblems illustrating the symbolic meaning of Mary’s role. The images were partly inspired by the Litany of Loreto and painted by Kaspar Meglinger, who is also famous for his Dance of Death featured on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.

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The idea to cover the ceiling with emblems came from the Capuchin monk Ludwig von Wyl, who was inspired by Baroque artists such as Filippo Picinelli, author of Mondo Simbolico. 

From Mondo Simbolico by Picinelli

The sheer number of images and their depth is quite overwhelming. Below are just a few  with English translations. You can see a few more here.

Geminat Incendia – The Sun Doubles its Glow (the strength of the Sun in Leo)

Unspoiled white

She (here symbolized by the comet) shows the way

Darkness does not eclipse the Star

A distillator – I return what is pure

But the heart of the chapel is the house of the Virgin – a chapel within a chapel. It is a separate structure right in the centre. Inside there are votive offerings, frescoes depicting very down-to-earth activities around the birth of Jesus – a midwife boiling water for the newly born Jesus’s bath or Saint Anna cooking supper. The serene statue of the Black Madonna resides in the background.

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I returned to the village through the forest, descending along the so called Path to Light. This is a Rosary Path with wonderful paintings illustrating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

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Water of life

All is Given

 

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Reading The Red Book (23)

Chapter X of Liber Secundus is called Incantations. God (Izdubar) is now enclosed in the maternal egg. Jung  sings “the incantations for his incubation.” If we are the children of Gods, perhaps Gods can also be our children, he says:

“If my father the God should die, a God child should arise from my maternal heart.”

Humans – no matter if male or female – giving birth to Gods in their own souls, warming the egg with tender love and devotion, is a wonderful image, which elevates the feminine to godlike status, denied to her by patriarchal religions.

In this chapter, each incantation is accompanied or embedded within a full-size image.  In the first two incantations Jung’s connection with the wide expanse of the psyche is evident. He chants that he is the mother, the father, the maiden and the holy man from the East, thus incorporating all the traditional elements of the story of the nativity of Christ. Not only that, he is also “the holy animal that stood astonished” and finally:

“I am the egg that surrounds and nurtures the seed of the God in me.”

Image 51 (below) accompanies the second incantation. It shows a figure in deep meditation, contemplating ultimate realities of existence. Sanford L. Drob writes that this image shows “the imaginative temple of the mind.” (1)

The Red Book, image 51

The third incantation elaborates on the all-encompassing attributes of God as “the eternal emptiness and the eternal fullness,” “eternal darkness and eternal brightness,” “eternal below and eternal above.” God is presented here as Unity of Opposites (coincidentia oppositorum). This experience of oneness, non-duality, is common to many mystical traditions. The hypnotic shapes and colours of images 52 and 53 induce an even deeper trance. (2)

According to Jung, two components were indispensable in order to embark on alchemical work: meditatio and imaginatio. The Red Book can be viewed as a full exposition of his spiritual practice which incorporates these two processes.

Image 54 was given a title by Jung – Brahmanaspati, a Vedic deity presiding over prayer and the text of the Veda.  This mythical reference further supports the theme of deep meditation. (3) Brahmanaspati was also identified with Agni, the god of fire and with a deity of vegetation. The image is accompanied by the following incantation:

“Amen, you are the lord of the beginning.
Amen, you are the star of the East.
Amen, you are the flower that blooms over everything.
Amen, you are the deer that breaks out of the forest.
Amen, you are the song that sounds far over the water.
Amen, you are the beginning and the end.”

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The image is one of many illustrations of non-duality in The Red Book. A black snake arises from the fiery depths; his breath transforming into “the cool light of the blue heights.” (4) Analogically, image 55 is Jung’s rendering of the Egyptian solar myth, in which the Sun is threatened every night by the giant serpent Apep. The solar consciousness of what is visible is forever challenged by the underground forces of chaos.

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Image 56 with its Eastern opulence reminded me strongly of the Alhambra. As Drob rightly notices, Izdubar has come from the East and the images are an homage to his culture circle.

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In incantation that accompanies image 57 Jung gently persuades the God to break the shell and “rise up, you gracious fire of the night.” The inscription underneath image 59 says Hiranyagarbha, which can be translated as the Golden Womb or the Golden Egg (5). It is the source, which gave birth to all creation and the god Brahma himself.

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The incantation that accompanies image 60 contains the following verses:

“I have thrown down my sword and dressed in women’s clothing.
I shattered my firm castle and played like a child in the sand.
I saw warriors form into line of battle and I destroyed my suit of armor
with a hammer.
I planted my field and let the fruit decay.
I made small everything that was great and made everything great
that was small.
I exchanged my furthest goal for the nearest, and so I am ready.”

This seems like an ultimate spiritual task: going against one’s nature, one’s ego, one’s conditioning, in order to open to the wider spectrum of the whole psyche. There are sacrifices and blood is spilled on the narrow path to individuation.

In the final incantation to the God the I of The Red Book says something very profound:

“May your light shine
before us, may your fire warm the coldness of our life. We do not need your
power but life.
What does power avail us? We do not want to rule. We want to
live, we want light and warmth, and hence we need yours.”

A small green-clad figure is kneeling down in prayer, worshiping the god of fire. There is  faint solar barque in the background. The gift of life is the ultimate gift from the gods; it far surpasses any desire for power. Jung is ready for the opening of the egg; the eastern god will be healed.

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Notes:

(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 113

(2) Ibid., p. 113

(3) Ibid., p. 113

(4) Ibid., p. 113

(5) Ibid., p. 114

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Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 20

Reading The Red Book – part 21

Reading The Red Book – part 22

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Michelangelo’s Immortality

“Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.”

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The soul-stirring dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, designed by Michelangelo towards the end of his life, was his crowning achievement. He died before it was completed but only after leaving detailed instructions, which were followed to the letter. I have recently read a fascinating biography dedicated to the last years of the artist’s life. You can read an inspiring and more detailed review of the book here.

The book is dedicated to various projects Michelangelo was working on during the last years of his life. Starting with the magnificent Moses, whose “accusatory stare” accompanied the artist in his private quarters. The two virtually lived together. According to a legend, Michelangelo once demanded from the sculpture, “Why don’t you speak?” Why Moses seems like such a irresistible force of nature can be perhaps explained by a quote from the book, which describes how Michelangelo chose the marble for this project:

“As he looked at the scarred mountain face, he was inspired to carve a colossus, using the entire mountain as his raw material.”

Apparently, Sigmund Freud was mesmerized by the statue, which he called “inscrutable.” He quotes an art critic, who muses over the reason why this rendition of Moses has the head of Pan. According to Freud, Moses here restrains himself from leaping to his feet and smashing the tablets of the Ten Commandments on the ground. It has been explained that the horns were probably a result of an incorrect translation of the Exodus, which described Moses as coming down from the Sinai with two “rays” on his forehead. The Jewish words for rays and horns are apparently very similar. Still, what Freud described as “a violent gust of passion” depicted in the sculpture harmonizes well with the horns of a wild pagan deity featured on the prophet’s head. The hand touching the beard is, according to Wallace, “one of those unconscious gestures that one sees repeatedly in Michelangelo’s art, subconscious thought animating unconscious, nervous movement.”

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When Michelangelo was 72, he began working on another magnificent sculpture – the Florentine Pietà. It was never finished; when you look closer you will notice than one of Christ’s legs is missing. Nonetheless, there is so much love and poignancy in the way in which the three figures – Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene (on the left) and Nicodemus support the body of Christ. The centrality of Mary Magdalene in Christ’s life is visible in the composition, says Wallace:

“The Magdalene kneels on the privileged right hand of her Lord and savior. She helps to sustain his dead body; his right arm and hand fall across her shoulder, and his fingers lightly brush her back.”

The artist wanted the sculpture to adorn his grave and for this very reason he was afraid to finish it. It stayed in his quarters for a larger part of the rest of his life.

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Florentine Pietà

Yet it is St Peter’s Basilica and most importantly its dome which have granted Michelangelo immortality. The detailed description of the structure form one of the best passages of the book. Here are just a few:

“There are sixteen vertical ribs. From any vantage point, just eight ribs are visible. The number eight, symbolically, suggests the Resurrection, and a dome is a metaphor of heaven.”

“Against the sky, the dome attracts the eye like a buoy on a boundless blue sea. Birds are drawn to it: cawing gulls in the morning, silent swifts in the evening. At night the dome is more beacon than buoy—a light in a vast ocean of darkness. It is seen from everywhere in Rome.”

“The dome both contains and concentrates vertical forces. It is a mountain rising above the sacred ground of the Mons Vaticanus.”

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Reading The Red Book (22)

Max Ernst, “The Inner Vision: The Egg”

We have reached chapter IX of Liber Secundus, entitled “Second Day.” God Izdubar (Gilgamesh) is resigned to dying; Jung, however, is determined not to let him perish. A thought occurs to him, as he watches Izdubar’s suffering:

“And this speech began in me: Great Izdubar, you are in a hopeless position-and I no less. What can be done? It is not always necessary to act; sometimes thinking is better.”

What ensues may be looked upon as a foreshadowing of what Jungian psychology has brought to the world; namely, the notion of archetypes and fantasy as a saving grace. As Sanford L. Drob puts it, the remedy for the ailing god lies neither in the East nor in the West but in “thoughtful meditation.” (1) In order to save Izdubar, Jung declares him as “a fantasy:

“… he is a fantasy-and thus considerably more volatile-I think I can see a way forward: I can take him on my back for now.”

Jung perceived fantasy as a royal way to the creation of reality. Crucially, the objects of imagination are not less real than the so-called objective world. (2) In Psychological Types, Jung wrote:

“Each new day reality is created by the psyche. The only expression I can use for this activity is phantasy. … it is the mother of all possibilities, in which too the inner and the outer worlds, like all psychological antitheses, are joined in living union.” (3)

By suppressing fantasy in the age of science, we became greatly impoverished by such unnatural limitations. However, as Jung argues in Psychological Types:

“… we know that every good idea and all creative work is the offspring of the imagination, and has its source in what one is pleased to term infantile phantasy. It is not the artist alone, but every creative individual whatsoever who owes all that is greatest in his life to phantasy. The dynamic principle of phantasy is play which belongs also to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with phantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” (4)

Light as a feather, Izdubar is carried by Jung to the Western land. On the way, they spot Ammonius and the Red One, who are horrified at their sight. Izdubar asks:

“Iz: “Who are these misshapen ones? Are these your comrades?”
I: “These are not men, they are so-called relics of the past which one still often encounters in the Western lands. They used to be very important. They’re now used mostly as shepherds.”

Jung clearly shows that he is spiritually more invested in ancient pagan gods rather than the official Christian dogma represented by the hermit Ammonius and the Red One, or the devil. Now his whole love is directed towards the dying God of the East, whom he brought to the West to heal:

“Izdubar and I come to a quiet dark garden and a secluded house. I hide Izdubar under the drooping branches of a tree, go up to the door of the house, and knock. I ponder the door: it is much too small. I will never be able to get Izdubar through it. Yet-a fantasy takes up no space! Why did this excellent thought not occur to me earlier? I return to the garden and with no difficulty squeeze Izdubar into the size of an egg and put him in my pocket. Then I walk into the welcoming house where Izdubar should find healing.”

Izdubar is transformed by Jung’s quiet and thoughtful meditation and by his utter devotion into an egg, which can be regarded as a sort of an amulet – a source of life and a living essence of divinity brought down to the human scale.  By turning God into a phantasy or a symbol Jung did not reduce him but rather he bridged the gap between the divine and the mortal world. It is the human soul which is the most perfect receptacle for the divine. Jung thus speaks of his soul being filled with God:

“But I loved my God, and took him to the house of men, since I was convinced that he also really lived as a fantasy, and should therefore not be left behind, wounded and sick. And hence I experienced the miracle of my body losing its heaviness when I burdened myself with the God.”

If our God is outside of us, argues Jung, then he becomes our yoke and burden like a stale, outdated ritual, which does not nourish the soul. “The God within us” infuses lightness into our being. Jung compares the inner divinity of the soul to “God’s armour, [which] will make you invulnerable and invisible to the worst fools.” He also admonishes those who have found God in their souls not to reveal the divinity to the world but to conceal it. The reason is because the fellow humans react with aggression if they sense an approaching God. Jung shares these words of advice:

“Thus do not speak and do not show the God, but sit in a solitary place and sing incantations in the ancient manner:
Set the egg before you, the God in his beginning.
And behold it.
And incubate it with the magical warmth of your gaze.”

It is apparent why Jung hesitated to publish The Red Book in his lifetime. Ultimately, divinity blossoms in a quiet solitude of the individual soul. That seems to be the real meaning of the Delphic maxim “Know thyself” and the essence of Jungian psychology.

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Constantin Brancusi, “Sculpture for the Blind: Beginning of the World”

 

 

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Notes:

(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 109

(2) Ibid, p. 110

(3) C. G. Jung, Psychological Types or the Psychology of Individuation, translated by H. Godwin Baynes, Pantheon Books, New York, p. 69

(4) Ibid, p. 82

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 20

Reading The Red Book – part 21

Reading The Red Book – part 23

 

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Symbolism of the Wetlands

“I enter a swamp as a sacred place, a sanctum sanctorum. … My temple is the swamp.”

***

“Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.”

Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

Wilhelm Kotarbinski, “Evening Star”

Ancient Egyptians pictured the afterlife as a field of reeds, a fertile marsh with islands emerging from a sea of rushes similar to the ones in the Nile Delta. It is not hard to see why the Egyptians appreciated the primeval and eternal atmosphere of the marshes, “untouched by human history or labour.” (1) Swamps are ideal places of contemplation as well as mindfulness: on the one hand a lower level of oxygen creates a feeling of dizziness, on the other one wrong step could have fatal repercussions, not to mention the need to look out for various primeval monsters that are believed to be lurking in marshes.

Vincent van Gogh, “Marsh with Water Lillies”

Every summer the marshes of the Nile Delta were flooded thus returning the valley to the “form of primordial waters.” (2) In autumn a fertile field was revealed as a sign of a new beginning which was, however, fraught with “predatory forces of annihilation” such as alligators on the hunt. (3) The new beginnings are always vulnerable and slippery, for all their vitality and emergence. (4)

Marshes continue to play a vital purifying role for our environment, acting as a bulwark against flooding and being able to absorb more carbon dioxide than forests. And yet their destruction continues, as more land is required for agriculture and human settlements, including numerous cities.

As Rod Giblett puts it,

“Wetlands are maternal as they give birth to new life and nourish it. They are environmental waters of nourishing milk, their living waters are the breast of the great mother, the earth, and they are the moist womb that gives birth to new life. Wetlands are also maternal as they are the tomb for decaying and dying matter that gives rebirth to new life. Wetlands as womb are the source of life and wetlands as living waters are the first source of nourishment, the first object of love and the first object to be lost in modernization, colonization, drainage, and ‘progress.’ (5)

Great cities such as London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Venice, Mexico City, New Orleans and St. Petersburg emerged from the wetlands and their “womb of watery chaos, fecund and fertile.” (6)

Map of Tenochtitlan – the Aztec wetland city on the grounds of which Mexico City was built, printed 1524 in Nuremberg, German; via Wikipedia

But the mother of all swamp cities, argues Giblett, is Paris. Its original name – Lutetia – goes back to the Celtic word “lutum” – mud. The coat of arms of the city of Paris contains the Latin motto, “Fluctuat nec mergitur,” i.e. “it floats but does not sink.” The goddess Lutetia personifies Paris as “the Great Goddess swamp mother.” The city is celebrated for its “interior labyrinths, dangerous depths, and fascinating passages.” (7)

Coat of arms of the city of Paris

As more and more land was torn from the hands of the Great Mother of Swamps, the divine marsh of the goddess was reinterpreted as a slimy marsh and a dirty sewer. Unlike Ancient Egypt, modern cities wish to forget their marshy beginnings, relegating the swamp to the underworld.

James Abbot McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne in Grey and Gold – Piccadilly”

Similarly to Paris, the name London derives from the Gaelic “lunnd” (marsh). The darkness of London, its “black heart,” is a well-known symbolic trope. In most cities, the fringes of respectable society are referred to as slums, the demi-monde, while these rejected, “liquid and horizontal” elements contrast with the “solid and vertical” crystal city. (8) Yet a seventh of the world population continues to dwell in this “urban nether world” amidst our “cities of light soaring toward heaven.” (9)

London’s Crystal Palace, symbol of the Industrial Revolution, was destroyed by fire in 1936

Venice is perhaps the most famous wetland city, mainly because its origins are still visible whereas the marshy cradle of Paris or London has been suppressed and is largely invisible. In Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, a protagonist imagines a marshland landscape just before the city of Venice was founded as “a landscape, a tropical marshland, beneath a reeking sky, steaming, monstrous, rank— a kind of primeval wilderness- world of island, morasses and alluvial channels.” (10) There is symbolic ambivalence surrounding Venice, which has been described both as the holiest, the most sublime of cities on the one hand and the most sinful, hellish city on the other. This is because La Serenissima emerged from the marshes, which symbolize the unconscious with its dual nature of light and darkness, good and evil. The supernatural, the unconscious is palpable all over the place in this shimmering city built on water.

Gustave Moreau, “Venice”

The chaos of the primordial mother goddess of the swamps was overcome by the “mathematized space” of New York with its skyscrapers and the precise grid plan. Yet urban legend has it that the sewers of New York are inhabited by crocodiles. (11) Symbolically, the crocodile, like the swamp, links the energies of renewal and dissolution. (12) It is a liminal creature, as it inhabits the intermediate realm between earth and water. It is symbolic of viciousness and destructiveness and also of fecundity by virtue of its association with mud and water.

A deceased woman prostrates herself before the deity Geb in the form of a crocodile, image found in “The Book of Symbols,” p. 201

New Orleans is another fascinating American city built on marshlands. Unlike New York, it does not appear to be mathematized but rather it continues to exhibit its “amorphous boundaries” between land and water. It was born out of the womb of the great American mother of all rivers – the Mississippi. New Orleans is a city where the boundaries between the dead and the living are very fluid. The chaos inherent in the liminal space between land and water erupted when the hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in the area. (13) Similarly, the periodic flooding of Venice is a reminder that mother goddess is forever ready to reclaim what is hers.

Because they may seem inhospitable and dangerous, the marshes and swamplands are a well-known symbol of the unconscious. The Jungian analyst James Hollis wrote:

“…it is the swamplands of the soul, the savannas of suffering, that provide the context for the stimulation and the attainment of meaning.” (5)

The ego with its obsession of control desperately tries to “flee the swamplands.” (6) Yet serving the external authority figures, by being worker ants in our adult lives, we have no more energy left to serve the soul, which thus falls into swamplike “desuetude,” Hollis argues. (7) Successful lives are so often built on the horrors of doubt, disillusionment and terrors lurking in the swamplands of the soul. Compulsion replaces life.

Throughout our lives, argues Hollis, we are repeatedly pulled into psychological swamplands. No one is exempt, no matter how much psychotherapy he or she has undergone. It is not possible to permanently inhabit a castle somewhere on the moral high ground:

“The great rhythms of nature, of time and tide, of fate and destiny, and of our own psyche, move their powerful ways quite outside our will.” (8)

This melancholic underpinning, the swamp of our soul, creates its own music, full of suffering and dismay. In a myth, the nymph Syrinx was pursued by Pan and managed to flee him by being transformed into marsh reeds. When Pan sighed with dismay upon the reeds, they produces a plaintive sound, which gave him the idea of constructing the first panpipes. Thus music rose out of the marshlands.

Joseph Noel Paton, “Pan Piping”

Notes:

(1)The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images, ARAS, edited by Ami Ronnberg p. 120

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Rod Giblett, Cities and Wetlands: The Return of the Repressed in Nature and Culture, Bloomsbury Academic 2016, p. 13

(6) Ibid., p. 16

(7) Ibid., p. 38-47

(8) Ibid., p. 59-72

(9) Ibid., p. 77

(10) Ibid., p. 84

(11) Ibid., p. 155-156

(12) The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images, ARAS, edited by Ami Ronnberg p. 200

(13) Rod Giblett, Cities and Wetlands: The Return of the Repressed in Nature and Culture, Bloomsbury Academic 2016, p. 184-193

(14) James Hollis, Swamplands of Soul: New Life in Dismal Places, Inner City Books 1996, p. 8

(15) Ibid., p. 15

(16) Ibid., p. 76

(17) Ibid., p. 124

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On Removing Racially Charged Images

The white domination – this tectonic plate that underlies the Western culture – is shifting radically, steering for a massive earthquake. I do not feel I possess the right to express my opinion on the subject; I would rather quote Wittgenstein’s famous words from his Tractatus, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” I will only appeal to you to please watch Dave Chappelle’s monologue if you have not already:

 

Here in Switzerland we are following very closely what is going on across the ocean. We have also had a few Black Lives Matter marches as well as a raging national debate regarding a certain sweet treat. I realize this does sound trivial but I felt gratitude when Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, removed the “Mohrenkopf” (“black man’s head” or “blackamoor’s head”) sweets from its shelves. The company had persistently refused to change the controversial name. But what’s in a name? Apparently quite a lot.

Words that we so casually use often have a complex and violent history that cannot be simply brushed aside. What lurks behind the name “Mohrenkopf” is not nice. In German “Mohren” was the term used to describe black people (later replaced by another ugly word – Neger, which is out of use now), while “Mauren” were the equivalent of the Moors, who conquered the Iberian Peninsula. Still, “Mohren” und “Mauren” stem from the same linguistic root, which is why the image of Saint James the Apostle cutting off the heads of Spanish Moors is embroiled in the bloody story of the word “Mohrenkopf.”

Santiago Matamoros, Saint James the Moor-slayer, Patron Saint of Spain

Also some historic guilds featuring black people in their logos have been under fire in Switzerland. The Moor is a symbol of a Bern city guild and was the source of its name. The statue of the Moor (featured below) has now been covered with cloth.

Removing statues, changing names, banning sweet treats may be described as superficial solutions by some, but from my perspective the symbols of racial violence committed by our ancestors in not so distant past deserve to be removed. The unconscious feeds off the surrounding images, thus perpetuating the cycle of suffering. “Everything we know and feel and every statement we make … derive from psychic images,” wrote James Hillman in Alchemical Psychology. We are called to transform the symbolic dimension of the public space so that a new consciousness may emerge.

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Reading The Red Book (21)

I. “We spread poison and paralysis around us in that we want to educate all the world around us into reason.”

II.”The outer opposition is an image of my inner opposition. Once I realize this, I remain silent and think of the chasm of antagonism in my soul.”

C.G. Jung, “The Red Book” (Liber Secundus, Chapter VIII)

We have reached Chapter VIII of the second part of The Red Book. The title of the chapter is “First Day.” For Sanford L. Drob, this and the subsequent chapter are key to understanding Jung’s work. (1) What ensues here is a response to Nietzsche’s dramatic declaration “Gott ist tot.” Here God, Izdubar, whose name is the early erroneous version of Gilgamesh, is not dead but sick, and Jung commits to heal him. In the full page image that accompanies the chapter Izdubar’s enormous size is juxtaposed with a small figure of a worshipper by his feet.

Jung thus describes the towering god:

“Two bull horns rise from his great head, and a rattling suit of armor covers his chest. His black beard is ruffled and decked with exquisite stones. The giant is carrying a sparkling double axe in his hand, like those used to strike bulls. Before I can recover from my amazed fright, the giant is standing before me. I look at his face: it is faint and pale and deeply wrinkled. His almond-shaped eyes look at me astonished. Horror takes hold of me: this is Izdubar, the mighty, the bull-man. He stands and looks at me: his face speaks of consuming inner fear, and his hands and knees tremble.”

Another striking image serves to introduce this lavishly illustrated chapter. In it, as Drob describes it, “a primitive man holds a serpent over his head that bursts into a star. … a star in space is surrounded by a serpentine form…” (2) To me, this could be an image of individuation, since what rests coiled amidst the stardust unravels to its full incarnate potential on the earth.

Jung is absolutely enthralled with the ailing god from the East. He calls him “the beautiful and most loved one” and declares, “If my God is lamed, I must stand by him, since I cannot abandon the much-loved.” Here Drob quotes a crucial passage from Jung’s Psychological Types, published a few years after The Red Book was written:

“The sickness of God expresses his longing for rebirth, and to this end his whole life-force flows back into the centre of the Self, into the depths of the unconscious, out of which life is born anew.”

We must not let our gods die, for if we do our psyche will lose its vital energy. But gods are the forces to be reckoned with, says Jung:

“If the God comes near you, then plead for your life to be spared, since the God is loving horror. The ancients said: it is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Jung points the finger at science as the poison that lamed the gods. When Jung tells Izdubar that the earth is round and reveals to him other facts of science, the god seems crashed and “overcome with suffocating fear.” Not only were the gods lamed by science, similarly humans “haven’t properly flourished and remain so dwarfish,” explains Jung to Izdubar. By conquering and focusing on “the outer things” we have lost touch with the depths of the psyche:

“Our truth is that which comes to us from the knowledge of outer things. The truth of your priests is that which comes to you from inner things.”

Jung laments that although science does contain truths, it has unfortunately “taken from us the capacity of belief.” Later in the chapter Jung states that the fate of the Logos (understood here as the logos of science) is that in the end it poisons us all. Drob emphasizes that nowhere in his oeuvre is Jung as critical of science as in Liber Novus. This may have been an important factor that prevented him from publishing the work in his lifetime. In Collective Works he preferred to cloak himself as an empiricist, which is ironic, since the academic psychology abandoned Jung precisely because of his incongruence with the scientific method. For Jung, the road to the depths of the psyche is not through intellect, or not only through intellect. Feeling, fantasy, creative imagination have all been amputated from psychology, which reduced itself to preaching at the altar of science. To further elucidate Jung’s view of science, Drob quotes yet another brilliant and pertinent passage from Mysterium Coniunctionis, the 14th volume of Jung’s Collected Works:

“Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.”

Crucially, for Jung there exists a higher understanding, which he refers to as “understanding through life.” This higher understanding cannot be  won without facing the gods. Towards the end of the currently discussed chapter, Jung gives us a stunning description of how a mere human encounters divinity:

“As I rose to the highest point and my hope wanted to look out toward the East, a miracle happened: as I moved toward the East, one from the East hurried toward me and strove toward the sinking light. I wanted light, he wanted night. I wanted to rise, he wanted to sink. I was dwarfish like a child, while he was enormous like an elementally powerful hero. Knowledge lamed me, while he was blinded by the fullness of the light. And so we hurried toward each other; he, from the light; I, from the darkness; he, strong; I, weak; he, God; I, serpent; he, ancient; I, utterly new; he, unknowing; I, knowing; he, fantastic; I, sober; he, brave, powerful; I, cowardly, cunning. But we were both astonished to see one another on the border between morning and evening.”

“The tempestuous force” of the god now lies paralyzed and helpless at Jung’s feet. Jung knows that if he does not heal his god, his life would break in half. Two beautiful images grace the ending of this chapter. A lone man stands under a firmament, his arms outstretched. The first light breaks in the horizon. A vague shape of an ancient column seems to sustain the starry vault of heaven.

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The other painting is known as the Atharva-veda image; referring to one of the four sacred Hindu vedas or books of knowledge. In his footnotes to The Red Book, Sonu Shamdasani points out that it depicts a charm to promote virility, presumably to heal the ailing God. Hymn 4 in Book 4 of Hymns of the Atharva-veda reads:

“We dig thee from the earth, the Plant which strengthens and
exalts the nerves,
The Plant which the Gandharva dug for Varuna whose power
was lost.
Let Ushas and let Sūrya rise, let this the speech I utter rise.
Let the strong male Prajāpati arise with manly energy.”

via https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/av/av04004.htm

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What I found striking in this final image is what looks like the black sun or a black star at the top and a golden egg in the centre, connected with a dark thread. The symbolism of the black son is deep and deserves a separate consideration. Stanton Marlan wrote an in-depth treatise on the subject called The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness. I found one of his statements quite striking:

“The black sun might well be considered to express this paradoxical dimension of light and darkness and might ultimately be understood as an archetype of the non-Self. Like Jung’s idea of the Self, … [the black sun] also expresses a coincidentia oppositorum—a black sun that shines contains the paradoxical play of light and dark, life and death, and spirit and matter.”(3)

It is a potent image of regeneration – the dark light of the non-self (alchemical lumen naturae – light of nature) connecting with the centre of the psyche where a golden egg resides as a promise of rebirth.

 

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Notes:

(1) (1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 101

(2) Ibid., p. 102

(3) Stanton Marlan, The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness, Texas A&M University Press, College Station 2005, p. 148

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 20

Reading The Red Book – part 22

Reading The Red Book – part 23

 

 

 

 

 

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The Innocent Weaving of Stories

“To begin with, it is not true that the Gods dwell only in the Heavens, for all things are full of the Gods.”

Iamblichus

In this current season of Venus retrograde in Gemini I have been feeling a deep desire to return to familiar stories and places. It started when I reached for The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which I read in the late 90s, and was struck by these words

“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”

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Rereading it I was struck how the idea of perceiving divinity in all the little things that surround us resonates with what the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus called sunthemata, that is “theurgic tokens in the material world” or the sparks of divinity shining through the material world. (1) The way Arundhati Roy’s novel is written can be described as a collection of sunthemata-filled moments weaved together by means of the logic of the heart, neither sequentially nor chronologically. The novel resembles a patchwork or rather a mosaic with every little colourful piece reflecting the divine on a miniature scale.

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The epic scale does not convey larger truths than the loving care of life’s little fragments. I grew even more convinced of this whilst rereading a few short stories by Jorge Luis Borges as well as his fascinating conversations with Osvaldo Ferrari, I realized that the soul rejoices in brevity – luminous moments condensed in a tiny grain of divine presence. In Borges’s writing there is not a single comma which is out of place. He knew that being blessed (or cursed) with a desire to lean down his ear upon every single word meant that he would never be able to compose sweeping narratives characteristic of novels. Instead, his was the patient, loving work of Vermeer’s lacemaker, which I saw in the Louvre many years ago and found quite mesmerizing.

Johannes Vermeer, “The Lacemaker”

Working my way through Modern Masterpieces of World Literature, an online course offered by Harvard, I was struck by  a similar thought expressed by professor David Damrosch, who compared Borges’s talent for the minute with Franz Schubert’s Songs, which he is most famous for as a composer, though which he himself regarded as lss worthy than symphonies or operas. Needless to say, right now most of us do not even know that he composed larger opera. Yet the Lieder (Songs) granted him immortality.

 

Finally, in my sentimental journey to books that I loved long ago, I revived my obsession with Orhan Pamuk, specifically with his Museum of Innocence. Set in Istanbul, this is a story of Kemal’s obsessive love for Füsun. In one of the interviews Pamuk said that he sees himself as a visual writer rather than a verbal one, since his first chosen career was that of a painter. Now, he continued, he conjures up narratives by contemplating a series of objects and placing them all in a story, weaving the life of things with the life of the characters. This approach reached its peak in The Museum of Innocence. Kemal turns into a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his love for Füsun. She tolerates his frequent visits during which he steals various objects belonging to her. With that loot he builds a museum, a shrine dedicated to his lost love. His treasures include hairpins, a salt shaker that she touched and all manner of objects that remind him of their precious moments together. In the chapter entitled “The Consolation of Objects” his obsession reaches epic proportions:

“One palliative for this new wave of pain, I discovered, was to seize upon an object of our common memories that bore her essence; to put it into my mouth and taste it brought some relief.

[about a cigarette butt] I picked it up and rubbed the end that had once touched her lips against my cheeks, my forehead, my neck, and the recesses under my eyes, as gently and kindly as a nurse salving a wound. Distant continents appeared before my eyes, sparkling with the promise of happiness, and scenes from heaven; I remembered the tenderness my mother had shown me as a child…”

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The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

Not only did Pamuk create a world of written fiction, but he actually established a museum in Istanbul called The Museum of Innocence. On the Museum’s website we can read:

“The museum presents what the novel’s characters used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of, all meticulously arranged in boxes and display cabinets.”

The cabinets of curiosities, which were popular in the 18th century, were aristocratic collections of extraordinary objects. This desire for collecting acted as a precursor to today’s museums. Pamuk’s objects are ordinary in every way, and yet they become imbued with radiance, while they also bring back the spirit of the life in Istanbul in the 60s and the 70s.

The word “innocent” has at its etymological root the Proto-Indo-European “nek-” meaning “death” and Latin “nocere” – to harm; someone who is innocent does not do any harm and does not bring death.(2) The objects collected by Kemal and by Pamuk bring back the life of a certain epoch. They celebrate the innocence and purity of memories.

During the usual forty days of Venus’ retrograde motion we are reminded that in alchemy the philosopher’s stone appears in the retort after 40 days. Number forty is connected with purification; the biblical flood lasted forty days and forty nights, Christ was tempted for forty days in the desert, to mention the two most famous examples. Of course, our quarantine comes from the forty-day period when ships were not allowed to enter the harbour during the time of the Black Death in Venice.

What I perceive in Pamuk’s idea is the desire to recover the innocent purity of the soul, its childlike quality. On his museum’s website he also included A Modest Manifesto for Museums. He argues there that large museums represent the state, not the individual, which is “neither a good nor an innocent objective.” He asserts:

“This is unfortunate because the stories of individuals are much better suited to displaying the depths of our humanity.”

“The aim of present and future museums must not be to represent the state, but to re-create the world of single human beings—the same human beings who have labored under ruthless oppression for hundreds of years.”

Orhan Pamuk in Museum of Innocence

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Notes:

(1) http://www.medievalastrologyguide.com/theurgy.html

(2) https://www.etymonline.com/word/innocence

 

 

 

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Reading The Red Book (20)

“Neither good nor evil shall be my masters.”

C.G. Jung, “The Red Book”

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Chapter VII of Liber Secundus, the second part of The Red Book, is called “The Remains of Earlier Temples.” It is preceded by a curious blue mosaic with two red egg-shaped images, which on closer inspection reveal two tiny figures encased therein. Sonu Shamdasani’s invaluable footnotes to Jung’s text reveal that this image was probably inspired by the mosaics Jung saw in Ravenna. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung wrote at length about his fascination with the mosaics and the the tomb of Rome’s Christian Empress Galla Placidia in Ravenna, which left him “deeply stirred.” When the city of Rome was ransacked  in 410, emperor’s sister Galia Placidia was captured and later married to king of the Visigoths. In 416 she was restored to the Romans and remarried. One mosaic in particular captured Jung’s attention:

“The fourth mosaic, on the west side of the baptistery, was the most impressive of all. We [Jung and Toni Wolff] looked at this one last. It represented Christ holding out his hand to Peter, who was sinking beneath the waves. We stopped in front of this mosaic for at least twenty minutes …

I retained the most distinct memory of the mosaic of Peter sinking, and to this day can see every detail before my eyes: the blue of the sea, individual chips of the mosaic, the inscribed scrolls proceeding from the mouths of Peter and Christ, which I attempted to decipher. After we left the baptistery, I went promptly to Alinari to buy photographs of the mosaics, but could not find any. Time was pressing this was only a short visit and so I postponed the purchase until later. I thought I might order the pictures from Zurich.
When I was back home, I asked an acquaintance who was going to Ravenna to obtain the pictures for me. He could not locate them, for he discovered that the mosaics I had described did not exist.

The memory of those pictures is still vivid to me. The lady who had been there with me long refused to believe that what she had ‘seen with her own eyes’ had not existed.

This experience in Ravenna is among the most curious events in my life. It can scarcely be explained. A certain light may possibly be cast on it by an incident in the story of Empress Galla Placidia (d. 450). During a stormy crossing from Byzantium to Ravenna in the worst of winter, she made a vow that if she came through safely, she would build a church and have the perils of the sea represented in it. She kept this vow by building the basilica of San Giovanni in Ravenna and having it adorned with mosaics. In the early Middle Ages, San Giovanni, together with its mosaics, was destroyed by fire; but in the Ambrosiana in Milan is still to be found a sketch representing Galla Placidia in a boat.

The Mausoluem of Galla Placidia

I had, from the first visit, been personally affected by the figure of Galla Placidia, and had often wondered how it must have been for this highly cultivated, fastidious woman to live at the side of a barbarian prince. Her tomb seemed to me a final legacy through which I might reach her personality. Her fate and her whole being were vivid presences to me; with her intense nature, she was a suitable embodiment for my anima.”

Aelia_Galla_Placidia

Galla Placidia

As Jung frequently reiterated, the inner life of the psyche was always equally real or even more real to him than all the external circumstances and events. Sanford L. Drob brilliantly points out that a lot of images in The Red Book are reminiscent of mosaics, “suggesting the process whereby fragmented psychical states are integrated and articulated into a united Self.” (1) 

Chapter VII brings back two old characters and introduces a new figure. Jung meets two men, who turn out to be quite unlikely travelling companions. They are Ammonius, the anchorite from the desert that we met in Chapter V, and the Red One or the devil from Chapter I of Liber Secundus:

“Both look at me frightened and make the sign of the cross. Their horror prompts me to look down at myself. I am fully covered in green leaves, which spring from my body.”

Jung’s transformation into a pagan creature covered in green leaves means that he has moved beyond the rigid, conventional hierarchies of faith. The anchorite and the devil seem here like grotesque caricatures of themselves. They have nothing to offer Jung any more with their “outlived ideas.” The Red One relates his stay in a monastery, where he stayed after he had converted to Christianity, but which only led him to develop an aversion towards the Christian faith. Perhaps what Jung seems to be saying is that “good” and “evil” are just fluid ideas, which can easily turn into one another. As such, they are inextricably linked.  The devil seems to need the church and vice versa:

Ammonius: “What can be done? Even the devil is necessary; since otherwise one has nothing that commands a sense of respect with people.”
Red One: “Well, I need to come to an arrangement with the clergy; or else I will lose my clientele.”

In the second part of the chapter Jung returns with his thoughts to the encounter with Death (chapter VI of Liber Secundus). After that solemn experience Jung felt a thirst for life rushing through him: “…the reek of the human animal streamed over me.” This feeling spurred on his transformation into a green man:

“But I was no longer the man I had been, for a strange being grew through me. This was a laughing being of the forest, a leaf green daimon, a forest goblin and prankster, who lived alone in the forest and was itself a greening tree being, who loved nothing but greening and growing, who was neither disposed nor indisposed toward men, full of mood and chance, obeying an invisible law and greening and wilting with the trees, neither beautiful nor ugly, neither good nor bad, merely living, primordially old and yet completely young, naked and yet naturally clothed, not man but nature, frightened, laughable, powerful, childish, weak, deceiving and deceived, utterly inconstant and superficial, and yet reaching deep down, down to the kernel of the world.”

Jung adds that his transformation occurred thanks to his rejection of “ideals.” Heroes fall and so do ideas. To live is more important than to be a slave to ideals. Anyone who believes he or she can live according to “ideals” is deluded or a downright lunatic:

“The ideal is also a tool that one can put aside anytime, a torch on dark paths. But
whoever runs around with a torch by day is a fool. How much my ideals have come down, and how freshly my tree greens!”

As the green man Jung is now also “beyond good and evil,” to quote Nietzsche, whose philosophy seems to permeate this chapter. Like “a merrily greening tree in a remote spring forest” he is away both from the world and the spirit. This fleeting moment of inner unity makes him think of the Buddha, who “finally gave up on rebirth, for he had had enough of crawling through all human and animal forms.” Jung also adds that he would rather be like a lion and “exist from my own force, like the sun which gives light and does not suck light.” Jung decides to go the East, where he will meet Izdubar (Gilgamesh), whose image is featured at the end of the chapter.

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In his Dictionary of Symbols, Juan Cirlot summarizes the principal terms of solar symbolism as follows:

  1. a heroic image
  2. the divine eye
  3. the active principle
  4. the source of life and energy

He also adds a fifth symbolic dimension – the night sea journey, which is the sun’s hidden, invisible passage. The sun is in fact ambivalent: it is “resplendent” but it can also be black, “in which case it is associated with chthonian and funereal animals such as the horse and the serpent.” The image of solar hero Gilgamesh features green snake-like symbols in the background. Liz Greene insisted in her interpretation of The Red Book that these are astrological glyphs of the sign Leo, which was Jung’s sun sign. (2) Irrespective of whether Jung included the glyphs there accidentally or on purpose, it is absolutely ingenious that they would simultaneously evoke the Sun, the snake and the mosaic featured at the beginning of the chapter. In the wild man Enkidu the solar hero Gilgamesh met his dark alter ego while the Romans experienced the same confrontation when the Visigoths invaded the Eternal City.

C.G. Jung

 

Notes:

(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 96

(2) Liz Greene, The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus: Daimons, Gods and the Planetary Journey

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Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 21

Reading The Red Book – part 22

Reading The Red Book – part 23

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The Salon de la Rose † Croix

I. “A call to arms for the worship of beauty, the Salon de la Rose + Croix (R + C) was founded in Paris by … Joséphin Péladan. … The Salon aimed to transcend the mudane and material for a higher spiritual life …. Péladan consecrated the Salon in 1891 as part of L’Ordre de la Rose + Croix du Temple et du Graal, a fraternal secret society he ordained… The rose and the cross, whether in the form of images or words, conjoined by the symbol +, †, ×, or A Maltese cross, referred to the Catholic devotion of the esoteric order.

Sinuous lines, attenuated figures, and hieratic compositions characterized their artwork. Imagery was mystical and visionary in tenor and often depicted mythical, literary, or spiritual themes replete with arcane symbols, ethereal women, androgynous beings, chimeras, and incubi.

… proclaiming that art must be mystical, idealist, and in the service of ‘beauty.’ … He excluded history paintings, still lifes, rustic and domestic scenes, images of domestic and sporting animals, marines, and landscapes … [He] encouraged … to submit works representing legend, myth, allegory, dream, and literary narratives.

As the grand master of the order, Péladan assumed the title “Sâr Merodack”: Sâr  means leader in ancient Hebrew and Assyrian, while Merodack was supposedly … the name of a Babylonian king.”

… Regulation XVII [said]…: ‘No work by a woman will ever be exhibited or executed for the order.’ Nevertheless, women did exhibit surreptitiously under male names.

In one key respect, the Salons de la R+C fell short of what Péladan had initially envisioned, that is, to exhibit works by famous elder, proto-Symbolist crusaders, namely the triad of Puvis, Moreau and … Edward Burne-Jones. Well-established and aversed to the R+C’s cultish milieu, they refused Péladan’s invitation.

Vivien Greene, “Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose + Croix in Paris 1892-1897,” Published by Guggenheim Museum Publication, 2017

Marcellin_Desboutin_-_Portrait_du_Sâr_Mérodack_Joséphin_Péladan

Marcellin Desboutin, “Portrait du Sâr Mérodack Joséphin Péladan”

II.

“In the Paris of the early eighteen-nineties, at the height of the Decadence, the man of the moment was the novelist, art critic, and would-be guru Joséphin Péladan, who named himself Le Sâr. … He went about in a flowing white cloak, an azure jacket, a lace ruff, and an Astrakhan hat, which, in conjunction with his bushy head of hair and double-pointed beard, gave him the aspect of a Middle Eastern potentate. … He informed Félix Faure, the President of the Republic, that he had the gift of ‘seeing and hearing at the greatest distances, useful in controlling enemy councils and suppressing espionage.’ He began one lecture by saying, ‘People of Nîmes, I have only to pronounce a certain formula for the earth to open and swallow you all.’

In 1917, Max Weber said that the rationalization of Western society had brought about the “disenchantment of the world.” Péladan, and those who took up his mantle, wished to enchant it once again.

Péladan was born in Lyon, in 1858, into a family steeped in esoteric tendencies. His father, Louis-Adrien, was a conservative Catholic writer …. The political views of the Péladans were thoroughly reactionary; they disdained democracy and called for the restoration of the monarchy. Péladan differed from many other occultists in insisting that his Rosicrucian rhetoric was an extension of authentic Catholic doctrine, which Church institutions had neglected.

What Péladan took from Wagner, above all, was the idea that art could assume the functions of religion. ‘The artist is a priest, a king, a magus,’ he proclaimed.

Back in the mid-eighteen-eighties, the Greek-born poet Jean Moréas, who coined the term Symbolism, had renounced the depiction of concrete phenomena; Symbolist writers, he declared, gestured instead toward a primordial Idea, which could be conjured by ‘pure sounds,’ ‘densely convoluted sentences,’ and ‘knowingly organized disorder.’ Michelle Facos and Thor Mednick, in their recent anthology ‘The Symbolist Roots of Modern Art,’ observe that the Symbolists undermined conventional modes of representation in an effort to ‘access the divine directly.'”

Alex Ross, “The Occult Roots of Modernism” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/26/the-occult-roots-of-modernism

 

Poster for the First Salon

Fernand Khnopff, “The Blood of Medusa”

Fernand Khnopff, “Magician”

jean-delville-the-women-of-eleusis

Jean Delville, “The Women of Eleusis”

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, “Orpheus in Hades”

Alphonse Osbert, “Songs of the Night”

Carlos Schwabe, “Pain”

Carlos Schwabe, “Day of Death”

 

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Posted in Painting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments