Sunday, June 27, 2010
(image from steed griffin, cryptotypographer: http://steedgriffin.tumblr.com/page/2)
Every now and then, a piece pops up in the news that helps me connect a few dots. Today's piece is the article about Gunnar Samuelsson, a quiet minister from Sweden who has spent the last several years trying to figure out where we got the idea that Jesus Christ was crucified. His conclusion: the word "stauros" that has been translated for more than 2000 years to mean "cross" denotes any variety of long wooden objects. This resonates with an exhibit I saw a few years ago of various artifacts from Biblical times. Among the remarkable objects was a part of a human foot with a metal spike driven through it attaching it to a piece of petrified wood. The tour guide pointed out that this is the only found evidence that human bodies were nailed to wood as a form of torture and execution. I remember wondering how that can be possible if crucifixion was the number one favorite form of execution at the time in question? Wouldn't feet like these be everywhere? I couldn't find any answers at the time.
I have seen such wonderful and inexplicable things that I know there is more than meets the eye at work in things. As a poet I've always been hesitant to just dismiss the Bible as something "written by a bunch of men." But at the same time, for a long time, I had such trouble accepting that a book filled with such wacky statements as "spare the rod, spoil the child" could have anything to do with what I was experiencing. But I couldn't dismiss it. I held to the belief that there must be another way of reading these things that would make it all resonate with what God is not just in one narrow group's view, but, for me, all the views would at some point come to reflect the One thing.
When I started reading The Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, I started to see. Later, I read Jung's symbologies and from there it all really started to make sense. What remained was the historical notion of Jesus' death. . . if the other alchemical books were accurate, then the crucifixion is a metaphor for part of the alchemical process, the bad part. The really, really bad part. "Crucifixio" it is called, or "mortificatio." At this stage, whatever matter is in the crucible is completely obliterated. If the matter is ourselves in the crucible of our lives, we are obliterated. And then we go through a period of "putrefactio" (ew) and from that state we emerge anew. This emergence is called "resurrectio" and "fermentatio." Water into wine.
Jesus in all of this is a man who goes through the alchemical process:
separated from community: "separatio"
unified with community: "coniunctio"
killed: "crucifixio" or "mortificatio"
placed in a tomb: "fermentatio"
brought back to life: "resurrectio" or "fermentatio."
It is what we all do. All the time.
I do believe there was a Jesus and that he was an alchemist, an adept, and that the genre of alchemical writing gains a wonderful new shot in the arm in the telling of stories about this figure (much in the same way that Plato tells stories about his adept teacher, Socrates). The stories are about alchemy, about the spirit within matter, a concept we know today as Gaia Principle, and ways to work with this spirit. It's all very beautiful to me.
Samuelsson's work points out that the use of the cross doesn't appear in Christology until the 2nd century. This would correspond with the flourishing work in Alexandria, work that would get squashed one century later. I believe it was when this new way of writing alchemy emerged, not just as history of one man's life but as a beautiful vehicle for upholding that man's life as a vessel for alchemical teachings. And what better way to get a story to convey alchemical teachings than to embed the very structure of alchemical opus in the narrative?
The full article about Samuelsson's work can be found at:
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This is my beach. Siesta Beach. On Siesta Key, on the Gulf Coast.
This is my beach. It has white sand I walked on every day when I was a teenager.
This is the beach that saved my life, kept me off drugs, the beach that was my boyfriend
for all those years I didn't have one.
This is the beach my grandmother and I walked along in winter, imagining the white sand into snow. It's the beach I kicked soccer balls on while walking its miles with my best friend.
It's the beach where I lost the key to my father's Audi while my parents went to England on vacation, before I had a license to drive.
It's the beach that mysteriously coughed up the key so I could drive home, astonished.
For how many years have we been using the phrase "of mythical proportions?" The oil in the Gulf of Mexico has reached "mythical proportions." They are now saying that since the underwater robot (what planet are we on?) bumped into the cap (the one we actually watched that 24 hour spew cam to see if it would work), the problem is worse than before. Now, the hole in the earth is actually broken. We have broken the earth's crust.
Mythical proportions are too much to think about. I can't comprehend what this means. I see the dead baby dolphin being carried out of the tide. I see the oil-drenched pelicans. These are the things I understand.
I am so afraid and sad. My 7 year old daughter cries about this.
I grew up on Siesta Key, Florida. Our house was actually on a very small island off the island of Siesta Key. Mangrove Island, it was called. It was named this because the entire island was formed out of sand caught in the sharp roots of black mangroves. Standing at the edge of it, I could bounce and feel the island move. We speak of fragile environments. I grew up on something caught between branches.
From the age of 12 to 20, I inhaled Gulf of Mexico salt air. Pungent and sharp, heavy in the lungs, it was a coarse place to live. Yet unpaved, Mangrove Island was a crushed oyster shell and sand escape hatch from the progress going on elsewhere on the island. And sharp and stunning things grew there--yuccas whose black tip still rests deep inside the skin of my hand from a day I reached under one to retrieve a tennis ball I was throwing to my dog. Hard black dock spiders clicked their pincers against the salt-worn wood and barnacles of our dock at low tide as I brought my canoe to shore. My feet were often bloody from the razor edge of the oyster shoals. But there were softnesses, too, like in the way the pelicans would roost on the mangrove branches then burst into evening flight as I paddled past. There was the slap of a mullet, its brief flight above the bayou's surface done. And there was sunset after sunset after sunset, spent walking on the silk sands of the beach.
In all that is happening in the gulf, all that is mythical and incomprehensible has no choice but to take me back deep and down into my own mythology. The mythology of place, of the home that was rendered unreachable years ago when our house was sold then torn down and replaced, the island paved. But now it is even less touchable. I think of the brown pelicans, of the young heron that I rescued once from traffic on the quiet island, how its long spindly blue legs struggled against my hands.
I can't reconcile any of it.
I am at a loss.
I am beyond angry and frightened. I am wistful and gazing at how on earth this problem can possibly be solved, and, on a more personal scale, how it can be grieved.