Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Here again is an example of my incomprehension. The passage is Matthew 25 - the wise and foolish virgins. This has always been close to my heart (hearth?) since as a child we would sing that great Bach cantata about
Rise up with willing feet
Now the first question I would ask is, why ten? Why do the five and five parthenoi go out to meet the nymphos? Shouldn't the one bride go out to meet the bridegroom? Wouldn't the story (if it is only a story) make more sense to be a meeting between the bride and bridegroom? Are these ten gals seeking to steal away this handsome buck before he gets married?
Τότε ὁμοιωθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν δέκα παρθένοις, αἵτινες λαβοῦσαιτὰς λαμπάδας ἑαυτῶν ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου.
Why does the author give the numbers of five and five? What is the meaning of this passage (instead of just a moral imperative to "be wise")? Is it five in the realm of the dead and five in the world of the living? Five is the number of man - what gives here? Is this more a message about the living vs. the dead (I think it might be)? The Parthenoi represent what Jung called duality, man dead vs. man alive.
Foolishness is death (and the light that has gone out) whilst Wisdom is life (and thus divine fire that never dies). Education, life, wisdom, fire - all these images are conflated to speak about the man who is awake to his life in the Christ.
Now why parthenoi? why virgins? my Greek is not good enough to discern whether the virgins are men or women. Does it matter? Is the imagery of five women more significant than five men here? or is the more important thing the virginal quality, that is, the as yet not sullied person; or the kouroi of the ancient world who descends into the underworld of Hades and comes back in spring to become Ceres?
Finally, the line isn't really about a "bridegroom" is it? I mean
ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου.
... if the word is "nymphios" that has the denotation of "bridegroom" but also has the connotation of veiled one, hidden one, cloaked one; - like Cupid is cloaked to Psyche; the reality of the divine is cloaked to the human mind. So "bridegroom" in this sense is metaphor for meeting the divine; connected to the incomplete stages of metamorphosis in the butterfly (nymph, chrysalis, adult), an ancient metaphor for spiritual transfiguration.
I don't know. But I have a gut feeling the answer to all this is "yes".
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
For this reason in verse 25 the woman indicates that she knows eventually a Messiah will come who will be the anointed one:
To this Christ responds εγω ειμι ο λαλων σοι - "I am the one who talks to you." (with echoes of the "I AM" of YHWH, and connections to the later passage of the resurrected Christ speaking to Mary Magdalena at the tomb.)
He is the Christ, the Anointed one, who in Egyptian mythology (and later Greek) was the son of Earth and of Starry Sky - uniting both the material and the spiritual realms in one Incarnation and embodying a parallel to AmunRa (or Horus), the sun deity who, in his form of Osiris, passes through the underworld of the Duat to emerge resurrected with the new dawn. Unlike the Egyptian story, however, the Christ does not defeat the feminine serpent of Apophis that threatens to consume him but rather sets her free so that she runs back to her own people with news of joy (whilst the disciples try to ply Christ with food from the land of the living).
The trope is marvelous and ought to bring into focus our own understanding that our hope is in Christ; our hope is that we are Christ, the anointed one. When we come to that realm in the underworld we, like Christ, move through the land of the dead as children of the Earth and of the Starry Sky.
Monday, May 11, 2015
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Generally, Dante is regarded as structuring his work on Aristotelian division; but indeed he is far more Platonically based than Aristotelian. In fact, the structure of Dante's work rests on the Medieval structure of the Liberal Arts which, itself, is dependent on an earlier educational model of the Divided Line as laid out in Plato's Republic.
Margherita Fiorello nicely outlines this structure of the Liberal Arts as correspondent to Medieval Alchemy:
The Liberal Arts consisted of two sections; the Quadrivium and the Trivium. The Quadrivium ("four roads") was composed of four sections; arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. The Trivium ("three roads") was composed of three sections; grammar, logic, rhetoric.
They were not the same as the divisions we now mark between, say, sophomores and juniors, but were, rather, disciplines which one learned through studying certain texts. The Quadrivium trained the mind to an intellectual rigor, or strength. The Trivium trained the heart (or "third eye" - the "chakra", or "ajna" as the Eastern mystics called it) to perceive through love.
The Quadrivium is itself a reconstitution of the ancient Platonic image of the Divided Line. Tudor B. Munteanu argues at his blog that the Divided Line was NOT based on the Golden Proportion Division:
In my understanding, however, it seems that the Divided Line was an image best left in the mind; difficult to concretize visually - namely b/c Plato seems to overlap the second (pistis) with the third (dianoia) as the connecting "middle term" of the Golden Proportion. They are the same in size, operating on the same thing (objects), connecting the world of the visible to the world of the intelligible. The rift might seem vast, but is no more vast than the line between the lower half of the vesica piscis and the upper half. The rift is the canyon between the violent and the malebolges of Nether Hell down which Geryon carries the two poets. In the Divided Line the middle term of b connects the world of the physical (a) with the world of the metaphysical (c) - this model carries through to the doctrine of the Incarnation in the Catholic world view, Christ being, being both man and god, stands for the "middle term" between earth and heaven. Similarly, belief (pistis) and understanding (dianoia) work intimately with one another to connect the visible world of images with the intelligible world of forms. The whole guardian must be trained in gymnastic and music equally, the ruler must be both philosopher and king equally, the pilgrim (Dante) must become both bishop and emperor equally, physical and metaphysical, dead and living both.
Dante himself acknowledges this paradoxical existence in Canto XXVII when he is faced with walking through the fire - the last trial on the ascent up Purgatory. He says of his fear
per chi/io divenni tal, quando lo'ntesi,
qual e colui che ne la fossa e messo.
I was like a corpse put in the grave,
the words I heard so touched my heart with fear.
- XXVII, 14 - 15
What terrifies him is the impossibility of the paradox. How does one die and remain alive? The only thing that those on this side of the world of the visible perceive is that the body dies - horribly; we see "too sharply in (our) mind bodies (that) die burning at the stake." (XXVII, 17 - 18). The trick is to cross through that fire, as Augustine later suggests in the "Confessions" in order to see that life exists on the other side. Only then can we graduate from children to adults.
Adulthood implies autonomy - we move from being subordinate to the law to being lawmakers - children to men - slaves to freemen. Thus the Liberal Arts' whole purpose is to prepare us to make that spiritual/intellectual move; to prepare men destined to vote in a republic to be able to vote. In similo modo Plato suggests that the movement from Gyges to Er occurs only through an education that prepares us to see "beyond the veil" to what undergirds the created world like the stern of a trireme - the spindle of necessity. Just as Er passes through death (like Coleridge's Mariner) and returns to the world to tell others, to the cave to rescue prisoners, so too does the pilgrim Dante return to write his poem. His poem is the testimony of the other world, like Er's testimony of the afterlife or the risen Christ's testimony to the Apostles.
The last section of the work, Paradiso, is the pleasure which guides him - seeing at last that God and man are one - an action only possible after going through the educational agony of the first two sections of the Liberal Arts.
*work in progress*
Wednesday, February 11, 2015