Mythology of Easter: Resurrection

Passover is the Passing By Feast

On the Origin of Easter

The undeniable truth is that  for Christianity Jesus is the personification of the central sun of our solar system. Perceived from the northern hemisphere, and particularly from between the latitudes of the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle, the celestial arc-shape path of our Light Bringer becomes in the fall each day a little smaller. But on (about) December 21, this daily shrinkage comes to stand still. In other words, the daily changing in the size of the Risen Savior’s arc has then stopped, or “died”. However, after three natural days, in which the nights lasted the longest of the year, this heavenly motion comes back to life again, starting with the sunrise on December 25. We celebrate this annual rebirth of Jesus with the Light Feast as a continuation of the Germanic Midwinter Festival.

As the Roman deceivers want this to be hidden from the uninitiated, they moved Jesus’ day of death from December 21st to “Good Friday”, that is, the Friday before Easter, which is today. Furthermore, they changed the meaning of this Passover to the resurrection of the Savior, which in reality occurs every year on December 25th.

Just like Christmas, also the Passover is originally a Germanic feast. As we celebrate during the Midwinter Feast our survival of the year’s darkest part, we celebrate during the Eostre Festival the fact that within a natural day the day time period has again become longer than the night time period. In other words, the light of the day has again overtaken or passed by the darkness of the night. The official version of the origin of the name “Passover” tries to fool us by pointing to the Hebrew word “Pesach”, but that is like putting the world upside down. In reality, the name “Passover” originates from the old Germanic verb for ‘passing by’. Somehow ‘passing by’ and ‘taking over’ merged into “Passover”. Another myth is that the name “Easter” is referring to the East. This is nonsense, as it is derived from the Old English “Eostre”. Actually, it is all quite straightforward, only by examining these names.

This (long) weekend, we celebrate the fact that the daily lighter period has taken over or passed by the nightly darker period. In other words, the entire period of natural day is again ruled by Light, and no longer by Darkness. We can also examine the way we still use the verb ‘pass’ in our contemporary language. For instance, we pass a deed. After this deed is passed, the previous owner passed it on to the following one. Similarly, we also pass a ball from the previous player to the next in various ball sports.

When we imagine a full year as a circle, then the straight lines that connect the starting points of opposing seasons form a cross within that circle. This is the true Cross of Jesus, as shown in the figure on the right-hand side. Opposite to the beginning of winter on (about) December 21st lies on this circle the beginning of summer on (about) June 21st. These two points are called ‘solstices’ from solstitium in Latin, literally meaning ‘solar standstill’. However, it is not the standing still of the Light Bringer, but the standstill of the daily growing (or shrinking) of its arc-like path. Likewise, opposite to the beginning of spring on (about) March 21st lies on this circle the beginning of autumn on (about) September 23rd. These two points are called equinoxes from aequinoctium in Latin, literally meaning ‘night getting even’ (with day). On these two days a year, the nocturnal darker period and the diurnal lighter period indeed get even.

Furthermore, in case you want to learn more about the original Germanic holidays, then study the Germanic Moon Calendar.

Resurrection and the Feminine Divine
The Christian holiday of Easter is the archetypal summit of the year, where rebirth and
resurrection are venerated in the mystery of Jesus Christ’s awakening from the tomb. In Christian orthodoxy, Easter is known as pascha, the Greek and Latin term referring to the Jewish Passover.
The Apostle Paul uses this word as a title for Christ, “For Christ our Passover lamb [pascha], has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5.7). By the end of the first century CE early Christians had reinterpreted the Exodus story and the Passover ritual as a prototype for the sacrifice of Christ.

The word “Easter” itself, however, is Old English, from Eastre or Eostre, a title derived from an old English month now known as April. Christian Easter is celebrated on the first Sabbath after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This holy-specific day most often occurs in April and is representative of the most fertile time of the year, when sun, moon, and earth are all in their phases of rebirth and awakening. Easter is therefore the day of resurrection, in heaven and on earth. And this heaven-earth relationship is only an archetypal symbol for the heaven-earth awakening that occurs in the soul of God, or in the spirit and breath of each mortal man and woman. In Christian rite and belief, every soul will arise like the sun, moon, and earth, to a new immortal dwelling.
Despite this traditional context, historically, Easter had feminine roots.  Significantly, the old English month of Eostre was itself named after a goddess whose rites of rebirth were celebrated at the same time among the early inhabitants of Britain and Northern Europe. Eostre was a Germanic goddess whose name is cognate with the Proto-Germanic austrôn, meaning dawn or to shine. This deity belongs to a long line of female divinities who are goddesses of the dawn, and are found in various forms throughout Indo-European cultures as beings who bring light and life to the world. For thousands of years before Christianity the divine being who brought forth resurrection was represented as a goddess. Inanna, Isis, Rhea, Cybele, and Demeter are beings with the divine stewardship over rebirth.

The Japanese Amaterasu is a goddess of the dawn who also brings light and life to the world. While these deities were seen as the powers behind the fertility of all things on earth, they also held stewardship over the mysterious cosmic principle of heavenly life. In the Greco-Roman mystery religions, the revitalization of the initiate was promised via the gifts and boons of the goddess. This should make sense as in fact it is only woman who can bring forth life from her womb. In many respects, the rites of rebirth analogized the tomb with the womb, so that those going into the beyond could be reborn by a Heavenly Mother whose womb was the cosmic precinct of immortality.

The Goddess in Prehistory
As far back as the Paleolithic Age,” writes Maarten J. Varmaseren, “one finds in the countries around the Mediterranean a goddess who is universally worshiped as the Mighty Mother” . From 30,000 to 10,000 BCE, adds Joseph Campbell, “the [Goddess] is represented in those now well-known little ‘Venus’ figurines” . A limestone relief found in southwestern France in the Pyrenees is illustrative in this regard. Dating to 25,000 BCE, an engraved Venus image is shown holding a bison horn inscribed with thirteen vertical strokes. This is the number of nights between the first crescent and the full moon .


The Goddess figure is holding her swollen belly with her other hand, suggesting that at this early date, the lunar and menstrual cycles were connected, and that the Goddess figure was symbolic of the whole archetypal complex of the feminine divine: life, birth, and death.


According to Joseph Campbell, the goddess has three functions:

“one, to give us life; two, to be the one who receives us in death; and three, to inspire our spiritual, poetic realization Read more here

 

Spring Pilgrimage

The Shikoku pilgrimage

The presence of the land, for the landscape in Shikoku is not only beautiful, it is prayerful. The pilgrimage route is not an imposed or fleeting human path; it is an enduring one that the land invites us to travel. Mountains, trees, water—the natural world is inseparable from the human feet that touch the ground. With each step, the pilgrim arrives into an unfolding song.

To be a pilgrim is to set aside, for a while, worldly concerns. To do the daring thing in these days of media and in this age of clocks: taking your time in getting somewhere, or leaving time behind altogether. To travel to a place for the sake of the place and for the sake of the travel. To allow point A and point B to give way to possibility, to mystery. You are meant to allow the journey to do its work on you.

 

Shikoku Pilgrimage

Following the route of 88 Buddhist temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, this rich multimedia story brings you into an ancient landscape.

Enter  Here

Chapter Title Temple
I Heart Sutra

II No Beginning

01
III To Worship a Mountain

12
IV The Temple and the Field

34
V I Am Called Sky

36
VI The Legend of the Cave

45
VII Crossings

VIII Stone Steps

IX Cherry Blossoms

X The Circular Journey

65
XI The Loss of the Unexpected

66
XII Two Trees

75
XIII The Legend of Emon Saburō

88

Eternity:Time for a Perpetual Spring

We change Reality by changing our Perception of it

There is much to be learn about Eternity by living in Time

There is much to be learn about Time by living in Eternity

Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani

“The supreme madness is to see life as it is and not as it should be,

things are only what we want to believe they are ...”

Jacques Brel

 

 “Ideas create idols. Only wonder leads to knowing.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

“Use Everyday as a Gift to sharpen the sword that is  your Soul”

Miquel

Real, profound and lasting change for the better […] can no longer be the result of the victory […] of a particular political view. After all, that is ultimately only an external solution; a structural or systematic concept from the outside.

More than ever before, a profound change will have to be derived from human existence itself, from a fundamental reassessment of people’s position in the world, of their relationships to each other and to the universe. If a better economic and political model is to be made, then […] it must be derived from profound existential and moral changes in society. It’s not something that can be designed and introduced as if you were talking about a new car.

If it is about more than just a new variation on old degeneration, it must above all be an expression of life itself, which takes place in the natural process of transformation. A better system will not automatically lead to a better life. In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.

Václav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1985

History is a mirror of the past and a lesson for the present.

A Persian proverb

  • Taking History as A Mirror to Be Future-ready

Yesterday is a history; tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift; that is why we call it the present.

The instructive line advocates a positive attitude towards life — living in the present. And people today also tend to focus on the present and plan for the future. History, however, is the record of the past. Some people may ask, “Given all the demands from the present and the future that people have to worry about, why bother with what has been? Why not just leave the past in the past? Does history have any value for people living in the present? ” However, we cannot isolate the present from the past. The past causes the present and influences the future. It’s undeniable to admit the value of history. We can take history as a mirror, learning something useful from it to prosper our country and cultivate ourselves to be a better person.
Tang Taizong, an emperor in Tang Dynasty, once said, “One can know the alteration of the society by viewing its history.” That is to say, the history can reflect the reasons for a country’s prosperity or depression. And history is never short of stories to demonstrate this point.

With post-industrialism in the latter part of the 20th century the world moved toward a
constant change gradient and as a result we entered a state of continuous transition. Now we are entering what I believe to be another state, one in which the gradient of change, largely due to information technology, is shifting from horizontal / linear to one that is exponential. The changes we are now facing and will continue to face much more ferociously are of such  magnitude that survival will depend on the ability of people to work through the effects at the deepest levels of their personalities.
Whether we have the resilience to cope with these changes is, itself, a source of anxiety.
There is certainly ample evidence for concern about the degree of social fragmentation.
There is abundant evidence that our reliable containers, which have been vital to human development, are dissolving: familiar family structures, community, social institutions, stable groups and organizations, accepted norms, etc.

Without transformative containers, the cycle of projection and introjection that allows us to stay in contact with the reality of others can no longer do its integrative work. Psychotic anxieties and primitive rages and yearnings are unmediated and unmodified by containers that can no longer help to transform them into tolerable experience or reparative impulse.  Deterioration in their containing functions releases frightening aggression and disorientation which, in turn, elicits primitive defenses that  foster hostile projection or alienated withdrawal.

Perhaps we are not resilient enough, psychologically and sociologically, to cope with the enormous ambivalence and anxiety accompanying these changes, dooming us to live in the polarized, rigid world of fundamentalism, moralism, political correctness and denigration that seems to increasingly define our public spaces. Such dynamics can readily evoke an “apocalyptic-trajectory-in-the-mind”: the idea that unleashed hostility and aggression mixed with dissassociative technological advances will lead us toward massive destruction.

Does a technology that creates the illusion of actual, immediate proximity in time and space distort how we relate to others and to ourselves? Could it impact upon our ability to tolerate the necessary  frustrations of reality? Does being able to “know” things instantaneously, instead of having to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing, impair the development of thinking? Does this perhaps constitute a breakdown of the authority of reality, resulting in less repression, diminished ability to cope with reality and reduced sublimation?

Are we moving towards a world without truth?

Due to the rise of social media, information bubbles and the possibilities of Deepfakes, we no longer live in a shared reality. How further? We live in an “infocalypse,” says British disinformation expert Nina Schick. In her book Deepfakes and the Infocalypse – What You Urgently Need to Know, she sketches a society that is overrun by too much information, whereby no distinction can be made between ‘information’ and ‘disinformation’.

Modern man is ignorant about his own ignorance

see also:“I can’t Breathe” is the expression of the Crisis of the modern world.

The shifting from horizontal/linear information/knowledge to one that is exponential push us far away of the tradional knowledge or Wisdom which has a vertical principle.

  • Folly ’s ‘keep your mouth shut’, Anno 2020

Based on economic growth, financial hegemony of the “happy few”” and abuse or rape of cheapest labor workers in Low-cost country or homeland, the democracy of Modern man shall never succeed  to recover his soul with fake “sincere political change” or  with fake “concern”.

Folly ’s ‘keep your mouth shut’ about all the abuses of the systems and is silent about Ethics, Virtues and uprightness… Silence about spiritual grow, honesty and respect of differents communities…

Prophets of doom now abound and “green parties” have mushroomed everywhere. The moving force for those movements remains, however, by and large purely external. For a humanity turned towards outwardness by the very processes of modernization, it is not so easy to see that the blight wrought upon the environment is in reality an externalization of the destitution of the inner state of the soul of that humanity whose actions are responsible for the ecological crisis.

Many claim, for example, that if we could only change our means of transportation and diminish the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy, the problem would be solved or at least ameliorated. Few ask, however, why it is that modern man feels the need to travel so much?

The wisdom of the 21th  century or the Foffy of our times say: ‘keep your mouth shut’,

But can we ask Why?

                                                          Ship of Fools

-Why is the domicile of much of humanity so ugly and life so boring that the type of man most responsible for the environmental crisis has to escape the areas he has helped to vilify and take his pollution with him to the few still well-preserved areas of the earth in order to continue to function?

-Why must modern man consume so much and satiate his so-called needs only outwardly? Read Praise of Folly by Erasmus – Anno 2020

  • The principle of verticality

The principle of verticality, which is a fundamental principle of traditional wisdom, is based on the affirmation of transcendence as an aspect of a comprehensive and integrated reality that is Absolute.

According to this understanding, reality has both a transcendent Origin and an immanent Center, which are one, rather than being reduced to the merely horizontal dimension of its existential or quantitative elements.

Verticality implies both Heaven and Earth, a worldview in which meaning and purpose are defined principally by both height and depth,and secondarily by breadth – that is, principally by man’s relationship to God, who is simultaneously ‘above’ and ‘within’ creation, and who there-fore governs all creaturely relationships – rather than by breadth alone –that is, solely in terms of the relationship between the subject and the world.

It also implies that the horizontal is subordinate to the vertical,that is to say, the relationship between man and the world is premised on the primary relationship between God and man: to restate this in Christian terms, the love of one’s neighbor is premised on one’s love for God. According to the traditional worldview, existence is transcended by a supreme reality, which, whether expressed in theistic or non-theisticterms, is Absolute, and which, without derogating from its unity, is si-multaneously (at the level of the primary hypostasis) expressed by the horizontal ternary, Truth or the Solely Subsistent Reality, Goodness or the Perfection and Font of all Qualities, and Beauty or Abiding Serenity and the Source of its Radiant Effulgence: in Platonic terms, the True, the Good and the Beautiful.

All creation is prefigured in this supreme reality,which projects existence out of its own Substance into a world of form (hence etymologically, ex-stare, to stand out of, or to subsist from, as the formal world of existence stands out of, and subsists from, the Divine Substance) through a vertical ternary comprising, first, the Essential or Principial Absolute (which is Beyond-Being), second, the Relative-Absolute Source of Archetypes (which is the primary hypostasis of Being), and third, the realm of Manifestation (which is Existence).

The world itself,and its creatures, including man, as such, are therefore of derivative significance and are accidental in relation to the supreme reality, which alone is substantial. The world is transient, ephemeral and illusory.

The Divine Substance alone is permanent and real. This view of the transcendent, supreme and substantial reality of the Absolute (which, according to the principle of verticality, is described in terms of its elevation orperfection in relation to creation) finds its expression in all religious traditions

The sufi master Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani says: We change Reality by changing our Perception of it.There is much to be learn about Eternity by living in Time and There is much to be learn about Time by living in Eternity

So it is time to look at Eternity:

  • A perpetual Spring

The meaning of spring is deduced from its characteristics: after the “sour face” of winter,  before the burning of summer and the opposite of autumnal nostalgia, it is a renovation and a transfiguration. More than the cyclical return of a bloom, it is the miracle of the existence arisen from the “winter nothingness”, just as the oasis is the drunkenness of a desert touched by a gift of God. His explosions of colors and scents embody the movement of joy, the expansiveness of Love, the expressive sap of God and the alchemy of a revelation.

Spring is also the fulfillment of a promise: that of paradise after the “winter” ordeals of earthly life or after the autumnal sadness of the separation between the soul and God. See Time of Spring in Sufism, Traditions and Folklores

Spiritual “Greenness”or “Viridity” for our times

“Isn’t it time that, loving,

we freed ourselves from the beloved, and, trembling, endured

as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be, in its flight,

something more than itself? For staying is nowhere”. –

-Rainer Maria Rilke ( Duino Elegies)

 Just as it would harm the stomach if it were always full or empty, it does the soul harm when the body lives in constant pleasure.” – Hildegard of Bingen

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” Quran (4:59)

  • Between two Nothingness

Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani al Rabbani

  • Divine Healing Power of Green

During her lifetime, Hildegard of Bingen was famous for her visions that she had published in her mystical & theological works, Liber Scivias, Liber Vitae Meritorum and Liber Divinorum Operum. – Known as the German Prophetess (Prophetissa Teutonica), she perceived herself as the Trumpet of God called to denounce the social and political state of her time. Thus, she did not merely admonish nun and monks but also pope and emperor. – Hildegard was a seeing listener and a listening seeress. Her visions were at once auditions in which she perceived the voice of God, heard the music of the angels and gained insight into the secret of God (Vision of Trinity), the position of the human being in the cosmos and the history / herstory of God with humankind – from creation to incarnation up to the Last Judgement. ( Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179)

  • Viriditas: the greening power of the Divine (or Divine Healing Power of Green)

Viriditas is one of the most recognizable contributions of Hildegard of Bingen.

For Hildegard, viriditas encapsulated the divine force of nature, the depth and breadth of which is reflected in the various translations. These words within the word are laden with meaning; with lively, powerful connotations that capture the essence Hildegard had conceptualized so long ago.

The origin of Viriditas,” Viridity” may be the union of two Latin words: Green and Truth. (Latin viridis (source of Spanish, Italian verde), related to virere “be green, and Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant,” from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith,” from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,

But like most Latin words, Viriditas does not easily translate into convenient, straightforward English. While being difficult to translate may be frustrating to some, there is beauty in this complexity.

The Basic Definition and Origin

The definition is both literal, as in “green”, “greenness”, and “growth”, yet also metaphorical, as in “vigor”, “verdure”, “freshness” and “vitality.” For Hildegard, the spiritual aspects were just as essential as the physical meaning. In much of her work, viriditas was “the greening power of God.” It was in everything, including humans.

This “greenness” was an expression of heaven, the creative power of life, which can be witnessed in the gardens, forests, and farmland all around us. And like those lands, she saw viriditas as something to be cultivated in both our bodies and our souls.

What is it? Hildegard says it is God’s   freshness that we receive as spiritual and physical life‐forces. This is vivid imagery  that probably came to her simply as she looked around the countryside. The  Rhine valley is lush and green and as we know today, a wonderful place,  flourishing in fruit and vineyards. This greening power mysteriously is inherent in  animals and fishes and birds, in all plants and flowers and trees, in all the  beautiful things of this world.

Human flesh is green she says and our blood  possesses this special greening power. The “life force of the body” (the soul) was  green. Whenever sex was involved—she said there was a particular brightness in  the green. This greening power was at the heart of salvation and the reality of the  Word was verdant life.    This greenness connects us all together as humanity  and shines forth giving us common purpose. It is the  strength within us that manifests as a strong and  healthy life. This greenness originates in the four  elements: earth and fire, water and air. It is sustained  by the four qualities: by dry and moist, by cold and hot;  not only the body—but greenness of soul as well.

Hildegard contrasts greening power or wetness with  the sin of drying up (one of her visions.) A dried‐up  person or a dried‐up culture loses the ability to create.  Hildegard saw this as a grave sin and a tragedy. It also  describes how she felt about herself during those years  when she was refusing to write down her visions and  voices. Her awakening did not occur until she embraced  her own viriditas. From then on Hildegard was  constantly creating.

This is in contrast to greening— dry straw, hay or chaff  representing dried up Christians  who are scattered and cut  down by the just Divinity of the  Trinity. 

https://sufipathoflove.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/hildegard-of-bingen-viriditas.jpg

‘O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”
–  Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae

Hildegard gives an interesting image about greenness  stating that it drenches all things in this world and then  gives the tree as an example. The function of the tree’s sap [its life blood that we know as its essential oil] falls to the soul in the human  body. Its powers or abilities enable us to unfold or develop form just as it does in  the tree. In other words, the tree’s essential oil gives life and nourishment— moistness to humans. She goes on to make comparisons between the tree’s  branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruit with  various stages within human life.    For Hildegard, viriditas is that natural driving   force, the life force that is always directed  toward healing and wholeness. Love, too, is the  breath of the same vital green power that  sustains all life’s greenness. She sees the Holy  Spirit as that power that gives human beings  the green and open space where they are  capable of responding to the Word and joining  in all of creation. The Spirit purifies the world,  scours away all guilt, and heals all wounds and  sadness.    So, green is not a mere color for Hildegard—it is  an attitude and purposeful intent. It is the  permanent inflowing and outflowing of  viriditas. Ultimately—we are talking about  physical health from the inexhaustible fountain  of life’s living light. It is the very joy of being  alive.

Hildegard’s Psychotherapy 

Hildegard’s philosophy of healing centered  around her view of the body‐soul relationship.  She identified 35 vices and 35 virtues to offset the vices (see Appendix for a complete list  ). The vices  are like risk factors that can destroy humanity and  life on earth while the virtues are healing forces  counteracting this possible catastrophe. A virtue  like love, compassion, trust, or hope positively affects wound healing, lowers blood pressure by decreasing the adrenaline blood  level, calms the heart rate, and decreases life‐ hreatening abnormalities like poor  digestion and migraine.

According to Hildegard’s writings, these Christian/ traditional virtues  are the greatest healing powers when negative forces—depression, madness,  anxiety, fear, rage, bitterness, arrogance, desperation—are blocking the healing  light (energy). Negative thoughts, emotions, and feeling are health destroying.

Tree of Life and Death Flanked by Eve and Mary-Ecclesia

  • Description: This image precedes the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi in a missal created for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The central roundel depicts a tree that bears both fruit and sacramental hosts. It thus combines the paradisaical Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge from Eden. On the right is Eve, who hands a forbidden fruit to a man kneeling at her feet. A death’s head appears among the fruits on her side of the tree. The tempting serpent winds around the trunk, and offers Eve another piece of fruit from its mouth. On the left side is Mary-Ecclesia. Rather than a death’s head, a crucifix hangs on this side. Instead of fruit, Mary-Ecclesia administers one of the hosts to a kneeling man who opens his mouth to accept it, and she is in the process of plucking yet another wafer. She is presented as a mirror image of Eve and thus the salvific antidote to the Fall. An angel accompanies Mary-Ecclesia on the left and Death accompanies Eve on the right. Both hold banderoles bearing text. Adam reclines in a gesture of sorrow at the base of the tree and also holds a banderole. In the upper two roundels are princely figures who hold banderoles bearing the text of Psalm 77:25 on the left    ( Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance”).and Psalm 36:16 on the right ( “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked”). Three shepherds depicted below illustrate Thomas Aquinas’s Corpus Christi sequence “Lauda ducem et pastorum,” but they also embody the virtues expected of a good ruler. The one on the left is the personification of “Prudentia,” the one in the center is “Regalitas,” and the one on the right is “Verus Pastor.” All are accompanied by banderoles.
  • Inscription: Angel: ecce panis angelorum factus cibus viatorum [behold the bread of angels made food for pilgrims]; Death: mors est malus vita bonis inde [death is evil, life therefore is goodness]; Upper left prince: Panem angelorum manducavit homo

The world itself,and its creatures, including man, as such, are therefore of derivative significance and are accidental in relation to the supreme reality, which alone is substantial. The world is transient, ephemeral and illusory.

The Divine Substance alone is permanent and real. This view of the transcendent, supreme and substantial reality of the Absolute (which, according to the principle of verticality, is described in terms of its elevation orperfection in relation to creation) finds its expression in all religious traditions.

  • Corona-tion 21 March 2020 – 21 March 2021 : One  year of opportunity

The Coronation:

For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?…

Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. The phenomenon follows the template of initiation: separation from normality, followed by a dilemma, breakdown, or ordeal, followed (if it is to be complete) by reintegration and celebration. Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”

Already we can feel the power of who we might become. A true sovereign does not run in fear from life or from death. A true sovereign does not dominate and conquer (that is a shadow archetype, the Tyrant). The true sovereign serves the people, serves life, and respects the sovereignty of all people. The coronation marks the emergence of the unconscious into consciousness, the crystallization of chaos into order, the transcendence of compulsion into choice. We become the rulers of that which had ruled us. The New World Order that the conspiracy theorists fear is a shadow of the glorious possibility available to sovereign beings. No longer the vassals of fear, we can bring order to the kingdom and build an intentional society on the love already shining through the cracks of the world of separation. Read more: The Coronation with Charles Eisenstein

  • Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life

Based on the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Joachim Patinir

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a subject in Christian art showing Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt. The Holy Family is normally shown in a landscape.

The subject did not develop until the second half of the fourteenth century, though it was an “obvious step” from depictions of the “legend of the palm tree” where they pause to eat dates and rest; palm trees are often included.[2] It was a further elaboration of the long-standing traditions of incidents that embellished the story of the Flight into Egypt, which the New Testament merely says happened, without giving any details.

Joachim Patinir is generally recognized as the founder of the Flemish school of landscape painting that flourished in the sixteenth century.

Reindert Falkenburg’s important new book, a translation of his doctoral dissertation landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life completed in 1985 for the University of Amsterdam. Falkenburg decisively rejects the prevailing view of Patinir’s landscapes; it is, he says, an anachronism, a projection of essentially modern secular attitudes onto the past.  Falkenburg claims that these paintings were not only deeply rooted in the religious thought of Patinir’s day, but in fact ‘are directly related to late medieval devotional art‘ .

Rest on the Flight into Egypt  ‘can be regarded as visual aids for meditation on the pilgrimage of life’

There are no immediate precedents for this subject in fifteenth-century art. Rather it developed out of earlier ,Andachtshilder, or devotional im­ages, such as the Madonna of Humility, or the Madonna and Child in a hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden whose many plants svmbolize the virtues of the Madonna and the future Passion of Christ.

lt is the tradition of the hortus conclusus, furthermore. that accounts for the complex program of botanical symbols  as the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.

Patinir, however, enriches the original iconic image of the Madonna and Child with subsidiarv scenes of the Massacre of the Innocents, the Miracle of the Wheatfields, and the Fall of the Idols near Heliopolis.  see Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life  and  Migration to the Spiritual Land of Peace

  • To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love

To Become a “Refugee” means to make a migration to Sincerity or to the“uprightness” of Love.

What the Emigration to Sincerity demands of us

  • Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra

When one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar;  but one is  also speaking of a new start for humanity. And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe make his Hijra, his emigration and take refuge in Islam. He became a “Refugee”.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. Read more here: Goethe, the “refugee” and his Message for our times

  • Emigration: Historical Hijra

Starting from a narrow family-tribal environment Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) underwent 13 years of hardship and torment in Meccan society; with the immigration (Hijra) to Medina, a new stage began. This stage, if one takes into consideration the time that it took all religions to spread, is the starting point of one of the fastest religious developments in recorded history. In this sense, when one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; one is speaking of a new start for humanity.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.

The Hijra, as is expressed in a variety of verses, was extrication from a difficult and stressful situation with the aim to widen the belief and the ideals, and a search for new possibilities and new places. From this aspect, the Hijra is not something that was realized as part of a certain process or a completed historical event in the life of Muslims. The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. Thus, the Hijra, which includes certain preconditions, is a moral duty and responsibility for every individual.

Prophet Muhammad placed the Hijra in the minds and hearts of the Islamic community with a hadith (Prophetic tradition) that expresses two basic interconnected matters.

The first is a general principle which, in particular, is considered to be one of the reference points in the evaluation of laws for Islamic jurists. This principle is connected to intentions in behavioral values, as it is the intention that gives behavior direction. As we know the Hijrawas the first and most important social movement of the young Islamic society.

Migration

As is to be expected with all social movements, it is only natural that there were people who had different intentions when participating in the emigration led by Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad drew attention to this situation and stated that those who performed the same action received different responses, each according to their intention. The matter expressed in the hadiths is concerned with a Meccan Muslim who had joined the emigration and come to Medina to marry the woman he loved. The ruling that Prophet Muhammad gave concerning this person can be considered to be a universal principle compulsory for all Muslims to take into account when performing an action. Read more here

  • La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

In their search for a basis for reconciliation of the major religions with the religions of the ancients, the Medici Platonic Academy explored Gnosticism and Hermeticism, which they believed had passed down from this fertile epoch. Outwardly, reconciliation would appear impossible; however, it was argued that, if the nature of the gods were understood in the Orphic Platonist’s sense, and the Mosaic law in the sense of the Hebrew Kaballah, and the Christian grace in its interpretation by Paul to Dionysius, then they differed not in substance, only in name.*

From Egypt had emerged the concept of the Logos or Light, the sun as agent of the Way and the Truth, the spirtual nature which could rise out of and separate itself from the sensual, instinctual animal nature. Man encapsulates within his higher nature a profound reality, the answer to his own quest, closing the circle by both posing and answering the perennial question.

Realising this god within through contemplation is a rebirth, a resurrection through discovery of the spiritual treasure in the profound depths of the mind.

Experiencing this was seen as a paradise by Lorenzo and as a garden of perpetual spring by Poliziano. This was the ‘pure gold’ of early religious belief sought by the Academy.

The Egyptian sage Hermes-Mercurius’s recovered works were seen as validating the doctrines of Plato which they were translating from the Greek at the time.

For the Medici-Ficino circle, the idea of ‘oneness’ was supported by the capacity of all to achieve a deep inner tranquility (ataraxia) and fulfilment.

 The idea that, by mastering the ego and the senses, one discovers who one is, was shared by many cultures, suggesting a single primal source.

 Many such concepts, perceived as Christian (such as the virgin birth, father and son as deity, resurrection and the last judgment) had earlier pagan manifestations. This supported the belief in a common unity and therefore the need for a single harmonised religion. ( The Mysteries or `Mystery religions’ from the Orient, based on the Hermetic Perermial Philosophy, met a need which the established state religions, more concerned with celebrations and the state, did not satisfy. These cults employed allegorical drama to explain rebirth and reach their objective, a transcendant state or palingenesia. Down the ages, access to the higher Mysteries and their brotherhoods was restricted to initiates. They eschewed the deception of the senses and demands of the ego associated with the body and the unenlightened mind.

Read more: La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

From Purgatory to the Primavera: Some Observations on Botticelli and Dante

Quelli ch’anticamente poetaro
I’eta de I’oro e suo stato felice,
forse in Parnaso esto loco sognaro.
Qui fu innocente I’umana radice;
qui primavera sempre e ogne frutto;
nettare e questa di che ciascun dice.
(They who in olden times sang of the Age of Gold and its
happy state perhaps in Parnassus dreamed of this place. Here
the root of mankind was innocent; here is always spring, and
every fruit; this is the nectar of which each tells) (Purg. xxviii,
1 39-1 44).

Botticelli’s “Primavera” has been studied by more eminent art historians than perhaps any other work of Renaissance art. The chronicle of these readings would make for a representative anthology of 20th-century art historical methodologies, and yet no consensus about the painting’s “meaning” has emerged. In this article, the “Primavera” is discussed in the context of what we know and what we can surmise about the artist’s own literary and intellectual culture and especially his lifelong engagement with Dante’s “Divina Commedia”. The painting is studied as an attempt on the artist’s part to translate into his own medium the thematics surrounding Dante’s Earthly Paradise episode at the end of the Purgatorio. These thematics are explored in the context of Cristoforo Landino’s 1481 commentary on Dante, with which Botticelli, who devoted many years to illustrating Landino’s edition, was intimately familiar. Landino saw in Dante’s Earthy Paradise episode an allegory of the soul’s moral and spiritual pilgrimage from the vita voluptuosa through the vita activa to the vita contemplativa, a passage occurring, like Dante’s pilgrimage as a whole, under the influence of Celestial Venus. The “Primavera” is discussed as a visual variation on the same theme, presented all’antica in a manner that resonates with Dante’s classical allusions, especially as interpreted by Landino. In addition to reflecting Botticelli’s own artistic and intellectual interests and aspirations, as well as those of his presumed patron, the “Primavera” echoes still with a rivalry that brought Botticelli into competition with such other close students of Dante as Leonardo and Michelangelo. This paragone awaits further study. Read more here

  • Educating Desire: Conversion and Ascent in Dante’s Purgatorio

by Paul A. Camacho

In Cantos 17 and 18 of the Purgatorio, Dante’s Virgil lays out a theory of sin, freedom, and moral motivation based on a philosophical anthropology of loving-desire. As the commentary tradition has long recognized, because Dante placed Virgil’s discourse on love at the heart of the Commedia, the poet invites his readers to use love as a hermeneutic key to the text as a whole. When we contextualize Virgil’s discourse within the broader intention of the poem—to move its readers from disordered love to an ordered love of ultimate things—then we find in these central cantos not just a key to the structure and movement of the poem ,but also a key to understanding Dante’s pedagogical aim. With his Commedia, Dante invites us to perform the interior transformation which the poem dramatizes in verse and symbol. He does so by awakening in his readers not only a desire for the beauty of his poetic creation, but also a desire for the beauty of the love described therein. In this way, the poem presents a pedagogy of love, in which the reader participates in the very experience of desire and delight enacted in the text. In this article, I offer an analysis of Virgil’s discourse on love in the Purgatorio, arguing for an explicit and necessary connection between loving-desire and true education. I demonstrate that what informs Dante’s pedagogy of love is the notion of love as ascent, a notion we find articulated especially in the Christian Platonism of Augustine. Finally, I conclude by offering a number of figures, passages, and themes from across the Commedia that provide fruitful material for teachers engaged in the task of educating desire. Read more here

  • “I Felt My Heart Awaken” – Vita Nova – The new Life

In chapter XXIV Of the Vita Nova , “I Felt My Heart Awaken” (“Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core”, also translated as “I Felt a Loving Spirit Suddenly”), Dante recounts a meeting with Love, who asks the poet to do his best to honour her.

Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
Un spirito amoroso che dormia:
E poi vidi venir da lungi Amore
Allegro sì, che appena il conoscia,

Dicendo: “Or pensa pur di farmi onore”;
E ’n ciascuna parola sua ridia.
E poco stando meco il mio segnore,
Guardando in quella parte onde venia,

Io vidi monna Vanna e monna Bice
Venire inver lo loco là ‘v’io era,
L’una appresso de l’altra miriviglia;

E sì come la mente mi ridice,
Amor mi disse: “Quell’è Primavera,
E quell’ha nome Amor, sì mi somiglia.”

I felt awoken in my heart
a loving spirit that was sleeping;
and then I saw Love coming from far away
so glad, I could just recognize.

saying “you think you can honor me”,
and with each word laughing.
And little being with me my lord,
watching the way it came from,

I saw lady Joan and lady Bice
coming towards the spot I was at,
one wonder past another wonder.

And as my mind keeps telling me,
                               Love said to meShe is Spring who springs first,                            and that bears the name Love, who resembles me.”

The Vita nova’s basic storyline is actually quite simple. The narrator tells us that he fell in love when he was nine years old with a girl who was about a year younger than he and who was named Beatrice. His falling in love with her is so powerful that it leaves an indelible mark on his soul, a perception that is reinforced when she greets him in passing nine years later. Because of her, the personification of love—that same “Lord Love” all the love poets of the time wrote about—comes to dwell in his heart. It is not a peaceful residence. The protagonist’s feelings of love are so intense and private that he (following the conventions of his time) pretends to others that his love, which he cannot hide, is actually directed toward another woman besides Beatrice. When this woman moves out of the city, leaving the protagonist without his cover, he invents another “screen-woman.” Beatrice catches wind of malicious gossip regarding her admirer’s alleged unsavory comportment in relation to this second screen-woman, and consequently shuns him. She has no awareness of the effect this has on him. Eventually he finds peace for his unrequited love by resolving to praise her in his poetry independently of her responses to him. Read here

  • EARTHLY PARADISE : Dante’s Initiatory Rite of Passage by Daniela Boccassini

Thanks to the experiential work he had done on himself in the years spanning the First World War, Jung had come to understand that the way to wholeness, to individuation – if any – demands at the outset a grueling descensus ad inferos, which entails «the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness» (CW13: §335). I do not need to dwell on how graphically Dante describes this very process in the Commedia: from his descent through Hell, where the souls engulfed in darkness are the unconscious manifestations of their own and humanity’s gigantic shadow, to his ascent of Purgatory, where Dante as a living being retains his shadow, while the souls, who have lost theirs, are engaged in the process of uncovering the hidden identity of their translucent celestial nature, which fully manifests as spirit in Paradise…

….The procession accompanying Beatrice captures Dante’s attention for the whole of canto 29, and the figurative events involving the chariot and the Tree unfold in canto 32. In between, through cantos 30 and 31, all of Dante’s reasonable expectations of a happy reunion with his Beloved are not merely challenged but ruthlessly thwarted. Instead of praising him for successfully carrying out his unparalleled journey into the Garden of Eden, Beatrice sternly forces Dante to confront the unacknowledged gloom that the shadow of his human persona still casts into the paradisal «chiaro fonte» (Pg 30.76). In this way and through interrogation, Dante is skillfully challenged to disown that side of himself which had failed to follow Beatrice beyond Persephone’s threshold, causing him to remain ensnared in the alluring, yet deadly, web of «imagini di ben false» that enwraps mortal life.

Only by dying to that fallacious, ego-centered and ego-driven worldview will Dante gain access to the paradoxical Apollonian dualitude of the griffin, thus entering into a true hieros gamos with his immortal Beloved, as Beatrice intimates by intently gazing at «la fiera | ch’è sola una persona in due nature» (Pg 31.80-81). It is this kind of radical ‘ri-conoscenza’, this endured apprehension of his mortal shadow as beguilement, that finally allows Dante to die-before-dying, so that the purifying ritual of immersion in the waters of the river Lethe, presided over by Matelda, can effectively take place. Yet this is not enough for Dante to move on, as the events outlined in the last two cantos openly show: if in Christianity the ritual of baptism symbolizes death and rebirth at once, here we are told beyond the shade of a doubt that Dante’s immersion in the waters of Lethe seals his death to what might be called his ego-consciousness, but leaves his rebirth into higher consciousness, literally, hanging. For that rebirth to occur, Dante needs to tap the potentialities offered by a different state of being, and only once this has occurred, will a second baptismal ritual be performed, in the waters of another river….. Read the complete paper EARTHLY PARADISE : Dante’s Initiatory Rite of Passage by Daniela Boccassini

  • Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity

There is good reason to believe that there is a tropological dimension to the
painting. The known Savonarolan sources on which the Mystic Nativity draws are all
moral in intent, and the painting exhorts us to worship the Child truly and become
reconciled with our brothers. Unlike most Italian pictures of the time, it is clearly
structured into groups of significant numbers and combinations of white, green,
and red. Significant numbers were the almost irresistable cue for late-medieval theologians to list a set of moral precepts, and Savonarola was no exception to this
rule. White, green, and red usually symbolise Faith, Hope, and Charity respectively.


That perhaps is what they do in Botticelli’s painting also. But caution is necessary.
For Savonarola Faith may be green and Hope sky blue,’ whereas white, green, and
red may stand for any number of other things.
To conclude, I shall propose three possible interpretations of the painting, taking them in ascending order of probability, before ending with an observation  about its theme.

Firstly, the Mystic Nativity might be, along with the Mystic Crucifixion in the Fogg
Art Museum , a picture intended for the boys in the group of Bernardino
dei Fanciulli or another Savonarolan association like it. This is suggested by the
highly ‘naive’ syntax of both paintings, the great stress on angels, and the fact that
in both paintings the symbols of evil-five small and apparently self-destructed
demons in the case of the Mystic Nativity and two small and seemingly unferocious
animals in that of the Mystic Crucifixion-do not appear to be intended as frightening. As a further slight but perhaps relevant indication, in the only volume of the ‘collected works’ of Bernardino dei Fanciulli, there are just two illustrations, one  showing the Nativity and the other the Crucifixion. Against the possibility that these two pictures were intended for children is of course the presence of the Greek inscription to the Mystic Nativity. But as we have seen, that inscription might have  been added later;  if so, perhaps it was added with the purpose of ‘redefining’ the painting. In this connection we should note that Bernardino and his group were  forced into exile in 1500-and according to the inscription it was ‘at the end of the  year 1500, in the troubles of Italy’ that the Mystic Nativity was painted.
Secondly, the painting might be a cryptic representation of the Millennium-or rather those features of it in which Botticelli believed and which he thought to be in harmony with the predictions that Savonarola had made. During such a Millennium those Florentines who truly believed would reign with Christ their king. As we have seen, the Millennium begins with the binding of Satan. Accepted Catholic doctrine holds that it therefore begins, figuratively, with the birth of Christ. It is even possible that the word ‘time’ in the painting’s Greek inscription means ‘millennium’, as in Francesco da Meleto’s interpretation. The mortals being embraced by angels and led by them to the manger would be the martyrs and saints who live again through the First Resurrection -or whomever else it was that Botticelli might have thought these Apocalyptic persons stood for. Their crowns of olive would be the crowns of martyrdom or righteousness. It at first strikes one as unlikely that Botticelli would have shown the Millennium in an age in which it was rarely mentioned. But of those persons who believed in the Millennium at the time, how many actually ventured to  say so in print? If the Mystic Nativity does represent the Millennium in any real sense, firstly, the painting is in this respect unique as far as we know; secondly, it is  thoroughly heretical. We recall that-if for the wrong reasons-Vasari believed  Botticelli to have been a heretic.

The third possible interpretation is that the painting is a figuration of an ‘Apocalyptic’ birth of Christ, in which allusions to the reconciliation of the heavenly virtues with one another and with mankind, the ‘crown’ of Mary, and the Millennium (or the casting out of Satan) are elements of a complex and yet ‘simple’ allegory of the future in which Botticelli believed.

That future would, through the intercession of Mary, see the ‘birth’ of Christ in the hearts of the Florentines. Through the mercy of divine Grace, the Florentines would be filled with charity and love towards one another and be reconciled with the angels and their God.

There would thus come to pass that peace and goodness which the devil cannot abide and which would cause his downfall: ‘Now is come the power of Christ on earth; the dragon has lost’.
Whatever it is that the Mystic Nativity shows, the chances are that it took great
courage for Botticelli to paint it.

Where heaven shall touch earth

The overriding theme of the Mystic Nativity, because of the large number of olive branches in it, appears to be peace. But we should do well to remember that in
Botticelli’s time the olive was usually a symbol of peace and mercy.

In Savonarola’s ‘1493’ Christmas sermon it is Mercy, not Peace, who holds a branch of olive. Moreover, wreaths of olive conveying thoughts of mercy and repentance had recently come into use in one of Florence’s most important public rituals, the offering of little torches by pardoned offenders at the city’s Baptistry. These persons had formerly
been led to the Baptistry in chains, but from 1493 at the latest each is described as
being led, ‘in the usual way, his head uncovered, with a crown [or garland] of olive,
with a little torch in his hands… preceded by trumpets’.

Now, one of the conditions for receiving pardon at the time was that an offender make ‘peace’ with the offended party. Perhaps onlookers remembered this as the olive-wreathed offenders were marched past them. But surely what was uppermost in their thoughts was that these transgressors had come to repent what they had done and were now receiving mercy. Indeed, what Botticelli and many others who lived during his age probably hoped for more than anything else but also in our times , was  Peace and Mercy.

  • The birth of Jesus in man:

The soul of the mystic, Rûmi teaches us, is similar to Mary: “If your soul is pure enough and full of love enough, it becomes like Mary: it begets the Messiah”.

And al-Halláj also evokes this idea: “Our consciences are one Virgin where only the Spirit of Truth can penetrate

In this context, Jesus then symbolizes the cutting edge of the Spirit present in the human soul: “Our body is like Mary: each of us has a Jesus in him, but as long as the pains of childbirth do not appear in us, our Jesus is not born” ( Rumi, The Book of the Inside, V).

This essential quest is comparable to suffering of Mary who led her under the palm tree (Koran XIX, 22-26): “ I said:” 0 my heart, seek the universal Mirror, go towards the Sea, because you will not reach your goal by the only river! ”

In this quest, Your servant finally arrived at the place of Your home as the pains of childbirth led Mary towards the palm tree “(RÛMi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

Just as the Breath of the Holy Spirit, breathed into Mary, made him conceive the Holy Spirit, as so when the Word of God (kalám al-haqq) enters someone’s heart and the divine Inspiration purifies and fills his heart (see Matthew V, 8 or Jesus in the Sermon of the Mountain exclaims: “Blessed are pure hearts, for they will see God! “) and his soul, his nature becomes such that then is produced in him a spiritual child (walad ma’nawî) having the breath of Jesus who raises the dead.

Human beings,” it says in Walad-Nama ( French translation, Master and disciple, of Sultan Valad and Kitab al-Ma’ârif  the Skills of Soul Rapture), must be born twice: once from their mother, another from their own body and their own existence. The body is like an egg: the essence of man must become in this egg a bird, thanks to the warmth of Love; then it will escape its body and fly into the eternal world of the soul, beyond space.

And Sultan Walad adds: “If the bird of faith (imán) is not born in Man during its existence, this earthly life is then comparable to a miscarriage.

The soul, in the prison of the body, is ankylosed like the embryo in the maternal womb, and it awaits its deliverance. This will happen when the “germ” has matured, thanks to a descent into oneself, to a painful awareness: “The pain will arise from this look thrown inside oneself, and this suffering makes pass to beyond the veil. As long as the mothers do not take birth pains, the child does not have the possibility of being born (. Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 2516 sq.) (…) My mother, that is to say my nature [my body], by his agony pains, gives birth to the Spirit … If the pains during the coming of the child are painful for the pregnant woman, on the other hand, for the embryo, it is the opening of his prison ”(Ibid., 3555 sq)

Union with God, explains Rûmi, manifests itself when the divine Qualities come to cover the attributes of His servant:

God’s call, whether veiled or not, grants what he gave to Maryam. 0 you who are corrupted by death inside your body, return from nonexistence to the Voice of the Friend! In truth, this Voice comes from God, although it comes from the servant of God! God said to the saint: “I am your tongue and your eyes, I am your senses, I am your contentment and your wrath. Go, for you are the one of whom God said: ‘By Me he hears and by Me he sees!’ You are the divine Consciousness, how should it be said that you have this divine Consciousness? Since you have become, by your wondering, ‘He who belongs to God’.

I am yours because ‘God will belong to him. Sometimes, I tell you: ‘It’s you!’, Sometimes, ‘It’s me!’ Whatever I say, I am the Sun illuminating all things. “(Mathnawî, I, 1934 sq).

Once the illusion of duality has been transcended, all that remains in the soul is the divine Presence: the soul then finds in the depths of its being the divine effigy.

It has become the place of theophany. This is what Rumi calls the spiritual resurrection: “The universal Soul came into contact with the partial soul and the latter received from her a pearl and put it in her womb. Thanks to this touch of her breast, the individual soul became pregnant, like Mary, with a Messiah ravishing the heart. Not the Messiah who travels on land and at sea, but the Messiah who is beyond the limitations of space! Also, when the soul has been fertilized by the Soul of the soul, then the world is fertilized by such a soul “( Ibid., II, 1184 sq.).

This birth of the spiritual Child occurs out of time, and therefore it occurs in each man who receives him with all his being through this “Be!” that Marie receives during the Annunciation: “From your body, like Maryam, give birth to an Issa without a father! You have to be born twice, once from your mother, another time from yourself. So beget yourself again! If the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dispenses again his help, others will in turn do what Christ himself did: the Father pronounces the Word in the universal Soul, and when the Son is born, each soul becomes Mary (Ibid., III, 3773.)

So Jesus can declare: “O son of Israel, I tell you the truth, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and earth unless he is born twice! By the Will of God, I am of those who were born twice: my first birth was according to nature, and the second according to the Spirit in the Sky of Knowledge!  » (Sha’ranî, Tabaqat, II, 26; Sohrawardî, ‘Awarif, I, 1)

The second birth corresponds to what we also gain in Sufism as the “opening (fath) of the eye of the heart“: “When Your Eye became an eye for my heart, my blind heart drowned in vision ; I saw that You were the universal Mirror for all eternity and I saw in Your Eyes my own image. I said, “Finally, I found myself in His Eyes, I found the Way of Light!” (Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

This opening is the promise made by God to all those who conclude a pact with the spiritual master, pole of his time, like the apostles with Jesus or the Companions when they pledged allegiance to Muhammad:God was satisfied with believers when they swore an oath to you under the Tree, He knew perfectly the content of their hearts, He brought down on them deep peace (sakina), He rewarded them with a prompt opening ( fath) and by an abundant booty  which they seized ”(Coran XLVIII, 18-19).(The abundant loot indicates Divine Knowledge (mari’fa).

Read more: Jesus and the Sufi Traditon

  • “‘Peace’: is the word from a Merciful Lord (for them).”

سَلَـٰمٌۭ قَوْلًۭا مِّن رَّبٍّۢ رَّحِيمٍۢ  Salaamun qawlam mir Rabbir Raheem –  Surah yasin 36-58

This enlivening and pleasant call, which is full of His love and affection, attracts the man’s attention to itself so deeply, and gives him joy, happiness and spirituality, that does not match any other bounty.
Yes hearing the call of the beloved one, is a call filled with love and mixed with grace which causes the people of Paradise to be thoroughly rejoicing, a moment of which is superior to the whole world and whatever  exists in it.
A tradition narrated from the Prophet of Islam (S) indicates that he said:
While the people of Paradise are busy enjoying the bounties of
Heaven there will appear a light above them”.
This is the light of Allah which is cast upon them and at the same time a
call will be heard saying: ‘Peace and greeting on you, O’ the people of Paradise!’
And this is the same thing which has been mentioned in the Qur’an. It is here that the view of Allah attracts them so strongly that they neglect His all other things and, in that state, they forget the whole bounties of Paradise.
It is here that the angels come out from every door and say: ‘Peace upon you’.”
Yes, the ecstasy of the intuition and presence of the Beloved and the visit of the Lord’s Grace are so delightful and gratifying that a moment of which is not equal with any blessing, even with the whole world.
The lovers of visiting Him are so that if this spiritual gift might be ceased from them, they would die. Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (as) in a tradition said: “If I remain walled from the visit of the Lord for a moment, I will die.”

It is interesting that the apparent of the verse is that this greeting of Allah unto the believers in Paradise is a direct greeting without any intermediator.
It is a greeting from the Lord, Allah, the greeting which originates from His special Mercy, i.e., the rank of His specific Mercy, and all grace and favours are gathered in it. Oh, what a blessing it is!
In principle, Paradise is ‘the Abode of Peace’, as Surah Yunus, No. 10,
verse 25 says: “And Allah does call mankind to the Abode of Peace…
And the people of Paradise, who are the dwellers of this abode, will sometimes face with the angel’s greeting.
At the time of arrival into Paradise, the angels arrive to them from every door and say:
Peace (be) upon you (saying) that you persevered in patience! (And
now) how excellent is the Ultimate Abode.”
And sometimes the dwellers of ’A‘raf call them and say:
…Peace be upon you!…
And sometimes they will be faced with the angels’ greeting after entering
into Paradise: “…and the warders thereof say unto them: ‘Peace be unto you…”
Sometimes, at the time of taking their souls, this greeting is delivered to them from the side of the angels of death. They say: “…Peace be upon you! Enter the Paradise because of what you used to do.”

And sometimes they themselves greet each other. And, in principle, in their greeting there is ‘Peace’, the Qur’an says: “…their greetings therein is: ‘Peace!’.”
And, finally, the superior and above all of these is the greeting of Allah:
“‘Peace’: is the word from a Merciful Lord (for them).”
Briefly speaking, there will be heard there neither a vain word nor a sinful thing. There will be only ‘peace’ and ‘peace’. The Qur’an says: “They shall not hear therein vain or sinful discourse,”
Of course, it is not a greeting in mere pronunciation, but it is a greeting the effect of which penetrates in the depth of man’s soul and makes it thoroughly full of tranquillity, peace, and health. See comment Surah 36 Yasin

Shaykh Nazim (ق) — Peace and Tranquility Loop. 1. Surah Yaseen 2. Verse 36:58 (111x) 3. Beautiful Dua (+Salawat Fatih)

Surah Yasin: Heart of the Quran

It has been proposed that yā sīn is the “heart of the Quran”.The meaning of “the heart” has been the basis of much scholarly discussion. The eloquence of this surah is traditionally regarded as representative of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. It presents the essential themes of the Qur’an, such as the sovereignty of God, the unlimited power of God as exemplified by His creations, Paradise, the ultimate punishment of nonbelievers, resurrection, the struggle of believers against polytheists and nonbelievers, and the reassurance that the believers are on the right path, among others. Yā Sīn presents the message of the Qur’an in an efficient and powerful manner, with its quick and rhythmic verses. This surah asserts that Muhammad was not a poet, rather he was the greatest and the Last Messenger of Allah (the “Seal of the Prophets”)

There are three main themes of yā sīn: the oneness of God (tawhid); Risala, that Muhammad is a messenger sent by God to guide His creations through divine revelation; and the reality of Akhirah, the Last Judgment.[12] 36:70 “This is a revelation, an illuminating Qur’an to warn anyone who is truly alive, so that God’s verdict may be passed against the disbelievers.” [13] The surah repeatedly warns of the consequences of not believing in the legitimacy or the revelation of Muhammad, and encourages believers to remain steadfast and resist the mockery, oppression, and ridicule they receive from polytheists and nonbelievers.[14] The arguments arise in three forms: a historical parable, a reflection on the order in the universe, and lastly a discussion of resurrection and human accountability.

The chapter begins with an affirmation of the legitimacy of Muhammad.[12] For example, verses 2-6, “By the wise Qur’an, you [Muhammad] are truly one of the messengers sent of a straight path, with a revelation from the Almighty, the Lord of Mercy, to warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, and so they are unaware.”[15] The first passage, verses 1-12, focuses primarily with promoting the Qur’an as guidance and establishing that it is God’s sovereign choice who will believe and who will not. It is stated that regardless of a warning, the nonbelievers cannot be swayed to believe. 36:10 “It is all the same to them whether you warn them or not: they will not believe.”[15]

Surah Yāʾ-Sīn then proceeds to tell the tale of the messengers that were sent to warn nonbelievers, but who were rejected.[12] Although the messengers proclaimed to be legitimate, they were accused of being ordinary men by the nonbelievers. 36:15-17 “They said, ‘Truly, we are messengers to you,’ but they answered, ‘You are only men like ourselves. The Lord of Mercy has sent nothing; you are just lying.”[16] However, a man from amongst these people beseeched them to believe in the messengers. “Then there came running, from the farthest part of the City, a man, saying, ‘O my people! Obey the messengers: Obey those who ask no reward of you (for themselves), and who have themselves received Guidance.'”[Quran 36:20] Upon his death, the man entered Paradise, and lamented the fate of the nonbelievers. 36:26 “He was told, ‘Enter the Garden,’ so he said, ‘If only my people knew how my Lord has forgiven me and set me among the highly honored.”[17] This surah is meant to warn the nonbelievers of the consequences of their denial. Verse 36:30 goes on to state: “Alas for human beings! Whenever a messenger comes to them they ridicule him.”[18] Ultimately, it is God’s will who will be blind and who will see.[12]

The following passage addresses the signs of God’s supremacy over nature.[12] This is presented by the sign of revived land, the sign of day and night, the sign of the arc and the flood, and the sign of the sudden blast that arrives on the day of judgement. 36:33-37 The sign of revived land follows:

There is a sign for them in this lifeless earth: We give it life and We produce grains from it for them to eat; We have put gardens of date palms and grapes in the earth, and We have made water gush out of it so that they could eat its fruit. It is not their own hands that made all this. How can they not give thanks? Glory be to Him who created all the pairs of things that the earth produces, as well as themselves and other things they do not know about.[17]

The disbelievers do not recognize God’s power in the natural world, although He is the one Creator.[12]

The surah further addresses what will happen to those who reject the right path presented by Muhammad and refuse to believe in God. On the last day, the day of reckoning, the nonbelievers will be held accountable for their actions and will be punished accordingly.[12] God warned the nonbelievers of Satan, and yet Satan led them astray. 36:60-63 “Children of Adam, did I not command you not to serve Satan, for he was your sworn enemy, but to serve Me? This is the straight path. He has led great numbers of you astray. Did you not use your reason? So this is the fire that you were warned against.”[19] Although God warned them against following Satan, the nonbelievers were deaf, and so now they will suffer the consequences of their ill judgements. 36:63 “So this is the Fire that you were warned against. Enter it today, because you went on ignoring [my commands].”[19]

The surah proceeds to address the clear nature of the revelation and assure that Muhammad is a legitimate prophet.[12] 36:69 states, “We have not taught the Prophet poetry, nor could he ever have been a poet.”[13] Yāʾ-Sīn concludes by reaffirming God’s sovereignty and absolute power. 36:82-83 “When He wills something to be, His way is to say, ‘Be’—and it is! So glory be to Him in whose Hand lies control over all things. It is to Him that you will all be brought back.” [13] It is to God, the one Creator who holds everything in His hands, that everything returns. The closing passage is absolute and powerful and carries an essential message of the Qur’an. Read more : Commentary of surah Yasin or  Heart of the Qur’an: A Commentary to Sura Yasin

“All that is on the earth will perish: But the face of thy Lord willabide forever – full of Majesty, Bounty, and Honor.” (Qur’an, lv. 26-27).

Looking to the Spiritual vertical way, as the Maypole do, gives us an opportunity of discerning an understanding between Non-Virtues and Virtues,  developing Spiritual values needed in our times.

We need to be sincere with our selves , to be “upright” strictly honourable and  honest, as the symbol of the Maypole is.it is the Axis Mundi,  also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, or world tree — was greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms.

Together we can initiate and erect a maypole as various European folk festivals do, in respect of the safely coming of Spring. But as many Folklores in Europe did, to keep it more permantly,  we can plant a Lime Tree in the center of the village of on squares in the city, to keep the remenbering of  “uprightness”,of sincerity in our mind, in our heart and in our allday lives. In this way,as  in many folklores of Europe, they recognize their dependance to Nature and their submission to something Higher than themselves. And happy they danced under the Lime Tree on important opportunities.  Man has always be in need of a symbol, but certainly a symbol for communality and fraternity: The Path to the Maypole of Wisdom – Forum for Ethics, Virtues and Uprightness.

Master of the Assumption of the Magdalene, Assumption of Mary Magdalene, ca. 1506-1507

The City of Life, Visions of Paradise

Mystical Nativity for our Times

  • Sandro Botticelli’s  The Mystical Nativity


The Mystical Nativity is a painting of circa 1500-1501 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, in the National Gallery in London. Botticelli built up the image using oil paint on canvas. It is his only signed work, and has a very unusual iconography for a Nativity.

It has been suggested that this picture, the only surviving work signed by Botticelli, was painted for his own private devotions, or for someone close to him. It is certainly unconventional, and does not simply represent the traditional events of the birth of Jesus and the adoration of the shepherds and the Magi or Wise Men.

Rather it is a vision of these events inspired by the prophecies in the Revelation of Saint John. Botticelli has underlined the non-realism of the picture by including Latin and Greek texts, and by adopting the conventions of medieval art, such as discrepancies in scale, for symbolic ends. The Virgin Mary, adoring a gigantic infant Jesus, is so large that were she to stand she could not fit under the thatch roof of the stable. They are, of course, the holiest and the most important persons in the painting.

The angels carry olive branches, which two of them have presented to the men they embrace in the foreground. These men, as well as the presumed shepherds in their short hooded garments on the right and the long-gowned Magi on the left, are all crowned with olive, an emblem of peace. The scrolls wound about the branches in the foreground, combined with some of those held by the angels dancing in the sky, read: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men‘ (Luke 2:14).

As angels and men move ever closer, from right to left, to embrace, little devils scatter into holes in the ground. The scrolls held by the angels pointing to the crib once read: `Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world‘ the words of John the Baptist presenting Christ (John 1:29).

Above the stable roof the sky has opened to reveal the golden light of paradise. Golden crowns hang down from the dancing angels’ olive branches. Most of their scrolls celebrate Mary: ‘Mother of God’, ‘Bride of God’, ‘Sole Queen of the World’.

The puzzling Greek inscription at the top of the picture has been translated: ‘I Sandro made this picture at the conclusion of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of Saint John in the second woe of the Apocalypse during the loosing of the devil for three and a half years then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see […] as in this picture.

The missing words may have been ‘him burying himself’. The ‘half time after the time’ has been generally understood as a year and a half earlier, that is, in 1498, when the French invaded Italy, but it may mean a half millennium (500 years) after a millennium (1000 years): 1500, the date of the painting. Like the end of the millennium in the year 1000, the end of the half millennium in 1500 also seemed to many people to herald the Second Coming of Christ, prophesied in Revelation.

At a time when Florentine painters were recreating nature with their brush, Botticelli freely acknowledged the artificiality of art. In the pagan Venus and Mars he turned his back on naturalism in order to express ideal beauty. Read here La Primavera – Botticelli: The Eternal Spring and a message for our times

In the ‘Mystic Nativity’ he went further, beyond the old-fashioned to the archaic, to express spiritual truths – rather like the Victorians who were to rediscover him in the nineteenth century, and who associated the Gothic style with an ‘Age of Faith’.

The painting emerged from the city of Florence in a time when the fanatical preacher Savonarola held the city in its grip. There is no documentary evidence to prove whether or not Botticelli was one of Savonarola’s follower. But certain themes in his later works – like the Mystic Nativity – are certainly derived from the sermons of Savonarola, which means that the artist was definitely attracted by that personality so central to the cultural and political events of Florence during the last years of the fifteenth century.

The painting is on canvas – normally he would have used wood panel – perhaps for a painting with a dangerous message, canvas had the advantage that it could be rolled up and hidden. With his canvas prepared he would sketch a detailed design on paper, then he transferred this to canvas. He drew on many sources – the dancing angels echo his own three graces of Primavera, the scurrying devil was inspired by a German woodcut. X-rays show that very little of the original design changed – only an angel’s wing was adjusted and trees added over the roof of the stable. Botticelli was now ready to build up the image using oil paint – like canvas an experimental medium. To create the heavenly dome Botticelli called on the goldsmith’s craft he had learned as a boy. “The symbolism of the gold is to do with the unchanging, untarnished nature of heaven – gold doesn’t decay, it doesn’t darken like silver. Botticelli would have used an adhesive layer made of oil mixed with resin – not burnished , the gold just patted down on to the surface, following the surface irregularities of the canvas – a glitter, intricate, it would have helped the jewel like quality of the painting – it would have drawn the eye upwards from the Nativity into Heaven. Faith, hope and charity,[the angels clothed in] white, green and red – but the copper based green pigment has discoloured with time, to bronze. Originally it would have been vibrant.”

Botticelli died in 1510. The Mystic Nativity remained hidden for another three centuries. Rome at the end of the 18th century was very different to Renaissance Florence – except for the presence of French invaders. Many foreigners left, but not a young Englishman, William Young Ottley. He was an art lover, and wealthy with a slave plantation in the Caribbean. He bought up many paintings cheaply. At the Villa Aldobrandini he saw a small, unknown work, Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity. Botticelli was then in obscurity.

It arrived in London where Ottley’s house became in effect a private museum of Italian masterpieces. After Ottley’s death William Fuller-Maitland of Stansted picked up the painting at an auction for £80. When he loaned it to the Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester 1857, it was now on open display. The Exhibition’s newspaper the Art Treasures Examiner printed a new engraving of it.

  •  The ideas of Savonarola in Sandro Botticelli’s ‘The Mystical Nativity’.

Experts mean that the ideas of Savonarola are illustrated in the painting of Sandro Botticelli ‘The Mystical Nativity’, circa 1500-1501; tempera on canvas, 108,5 x 75 cm, preserved in the National Gallery, London. The board of the National Gallery wrote:
‘Sandro Botticelli painted the ‘Mystic Nativity’, dated 1500, at the turn of the half-millennium. At first glance the painting seems to show a conventional Nativity scene. Shepherds and wise men have come to visit the new-born king, while angels in the heavens dance and sing hymns of praise. However, the text at the top of the picture, veiled in scholarly Greek, provides a key to further layers of meaning.
The Greek inscription has been translated: ‘I Sandro made this picture at the conclusion of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of Saint John in the second woe of the Apocalypse during the loosing of the devil for three and a half years then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see […] as in this picture.’ ‘
The missing words may have been ‘him burying himself’. The ‘half time after the time’ has been generally understood as a year and a half earlier, that is, in 1498, when the French invaded Italy, but it may mean a half millennium (500 years) after a millennium (1000 years): 1500, the date of the painting.

Savonarola had arrived in Florence in 1490 but had been repelled by the artistic glory and enormous wealth that so impressed the world. He preached that this was a corrupt and vice-ridden place. A great scourge was approaching – and then his words had assumed a terrifying reality. In 1494 a huge French army invaded Italy and 10000 troops entered Florence so that the Florentines feared the King of France meant to sack the city. Savonarola stepped into the political vacuum, he met with the French king and persuaded him to leave Florence peacefully. In their gratitude and relief the Florentines increasingly saw the friar as a prophet and his preaching attracted huge crowds to Florence Cathedral. Savonarola claimed that Florence could become the new Jerusalem if the citizens would repent and abandon their sinful luxuries – and that included much of their art. His beliefs were made real as groups of evangelical youths went on to the streets to encourage people to part with their luxuries, their lewd pictures, and books, their vanities, combs, mirrors. Botticelli may well have seen his own paintings fed to the flames. Yet the artist might not have objected because, like much of the city, he too had come under the sway of Savonarola. It seems that a sermon preached by Savonarola bears directly upon the Mystical Nativity.
In one sermon Savonarola preached he set forth a vision that had come to him in which he saw an extraordinary heavenly crown. At its base were twelve hearts with twelve ribbons wrapped around them and written on these in Latin were the unique mystical qualities or privileges of the Virgin Mary – she is ‘mother of her father’, ‘daughter of her son’, ‘bride of God’ etc. Though much of the writing on the ribbons held by the dancing angels is now invisible to the naked eye, infra-red reflectography has shown that the original words on the angels ribbons correspond exactly to Savonarola’s 12 privileges of the Virgin. In his sermon, preached on Assumption Day, Savonarola went on to explore the 11th and 12th chapters of the Book of Revelation – the precise chapters mentioned in the painting’s inscription. He connected the glory of Mary with the imminent coming of the power of Christ on earth.

Years Savonarola held Florence in his hand but his hard line charismatic rule made him powerful political enemies. He was challenged to prove his holiness by walking through fire and when he refused the tide of opinion turned against him. He was arrested, and under torture confessed to being a false prophet. On 23 May 1498 he was hanged with two of his leading lieutenants, their bodies burnt and their ashes scattered in the River Arno. Some see the figures of the three men at the bottom of the painting as representatives of the three executed holy men, raised up and restored to grace – but persecution not peace awaited Savonarola’s followers and it was in an atmosphere of oppression that Botticelli set out to create the Mystic Nativity.

The painting has some dark symbolic premonitions, including:

  • the baby Jesus rests on a sheet that evokes his death shroud;
  • the cave echoes his tomb;
  • the Kings on the left bear no gifts;
  • at the bottom of the painting, three angels embrace three men, seeming to raise them from the ground;
  • at the very bottom of the canvas, seven devils flee to the underworld; and
  • some of the devils impaled on their weapons.

On the reassuring side, the painting includes the following:

  • at the top of the picture twelve angels dressed in the colors of faith, hope and charity dance in a circle;
  • the angels are holding olive branches;
  • above the angels, heaven opens in a great golden dome;
  • the symbolism of the gold is the unchanging, untarnished nature of heaven; and
  • the angels at the bottom are holding scrolls which proclaim in Latin, “Peace on earth to men of goodwill.”

The painting uses the medieval convention of showing the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus larger than other figures. This emphasis was certainly done deliberately for effect, as earlier Botticelli nativity paintings used the correct graphical perspective. The Greek inscription at the top translates as:

“This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh [chapter] of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three-and-a-half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth [chapter], and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture”.

Savonarola’s Impact

This painting may be connected with the influence of Savonarola, whose influence also appears in some late pictures by Botticelli. The painting emerged when the fanatical preacher Savonarola held the city of Florence in his grip. He had arrived in Florence in 1490 but had been repelled by its artistic glory and wealth. He preached that this art was corrupt, and a great scourge was approaching. His words became a terrifying reality during the Italian War of 1494–1498. In 1494 a vast French army invaded Italy, and 10,000 troops entered Florence, and the citizens feared the sack of their city. Savonarola stepped into the political vacuum; he met with the French king and persuaded him to leave Florence peacefully. In their gratitude, and relief, the Florentines increasingly saw the friar as a prophet, and his preaching attracted huge crowds.

Savonarola claimed that Florence could become the new Jerusalem if the citizens would repent and abandon their sinful luxuries, including their art. His beliefs were made real as groups of evangelical youths went on to the streets to encourage people to part with their luxuries, their pictures, and books, their vanities, combs, mirrors. Botticelli may well have seen his paintings thrown into the flames. The artist might not have objected because, as much of the city, he too was fearful of Savonarola. Savonarola’s fearful sermons must have affected the Mystical Nativity.

For years Savonarola held Florence in his grip, but his hard-line rule made him powerful enemies. He was challenged to prove his holiness by walking through fire, and when he refused, the tide of opinion turned against him. He was arrested, and under torture, confessed to being a false prophet. In 1498 he was hanged with two of his lieutenants. Their bodies were then burnt.

Bonfire of the Vanities

The ‘bonfire of the vanities’ usually refers to the fire of 1497, when supporters of Savonarola collected and burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence. The focus of this destruction was on objects that might tempt one to sin, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, elegant dresses, playing cards, and musical instruments. Other targets included books that were deemed to be immoral, manuscripts of secular songs, and artworks, including paintings and sculptures.

Great Tribulation

The Great Tribulation is a period mentioned by Jesus as a sign that would occur in the time of the end. In Revelation, “the Great Tribulation” is used to indicate the period spoken of by Jesus, however, in the context of those hard-pressed by siege and the calamities of war.  Christian eschatology is the study of ‘end things.’ The study includes the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world, and the nature of the Kingdom of God.

There are many passages in the Bible, which speak of a time of terrible tribulation, such as has never been known. Time of natural and human-made disasters on a grand scale. Jesus said that at the time of his coming, “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever will be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.” [Mt 24:21-22]

  • Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity, Savonarola and the Millennium

….Already by 1400 the theme of the reconciliation of the heavenly virtues was
being used for reform propaganda. According to the chronicler Luca Dominici,
notices relating to the Book of Revelation (so he says) were posted on the doors of
the main churches of Bologna, reading:
Through the world a multitude of the peoples dressed in white and shining stoles, shouting, ‘Lord, grant us peace and mercy’. And at last, when Righteousness and Peace had
descended from heaven, they kissed each other. And Truth and Peace arose upon the earth, and the true shepherd of all will become known, and the righteous king will arise on earth …

The purpose of such notices was to encourage the Bianchi, then converging in
great numbers upon Rome for the Jubilee.16 We encounter three of the heavenly
virtues in a song by Girolamo Benivieni, one of Savonarola’s closest followers, in
which he describes a visit by Christ to Florence in order to see and judge the newly
reformed city. Mercy and Righteousness come before him and embrace each other
and are then joined by Peace. The song, published in 1500, was probably written
during Savonarola’s lifetime, to be sung by groups of his most ardent followers.’
In a sermon given in December 1494 Savonarola himself used the image of the
heavenly virtues to illustrate how great God’s love was for Florence:
I have told you several times in the past, Florence, that even though God has everywhere  prepared a great scourge, nevertheless on the other hand he loves you and is fond of you.
And so it can be said that in you has been realised that saying, ‘Mercy and truth are met
together’, that is, Mercy and Righteousness [sic] have come together in the city of Florence.
From the one side came the scourge, and Mercy came towards it from the other side, and,  ‘righteousness and peace have kissed each other’, and have embraced together, and God has  wished to show you justice and on the other hand be merciful to you, and save you…

This passage appears to bear not only on the Mystic Nativity but on the Mystic Crucifixion as well.

Each of the twelve angels in the circle at the top of the Mystic Nativity has at least one ribbon bearing an inscription in Latin or sometimes Italian . Each of the seven surviving
inscriptions conforms exactly to one of what Savonarola, in his Compendio di revelatione, first published in 1495, calls the  twelve ‘privileges’ of the Virgin.

  • The  twelve ‘privileges’ of the Virgin

The  ‘privileges’ are part of an allegorical  crown offered to Mary by the Florentine people, and occur on banderoles surmounting the twelve hearts in the lowest  of its three tiers .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the which banderoles were written twelve privileges of the Virgin with words of prayer,
which are these:

Two in relation to the Everlasting Father: The first: Sposa di Dio Padre vera, because God the Father and she have  one and the same son. The second: Sposa  di Dio Padre admiranda, because just as the  Father gave birth from eternity to his Son in  heaven without a mother, so she gave birth  on earth to that same Son without a father.

Two others in relation to the Son: First: Madre di Dio. Second: Madre del suo padre, because Jesus Christ was the Son and is God the Creator of the Universe, who created her.

Two in relation to the Holy Ghost: First: she is Sacrario dello Spirito Sancto singulare, because by it she was singularly full of all of the graces. Second: Sacrario ineffabile, because the Holy Ghost made her fit to be the mother of the Creator of the Universe.

Two in relation to her virginity: First: she is Vergine delle vergine, because no other virgin can be compared to this one, who was never spotted by any venial or mortal sin. Second: she is Vergine fecunda, because she alone is virgin and mother.

Two in relation to the Church Triumphant and the whole universe: First: that she is Regina sola del mondo, because she is the true Spouse and Mother and Shrine of the King of the World, who is God Threefold and One. Second: Regina sopra tutte le creature honoranda, because … she is honoured much more highly than all the saints, and with an honour that is called ‘hyperdulia’.

Two last ones in relation to the present Church Militant: First: she is Dolcezza di cuore delli giusti, because through her they beg for many favours from God, and her love is ‘sweeter than honey and the honeycomb’, which love amazingly makes their souls and bodies chaste. Second: that she is Speranza delli  peccatori et delle persone miserabili, because through her prayers and merits they hope to beg for  mercy from God. These twelve privileges, then, were written on those twelve banderoles in this form: Sponsa Dei Patris vera, ora pro nobis; Sponsa Dei Patris admiranda, intercede pro nobis. And thus also followed all the others.

There is good reason to believe that there is a tropological dimension to the
painting. The known Savonarolan sources on which the Mystic Nativity draws are all
moral in intent, and the painting exhorts us to worship the Child truly and become
reconciled with our brothers. Unlike most Italian pictures of the time, it is clearly
structured into groups of significant numbers and combinations of white, green,
and red. Significant numbers were the almost irresistable cue for late-medieval theologians to list a set of moral precepts, and Savonarola was no exception to this
rule. White, green, and red usually symbolise Faith, Hope, and Charity respectively.


That perhaps is what they do in Botticelli’s painting also. But caution is necessary.
For Savonarola Faith may be green and Hope sky blue,’ whereas white, green, and
red may stand for any number of other things.
To conclude, I shall propose three possible interpretations of the painting, taking them in ascending order of probability, before ending with an observation  about its theme.

Firstly, the Mystic Nativity might be, along with the Mystic Crucifixion in the Fogg
Art Museum , a picture intended for the boys in the group of Bernardino
dei Fanciulli or another Savonarolan association like it. This is suggested by the
highly ‘naive’ syntax of both paintings, the great stress on angels, and the fact that
in both paintings the symbols of evil-five small and apparently self-destructed
demons in the case of the Mystic Nativity and two small and seemingly unferocious
animals in that of the Mystic Crucifixion-do not appear to be intended as frightening. As a further slight but perhaps relevant indication, in the only volume of the ‘collected works’ of Bernardino dei Fanciulli, there are just two illustrations, one  showing the Nativity and the other the Crucifixion. Against the possibility that these two pictures were intended for children is of course the presence of the Greek inscription to the Mystic Nativity. But as we have seen, that inscription might have  been added later;  if so, perhaps it was added with the purpose of ‘redefining’ the painting. In this connection we should note that Bernardino and his group were  forced into exile in 1500-and according to the inscription it was ‘at the end of the  year 1500, in the troubles of Italy’ that the Mystic Nativity was painted.
Secondly, the painting might be a cryptic representation of the Millennium-or rather those features of it in which Botticelli believed and which he thought to be in harmony with the predictions that Savonarola had made. During such a Millennium those Florentines who truly believed would reign with Christ their king. As we have seen, the Millennium begins with the binding of Satan. Accepted Catholic doctrine holds that it therefore begins, figuratively, with the birth of Christ. It is even possible that the word ‘time’ in the painting’s Greek inscription means ‘millennium’, as in Francesco da Meleto’s interpretation.176 The mortals being embraced by angels and led by them to the manger would be the martyrs and saints who live again through the First Resurrection -or whomever else it was that Botticelli might have thought these Apocalyptic persons stood for. Their crowns of olive would be the crowns of martyrdom or righteousness. It at first strikes one as unlikely that Botticelli would have shown the Millennium in an age in which it was rarely mentioned. But of those persons who believed in the Millennium at the time, how many actually ventured to  say so in print? If the Mystic Nativity does represent the Millennium in any real sense, firstly, the painting is in this respect unique as far as we know; secondly, it is  thoroughly heretical. We recall that-if for the wrong reasons-Vasari believed  Botticelli to have been a heretic.

The third possible interpretation is that the painting is a figuration of an ‘Apocalyptic’ birth of Christ, in which allusions to the reconciliation of the heavenly virtues with one another and with mankind, the ‘crown’ of Mary, and the Millennium (or the casting out of Satan) are elements of a complex and yet ‘simple’ allegory of the future in which Botticelli believed.

That future would, through the intercession of Mary, see the ‘birth’ of Christ in the hearts of the Florentines. Through the mercy of divine Grace, the Florentines would be filled with charity and love towards one another and be reconciled with the angels and their God.

There would thus come to pass that peace and goodness which the devil cannot abide and which would cause his downfall: ‘Now is come the power of Christ on earth; the
dragon has lost’.
Whatever it is that the Mystic Nativity shows, the chances are that it took great
courage for Botticelli to paint it.

  • Where heaven shall touch earth

The overriding theme of the Mystic Nativity, because of the large number of olive branches in it, appears to be peace. But we should do well to remember that in
Botticelli’s time the olive was usually a symbol of mercy.

In Savonarola’s ‘1493’ Christmas sermon it is Mercy, not Peace, who holds a branch of olive. Moreover, wreaths of olive conveying thoughts of mercy and repentance had recently come into use in one of Florence’s most important public rituals, the offering of little torches by pardoned offenders at the city’s Baptistry. These persons had formerly
been led to the Baptistry in chains, but from 1493 at the latest each is described as
being led, ‘in the usual way, his head uncovered, with a crown [or garland] of olive,
with a little torch in his hands… preceded by trumpets’.

Now, one of the conditions for receiving pardon at the time was that an offender make ‘peace’ with the offended party. Perhaps onlookers remembered this as the olive-wreathed offenders were marched past them. But surely what was uppermost in their thoughts was that these transgressors had come to repent what they had done and were now receiving mercy. Indeed, what Botticelli and many others who lived during his age probably hoped for more than anything else but also in our times , was Mercy.

The Principle of Verticality

  • The Principle of Verticality  by M. Ali Lakhani

The spiritual man is one who transcends himself and loves to transcend himself;the worldly man remains horizontal and detests the vertical dimension.

Frithjof Schuon

The  principle  of  verticality,  which  is  a  fundamental  principle  of traditional wisdom, is based on the affirmation of transcendence as an aspect of a comprehensive and integrated reality that is Absolute.

According to this understanding, reality has both a transcendent Origin and an immanent Center, which are one, rather than being reduced to the merely horizontal dimension of its existential or quantitative elements.

Verticality implies both Heaven and Earth, a worldview in which meaning and purpose are defined principally by both height and depth,and secondarily by breadth – that is, principally by man’s relationship to God, who is simultaneously ‘above’ and ‘within’ creation, and who there-fore governs all creaturely relationships – rather than by breadth alone –that is, solely in terms of the relationship between the subject and the world.

It also implies that the horizontal is subordinate to the vertical,that is to say, the relationship between man and the world is premised on the primary relationship between God and man: to restate this in Christian terms, the love of one’s neighbor is premised on one’s love for God. According to the traditional worldview, existence is transcended by a supreme reality, which, whether expressed in theistic or non-theisticterms, is Absolute, and which, without derogating from its unity, is si-multaneously (at the level of the primary hypostasis) expressed by the horizontal ternary, Truth or the Solely Subsistent Reality, Goodness or the Perfection and Font of all Qualities, and Beauty or Abiding Serenity and the Source of its Radiant Effulgence: in Platonic terms, the True, the Good and the Beautiful.

All creation is prefigured in this supreme reality,which projects existence out of its own Substance into a world of form (hence etymologically, ex-stare, to stand out of, or to subsist from, as the formal world of existence stands out of, and subsists from, the Divine Substance) through a vertical ternary comprising, first, the Essential or Principial Absolute (which is Beyond-Being), second, the Relative-Absolute Source of Archetypes (which is the primary hypostasis of Being), and third, the realm of Manifestation (which is Existence).

Tree of Life and Death Flanked by Eve and Mary-Ecclesia

  • Description: This image precedes the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi in a missal created for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The central roundel depicts a tree that bears both fruit and sacramental hosts. It thus combines the paradisaical Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge from Eden. On the right is Eve, who hands a forbidden fruit to a man kneeling at her feet. A death’s head appears among the fruits on her side of the tree. The tempting serpent winds around the trunk, and offers Eve another piece of fruit from its mouth. On the left side is Mary-Ecclesia. Rather than a death’s head, a crucifix hangs on this side. Instead of fruit, Mary-Ecclesia administers one of the hosts to a kneeling man who opens his mouth to accept it, and she is in the process of plucking yet another wafer. She is presented as a mirror image of Eve and thus the salvific antidote to the Fall. An angel accompanies Mary-Ecclesia on the left and Death accompanies Eve on the right. Both hold banderoles bearing text. Adam reclines in a gesture of sorrow at the base of the tree and also holds a banderole. In the upper two roundels are princely figures who hold banderoles bearing the text of Psalm 77:25 on the left    ( Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance”).and Psalm 36:16 on the right ( “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked”). Three shepherds depicted below illustrate Thomas Aquinas’s Corpus Christi sequence “Lauda ducem et pastorum,” but they also embody the virtues expected of a good ruler. The one on the left is the personification of “Prudentia,” the one in the center is “Regalitas,” and the one on the right is “Verus Pastor.” All are accompanied by banderoles.
  • Inscription: Angel: ecce panis angelorum factus cibus viatorum [behold the bread of angels made food for pilgrims]; Death: mors est malus vita bonis inde [death is evil, life therefore is goodness]; Upper left prince: Panem angelorum manducavit homo

The world itself,and its creatures, including man, as such, are therefore of derivative significance and are accidental in relation to the supreme reality, which alone is substantial. The world is transient, ephemeral and illusory.

TheDivine Substance alone is permanent and real. This view of the transcendent, supreme and substantial reality of the Absolute (which, according to the principle of verticality, is described in terms of its elevation orperfection in relation to creation) finds its expression in all religious traditions:

O Arjuna! There is nothing higher than Me; all is strung uponMe like pearls on a string.” (Bhagavad Gita, vii. 7);

8th-century illustration of Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family: Shiva and Parvati, cradling Skanda with Ganesha by Shiva’s side.

It may be considered the mother of the universe./I do not know its name; I call it Tao./If forced to give it a name, I shall call it Great.” (Tao-te-Ching xxv);

His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm cxlv. 3);

In the world, inclusive of its gods, substance is seen in what is insubstantial. They are tied to their psychophysial beings and so they think that there is some substance, some reality in them. But whatever be the phenomenon through which they think of seeking their self-identity, it turns out to be transitory. It becomes false,for what lasts for a moment is deceptive. The state that is not deceptiveis Nirvana: that is what the men of worth know as being real. With this insight into reality their hunger ends: cessation, total calm.” (Sutta Nipata756-58);

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blowsupon it…The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our Godwill stand forever.” (Isaiah xl. 6-8);

Therefore you must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew, v. 48);

“Glory to God, the Lord of the Throne; high is He above what they attribute to Him!” (Qur’an,xxi. 22)

;

“All that is on the earth will perish: But the face of thy Lord willabide forever – full of Majesty, Bounty, and Honor.” (Qur’an, lv. 26-27).

Looking to the Spiritual vertical way, as the Maypole do, gives us an opportunity of discerning an understanding between Non-Virtues and Virtues,  developing Spiritual values needed in our times.

We need to be sincere with our selves , to be “upright” strictly honourable and  honest, as the symbol of the Maypole is.it is the Axis Mundi, in 20th-century comparative mythology, the term axis mundi — also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, or world tree — was greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms.

Together we can initiate and erect a maypole as various European folk festivals do, in respect of the safely coming of Spring. But as many Folklores in Europe did, to keep it more permantly,  we can plant a Lime Tree in the center of the village of on squares in the city, to keep the remenbering of  “uprightness”,of sincerity in our mind, in our heart and in our allday lives. In this way,as  in many folklores of Europe, they recognize their dependance to Nature and their submission to something Higher than themselves. And happy they danced under the Lime Tree on important opportunities.  Man has always be in need of a symbol, but certainly a symbol for communality and fraternity: The Path to the Maypole of Wisdom – Forum for Ethics, Virtues and Uprightness.

Deepfakes and the infocalypse

  • Are we moving towards a world without truth?

Due to the rise of social media, information bubbles and the possibilities of Deepfakes, we no longer live in a shared reality. How further? We live in an “infocalypse,” says British disinformation expert Nina Schick. In her book Deepfakes and the Infocalypse – What You Urgently Need to Know, she sketches a society that is overrun by too much information, whereby no distinction can be made between ‘information’ and ‘disinformation’.

In this virtual briefing with WIRED editor Greg Williams and Nina Schick, political broadcaster and author of Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, they explore the rise of fake news and the disturbingly outsized impact this type of misinformation has on how we think and behave – and on what we believe. “If you look at how corrupt our information ecosystem has become, deepfakes didn’t emerge in a vacuum – what we’re actually seeing is how the age of information and all the rapid exponential technological advances attached to the age of information which have had many positive benefits, also have a darker underbelly.” says Schick in this 25-minute briefing. Designed as an extension of WIRED’s long-running live conference portfolio, these punchy, deliberate and engaging sessions reflect the same high calibre of speakers and programming featured at a WIRED event.

Book Excerpt

From Deepfakes by Nina Schick

There is a viral video of President Obama on YouTube, with almost 7.5 million views. The title lures you in: “You Won’t Believe What Obama Says In This Video!”

Obama looks straight into the camera. Seated in a deep mahogany chair, he appears to be in the Oval Office. He’s aged – you can tell from his salt-and-pepper hair. But he looks confident, relaxed. Over his right shoulder, you catch a glimpse of the American flag. As usual, Obama is dressed impeccably: a crisp white shirt and a blue tie. On his left lapel, he’s sporting a US-flag pin.

You click play. “We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything in any point in time,” Obama begins. “Even if they would never say those things. So, for instance…” he continues, gesturing with his hands, “they could have me say things like President Trump is a total and complete dipshit!” His eyes seem to glimmer with a hint of a smile. Obama continues: “Now, you see, I would never say these things, at least not in a public address.”

Obama never did say those things. The video was fake – a so-called ‘deepfake’, created with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Welcome to the future, one in which AI is getting powerful enough to make people say things they never said and do things they never did. Anyone can be targeted, and everyone can deny everything. In our broken information ecosystem – characterized by misinformation and disinformation – AI and deepfakes are the latest evolving threat.

  • Spatial Horizontality thinking:

Illustrating the technosphere’s expansion requires that technology be considered through representations of the technosphere as an infrastructural or networked whole. Examples of these are gas pipelines, intercontinental food freighting, and instant communication using an Internet connection. If the technology is networked into a flow of energy and matter, it is not only a thing unto itself but also represents a systemic component of the technosphere. The horizontal movement of technology across the Earth’s surface demonstrates both the magnitude of systemic interconnections and, correspondingly, the difficulty of distinguishing human agency in the extraction of energy and matter when the expansion spans great distances with effects on several environments.

What is a deepfake?

A deepfake is a type of ‘synthetic media,’ meaning media (including images, audio and video) that is either manipulated or wholly generated by AI.

Technology has consistently made the manipulation of media easier and more accessible (ie through tools like Photoshop and Instagram filters). But recent advances in AI are going to take it further still, by giving machines the power to generate wholly synthetic media. This will have huge implications on how we produce content, and how we communicate and interpret the world. This technology is still nascent, but in a few years’ time anyone with a smartphone will be able to produce Hollywood-level special effects at next to no cost, with minimum skill or effort.

While this will have many positive applications – movies and computer games are going to become ever more spectacular – it will also be used as a weapon.

When used maliciously as disinformation, or when used as misinformation, a piece of synthetic media is called a ‘deepfake’. This is my definition for the word. Because this field is still so new, there is still no consensus on the taxonomy.  However, because there are positive as well as negative uses-cases for synthetic media, I distinguish a ‘deepfake’ specifically as any synthetic media that is used for mis- and disinformation purposes.

The Obama YouTube video was produced by the Hollywood Director Jordan Peele and Buzzfeed, and was intended to be educational, serving as a warning for these potential negative use cases of synthetic media.

As ‘Obama’ goes on to say, “Moving forward we need to be more vigilant with what we trust on the Internet. It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the Age of Information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or if we become some fucked-up dystopia.”

With the advent of social media, different groups in our society have the tendency to increasingly withdraw into their own ‘echo rooms.’ In this they experience their own ‘subjective truth.’ This makes it increasingly difficult to reach a consensus on how the ‘real’ world should be seen. A new effective and influential step in the dissemination of dis- and misinformation is the emergence of synthetic media.

How do synthetic media change our perception of reality?

Deek fakes are computer and artificial intelligence (A.I.) generated audio and / or video fragments that can no longer be distinguished from “real”. In this context, consider the video of the British Queen Elizabeth, who (initially) gave a serious Christmas speech but later ended up dancing on the tables of Buckingham Palace. In this broadcast, VPRO Tegenlicht investigates what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’. And what role synthetic media play in our experience of “reality”. An exploration of the future with three prominent thinkers in which both the dangers and the positive potential of these media are discussed. In this context, think of deep fake as a therapy and as a new artistic form of expression.

  • The Transhumanist Fallacy

By M. Ali LakhaniAnd

Satan whispered unto him and said: ‘O Adam, shall I show thee the Tree of Immortality and a kingdom that fadeth not away?’ — Qur’an, XX: 120

‘...machines cannot overtake human intelligence, but men surely can relinquish their original condition, repudiate their intelligence and willingly surrender to technology’s artifice; they can, indeed, reach such a point of stultification as to reduce their consciousness to the level of computer data, and, on comparing the two machines, there is no doubt, the computer is more capable.’ – Agustín López Tobajas, Manifesto Against Progress

In the last few decades, our world has been revolutionized by inventions such as the internet, the tablet and the smartphone. According to some claims, it is now bracing for the next, and, it is anticipated, more profound, technological revolution — transhumanism, the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) which is expected to usher in what is being termed the ‘Transhuman Era’, one that will blur the distinction between man and machine, and radically redefine what it means to be human. In fact it is being asserted that this new era has already dawned. In August 2018, Forbes proclaimed its advent and cautioned that its emerging technologies, while ‘saving lives, extending lives and even redefining life’, will raise many new ethical challenges.

What is ‘transhumanism’? Denoted by the sign ‘H+’, transhumanism can be defined as the ideology which seeks to modify or improve the human race and overcome its biological limitations by, for instance, prolonging human life or otherwise ‘augmenting’ the human organ‑ism through NBIC technologies such as gene therapy and cybernetic engineering. Though the concepts underlying the ideology are older, the term ‘transhumanism’ itself came to prominence in a 1957 essay by Sir Julian Huxley, in which he outlined its key aim — the ‘transcendence’ of the human species.Read more here

Lady with the Unicorn

The fame of the tapestry series entitled “The Lady with the Unicorn” comes both from the simplicity of its composition and the depth of its mystery. The charm of the Lady and young Lady accompanying her, the placidity of the mythical, exotic and familiar animals, the background decorated with trees bearing fruit and thousand of spring flowers give the impression of a poetic world imbued with strong sense of serenity.

The whole set was created at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century, probably at the request of a nobility family, the coat of arms of which can be found on each of the tapestries. The creation and realization were probably entrusted to a workshop from the Master of Anne of Brittany. After an eventful journey, the six tapestries ended up in 1882 in the Museum of Cluny in Paris. The relationship between five of the tapestries and the five senses, by A.F. Kendrick in 1921, has notably improved the comprehension of the series. The last tapestry, entitled “My sole desire”, was interpreted as a “sixth sense” and gave rise to many commentaries. This “sixth sense” is usually interpreted as a “sensitive intuition” that lets us “feel” things.

 

The tapestries are presented in a sequence in accordance with the medieval hierarchy of the five senses. The sense hierarchy the most frequently seen in the texts from that time is based on their more or less proximity with the soul. That is in increasing order: Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing and Sight, all crowned by My sole desire.

 

Touch

Taste

Smell

Hearing

Sight

My sole desire

Now, the soul represents, at the individual level, an intermediary domain between the physical and spiritual ones. The soul is the individual reflection of the Principle at the source of all things, the Unity that governs the world. It consequently depicts a unifying principle of the various aspects of the being in general and his five senses in particular. A principle that is impalpable, without taste or odour, inaudible and invisible and not accessible by the sensitive way. In fact, only the immediate and direct way of intuition, beyond the simple sensation of feeling something, can give access to the principle knowledge. All the ambiguity of the meaning of the sixth tapestry results from the withheld approach: the strictly sensitive way of the physical being or the supra-sensitive way of the soul proper to the truly human being.

When manifested, the Principle successively actualizes the spiritual, psychical (including the individual soul) and physical aspects. Being a matter for the soul domain, the sense integration principle precedes the appearance of the five physical senses. Conversely, when the ordinary being follows the reversed way, he integrates the various aspects of his person, starting with the most physical, the five senses, which are resorbed into their unifying principle. Note that this double movement of descent and ascent, metaphysical and cosmological, can be found in all the traditional forms, including medieval.

  • The coat of arms common to the six tapestries

The abundant presence of heraldry in the whole set of tapestries naturally evokes the chivalrous world, the courtly love and the willingness to assert one’s belonging to a noble line. Nevertheless, beyond the social importance, the repetition of the coat of arms on all six tapestries also has a symbolic meaning that illuminates the whole set.

The coat of arms is displayed in different forms: a shield, small shield or targe, standard, banner and cape with the coat of arms. The coat of arms represents three crescents argent (silver) on a bend azure (blue) on gules (red).

It shows a waxing Moon (Waxing moon) with the exception of the cape with the coat of arms worn by the lion in sense of taste (see the picture on the left) where the Moon is waning (Waning moon). The same waning Moon can equally be found at the back of the standard in sense of smell. Although the waxing Moon is more visible in accordance with a rising vision towards light, the waning Moon is nevertheless present at the back of the standard and banner. It follows that the coat of arms and the beings carrying them are related to the Moon phases.

Just as the Moon waxes, wanes and disappears before reappearing, the being is born and dies before his re-birth. To the obscure and luminous periods of the Moon correspond the death to certain being’s states and the re-birth in other states of higher order. These state changes principally cover three types of birth:

  • Physical giving rise to the ordinary being;
  • Psychic (and individual soul) at the origin of the proper human being;
  • Spiritual at the source of the supra-human being.

These three births correspond to the three Moon crescents. The first two are related to the ordinary and human nature of the individual and come within the lunar sphere. The third one, of supra-human nature, surpasses the individual order and gives access to the cosmic, indeed supra-cosmic order; the being leaves the lunar sphere to enter the solar sphere. In fact, the true light, the spiritual light can only emanate from the Sun for the Moon does nothing but reflect the solar light. To paraphrase a known saying, if Moon is silver, Sun is golden.

It follows that:

  • The lunar light is a reflected, cool light, without heat, associated with reflection, individual reason and characterized by blue colour;
  • The solar Light is a true, warm, radiating light that gives access to the supra-individual knowledge emanating from the heart and linked to red colour.

As it is necessary, the solar sphere (red) includes the lunar sphere (blue) for the lunar sphere is subordinated to the solar sphere.

The five first tapestries refer principally to the senses, attributes of the ordinary being, and come within lunar sphere alone. Regarding the last piece, it shows the way towards the solar sphere as we will see afterward. Note that the standard and banner poles appear in each tapestry and carry a horizontal crescent (Horizontal crescent) in a cup form.

In the medieval tradition, the cup is destined to receive a unifying element that contains all the others in a undifferentiated state, at the principle state. In a descending movement, the integrated principle is manifested notably under the appearance of the five senses; in an ascending movement, the five senses are resorbed into their principle state, i.e. unified.

  • Mythical, exotic and familiar animals

The lion and the unicorn

The association of the lion, emblematic animal, with the unicorn, mythical animal, is frequent in the heraldic and medieval symbolic. The lion is generally sitting or standing on his hind legs with forelegs outstretched, the mouth open and a tongue sticking out. As for the unicorn (from the Latin “unicornus”), it is mostly represented as a bearded horse carrying a spiral horn on its forehead.

The reddish brown mane encircling the lion’s head symbolizes the terrestrial reflection of the celestial body, the Sun. As a producer of light and heat as the heart within the human body, the Sun is the life symbol in all its fullness, i.e. not only physical, but also psychic and spiritual. The lion is the image of the perfect mastered energy, of the sovereign force and whole power symbolizing at once royalty and Wisdom in the animal world. He does not need to show his claws to show his force.

The white unicorn is on the contrary associated with Moon. As the lunar light is only the reflection of the solar one, the unicorn depicts the feminine, passive principle counterpart of the masculine, active principle represented by the lion.

Of course, the Moon only shines through the Sun, but the Sun can only manifest his active aspect through its relation with the passive Moon. Just as the valiant knight only shines in the eyes of the noble Lady, the masculine principle is only manifested through the feminine principle. Only the manifestation of the oppositions masculine/feminine, active/passive, light/obscurity etc. allows the human being to overcome them and rejoin the world of Unity, the Principle at the source of all things. The double ascending and descending movement between the worlds of Unity and duality is represented by the spiral horn of the animal or rather by her both horns wound around each other as a braid. These two movements operate alongside a vertical axis that we rediscover in the standard or banner pole, the trunk of the trees or the pole carrying the circular pavilion.

The respective positions of the lion and unicorn on each side of the Lady underline the duality of the terrestrial world. The lion or the Sun is associated with full light or South and the unicorn or the Moon with obscurity or North. It follows that the Lady is facing East, the sunrise, the being’s elevation from the terrestrial horizon to the celestial zenith.

The other quadrupeds

The animals play an important role in heraldry and medieval world. The species covering the background dotted with flowers are familiar, wild or exotic: lamb, goat, hare, monkey, lion cub, young unicorn, panther, cheetah, dog, fox and wolf?

The lamb (in Taste) represents the active, luminous, solar principle that sacrifices his unitary origin in order to be manifested in all beings and in all worlds. Although, it is always essentially One and contains all beings and all worlds at a principle state, it externally appears as multiple. This is why, there are two lambs in the world: an inalterable one, standing in the immutable; the other sacrificed, fragmented and divided among all beings. The first is located in the Heart of the World, the second in the heart of men.

The lion cub (in Sight) and the young unicorn (in Taste) prefigure the animal carriers of the coats of arms. They symbolize both poles of the manifestation of the Principle, of the Unity under its various aspects (masculine/feminine, active/passive, light/dark, hot/cold etc.). That shows that the series of the Lady with the unicorn is not limited to a simple figurative representation of the senses, but suggests a movement, a dynamic of the evolution of the world and being.
As the lion and the unicorn, the hare (in Sight) appears in all tapestries. As a nocturnal animal, it is associated with the Moon, the symbolism of which is ambivalent. Its waxing phase corresponds to the ascent towards light, knowledge; his waning phase depicts the descent towards obscurity, ignorance.This ambivalence is underlined by the background colour of the animal, divided in almost equal proportions between blue and red. Overcoming this dilemma means getting out of the lunar sphere (blue) to reach the solar sphere (red). In other words, it is a matter of dying to the states of the ordinary (synonymous of ignorance) and even human being to be re-born in the states of the spiritual being (fully conscious). The symbolism of the wolf, fox and other nocturnal animals comes under the same ambivalent character.

If the wolf decimates the animals bred by man, the dog (in Sight) is the flock guardian which protects from danger. It is undeniably the earliest domesticated animal and the faithful companion of man in his most noble activities, hunting notably. Besides, most of the animals represented in the Lady with the unicorn have a more or less direct connection with hunting. Now, this activity (associated with nobility at that time) takes on two symbolic aspects. On the one hand, the animal death symbolizes the destruction of the wild nature of the being, of his inner devils, of his obscure side. On the other hand, the pursuit and game tracking looks like a spiritual quest, a search for light in the depths of the forest.

In contrast to the eastern tradition, the Christian and medieval tradition perceives the monkey (in Taste) in a negative way. It appears as the manifestation of the basic instincts of man, lust and of malice notably. Endowed despite all with a certain consciousness of the phenomenal world, it is recognized for its imitation faculties. The tapestries of Touch, Taste and Smell make such good use of this tendency that we could sometimes wonder if it is not rather man who monkeys about.

The birds

The birds usually play the role of messenger between Heaven and Earth. Various species (magpie, heron, hawk, partridge, pheasant, parrot and duck?) are displayed on all tapestries except one, Sight. The fact is surprising for an animal with a unequalled visual acuity. Nevertheless, the omission is not as astonishing as it appears. In fact, some traditions have gone as far as comparing the “birds in Heaven” to the “superior being’s states” i.e. to the states belonging to the world beyond, invisible in the eyes of simple mortals.

The preceding comparison is even more valid for hawk, the most represented bird in all pieces. As other birds, it is woven on a red background, the warm colour of the sunrise. It often symbolizes (with the eagle) the masculine and luminous principle, Sun, counterpart of the feminine and dark principle, Moon, associated with hare.

  • Trees and flowers

Sessile oak, orange-tree, pine and holly

The six tapestries are decorated with two or four trees bearing fruit (sessile oak, orange-tree, pine and holly). The fruit contains seeds destined to be disseminated. The seed represents the germ, the grain source of a multitude of other trees. It symbolizes the primeval Unity, the Principle of the manifestation of all the beings and all the things. The inalterable character of Unity is notably underlined by the evergreen foliage (orange-tree, pine and holly) or the extreme longevity (sessile oak) of these trees

.

        Oak       range tree    Tree of Life     Holly           Pine

Tasting the fruit of the tree leads the being either to rediscover his spiritual original nature or to find his human or ordinary condition according to the tree nature:

  • The Fruit of the “Middle tree” erected at the “World Centre” or the “Tree of Life” located in the middle of the terrestrial Paradise confers to the being who tastes it the access to eternal life, to immortality proper to the spiritual world;
  • The fruit of the “Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil”, also situated in the garden of Eden, sends the one who tastes it back to his condition of ordinary being and to the duality of the temporal world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the ordinary being passes most of his existence, if not the totality, away from the Centre he is coming from and towards which he is called back. He can rediscover it, after number of tests, in order to taste the fruit of the “Tree of Life” and recover his original unified state. Conversely, the being that eats the fruit of the “Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil” must leave Paradise, abandon his unified nature and discover his condition of ordinary being. That is the meaning associated to Adam’s banishment from Paradise and the fall. This is the moment when Adam acquires “knowing good and evil” (Genesis III,22), i.e. starts considering all things from the duality point of view.

Wild and cultivated flowers

The flower setting evokes the hanging patterns in medieval civil residences. Woven with the greatest care, this flower carpet constitutes a seedling of around forty species representative of the flora at that time. It is divided into:

  • Wild flowers from fields and woods (columbine, aster, digital, wallflower, hyacinth, daffodil, marguerite, lily of the valley, daisy, periwinkle, Veronica, violet etc.);
  • Cultivated flowers (jasmine, carnation).

Beyond its specific meaning, the flower symbolizes the feminine, passive principle of manifestation. It represents the receptacle, the cup destined to receive the masculine, active influence alongside the vertical axis notably depicted by the pole of the banner or standard. In this respect, it is similar to the horizontal crescent woven on the same pole.

Moreover, the blooming flower also portrays the development of the manifestation in all its diversity, a diversity represented by the flower variety and the number of petals.

This double meaning, as receptacle and development, is particularly true for the emblematic flower of the Middle Ages, the rose, appearing in the fence of Taste. The influence of Heaven is often symbolized by the “celestial dew” dropping from the Tree of Life and manifested into the variety of flowers, colours and perfumes.

It is particularly interesting to observe that this development is more obvious for wild flowers, symbols of the surrounding nature, than cultivated flowers, product of the medieval culture. The latter are in fact less numerous and carry five petals only depicting the five senses. The petals are placed around the chalice, heart of the flower symbolizing the “sixth sense”.

  • “My sole desire”

The motto

Written at the top of the pavilion, the motto “My sole desire” is inserted between the two letters A and probably I or Y.

Would this motto be used as a link between two initials ? It seems to be really the case. At first, the three words of the motto are separated by two groups of five points so as to form a whole. Next, the motto is separated by a point from the first letter and two points from the second. The union of these two initials belonging to two beings is not my dearest wish, but my supreme, my ultimate, my unique, my only, my sole desire. Who can speak like that except the consignee(s) of the series of the six tapestries. Is it the couple itself or a close parent ?

This hymn to love would perfectly fit with the exacerbation of the five senses underlined by the presence of animals and plants in the series. And “My sole desire” could crown the whole set. Then, it would be easy to go on and on about the event continuation.

Nevertheless, the union of two beings that deeply love each other also symbolizes the union of the masculine and feminine natures within the couple. A union that tries to restore the unified, primeval or Edenic state preceding the fall. A fall that corresponds to the manifestation of the variety of beings and senses. The passage from the unified to the duality world, since the original state, is a necessary step to experience the senses and to become aware of the lost reality. If we give credit to Aristophanes in Plato’s mouth, love would be nothing but an attempt to rediscover the lost unity through the frantic quest of the soul mate. See The double meaning of the Androgyne.

Is the Lady this soul mate ? Is she ready to rejoin the one she loves in the pavilion ? Or else, is she in quest of this lost unity ? Will she rediscover the primeval state where the being no longer sees a world filled with antagonisms, but complementarities which are melting into Unity. Indeed, duality does not belong to the manifested world, but to our perception of that world. As long as we stay divided inside ourselves, we will not be able to accept the world as it is and ourselves as we are in reality, that means unified. The moment however we overcome our sensitive perceptions, go back against the original flow, attain the integrating principle governing our senses and become aware of the Unity ruling the world, all fears, cravings and illusions attached to our dualistic perception of things and beings are flying away. We are ready to leave the world of senses to rediscover the unified state of senses and being. We are ready to go back home, to leave the outer world to re-discover our inner world symbolized by the pavilion.

The pavilion

The pavilion immediately strikes the observer by the emptiness filling it. Emptiness reflects the non-manifestation of beings and things, the potentialized source, the Unity at the origin of everything in this world.

Even the central pole carrying the pavilion canvas is invisible. The pole represents the link between the big top of the pavilion, symbol of the celestial vault, and the ground covered with flowers and portraying the terrestrial world. Descended, the pole symbolizes the terrestrial manifestation of all beings and all things contained in the celestial Unity; ascended, it depicts the being ascension from his ordinary or terrestrial condition to the spiritual or celestial states.

It follows that:

  • The way out of the pavilion corresponds to the way of the manifestation of beings and discovery of senses symbolized by the Lady carrying the necklace to her neck;
  • The way into the pavilion expresses the return path from the outer experience of the senses towards the inner experience of the being described by the Lady getting rid of her jewels.

Representative of the World Axis, the pole rises to the zenith, the peak of the sun. It symbolizes the solar beam carrying light and irradiating the whole pavilion inside. The pavilion opening portrays the passage between the darkness of the midnight blue of the outer world and the light of the golden yellow of the inner world, between the lunar and the solar world and vice versa.

The Lady is still outside the pavilion. She may be ready to leave the world of senses, but only so she can reach the level of their integration. In contrast to the senses that only come within the bodily and outer domain, their integrated state borders on a relatively inner domain. It follows that even after having entered inside the pavilion, the lady will still be in the lunar sphere depicted by the blue ground. The elevation towards superior and spiritual states, alongside the Axis symbolized by the invisible pole, requests to go beyond the sole domain of the individual soul to reach the domain of the Soul of the World.

Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness

Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness
by David Catherine

We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we have less communication. We have become long on quantity but short on quality. These are the times of fast foods, but slow digestion; tall man, but short character; steep profits, but shallow relationships. It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

Dalai Lama

We live in a time of immense social, psychological and environmental change. Enrapt by politically heroic (and yet unsustainable) solutions; multi-national research bias; “PowerPoint” presentation charts (aspiring to ninety-degree trend-lines); new “World Records” on “BREAKING NEWS!”; precision-guided missiles; broadband uploads / downloads on hyper-threaded CPUs (with “the world at our fingertips”); “think-tank” video conferencing; post-human bio-technology; “Scientifically Proven!”; “NEW!”; “NOW!”; “WOW!”; “Wi-Fi” mobile connectivity; “That’s Entertainment!”; “must-have” manufactured needs; Celebrity TV; Pop-Quiz Game-Show; high-speed car chases with guns blazing; “Wrestle Mania;” “Da Vinci” porcelain veneers; “heroin-chic” anorexia on fashion cat-walks; silicone sunsets on Miami Beaches – and munching on a cheeseburger delivered by a clown in a yellow and red costume, to the theme tune of “We are the Champions” – it seems as though we are sufficiently desensitized to the extreme realities that surround us.

“What-eh-va!” is fast becoming our most admired and most broadcast catchphrase. If the corporate boardroom doesn’t get to us first, we can be sure that the product packaging or the metrosexual fashion-police will. No-thanks to the latest in pop-psychology, it is clear that hyper-entertainment and hedonism are gaining ground as prescription for our current malaise; regular doses of this medication are enough to distract anyone who might sense any madness in global affairs. It appears we are so high on “YES!” we have forgotten the value of “No.”

Having worked in environmental support and observed the wanton destruction of nature and its associated ecosystems (intricate feed-back systems integral to human survival on earth), I am undoubtedly concerned as to the future of all things natural on this planet. However, I am equally concerned about human perception, the paradigms or technologies that shape our perception, and the degree to which this perception impinges on the outer world. Like many others I have come to realize that an ecologically “sustainable” future cannot be achieved merely through Environmental Law, Protected-Area Management and the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems. Parallel to these undeniably important and laudable disciplines, it is essential that we move towards an understanding and rehabilitation of consciousness – the reality of which will be briefly discussed in the introductory chapter that follows. If, according to the most progressive fields of study, human consciousness is shown to be interconnected and interdependent with the natural world and thus natural order, then a significant part of the ecological crisis – if not the primary cause – is the way in which we view the natural environment; how we perceive of, or ascribe value to, nature and cosmos.

Thus, ecological stability is invariably related to the degree of ontological stabilityand integrationwithin human consciousness. It is within this context of globalization, a deteriorating natural environment and a crisis of consciousness, that “Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness” [hereafter referred to as NTRC] has been produced. NTRC is a continuation on themes already developed in the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr (In the Beginning was Consciousness; Religion and the Order of Nature), Martin Lings (Symbol and Archetype: A Study of the Meaning of Existence), Tom Cheetham (Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World), William Anderson (Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth), René Guenon (Fundamental Symbols); Frithjof Schuon (various works) and – as relates to the cosmology of self and soul – Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri (The Journey of the Self; Witnessing Perfection).

NTRC is not intended to be a polished thesis – in fact the author is not an academic – it aims to bring awareness to certain contemporary issues and to stimulate discussion on the themes presented. In appealing to a wide spectrum of readers, there may be some who feel the work fails to effectively address ecological issues, owing to the inclusion of spiritual, metaphysical or mythical principles; or conversely that it fails to honour the Divine Absolute by expounding secular ecosystemic thought (or is perceived as promoting ‘pantheist’ ideals). There is no satisfactory answer, other than (for the scholars), “We are all still learning;” and (for the religious), “We are all returning.” In order to highlight the essential reality of divine order, it has become necessary to use terms such as “supra-sensory,” “meta-historical,” “supra-rational,” “trans-personal,” etc.

Please note that this is not an attempt to repudiate the senses, historical record, the rational mind, or the personal self; neither is it to imply that the divine order is a distant and/or disconnected state. On the contrary, prophetic tradition speaks of divine presence and has indicated that the “Ground of Being” (i.e. pure consciousness) is “nearer to [us] than [our] jugular vein.” On this point, the perceived distancing factor between the conditioned self and the unconditioned Spirit is considered proportionate to the degree of “egotism” of the self.9 If an image in a mirror seems vague or impossible to discern, this may be due to the extent of the layers of dust obscuring the image / mirror. To polish the mirror or to clarify the lens of perception is to bring into view and into proximity, that which was thought to be far. Hence, human proximity or remoteness to the divine reality must be considered from a qualitative perspective and not reduced to a quantitative “nearness” or “distance.”

  • Cosmological order

Cosmological order, and thus the order of nature, has long since been considered as sacred theophany (The Book of Nature) by the saints, sages and prophets of Divine Order. Seyyed Hossein Nasr defines theophany as, “a symbolic showing of God [i.e. the Divine Attributes] in the mirror of created form.” Since humans are considered to be the barzakh (interspace) between the heavens and the earth – as well as being the stewards of cosmological order – one can only conclude that an ecological depreciation must reflect a distortion in human perception/behaviour: a failure to attain correct cognition of who we are, where we are, where we come from, and how we should behave on this currently fragile planet.
“Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness” [NTRC] explores human society’s alienation from, and disregard for, natural order and the resulting ecological /
climatological crisis that has ensued.
Expounding on concepts and principles of theophany, interconnectedness, interdependence, equilibrium and harmony, NTRC argues that roots of our various socioenvironmental crises lie primarily in a (human) crisis of consciousness. In
order to resolve our ecological dilemmas, therefore, we cannot simply rely on the
enforcement of environmental legislation and a rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems: parallel to these commendable disciplines, we need to move towards an understanding and rehabilitation of consciousness itself.
This includes developing a knowledge of self that is attuned to Divine Presence, that is
ontologically transformative, and thus ultimately grounded in the unified Divine Absolute:
Pure Consciousness (rûh al-quddûs) – the sacred centre of Being. In light of the necessity of this ontological recognition (dhikr) and alignment (Islam), it can be deduced that it will not be possible to find any political, social, religious or ecological reconciliation, if we cannot first learn to reconcile our personal, limited, conditioned self (nafs), with the trans-personal, eternal, unbounded and unconditioned Spirit (rûh): the prototypical pattern for any and all reconciliation. God-willing.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Creation, Symbol and Archetype

The Nature and Purpose of Existence-The Cosmology of the Self -The Journey of the Self – Symbol and Archetype

Interconnectedness, Equilibrium and the Green Signature

The Green Signature

Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness

The Ecological Crisis – The Psychological Crisis -The Essential Self

In Search of the Green Man

The Mother Goddess and her Son / Lover – Dionysus & Skanda-Murukan – Khidr-The Green Man in Europe – The Quest for the Green Woman

The Green Lion, the Philosopher’s Vitriol and the Emerald Grail

Nature, Theophany and the Rehabilitation of Consciousness: reasd Here

Tales of Winter – The Art of Snow and Ice

Winter was not always beautiful. Until Pieter Bruegel painted Hunters in the Snow, the long bitter months had never been transformed into a thing of beauty. This documentary charts how mankind’s ever-changing struggle with winter has been reflected in western art throughout the ages, resulting in images that are now amongst the greatest paintings of all time. With contributions from Grayson Perry, Will Self, Don McCullin and many others, the film takes an eclectic group of people from all walks of life out into the cold to reflect on the paintings that have come to define the art of snow and ice.

See more The Art of Snow and Ice

  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Hunters in the Snow  by Rachel-Anne Johnson


It is a bleak winter’s day as the hunters return to the village. The dogs are weary, though the hunters’ catch is meager. Outside an inn, peasant women stoke a large fire, as a man brings a wooden table outside, both activities in preparation for the singeing of a fattened pig whose meat will be stored for the long winter months. In the town below, a woman hauls firewood across a snow-laden bridge while across the pond, a cart, fully loaded with wood and kindling, makes its way through the village. In contrast to these labors that must be completed to survive the season, the majority of the villagers are making the most of the day on frozen ponds at the foot of the hill, skating, curling, and playing hockey. Beyond them, in the distance, jagged cliffs cut through the frozen flats, shielding a riverside town from the onslaught of snow that presses in from the right. On the edge of this town, the river is frozen over, and figures venture on foot and with carts from its frozen banks.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Hunters in the Snow of 1565 is an imaginative and thought-provoking image of a winter’s day. It was produced as part of a series of landscapes that depict the seasons of the year, often referred to as the Months, which also includes The Gloomy Day (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna), Haymaking (Lobkowicz Palace, Prague Castle, Prague), The Harvesters (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and Return of the Herd (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna).

Spring: The Gloomy Day

Summer: Haymaking

Late summer: The Harvesters

Autumn: The Return of the Herd

Winter: The Hunters in the Snow

Read also PIETER BRUEGEL’S SERIES OF THE SEASONS: ON THE PERCEPTION OF DIVINE ORDER by  Remdert FALKENBURG

On one level, Hunters in the Snow depicts the traditional labors for the months of December and January. In medieval prayer books, calendar illuminations depicted the labors and activities appropriate to certain times of year. December was characterized by singeing the pig and January by hunting motifs, conventions that were well- established by the sixteenth century and present in almost every illuminated manuscript from the Bruges workshop of Simon Bening, the most likely precedent for seasonal imagery with which Bruegel would have been familiar.

Bruegel includes different aspects of hunting in the image by depicting the group of hunters and dogs in the foreground, the inn that they pass on the left whose sign references St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, and a bird-trap in the left middleground.

 

The slaughter of a pig is a conventional motif for December, while singeing the pig is typical for January. Though no pig is present in Bruegel’s winter landscape, this progression of activity is suggested by the large fire on the left and the man carrying the table outside, which could represent the next stage – quartering the animal.

On another level, however, there is much more going on in Bruegel’s image than these traditional activities, and the composition raises a number of questions regarding how contemporary viewers would have understood Hunters in the Snow. Why at this time does Bruegel monumentalize a typically small-format genre? Hunters in the Snow measures 46 in. x 64 in., compared with a calendar illumination that rarely would have been larger than 6 in. x 5 in. Why do so many figures and motifs diverge from the conventions of previous calendar illustrations? The traditional labors are subtle and peripheral in relation to the entire image. Why the elaborate detail and unconventional motifs within images that were traditionally formulaic in subject matter? And, ultimately, how were these elements meant to be understood at the time, in their original context?

In an attempt to explain Bruegel’s elaborations and monumental scale, most scholars have situated Bruegel’s series of the Months firmly within the realm of world- landscapes. In this artistic tradition, landscapes were constructed to embody a cosmic significance, connecting the seasons and their activities to a higher order of religious providence and celestial harmony. The labors of the seasons reflect an order to the world that is both cyclical and divinely ordained. Another branch of scholarship takes the world-landscape characteristics of Bruegel’s Months and attaches to them the conventional devotional practices of the medieval calendar tradition and the use of religious symbols that one sees in the work of the Flemish landscape painter Joachim Patinir.

See  also: Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life

and Spiritual exercise for the “Refugee” of our Times – Sources materials

To these interpretations, discussed further below, this essay argues for another crucial element in understanding the original context of Hunters in the Snow, which is that the image, and its fellow panels from Bruegel’s series of the Months, are descriptive of Antwerp’s suburbs specifically, rather than merely monumentalized calendar illustrations of seasonal activity based on the prescribed models of medieval sources. It is, like many other images from Bruegel’s oeuvre, a localized genre painting – a scene from everyday life that derives its meaning from the perception of familiar objects or activity within it. Bruegel’s personal experience of Antwerp’s countryside has been noted as a possible factor in the creation of landscapes like Hunters in the Snow, but only in general terms, and without regard to the experience of the panel’s original audience. The artist’s inclusion of local and historical elements, common to all five of Bruegel’s Months, contribute to the images’ function as visual chorographical narratives, or descriptions offering an embodied perspective of a region (choros), stressing local details and characteristics. This perspective is uniquely experiential in its depiction of local agricultural activity, the connection of landscape elements, travel, local economic interests, and idiosyncratic details of life in and around 1560s Antwerp. This interpretive framework takes into account the original suburban location of Hunters in the Snow and an ensemble of motifs that would have been recognized by its original owner, Niclaes Jongelinck, as referring to Antwerp itself and his own role in the city’s social fabric.

The goal of this essay, then, is the reconciliation of the secular and spiritual understandings of Hunters in the Snow, and the entire series of the Months by extension, demonstrating that its contemporary audience would have extrapolated meaning from the image by drawing on both local knowledge and experience of Antwerp’s countryside, and a spiritual understanding of the motifs Bruegel includes based on the artistic traditions from which they derive. The precedents of medieval calendars and the world-landscape tradition provide a spiritual context for Bruegel’s landscapes and the localized details within them provide the means by which their original viewers inferred significance from them. It is through the recognition of the familiar and the knowledge of artistic precedents that meaning emerges. Ultimately, these elements work together to reveal the perception of a landscape of providence – both the divine providence of God and nature, and the local providence of the region of Antwerp as it goes about its seasonal labors.

Hunters in the Snow as a World-Landscape

Although scholars have acknowledged that Bruegel’s series of the Months can be seen as “faithful transcription[s] of the countryside,”x and thus an appropriate comparison to a chorographic view of the region around Antwerp, there seems to be a tendency to pass over chorographical considerations in favor of placing the landscapes within the larger, geographical context of world-landscapes. It seems that because the series has traditionally been called Months, and cycles of seasonal motifs were meant to be nearly universal in their application, one is immediately inclined to think of these images in the same context. Svetlana Alpers, in The Art of Describing, uses the categories of cartography, or map-making, to place Bruegel’s work within the confines of the world-landscape genre:

We might also want to use mapping terms to distinguish the larger geographical ambitions of Bruegel’s Season landscapes from the specific chorographic concerns of his drawings of the Ripa Grande or the painting of the Bay of Naples…By combining the traditional themes of the seasons with an extensive mapped view of the earth, Bruegel gives the yearly cycle a world rather than a local dimension...xi

Alpers differentiates images like Hunters in the Snow from works like Naval Battle in the Bay of Naples (1558-62), arguing that we do not have a specific topographical location to connect with the former as we do the latter. Furthermore, because Bruegel composed Hunters in the Snow using a bird’s-eye perspective of the winter scene, the viewer is set apart from the image, asked to contemplate it with a particular detachment from an impossible vantage-point. This view, as Walter Gibson has described it, is “truly cosmic in scope, showing the great forces of nature playing over immense portions of the earth’s surface, as they “subordinat[e] the world of the peasant to the much vaster world of nature.” The implications of the world-landscape context, thus, also apply to the human activity within Hunters in the Snow, suggesting that the overarching view of reality presented in this image is that nature and cosmic forces determine the activities of the everyday. Furthermore, Gibson connects Bruegel’s view of nature, and the peasants subordinate position within it, to Virgil’s Georgics, a classical poem that moves from the “mundane details of farming and cattle-breeding to rhapsodic descriptions of the celestial constellations and the great meteorological forces affecting the world.”xiv In these interpretations, then, Bruegel is presenting a view of reality that is shaped by the cosmos – a world that is not lived-in, but looked-upon.

Hunters in the Snow as a Devotional Image

One way in which a viewer might look upon such a world is with an eye for spiritual perception. Medieval books of hours, where the conventional labors of the months were first codified and presented within a devotional context, depicted the activities of each season under the divinely ordained cycles of both the cosmos and the church. These books directed their readers through devotions that were to be done at certain times of the day and on particular holy days throughout the year, complementing each devotional text with illustrations of the agricultural and leisure activities that marked such times. The illustrations were most often juxtaposed with zodiac imagery or celestial maps, emphasizing the cosmic structure that dictated the labors shown beneath them.

The labors are further contextualized by the inclusion of details pertinent to the patron or owner of a particular book of hours. In the case of the Tres Riches Heures of Jean, the Duke of Berry, the activities in the calendar illustrations take place not only beneath the zodiac signs and a star map, but also in the shadow of the duke’s palaces, depicted as accurate portraits in the background of many of the illuminations. In this way, the spiritual meaning of seasonal labor within a divine and cosmic cycle is focused for the book’s reader through the association with recognizable places. Similarly, in Hunters in the Snow, the labors and activities presented are subordinate to the broad landscape that suggests the region of Antwerp. Though the celestial and zodiac imagery are no longer present in the Months, Bruegel retains the idea of attaching familiar places to the activities depicted. Jongelinck’s world, like the duke’s in the Tres Riches Heures, looms over and around the seasons that Bruegel depicts.

The way in which this spiritual mode of perception may have functioned in regard to Hunters in the Snow is argued by Reindert Falkenburg, who discusses the series, not only in terms of its composition and vantage-point, but in terms of small, religious motifs that connect Bruegel’s work with that of Patinir and others, who used large-scale landscapes to frame biblical scenes. Similar to the way in which the world-landscape tradition encourages a detached evaluation from the viewer, Falkenburg suggests that Bruegel’s series encouraged devotional contemplation, much closer in function to the medieval calendar illustrations of the seasons described above. The engagement of the viewer, who is put in the position of exploring the paintings to find the small vignettes, is the key to understanding how sight leads to insight in these images. In this interpretation, we move from an elevated meditation on the cosmos, to a more interactive relationship with the image itself.

Within Hunters in the Snow, Falkenburg points to various details that implicate both the figures in the image and the viewer of the image on a spiritual level. He begins by considering the sign above the inn depicted in the left foreground of the panel, which reads, “Dit is inden Hert” (translated as “This is in the Stag”).

The sign also displays a rough image of St. Hubert dropping to his knees in front a large stag. St. Hubert was the patron saint of hunters because he converted to Christianity after being shown a vision of the cross in the antlers of a stag. Falkenburg connects this sign and the reference to St. Hubert to the fact that it appears that the only catch the hunters return with is a single fox and, thus, any appeal the hunters may have made to the patron saint was not terribly effective. The author suggests that this is Bruegel’s way of showing that the meager catch is a result of the hunters not having St. Hubert properly in their hearts and that the figures of the hunters, looking down at their feet as they pass by the inn, function as negative examples for the viewer. They go about their labors without regard to the sign at the inn or that which it represents; they are spiritually blind to their patron saint and, by extension, oblivious to the revelation of Christ indicated in the sign’s portrayal of St. Hubert’s vision of the cross.xix The viewer of the image, if focused on exploring the painted terrain while ignoring the spiritual signs (and the inn’s actual sign), is implicated alongside the distracted hunters and their consequent meager spoils. Consequently, the viewer’s spiritual mode of perception reads these motifs as reminders to acknowledge the role of divine providence in the labors of the seasons. Perhaps,  as some  commentators  have  proposed,  Bruegel   shows   himself   here  a  “honest humorist”   by   suggesting  that  their  scant  catch  results   from   not  having   St.Hubert  “inden  hert”:  in  their heart.

 

Look also : winter-through-bruegel-s-eyes-

  • The Numbering at Bethlehem

The painting shows a Flemish village in winter at sundown. A group of people is gathered at a building on the left. A sign bearing the Habsburg double-headed eagle is visible on the building. Other people are making their way to the same building, including the figures of Joseph and the pregnant Virgin Mary on a donkey.

A pig is being slaughtered. People are going about their daily business in the cold, children are shown playing with toys on the ice and having snowball fights. At the very centre of the painting is a spoked wheel, sometimes interpreted as being a reference to the wheel of fortune.

To the right, a man in a small hut is shown holding a clapper, a warning to keep away from leprosy. Leprosy was endemic in that part of Europe when the painting was created. There is a begging bowl in front of the hut. As he often did, Bruegel treats a biblical story, here the census of Quirinius, as a contemporary event. And once again, reference to particular political events has been adduced – in this case, the severity of the Spanish administration in the southern Netherlands.[2] However, Bruegel may well be making a more general criticism of bureaucratic methods.[3]

The events depicted are described in Luke 2, 1-5:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

— Luke 2:1-5, NKJV[4]

This is a rare subject in previous Netherlandish art. The ruined castle in the backgroundsee 2nd detail is based on the towers and gates of Amsterdam.[5]

Towers and gates of Amsterdam.by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

When the Moors Ruled in Europe

When The Moors Ruled In Europe is a documentary movie presented by the English historian Bettany Hughes. It is a series on the contribution the Moors made to Europe during their 700-year reign in Spain and Portugal ending in the 15th century. It was first broadcast on Channel 4 Saturday 5 November 2005 and was filmed in the Spanish region of Andalusia, mostly in the cities of Granada, Cordoba and the Moroccan city of Fes.

The era ended with the Reconquista during which the Catholic authorities burnt over 1,000,000 Arabic texts.

Join British historian Bettany Hughes as she examines a long-buried chapter of European history–the rise and fall of Islamic culture in what is now Spain and Portugal.

Although generations of Spanish rulers have tried to expunge this era from the historical record, recent archeology and scholarship now shed fresh light on the Moors who flourished in Al-Andalus for more than 700 years.

This fascinating documentary explodes old stereotypes and offers shocking new insights. You’ll discover the ingenious mathematics behind Granada’s dazzling Alhambra Palace, trace El Cid’s lineage to his Moorish roots, and learn how the Iberian population willingly converted to Islam in droves.

Through interviews with noted scholars, you’ll see how Moorish advances in mathematics, astronomy, art, and agriculture helped propel the West out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. What emerges is a richly detailed portrait of a sensuous, inquisitive, and remarkably progressive Islamic culture in Christian Europe.

  • History of the Moorish Empire in Europe
Samuel Parsons Scott’s three-volume history of the Moors in Spain and their influence on the culture of Western Europe was a landmark publication when it first came out in 1904. The first two volumes provide a detailed chronological history while the third volume presents aspects of the culture of al-Andalus, revealing the achievements of the Moorish empire and its impact upon Western scholarship and progress. Topics covered include the Moorish modes of conquest, government and administration; agriculture, trade and commerce; the influence of Moorish learning in science, literature and the arts; and reflections on Muslim social life and practices.Read Here:

Table of contents

Volume I
Introduction by Elizabeth Drayson
Author’s Preface
Chapter I: The Ancient Arabians
Chapter II: The Rise, Progess, and Influence of Islam
Chapter III: The Conquest of Al-Maghreb
Chapter IV: The Visigothic Monarchy
Chapter V: The Invasion and Conquest of Spain
Chapter VI: The Emirate
Chapter VII: Foundation of the Spanish Monarchy
Chapter VIII: The Ommeyades; Reign of Abd-al-Rahman I
Chapter IX: Reign of Hischem I; Reign of Al-Hakem I
Chapter X: Reign of Abd-al-Rahman II; Reign of Mohammed
Chapter XI: Reign of Al-Mondhir; Reign of Abdallah
Chapter XII: Reign of Abd-al-Rahman III
Chapter XIII: Reign of Al-Hakem II
Chapter XIV: Reign of Hischem II
Volume II
Chapter XV: The Moslem Domination in Sicily
Chapter XVI: The Principalities of Moorish Spain
Chpater XVII: Wars with the Christians; The Almoravides
Chapter XVIII: The Empire of the Almohades
Chapter XIX: The Progess of the Christian Arms
Chapter XX: Prosecution of the Reconquest
Chapter XXI: The Last War with Granada
Chapter XXII: Termination of the Reconquest
Volume III
Chapter XXIII: Influence of the Moors on Europe Through the Empire of Frederick II and the States of Southern France
Chapter XXIV: The Spanish Jews
Chapter XXV: The Christians Under Moslem Rule
Chapter XXVI: The Moriscoes
Chapter XXVII: General Condition of Europe from the VIII to the XVI Century
Chapter XXVIII: The Hispano-Arab Age of Literature and Science
Chapter XXIX: Moorish Art in Southern Europe
Chapter XXX: Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce of the European Moslems; Their Manners, Customs, and Amusements
  • Moorish Architecture in Andalusia

    Spain owes its special historical position in Europe very largely to his intensive encounter with the Orient. In the summer of 710, a small force under the command of a Berber named Taî f ibn Mâ lik landed to the west of Gibraltar. The Islamic armies that followed in its wake succeeded in conquering large areas of Spain within a short span of years. The conquerors gave the country the name of “”al-andalus.”” Thus began a period of cultural permeation that was to last for almost 800 years. In spite of intolerance and animosity, there developed between Muslims, Christians, and Jews a shared cultural environment that proved the basis for great achievements. Moorish-Andalusian art and architecture combine elements of various traditions into a new, autonomous style. Among the outstanding architectural witnesses to this achievement are the Great Mosque in Cordova and the Alhambra in Granada, recognized and admired as part of the world’s heitage right up to the present day. They are described in detail in this book. The main centres of Hispano-Islamic art and architecture, the cities of Cordova, Seville and Granada, are discussed within the chronological framework of developments, both political and cultural, from 710 to 1492. Read Here