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

The Power of Myth

  • Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth

In this beloved 1988 PBS series, mythologist and storyteller Joseph Campbell joins Bill Moyers to explore what enduring myths can tell us about our lives. In each of six episodes –“The Hero’s Adventure,” “The Message of the Myth,” “The First Storytellers,” “Sacrifice and Bliss,” “Love and the Goddess,” and “Masks of Eternity” — Moyers and Campbell focus on a character or theme found in cultural and religious mythologies. Campbell argues that these timeless archetypes continue to have a powerful influence on the choices we make and the ways we live.

Released shortly after Campbell’s death on October 30, 1987, The Power of Myth was one of the most popular TV series in the history of public television, and continues to inspire new audiences.(1988)

The Power Of Myths – Full Series

The power of myth_masks of eternity

The Power Of Myth – Masks of Eternity

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell, in which the author discusses his theory of the mythological structure of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world myths.

Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. Filmmaker George Lucas acknowledged Campbell’s theory in mythology, and its influence on the Star Wars films.[1]

The Joseph Campbell Foundation and New World Library issued a new edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces in July 2008 as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series of books, audio and video recordings. In 2011, Time placed the book in its list of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since the magazine was founded in 1923.[2]

Campbell explores the theory that mythological narratives frequently share a fundamental structure. The similarities of these myths brought Campbell to write his book in which he details the structure of the monomyth. He calls the motif of the archetypal narrative, “the hero’s adventure”. In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarizes the monomyth:

 

 

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.[3]

In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. “The hero’s adventure” begins in the ordinary world. He must depart from the ordinary world, when he receives a call to adventure. With the help of a mentor, the hero will cross a guarded threshold, leading him to a supernatural world, where familiar laws and order do not apply. There, the hero will embark on a road of trials, where he is tested along the way. The archetypal hero is sometimes assisted by allies. As the hero faces the ordeal, he encounters the greatest challenge of the journey. Upon rising to the challenge, the hero will receive a reward, or boon. Campbell’s theory of the monomyth continues with the inclusion of a metaphorical death and resurrection. The hero must then decide to return with this boon to the ordinary world. The hero then faces more trials on the road back. Upon the hero’s return, the boon or gift may be used to improve the hero’s ordinary world, in what Campbell calls, the application of the boon.

While many myths do seem to follow the outline of Campbell’s monomyth, there is some variance in the inclusion and sequence of some of the stages. Still, there is an abundance of literature and folklore that follows the motif of the archetypal narrative, paralleling the more general steps of “Departure” (sometimes called Separation), “Initiation”, and “Return”. “Departure” deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest, including the call to adventure. “Initiation” refers to the hero’s adventures that will test him along the way. The last part of the monomyth is the “Return”, which follows the hero’s journey home.[citation needed]

Campbell studied religious, spiritual, mythological and literary classics including the stories of Osiris, Prometheus, the Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus. The book cites the similarities of the stories, and references them as he breaks down the structure of the monomyth.

The book includes a discussion of “the hero’s journey” by using the Freudian concepts popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Campbell’s theory incorporates a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces, and Arnold van Gennep’s structuring of rites of passage rituals to provide some illumination.[4] “The hero’s journey” continues to influence artists and intellectuals in contemporary arts and culture, suggesting a basic usefulness for Campbell’s insights beyond mid-20th century forms of analysis. he Hero with a Thousand Faces Read here

 

Jung: “The world hangs on a thin thread ….”

The world hangs on a thin thread…

and that is the psyche of the man

 Carl Jung

 

 

Text :

 From  The Rebel in The Soul-  ancient Egytian papyrus

Paintings see here

 

 

 

  • Transcript:

Jung: The world hangs on a thin thread, and that is the psyche of man. Nowadays we are not threatened by elementary catastrophes. There is no such thing [in nature] as an H-bomb; that is all man’s doing. WE are the great danger. The psyche is the great danger. What if something goes wrong with the psyche? You see, and so it is demonstrated to us in our days what the power of the psyche is of man, how important it is to know something about it. But we know nothing about it. Nobody would give credit to the idea that the psychical processes of the ordinary man have any importance whatever. One thinks, “Oh, he has just what he has in his head. He is all from his surroundings, he is taught such and such a thing, believes such and such a thing, and particularly if he is well housed and well fed, then he has no ideas at all.” And that’s the great mistake because he is just that as which he is born, and he is not born as “tabula rasa,” but as a reality.

Paintings From  The Rebel in The Soul-  ancient Egytian papyrus

  • Interviewer: Jung had a vision at the end of his life of a catastrophe. It was a world catastrophe.

Marie-Louise von Franz: I don’t want to speak much about it. One of his daughters took notes and after his death gave it to me, and there is a drawing with a line going up and down, and underneath is “the last 50 years of humanity.” And some remarks about a final catastrophe being ahead. But I have only those notes.

Paintings From  The Rebel in The Soul-  ancient Egytian papyrus

 

  • Interviewer: What is your own feeling about it, the world situation?

von Franz: Well, one’s whole feeling revolts aginst this idea but since I have those notes in a drawer, I don’t allow myself to be too optimistic. I think, well, we have always had wars and enormous catastrophies, and I have no more personal fear much about that. I mean at my age, if you have anyhow soon to go— so or so egocentrically spoken. But the beauty of all the life— to think that the billions and billions and billions of years of evolution to build up the plants and the animals and the whole beauty of nature— and that man would go out of sheer shadow foolishness and destroy it all. I mean that all life might go from the the planet. And we don’t know— on Mars and Venus there is no life; we don’t know if there is any life experiment elsewhere in the galaxies. And we go and destroy this. I think it is so abominable. I try to pray that it may not happen— that a miracle happens.

Paintings From  The Rebel in The Soul-  ancient Egytian papyrus

  • Interviewer: Do you find that young people that you see now are aware of that? That it’s in their consciousness?

von Franz: Yes it’s partly in their unconscious and partly in their consciousness, and I think in a very dangerous way, namely, in a way of giving up and running away into a fantasy world. You know, when you study science fiction, you see there’s always the fantasy of escaping to some other planet and begin anew again, which means give up the battle on this earth, consider it hopeless and give up. I think one shouldn’t give up, because if you think of [Jung’s book] Answer to Job, if man would wrestle with God, if man would tell God that he shouldn’t do it, if we would reflect more. That why reflection comes in. Jung never thought that we might do better than just possibly sneak round the corner with not too big a catastrophe. When I saw him last, he had also a vision while I was with him, but there he said, “I see enormous stretches devastated, enormous stretches of the earth. But, thank God it’s not the whole planet.” I think that if not more people try to reflect and take back their projections and take the opposites within themselves, there will be a total destruction.

Paintings From  The Rebel in The Soul-  ancient Egytian papyrus

“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

Read: Personal myths in light of our modern-day “reality”

This comprehensive collection of writings by the epoch-shaping Swiss psychoanalyst was edited by Joseph Campbell, himself the most famous of Jung’s American followers. It comprises Jung’s pioneering studies of the structure of the psyche – including the works that introduced such notions as the collective unconscious, the Shadow, Anima and Animus – as well as inquries into the psychology of spirituality and creativity, and Jung’s influential “On Synchronicity,” a paper whose implications extend from the I Ching to quantum physics. Campbell’s introduction completes this compact volume, placing Jung’s astonishingly wide-ranging oeuvre within the context of his life and times. Read here

  • Jung and Alchemy

Jung’s interest for alchemy starts from two directions. One is the necessity to find a historic parallel to his own discoveries of the unconscious psychic life. The second refers to the series of dreams which have evoked the new research course, on which Jung talks at length in his autobiography: Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

 Picture from Aurora Consurgens“Before I discovered alchemy – writes Jung – I had a series of dreams which dealt with the same theme. Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing of annex, which was strange to me. Each tie I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently always been there”. This strange part of the house revealed its meaning finally: “The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself…”

This part was unconscious and would reveal itself as an interest for the in-depth study of medieval alchemy.

This study was announced definitively in the dream from the year 1926 when Jung dreams himself being captive in the 17th century. “Not until much later did I realize that it [the dream] referred to alchemy, for that science reached its height in the seventeenth century”.

Alchemy is a symbolic representation of the “individuation process In the serious alchemy, believes Jung, processes arising from individual psyche are described encoded. Peculiar terms that alchemy operates with, such as prima materia, unus mundus, Mercurius, filium philosophorum, lapis and many more are decrypted by Jung through an arduous work of over 10 years.
His develops and parallels are described at length in his book Psychology and Alchemy , an essential piece of work for the ones studying interestedly analytical psychology, the individuation process and the exploration of the unconscious through dream interpretation.

 

“We could resume Jung’s vast experience with alchemy in the next two quotations:

“Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious”.

 “Only after I had familiarized myself with alchemy did I realize that the unconscious is a process, and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious”.

More about alchemy, archetypes and dream interpretation may be found in Psychology and Alchemy, the book Jung has dedicated to the analysis of the relationship between alchemical symbolism and the individuation process. Read here

  • Jung, Aquinas, and the Aurora Consurgens: Establishing a Relationship with God

The reunion of a man with God is the subject of a medieval text which aggregates excerpts from the Bible and Arabic alchemical texts that had recently become available in Europe. The Aurora Consurgens personifies God as Wisdom, a spiritual being who not only formed the world in the beginning but is also a guide to men to return to God subsequent to their separation at the Fall.

The union of feminine Wisdom and a man is aligned with pairs of opposites such as spirit and soul, and is also conflated with the union of a man and a woman. While the text is perhaps falsely ascribed to St. Thomas, it is consistent with his ideas so that it may be explicated using his writings on the Trinity, psychology, angels, and Greek philosophy. From there, correspondence is established with C. G. Jung‘s concept of archetypes, and the text is subsequently interpreted from the perspective of analytical psychology.
It is identified how interaction of archetypes associated with the union of a man and a woman provide an explanation for the process of redemption given in the Aurora. A similar process of redemption is identified in other writings from the beginning of the Christian era up to the modern teachings of the Catholic Church. Read more here

Personal myths in light of our modern-day “reality”.

“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

Big fish eating small fish

A broadside criticising the exploitation of political power by alluding to the proverb of big fish eating small fish; with an engraving with motives after Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel showing in the centre a table with a large dish of small fish, around the table are sitting five large fish with human arms, dressed in clothes and devouring the small fish, the table scene surrounded by various scenes of larger fish being cut open, revealing smaller fish, in the background small fish hanging on the gallows; with engraved title and text.

  • Light and Dark Personal Mythology in Current Events

These days we ponder what should be the “new myths” in light of our modern-day reality, but upon reflection we can see that many already exist and are playing themselves out on the public stage, in the form of people’s “personal myths” that drive their words and actions. In our Internet age, “personal mythology” is not merely a private matter of each person’s individuation process. The manifestations and consequences of personal myths are often bizarre, tragic, and dangerous to society. We have seen this recently: in the minds of the shooters in the massacres in Charleston and elsewhere, the takeover of Oregon’s Malheur wildlife refuge by an armed self-styled militia, attitudes toward Muslims, the debate over immigration, race relations, and in much of the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign. In order to understand events and control our future, it has become more urgent than ever that we be able to recognize and understand myths when they see them, which is the first step both to controlling their dark side as well as to developing healthier new myths that will inspire individuals and society in a more positive way.

Masquerades played a big role in the carnival festivities and contributed to the reverse practices. Masks frequently evoked animal or even demonic faces and revealed the dark tendencies of being. Indeed, each person used to choose, without even realizing it, a disguise and a mask that best reflected the lower tendencies. Far from hiding his face, the individual put on a mask revealing the darkest face that he tried to hide under different social masks in everyday life.

The mask (from the Latin “persona”) actually concealed the various external and changing appearances of the social character and revealed the real personality of the individual.

Like carnival practices, the Italian theatre of the “comedia dell’arte” gave the actors a mask that hid their face and removed any possibility of expression other than that of the character.

Let us note in passing that the Chinese (Chan) and Japanese (Zen) Buddhist traditions consider that every being has an original face, the face of his or her true being, under the mask of the apparent face. So, the mask can both reveal the dark aspect of the being during the carnival time and hide the luminous aspect in everyday life.

James Ensor is in line with the Flemish painting and Jerome Bosch in particular. Like Jerome Bosch, he did not try to paint men according to their outer appearances, but as they were inside. And there is no better way than the Flanders’ carnival parties to unveil the other side of the picture.

The carnival mask did not only conceal the appearances of the social figure, it also revealed the hidden face of the being carrying it. Each person chose indeed, subconsciously, a mask (From the Latin “persona”) which best reflected his or her true personality. Far from hiding the face of the person, the mask let appear, on the contrary, his or her true face.

The grotesque faces of these masks revealed the desires that animated the being: jealousy, cupidity, concupiscence etc. If these desires were not counterbalanced by opposed tendencies such as love, generosity, non-attachment and so on, they generated anguish: the anguish of losing what one has, anguish to lack, anguish to die etc. Desires are always sources of torment. And at the time of Jerome Bosch, the supreme desire consisted in accessing Paradise and the supreme torment to end in the flames of Hell. Two dangers threatened any being by the end of the Middle Ages: Death and Devil. That theme often came back under the metal point or brush of James Ensor.

Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889

Devil (from the Greek “diabolos”, which means disuniting, splitting, dividing) symbolizes beforehand all our own inner demons. Desires and anguishes often conceal the other tendencies of the being. Othello only saw Desdemona through Iago’s eyes; jealousy masked his love for his wife. The being forgets this side of himself that unites him to the other and maintains his inner unity. He is disintegrated, split up and let people only see a hideous facet of himself because it was deprived of its complement.

The features revealed during the carnival parties are not specific to a particular being, but characteristic of the gathered crowd. James Ensor was always haunted by crowds and insect hordes, which share the same conditioning and know only one destiny, to follow their instincts.

  • Note: Krampus or   Spiritual  “winter”  of  the modern world

In Catholicism, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children. His saints day falls in early December, which helped strengthen his association with the Yuletide season. Many European cultures not only welcomed the kindly man as a figure of generosity and benevolence to reward the good, but they also feared his menacing counterparts who punished the bad. Parts of Germany and Austria dread the beastly Krampus, while other Germanic regions have Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht, black-bearded men who carry switches to beat children. France has Hans Trapp and Père Fouettard. (Some of these helpers, such as Zwarte Piet in The Netherlands have attracted recent controversy.)

Krampus’s name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.

The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair.

According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night of December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. The next day, December 6, is Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior). (

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • In The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King Lloyd D. Graham explains the source of Carnaval and the period of change  from winter to Spring.

The “ insurrection “of january 6th 2021 in USA Capitol  is an expression of the deep rooted origins of the folklores of Carnaval and Krampus,

6 january is the feast of Epiphany

HERE FOLLOWETH THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD AND OF THE THREE KINGS from Golden Legends

On this day we are making King cakes . They come with cardboard “crowns” to be worn by whoever gets the slice with the token and becomes monarch of the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King  by Lloyd D. Graham
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the seduction of the wild man Enkidu by Shamhat the
harlot symbolically causes his death as an unreflective animal and his rebirth as a
human – an Eden-like fall into self-awareness. Created as a match for king
Gilgamesh of Uruk, Enkidu goes on to become the king’s beloved friend. In
European folk traditions, the Wild Man is interchangeable with the bear, and
parallels can be drawn between Enkidu and the Candlemas Bear associated with
Carnival. Since Enkidu symbolises our pre-human nature, one can perceive a
figurative truth to the pan-European folk belief that people are descended from bears.
Thematic overlaps exist between some Gilgamesh narratives and European folk-tales
about a Wild Man whose father was a bear (the Bear’s Son / Jean de l’Ours motif) or
about twin boys, one of whom was raised in the wild by a female bear (Valentine and
Orson). Perhaps surprisingly, the roots of Santa Claus lie in the Wild Man. So too do
the origins of Merlin, the wizard of medieval Arthurian romance. Merlin has
elements in common with Enkidu, while King Arthur can be seen as a metaphorical
“Bear’s son.” Over time, the status of the Wild Man has changed from a wholly
inhuman monster to a “noble savage” who today might even be cast as a salvific ecowarrior.  Read here


The Wild Man or the Masquerade of Orson and Valentine – Brueghel

Read more here