Friday, September 30, 2022

Memetic evolution

Dall-E 2 has a feature where you can upload a picture, and it will generate four "variations" on it. This naturally raises the question: What happens if you generate variations on the Woman Yelling at a Cat meme, pick the strangest one, generate variations on that, pick the strangest one, and so on for many generations. This is taking "memes" back to their origins, as something that was supposed to evolve by a Darwinian-like process of variation and selection.

Here we go:

"Pick the strangest one" is a pretty vague sort of selection pressure, so this next series is one where I followed an actual rule: Of the four variations generated, always pick the one in which the cup is the most prominent.

And we're almost back where we started, aren't we?

We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold

Paul's address to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers at Mars' Hill (Acts 17:22-31) is short enough and eloquent enough to be worth quoting in its entirety.

Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, "To The Unknown God." Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being" [Epimenides, Cretica]; as certain also of your own poets have said, "For we are also his offspring" [Aratus, Phenomena].

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

One of the extraordinary things about this address is the complete lack of Jewish exceptionalism; Paul implies that the Athenians are already worshiping the true God but have an incomplete understanding of him, and the way he quotes the writings of Aratus and Epimenides -- about Zeus! -- in his support is indistinguishable from the way Jesus cited Moses and Isaiah. The Greek didactic poet and the tattooed prophet of Crete may have seen through a glass, darkly, but they saw the true God. And it is implied that the vision of Moses and the Hebrew prophets, too, was incomplete: "God . . . dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything" -- hardly an unqualified endorsement of the Temple-based cult of animal sacrifice. It was in the milieu of the Hebrew religion that Jesus lived and taught, and that is reason enough for the religion of Moses to enjoy a special status among Christians, but Paul makes no claim that it was the one true religion, or that the Greeks worshiped false Gods; the implication is that all pre-Christian understandings of the divine were mixed with a good deal of "ignorance God winked at."

Given Paul's obvious familiarity with, and sympathy towards, Greek pagan writings, it is a bit jarring to find him criticizing those who supposedly "think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." We are the offspring of God; therefore, God can't be a statue. Well, of course he can't! And Marcus Aurelius and his horse weren't actually made of bronze, either. Even the simplest of souls -- to say nothing of Athenian philosophers! -- understands the difference between a statue and what it represents. With all due respect to Isaiah and the other great ridiculers of "idolatry," I seriously doubt whether anyone in the history of the world has ever actually believed that the gods were like gold or silver or stone. Paul is arguing against a crude caricature of paganism. In implying that the learned Athenians might mistake a gold-plated statue for cloud-gathering Zeus himself, Paul seems to fall into the same sort of "idolatrous" error he accuses them of: He attacks a man of straw as if it were real. 

And how does Paul attempt to discredit the supposed "idolatry" of the Athenians? By advocating a more anthropomorphic conception of God -- who, if we are his offspring, can hardly be anything so unlike a human being as gold or silver. This may also strike the modern reader as a strange tack to take, since "Greek paganism" as we imagine it was surely much more crudely anthropomorphic than anything Paul was promoting. After all, one of the meanings of "we are also his offspring" was that Zeus (who was basically a very powerful man living on a mountaintop in Thessaly) was a biological ancestor of the Greeks, appearing in multiple positions on their ethnic family tree with the various mortal women he had raped or seduced.

So if the Greeks never made the mistake of thinking Zeus was mineral in nature, and if they did often portray him as human, all-too-human -- and if Paul, no stranger to Greek religious thought, must surely have known that -- then what was he trying to say? Oh, probably nothing interesting. Probably just another point-missing dig at "idolatry," continuing the long monotheistic tradition of such attacks. Nevertheless, I can't help but read something else into Paul's words. I am not at all confident that it is what Paul intended, or what his listeners would have understood him to mean, but it is at any rate what his words mean to me.

Greek religion, though just as anthropomorphic in its roots as the religion of Moses, followed a similar trajectory to that religion, towards increasing idealization and abstraction. Paul was addressing Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, whose concept of Zeus was about as far removed from the thought of Homer and Hesiod as it is possible to be. Their "God" was highly abstract, with the Stoics tending toward the sort pantheism we today associate with the name of Spinoza, while the Epicureans tended toward a deism verging on an atheistic view of the gods as purely symbolic.

How did they, and their Hebrew counterparts, manage to get from the world of Homer and Moses to that? By what is called by its proponents the via negativa: by the process of taking one human characteristic of God after another, deeming it unworthy of the Supreme Being, and reconceptualizing him as lacking it. Isn't this, metaphorically, the process of making for oneself a God of gold? If gold is the noblest of substances -- glittering, pure, beautiful, incorruptible -- isn't it impious to think of God as being anything but gold? Mustn't he be more like that inorganic ideal of perfection than like anything human? But those who walk the via negative all the way to its end find themselves precisely where Moses warned his successors would end up: serving inhuman gods "which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell" (Deut. 4:28) -- but, Moses goes on to promise, "if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart" (v. 29).

So that is how I take Paul's injunction: In your pious desire to ascribe to the Most High every conceivable perfection, take care that you do not end up with a God of gold in which you can no longer recognize your loving Father. I have called this philosophers' idol -- this philosophers' stone? -- Supergod, etymologically "above God," but perhaps Ultragod -- "beyond God" -- would be more appropriate. Supergod theology comes from looking past God for something else, something he is not -- what the Nephite prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon called "looking beyond the mark."

[T]hey despised the words of plainness, . . . and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, . . . God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble (Jac. 4:14)

Jacob was speaking of "the Jews" and the reasons that they would reject their own Messiah, but isn't what he describes even more characteristically Greek than Jewish? "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23).

In our philosophical quest to understand God, we must remain firmly tethered to the most fundamental Christian creed, consisting of only two words, the most profound that Jesus ever spoke: Our Father.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The voice of the turtle, the green figs, and the Blessed Virgin again

In my September 1 post "I'm being shadowed by a red turtle dove," I wrote about being followed by a bird of that description (which, by the way, has not reappeared since I wrote that post). Connecting it with the red dove that appears on the Rider-Waite Magician card, which I had interpreted as a symbol of prayer, I took it as an injunction to pray more -- in particular, to be stricter with myself about praying the Rosary every single day. In my original post about the red dove on Waite's card, I had quoted Waite's reference to "flos campi and lilium convallium" -- which I encountered again when I looked up "the voice of the turtle" in the Bible and found that it was in Song of Solomon 2:12, and that that chapter begins "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." I noted in my post that I had thought "Rose of Sharon" and "Lily of the Valleys" were Marian titles used in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, but that in fact they are not. I also noted the reference in v. 13 to "green figs," synching with my own recent experience with green figs.

Today, on a whim, I started reading La mère de Dieu (1844), an early devotional work written by the then-obscure Alphonse Louis Constant six years before he took up magic and began to be known as Éliphas Lévi. Beginning on p. 52, Lévi describes an imaginative scene in which the young Mary, only three years of age, feels drawn to the Temple, enters it, and receives a revelation of her destiny as the future Mother of God. In describing her rapture, and her spiritual communication with the unborn Christ, Lévi draws heavily on the language of the Song of Solomon. On p. 57, I found this:

This is a very close paraphrase of Song 2:12-13 -- a passage which I had connected with praying to Mary, but only very indirectly, by way of an obscure detail on a Tarot card and an incorrect memory of the content of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin. Here is Lévi connecting the same passage with Mary very directly.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Marcel Duchamp and Marina Abramović

Yesterday, this turned up in one of the textbooks I teach from. It caught my attention because of the name Marcel (cf. my recent dream about Marcelo and Marcela) and because of its resemblance to the "Wheel of Fortune" imagery I had also recently posted about.

Elementary school kids in Taiwan are pretty smart, and when we read, "Later on, artists understood what Duchamp was creating," one of the girls said, "Oh, this reminds me of the story we read last week: The Emperor's New Clothes." Everyone immediately understood what she was implying and laughed. A boy said, "Do you see the art? Yes, yes, I see the art, too." Just as in Andersen's story, children are the first to see through stuff like this.

This led to a general discussion of fake art, and I told them about a piece of "performance art" a few years back which was just the artist sitting at a table, and you could come and sit opposite her and have her stare at you for a while. I didn't mention the name of the artist or the piece because I certainly don't want kids to go home and google Marina Abramović, of "Spirit Cooking" fame.

Marina Abramović is not someone I often think about; she just happened to come up.

That night, I did a bit of perfunctory browsing on /x/. For the past couple of weeks, they've been pushing the idea that Something Big is going to happen on September 24, and last night someone posted about an Abramović exhibit that was opening on that date, implying that this was further evidence of an upcoming "happening."

After seeing that image, I suddenly remembered a part of my Philosophy of Transportation dream that I had forgotten before. The dream began with my entering a scene on a Tarot card (the Moon) and ended with a long winded "review" I had written of Freud's (non-existent) 1930 book The Philosophy of Transportation. Somewhere in the middle, I now remember, there was a statement (I'm not sure if it was my own or Freud's) that the Chariot card of the Tarot represents "understanding" because it is the only card that shows a man standing under something. The cubic chariot, with its four pillars and canopy, bears a certain resemblance to the "tall rectangular copper structures" in the Abramović exhibition.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Better Masonic headlines


Better headline: Masonic lodge initiates a lad


Better headline: Masonic lodge: In it I ate salad

Freud's Philosophy of Transportation: Gonna give it a miss

Last night, in the hypnogogic state just before truly falling asleep, I became aware of my in-between state and thought, "Je suis entre chien et loup" ("in the twilight zone," but literally "between dog and wolf"). My next thought was that, since I seemed to be in a condition approximating lucid dreaming, I should try imaginatively to enter the scene on the Moon card of the Tarot. This I was able to do -- but instead of appearing where I had expected to appear, between the dog and the wolf on the shores of the salt lake, I found myself inside one of the two towers and instinctively felt that it was the one that appears on the left side of the Tarot card. Instead of the rectilinear stone structure generally shown on Tarot cards, though, it was the old circular tower with white stucco walls and a spiral staircase -- the same building I had been in in my dream of September 3-4.

I thought, "I'm in a tower, which is a phallic symbol, and we know what Freud had to say about ascending a staircase in a dream . . ." -- at which point I lost lucidity and lapsed into ordinary dreaming, and the scene shifted.

No longer in the tower, I was now sitting at my desk in my study, typing out a highly qualified defense of the intellectual legitimacy of Sigmund Freud. This was a highly verbal dream, and I think this is what I wrote, very nearly verbatim: "Freud may have been a Jew, he may have been inclined to pettiness, and he may have been perversely persistent (and at times even successful) in trying to convince himself of a crudely materialistic view of the world, but none of this changes the fact that he was a thinker of genius and an astute observer of the human condition, and the current fad for dismissing him as a quack is just that, a fad, and is almost entirely wrongly motivated."

Later, I was scrolling through the archives of my own blog, reading something I had written back in 1930. Dr. Freud had just published a new book, called Die Transportphilosophie, with an English version called The Philosophy of Transportation, and I was not writing a review of it. Instead, I was writing an absurdly pompous and longwinded wall of text about why I did not intend to read or review the book. This was too long for me to remember word-for-word, but this is my best approximation of the style and content of what I wrote: "It is with a certain degree of trepidation that one sets out to dismiss without reading it this highly anticipated work from one of the most celebrated pens of our time, and I am well aware of the risk I run of making myself, like the critic who in 1964 opined that the four Liverpudlian songsters with their 'nutty shouts of yeah, yeah, yeah' were destined to fade into well-deserved obscurity, an object of ridicule to future generations who, for ought I can predict, may well end up looking back on The Philosophy of Transportation as Dr. Freud's masterwork. Despite this theoretical possibility, however, I must admit that I feel confident enough in my judgment to rush in where angels fear to tread and to declare boldly and without prevarication that transportation is a subject unworthy of a mind of Dr. Freud's caliber, that there is and can be no soi-disant 'philosophy of transportation,' and that even if there were or could be such a thing, the celebrated founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis would not be the one to write it. I confidently predict that this will prove to be as big a stinker as Moses and Monotheism and that there is a non-negligible chance of the word Transportphilosophie entering the English and other European languages and acquiring for future generations a proverbial sense analogous to that of 'Homer nods.' As a great admirer of much of Dr. Freud's work, I sincerely hope that he will prove me wrong in this regard, but until then my integrity as a writer demands that I express my true opinion, however unwelcome. Here I stand; I can do no other. I trust the reader has enjoyed this note."

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Recent Tarot posts

I have a couple of new posts up at The Magician's Table:

In "Between a dog and a wolf," I discuss the possible role played by the French idiom entre chien et loup in the development of the Moon card.

In "The Ace of Cups combines baptismal and Eucharistic imagery," I argue that this dual imagery is present not only in the Rider-Waite but in the Tarot de Marseille and even as far back as the Visconti-Sforza.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Wheel in the sky

So, the sync fairies have drawn my attention to St. Catherine, about whom I know little beyond her association with breaking wheel.

When I see a crowned woman with an eight-spoked wheel, though, my first thought is of Fortuna, from whose Greek name Tyche my own surname ultimately derives.

The Wheel of Fortune is something I have written about quite extensively at The Magician's Table. On July 18 of this year, I saw Jupiter in a halo around the Moon and wrote, "When I see a 'wheel' in the sky with the Moon at the center, my immediate thought is 'O Fortuna / Velut luna . . . .'" One month before that, I had ha the last in a series of recurring dreams about a spacecraft sailing through an enormous ring or torus in the sky.

Catherine and her wheel made me think of "Eternity Road," a song by Ray Thomas from To Our Children's Children's Children, the 1969 Moody Blues concept album inspired by the moon landing. The lyrics begin thus:

Hark, listen, here he comes
Hark, listen, here he comes
Turning, spinning, Catherine wheeling
Forever changing, there's no beginning
Speeding through a charcoal sky
Observe the truth, we cannot lie

When I sat down to write this post, I opened the Brave browser. The home screen has a background image which changes from time to time, and today it was, for the first time, this:

Saint Catherine

This morning I taught an English grammar lesson to an adult student, about the use of can, could, and be able to. The exercises in the textbook included these sentences:

5. I can't understand Michael. I've never ____________ understand him.

6. I can't see you on Friday, but I ____________ meet you on Saturday morning.

7. Ask Catherine about your problem. She might ____________ help you.

These days any reference to Michael gets my attention, as that archangel has been in the sync stream a great deal. Seeing the name Catherine just two lines later made me think of St. Catherine and reminded me that Michael, Margaret, and Catherine were the three saints who appeared in vision to Joan the Maid.

In fact, I had already been primed to think of Catherine as a saint because of something I had read yesterday evening, while teaching a different unit from the same book to different students. The unit was about the correct use of the (which is much more complicated than most native speakers realize!), and the point was being made that the definite article is not used with people's titles -- that, for example, we say "the sergeant" but not "the Sergeant Pepper." The following examples were given:

Mr. Johnson / Doctor Johnson / Captain Johnson / President Johnson
Uncle Robert / Saint Catherine / Princess Anne 等。(並非 the . . .)

This got my attention even at the time because, although I suppose most people have heard of St. Catherine, hers hardly seems like the first name that would come to mind if you just wanted a random example of "Saint so-and-so."

Anyway, returning to "Ask Catherine about your problem," an exercise on the next page had the question, "When should I call Angela?" with a prompt intended to elicit the answer, "You could call her now." Angela, a female angel, was close enough to the female saint I had just been thinking about, that it made me think I was perhaps being nudged to pray to St. Catherine.

Angela also made me think of my recent dream, in which a Spanish girl had said "No me llamo Marcela. Me llamo Gabriela." -- Angela and Gabriela being conceptually similar names. After the class, on a whim, I Googled marcela gabriela to see if the two names had any special connection, but I just got random people's social media pages. Then I Googled the whole Spanish quotation. This turned up a children's book called Me Llamo Gabriela, about the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. I looked her up on Wikipedia but found nothing of interest. I did note, though, that Gabriela Mistral was a pseudonym, and that her real name was Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga. It struck me as typically Spanish that her name included not just María but the full title María del Perpetuo Socorro.

I then turned to looking for prayers to St. Catherine, and what kept coming up was the St. Catherine of Alexandria Novena. Never having been Catholic, I had only the vaguest idea of what a novena is, so my next stop was the Wikipedia article for "Novena." The illustration at the beginning caught my eye.

Isn't it obvious that Our Lady of Perpetual Help is identical to María del Perpetuo Socorro?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Sam Harris can be an idiot sometimes, but there are limits!

Vox Day posted this quote from Sam Harris the other day without providing a link.

Whether or not there is any truth to [peck] harm is irrelevant. There are numerous studies that prove the power of psychosomatic thinking. This is why we must censor anti[peck] information at all costs: because people who "believe" they've taken poison will suffer ill-effects as if they actually took poison.

Sam Hariss, 7 September 2022

This immediately set off my BS detector. Say what you will about Sam Harris, he is an educated, literate person, and there is approximately zero chance that he would hyphenate ill-effects or use quotation marks for emphasis. Also, people who support censoring information never say they want to censor information in those words; some euphemism would be used for censor, and the object of the censorship would be misinformation, disinformation, or at the very least controversial claims. Finally, the argument itself -- trivially easy to discredit by replacing peck with smoking -- is just a bit too retarded even for a Nu-Atheist.

And, surprise, surprise, Googling the supposed quote turns up pretty much nothing. I haven't been able to find Vox's source. A September 12 post on /sci/ has the same quote but credits it only to "Sam Harris, September 2022" without mentioning the exact date, so Vox must have gotten that detail from somewhere else.

This September 12 Reddit thread asks "Did Sam [Harris] actually tweet this?" and receives the reply that he did not, but the original post has been deleted, so I can't see the exact content of the alleged tweet. Checking Harris's Twitter, I find that he tweeted nothing at all between September 5 and September 12.

I did find this supposed Twitter screencap on iFunny. It has the September 7 date, but it can't be Vox's source because the quote itself is slightly different -- and slightly more believable, since it lacks two of the red flags I noted ("believe" and ill-effects).

This is sus on other grounds -- what self-respecting anti-Semite doesn't know and use the correct plural of goy? -- but is it still possible that Harris really tweeted this and later deleted it?

No. Because it's 310 characters. Twitter's limit is 280. Either someone went to the trouble of making a fake Twitter screenshot out of a real Sam Harris quote -- there's no telling what "goys" will do! -- or Vox has been had.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Snail on shingles

 Yesterday, September 11, I did some remote-viewing practice using the app RV Tournament. I was given the coordinates 6156-4124, and these were my notes.

I was then given two possible target images to choose from, and I chose the correct one with perfect confidence.

I consider this a pretty good hit. The snail in the target image isn't actually on a shingled roof, but it is on a dark surface, slanting in the direction I indicated in my sketch. (Surprisingly, this was a "practice round," with immediate feedback, which I'm usually bad at. I've done 102 practice rounds and guessed only 47 of them right -- 0.8 SDs worse than would be expected by chance. For "tournament rounds," with delayed feedback, I've done 34 and guessed 24 right -- 2.4 SDs better than expected by chance. That's a whopping 3.2-SD difference between the two types of round!)

The next day, I posted my dream, "The coypu assembles a new zodiac," in which a coypu (nutria) calls one animal after another to "come and join the general dance." Otto left a comment quoting the Mock Turtle's Song from Alice in Wonderland. Note some of the words that show up in the first stanza:

"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail,
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle -- will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?

I know the Mock Turtle is referring to pebbles on the seashore, not to roofing shingles, but it still seems like quite a coincidence. "Turtles" -- again, with a different meaning -- have also been in the sync stream recently.

The coypu assembles a new zodiac

I dreamed that a coypu -- the semi-aquatic South American rodent pictured above -- was assembling a new zodiac, a new circle of 12 animals to which to assign portions of the sky. He did this by singing a song with one stanza for each of the animals that was being called to join the zodiac. I don't think the specific lyrics were clearly defined in the dream, but each stanza was four lines of tetrameter. The first three lines named and described the animal being called, and the fourth line was always "Now come and join the general dance!"

Although both very large and very small species were included, each of the new zodiac animals was roughly the same size, and much smaller than the coypu. They seemed to be miniature creatures, not fully material. They seemed slightly translucent and "fetal-looking," and they glowed slightly from within. The way they walked, with slow, exaggerated steps, made me think of them as "coltish."

The first animal called was, I believe, a black and yellow newt. When the coypu sang, "Now come and join the general dance," the newt came out and began prancing slowly in a circle around the coypu. When the second animal -- a giraffe, but no bigger than the newt -- was called, it held the newt's tail in its mouth and went along after it. One by one, more animals were called, each holding in its mouth the tail of the one before it. When the twelfth animal had joined the general dance, the newt took its tail, completing the circle.

That was the concept, anyway, although I don't think I actually saw the whole process in detail or heard every stanza of the song, and I don't think all the individual animals were clearly defined. Besides the newt and the giraffe, I remember seeing a water monitor, a goat, an eland, and an obscure mythological creature called a yale. That's only half the zodiac, but it's all I can remember. I also remember thinking it was good the coypu didn't call a chipmunk, because this sort of dance wouldn't be safe for it.

Friday, September 9, 2022

You be trippin

I don't know why this cracked me up so much, but it did.

The green man standing next to The Sleeping Bag With No Name represents the anon himself. No idea why he colored himself green, but aliens are stereotyped as "little green men."

Just before seeing the Sleeping Bag post, I had read A Shropshire Lad, A. E. Housman's 1896 book of poems. The fourth poem in the book, called "Reveille," begins, "Wake: the silver dusk returning" -- which I initially misread as "Wake: the silver disk returning," as if it were about a UFO. The poem's concluding stanza also caught my eye:

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep.

In my previous post, "Life Is Romantic, The Travail of Passion, and the Sorrowful Mysteries," I had mentioned the rite in Leviticus 14, where a bird is killed in a clay vessel ("clay lies still") and a live bird dipped in its blood and set free ("blood's a rover").

Life Is Romantic, The Travail of Passion, and the Sorrowful Mysteries

While on the road this afternoon, I fell to thinking about the term Romantic Christian -- designating the approach to Christianity advocated by Bruce Charlton, William Wildblood, Francis Berger, and myself -- and about how it is somewhat suboptimal because it is not a single word and because it cannot be abbreviated without confusion (since RC, in a religious context, normally means Roman Catholic). While my mind was thus occupied, I saw this printed on the back of the T-shirt of the motorcyclist in front of me:

I took this as synchronistic confirmation that Romantic is after all the best term to be using. The T-shirts equation of Romanticism with life also struck me as appropriate, since a big part of the Romantic Christian approach is a focus on Heaven as eternal life (rather than eternal rest, absorption into God, etc.) and on God as the living God, existing in time. An emphasis on life is also typical of the Gospel and First Epistle of John.

Later in the day, as is my habit on Fridays, I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, which are (translating): the Prayer in the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. My meditations on the Rosary are highly visual in nature, the verbal part of my brain being preoccupied with the prayers themselves, and my mental image of the Prayer in the Garden is heavily influenced by the Yeats poem The Travail of Passion (which alludes to all five of the Sorrowful Mysteries).

When the flaming lute-thronged angelic door is wide;
When an immortal passion breathes in mortal clay;
Our hearts endure the scourge, the plaited thorns, the way
Crowded with bitter faces, the wounds in palm and side,
The hyssop-heavy sponge, the flowers by Kidron stream:
We will bend down and loosen our hair over you,
That it may drop faint perfume, and be heavy with dew,
Lilies of death-pale hope, roses of passionate dream.

Today my meditations were also colored by the T-shirt synchronicity: "Life is Romantic: Romantic Crown." Jesus' crown, plaited of thorny plants, was a crown of life, in contrast to the inorganic gold and jewels worn by worldly kings. "Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life?" (Morm. 8:39).

While imagining Jesus praying among "the flowers by Kidron stream . . . Lilies of death-pale hope, roses of passionate dream," I suddenly realized the relationship of roses and lilies to one of the strange features of the T-shirt inscription: the use of an upside-down W in place of an M. My recent experience with a red dove had led me back to my 2018 post "The Rider-Waite Magician." In that post, I connect the red dove flying upward on the Magician card with the white dove flying downward on the Ace of Cups -- and I note that the Ace of Cups is marked with a W which is actually an upside-down M, confirming that it is an inversion of the Magician. I see now that the birds themselves have the form of a stylized W and M.

As detailed in the 2018 post, the red dove represents the Pillar of Severity and prayers ascending to heaven, and the white dove represents the Pillar of Mercy and blessings descending to earth. The red dove flying to heaven made me think of the Mosaic rite for cleansing lepers (Leviticus 14), which involves killing a bird in a clay vessel over running water (cf. the white dove over a vessel with running water on the Ace of Cups), dipping a living bird in its blood, and then releasing this bloody bird in an open field (cf. the Magician's red dove, surrounded by what Waite calls flos campi et lilium convallium, "flowers of the field and lilies of the valley").

Blood crying to heaven is a familiar biblical expression, and Jesus bled (or sweat as if her were bleeding) as he prayed in the garden. By "coincidence," just before seeing the "Life Is Romantic" T-shirt, I had read this in Éliphas Lévi's Histoire de la magie:

Paracelsus knew the mysteries of blood; he knew why the priests of Baal made incisions with knives in their flesh, and then brought down fire from heaven; . . . he knew how spilt blood cries for vengeance or mercy and fills the air with angels or demons.

He goes on to relate an anecdote from Jean-Baptiste Tavernier about certain Asian magicians who caused a small piece of wood to grow up into a flowering mango tree in the space of half an hour, by cutting themselves and rubbing the wood with their blood.

The Magician card alludes to Gethsemane via the red dove of prayer flying upward, surrounded by garden flowers. The Ace of Cups shows the content of Jesus' prayer in the garden -- "if thou be willing, remove this cup from me" -- and the white dove descending alludes to Heaven's response: "and there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him."

The Yeats poem begins with an open door: "When the flaming lute-thronged angelic door is wide." This reminds me of a recent dream:

I was exploring an old abandoned building and found in it a very large wooden rosary. Each bead was the size of a golf ball and had a single word engraved on it. I believe the words were those of the Lord’s Prayer. I found that the cross on the rosary was also a key which fit the lock of one of the doors in the old building. I left the rosary hanging from the keyhole, but an old priest came and told me not to, saying a key has no purpose if you just leave it in the keyhole.

After the dream, I counted the words in the Latin Pater Noster and found that there are exactly 50, corresponding perfectly to the five decades of the Rosary.

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name (Rev. 3:7-8).

Incidentally, Abraham von Franckenberg's illustration of Guillaume Postel's interpretation of the "key of David" would later influence Lévi significantly, particularly in his idea of writing the word ROTA/TARO around the rim of a wheel.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

For 20 bucks, or for the evulz?

In the comments, my post about the world's most racist toothpaste has turned into a discussion of the martyrdom of St. George of Minneapolis. Debbie pointed out the bogus nature of the "crime" for which he was under arrest: buying some cigarettes and then refusing to return them when the shopkeeper belatedly decided he had paid with a counterfeit $20 bill.

Responding to a comment by ben, and to the general suggestion that the whole incident may have been scripted for some dark purpose, I wrote:

For maximum evulz, they had to get someone sympathetic enough to become a "hero" but obviously-bad enough that those lionizing him would be knowingly celebrating evil. GF, who had done some seriously bad things (such as threatening to kill a baby during a home invasion) but in this particular case was under arrest for some bogus petty non-crime, fit the bill.

This was a reference to the TV Tropes term "For the Evulz," -- referring to villains who have no motive beyond being evil for evil's sake -- and for some reason immediately after posting it, I randomly decided to run a Google image search on evulz. The second result was a "motivational poster" style meme featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker from The Dark Knight. (The archetypal knight, solidified in that role by Edmund Spenser, is St. George.) I clicked on it, and one of the "related images" caught my eye.

"Twenty bucks." "But you'll kill me." It's from a 2008 Batman comic book, so well pre-Floyd. My finding it immediately after posting about GF and the $20 bill was the result of a completely random whim.

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat ...