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Friday, 23 April 2010
Saint George by Paolo Uccelo 1470
There are quite a lot of differences between Catalonia and the North West of England. On the Costa Brava beaches there is a strange absence of people, hands clasped around warm flasks of tea, huddled behind windbreakers; and in Stockport County Council, who have sneakily made use of internet possibilities, eerily doesn´t have queues of people, waiting numbed as time grinds to a halt and the barer of the numbered ticket wonders where they got lost in the matrix.
But do not dispair, there are heart warmingly similar things too. Both like black pudding (but at different times of the day), both have cotton industry backgrounds, and Saint George-Sant Jordi is their patron saint. And Happy Saint Day George! It is today, April the 23rd.
It´s a wonderful day in Catalonia. It is when the true spirit of the kind, tradition loving, big hearted Catalans comes out (rather than those not-to-be-mentioned political ideas). It is the equivalent of Saint Valentine´s day - the day for lovers. Women buy men books and men buy women red roses. The brain and the heart unite. Knowledge is comprehended and all is well on Rambla de Catalunya.
Las Ramblas de Catalunya - Diada de Sant Jordi
There must be many different perspectives of the myth of Saint George. We studied it a little in symbology and if you don´t want to know much about it, stop reading now.
…So, my faithful friend ("just you, just you, just you" (an echo) there´s no-one else here), you and I are mystery freaks and instead of getting on in what the others call reality, your heart swells and breath becomes rapid entering into a fantasy world which seems more real that a red double-decker bus. And rightly so!
The prince of the skies, Saint George came down from the air. He fell from paradise, from the Platonic highs of Apollonic order, flew down through intuition and found himself confronted by a double-decker bus. Or rather his earthly reality. He is no longer the prince of the skies but now a (half) human (half) being. He is pulled up flat, to face the dragon.
They say that we are born on earth impure. The Catalans would say malparits, which is literally born badly, figuratively translated as “in a sorry state”. We come out all funny and just not quite how we should. We are not in harmony with the universe (one verse) but we pipe our own out-of-tune song. The cosmos flows around in orderly lines, like a ploughed field, in harmonic unison with each other, like an orchestra with each musician playing in unison creating a beautiful uplifting piece of music. And then we are born and get out those party horn things. And blow it. But it´s not exactly Mozart.
The dragon is a representation of this rather uncoordinated clumsiness. We are all made up of the four elements, everything is. In the perfect heaven, the four elements are equally balanced and working together: Air (intuition), Water (emotions), Fire (thinking) and Earth (sensations). The Ancients, Psychologists, eastern medicine etc all say we need to balance our four elements. It is the secret of physical and psychological health. And since non of us (as far as I know) are in a perfect Buddha (or Christ etc) state, we´ve got work to do!
Diagram: Aristotle elemental qualities
The dragon has all of the four elements, he angrily blows fire out from his mouth, his wings allow him to fly clumsily in the air, his claws grip into the earth and he cries big baby crocodile tears. But his elements are all badly born. Clumsy and angry, his elements don´t befit him at all, they are all at odds with each other, like trying to light a fire in the rain or flying through tarmac...
So, Saint George is in a predicament finding this dragon inside, coming down to earth and discovering his instincts. And as all cavaliers, he is faced with one option to save his good name:
Slowly, calmly, he gets out his sword and shield.
He fights nobly from the top of his white horse, just like all of our fantasy boyfriends would do, and with his sophisticated sword work he manages to pierce the reality of himself (like Shiva´s sword) and dominate his dragon. Some stories just go right ahead and kill the dragon off, but how can instincts be killed? Surely it is impossible. It must have been some granddad getting carried away at bedtime story time, and his grandchild happened to be Walt Disney…anyway, the dragon is dominated, Saint George is able to dominate with his mind all the impulses of his instincts. It is of note he has managed among which to control his sardineta. (The little sardine in Catalan is a euphemism for his todger). Dominating the dragon he has aligned his four elements to be more in harmony. They do not fight so much anymore.
Buddhists say that controlling the breath (air) calms the mind…Saint George finds himself in a more balanced state and as a result, from the mouth of the cave, steps a beautiful maiden now that the dragon is not ferociously guarding the entrance.
At this point Jungians get all excited and if they haven´t wet themselves already, and shout (ironically impulsively) “His anima, his anima!” which to a normal person is the feminine inner personality within him. His anima influences his interactions with women and his attitudes toward them. It is a more feeling side of him, which needs to be expressed, and if expressed in a harmonious way, while the dragon is comfortable domesticated, it is beauty and truth and purity and all things princess like.
Especially now with internet we have access to any information we may crave in this earthly world. We can be walking dictionaries, with built in GPS systems bluetoothing our dentist. But until we have understood our knowledge through love, it cannot be comprehended.
I don´t know if you´ve had that wonderful feeling of suddenly seeing something clearly with fresh eyes and “clicking”. All at once you´ve really got it. Before you thought you knew, but now you can “see” it. It is like pealing away an onion skin, or taking off a veil. Normally they are things that are so simple that we wonder actually if we knew all along.
If we only understand our world with our brains, it is dry and unconnected. Comprehension is with our hearts and we connect with our profound memories, with our entire being. This connection of knowledge and heart is represented by the union of Saint George with the beautiful maiden, and how lovely she is. She who allows us to leave those dark depths of Pluto to resurface for fresh air, and to see and smell the roses. (The Rose is the western equivalent of the eastern Lotus flower).
The prince and the princess reunite, masculine and feminine come together once more, the sky and the earth rejoin... They have sex (alchemically speaking of course...)
The union of Saint Jordi with his maiden creates a rebirth. This time the birth is a little better. They are transformed into the castle and live happily ever after (according to Walt D). The castle with its perfect four walls is a representation of the four elements in perfect harmony.
And the cycle comes to a close, but not an end. Like any spiral, Saint Jordi is back where he began, at the same point but not the same man. Now he has aligned himself a smidgen to be a little more universal, he has dominated his dragon for a while, and he has incorporated the Beauty of the glimpse of Truth into his self thanks to his inner princess coming out of the cave.
Saint Jordi, of course, is each and everyone of us. So, rest a while and float in the clouds. But surely you wouldn´t want to be in Paradise for ever would you? It gets terribly boring. And there is that windbreaker waiting for us on Blackpool beach to huddle up beside and have real physical contact. Like the gales on our fair shores, Saint Jordi is in constant movement, never getting stale. Soon he´ll find himself freefalling like an autumn leaf back down to earth, birthing in another weird but wonderful way and evolving through love.
Happy Sant Jordi!
Friday, 2 April 2010
So that chocolate scoffing time of year has come around again. Breaking open a Cadbury´s Cream Egg even though your stomach´s shouting out “Intoxification!” and your visions begins to blur. Which is probably exactly what the Hindus mean when they say that the Mundane Egg, in which Brahma gestated, broke its shell in spring.
Easter is the first full moon after the equinox (“equal night”). This year it was on March 30th. It is when the masculine and feminine energies are both at their plenitude and create an energy of fertility on earth, depicted by the engraving “The Philosophers Compass”. Larry Boemler in his book "Asherah and Easter" writes “The Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos.” We get the point Larry…
If you´ve a garden, you can´t help but notice how the plants are having their first splurge of growth, of which I´ve proudly attached “fotos” of our first sproutings. If we were all dependant on the growth of wheat rather than opening up Mars Bars, we´d be pretty damned glad to see it begin to grow. And wine lovers will smile with wetted lips as they see what looked dead in the winter, spring into life once more, with little buds bursting on the vines. The full moon gives the plants a complementary light to go for a marathon of energetic growing through all of the night and all the day…it´s quite logical really.
But Easter isn´t just about the nature´s rhythm, but also about the inner life. Gods who die on the cross around this time (Jesus, Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, Orpheus…) represent how we as spiritual beings need to be have “a second birth” into a greater consciousness of ourselves and our world. In order to just to start, it is necessary to dominate our egos, like in the Puranic allegory, when Viswakarman's daughter Sanjana (spiritual consciousness), complained as wives tend to do, about the natural qualities of their husbands. After a while no matter how shiny and great and brill they are, they start to irritate. Her husband was Surya the sun (often linked in astrology to the ego). She went back to her daddy and complained he was getting all the attention, that he was shining too bright. Like any loving father would do, he got his sun-in-law by the neck and being a carpenter of high craftsmanship, crucified the sun on his lathe and cut away an eighth part of his rays – creating around him a dark auroela. A crown of thorns.
Which is basically spiritual initiation: killing all of those fiery passions, and going through hell, facing our demons, before we can rise into new life and be reborn. We become more conscious of ourselves, less reactionary, more responsive. We´ve all been through it in some way, some emotional crisis which has made us understand ourselves better where at the end we firmly wobble, “I´m glad it happened but I wouldn´t like to go through that again!”
In the past initiation was intense, people were put through all sorts of, what my father would call, character building situations, and then left exhausted attached to a “cross” (which I reckon must represent the symbolic centre of ourselves, the centre of creation) They lay there in the dark for three days in which their spirit descended into Hades’ underworld, to be reborn again into a new life once back in the light of day. Initiates were left exhausted in caves and such, to encounter their inner demons, to face fear, and dominate it, to awaken to another perspective of themselves and their world.
Which is not exactly the same as scoffing our faces with Cadbury cream eggs and then getting stabs of stomach ache…
I remember in primary school going into panic staring into the face of my friend who had fiendishly asked “Are you a human being?” because I had no idea what she was on about. We are both, we are a human and we are a being, we are physical and we are spiritual. And as we go to the gym to get perfect bodies, so we are challenged with the evolution of our spirits. Every time we refuse to listen to that spirit, the divine nature within us is “crucified”, but after each crucifixion there has to be a resurrection, else we would end up as a dead physical blob, only to be later recognised by the Ben and Jerry carton stuck on our heads. There has to be a balance, we can´t just be spiritual, and we can´t just be physical, because, after my experience in primary school, I can say quite confidently now that we are all human beings. Psychology, and Life, is the idea of balancing both the “light” and the “dark” within us. Such as in Spring and Autumn equinoxes. And we are back to Star Wars again. Here is the battle plan described by H P Blavatsky:
He who strives to resurrect the Spirit crucified in him by his own terrestrial passions, and buried deep in the "sepulchre" of his sinful flesh; he who has the strength to roll back the stone of matter from the door of his own inner sanctuary, he has the risen Christ in him. The "Son of Man" is no child of the bond-woman—flesh, but verily of the free-woman—Spirit, the child of man's own deeds and the fruit of his own spiritual labour. (H.P.B. Series No. 7, pp. 4-5)
But why why does it have to be so painful, so difficult, so bloody scary at times. Why can´t we just all be nice and get on so friendly and just evolve picking out the thorns from our innerds with tweezers, like apes deflea each other? Padma-Sambhava, an Indian sage guru, had to say of it:
Although sesame seed is the source of oil, and milk the source of butter, not until the seed be pressed and the milk churned do the oil and butter appear. Although sentient beings are of the Buddha essence itself, not until they realize this can they attain Nirvana.
To achieve spiritual growth we face a difficult path, in which we have to do things in a specific way. How is something that each of us must search for ourselves…
Easter is a real and symbolic time of growth through death of the old, and resurrection of the new, of our continual becoming. I think the idea is rounded up nicely in a eggshell, by Anais Nin:
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Happy Easter everyone! Egg smashing galore!