Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Their ashes were then ground up and dumped into the Seine, so as to leave no relics behind."

This all started Gid after asked me to review his last post for suggestions and I gladly obliged.  In his post Gid mentions the Knights Templar in connection with a priest who also serves as an army chaplain.  It stuck in my head, because, well, Knights Templar!  I've read the books, stumbled across their symbols hanging from crosses on a stone altar, the cross later shattered, suggestive Merovingian bees lurking close by....I'm as entranced by the legends as much as the next nerd.

After reviewing the post I closed blogger and popped over to the NYT and there I read that Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist/mass murderer of Oslo, referred to himself as a Templar.  A meaningful coincidence indeed.  It was the first time that the scope of what had actually happened registered and I knew immediately the conspiracy theorists would have a field day.  When I got around to looking over Breivik's massive (1500 page) manifesto (2083 – A European Declaration of Independence), I saw a photo of him in full Masonic regalia.  Like raw meat before a pack of dogs.

Conspiracy theorist Michael Hoffman has written extensively about what he terms the Revelation of the Method (great explanation there, btw) and one detail illustrating this alleged tactic came back to me immediately.  He has written that part of the pattern found with mind-controlled sleeper agents is that they have three names.  I recalled he'd reiterated that point after the January shooting in Arizona.

(Targeted Killings in Arizona 1/10/11, boldface added) 

The alleged perpetrator, Jared Lee Loughner, has been made to fit the familiar "lone nut" profile, complete with the requisite three names (as in John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman). One of his other victims was a nine-year-old girl born on Sept. 11, 2001. Rep. Giffords attended a liberal "Reform" synagogue. Both Giffords and Roll were alleged targets of citizen displeasure over their actions relating to illegal immigration. The alleged perp supposedly wrote about government mind control.

So, here we have Anders Behring Breivik and questions relating to immigration and demographic change.  I can't help but think of my own recent Haboob post, a lightly satirical poke at nativist/nationalist sentiment which was dramatically highlighted by the Arizona shooting.  Some would say Breivik's actions were political, others the work of a madman.  But what is the line between political extemist violence and th e actions of a lunatic?  I read another article where I guy points out that when Arabs were suspected of the initial bombing, it was described as an act of radical Islamic terrorism.  When it was revealed the guy was Norwegian, the work of a madman.  When does it become Christian or Right-wing terrorism?  Is it?

There are other facts that some will use to support claims that this was a conspiracy.  Why, for example, did it take the police so long to respond?  Breivik was the son of a diplomat, and according to the NYT "He attended the elite high school where the country’s current king, Harald V, and his son once studied."  A step-brother to the Crown Princess was among the victims.  One might resonably ask how one man could kill so many?  Why could a news crew in a helicopter film him whereas a police helicopter wasn't even present?

Then there's the Freemason thing: 

Four years ago, he joined the Norwegian Order of Freemasons [St. Olaus T.D. Tre Søiler No. 8, Oslo]. To gain admission, a man must be “known to have stability in his daily life,” said Ivar A. Skar, the group’s leader. “He has now been excluded — the exclusion immediately effective,” Mr. Skar added.

The exclusion order and condemnation of his acts can be read here. 

(There is another Tamplar group called the The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ), unaffiliated with Freemasonry but part of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH).  They are a Christian charitable group founded by founded in 1804 by French physician Fabré-Palaprat.  Both sites have also issued statements like that of the Swedish Freemasons.  The Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), aka the Order of Oriental Templars) exists in Sweden, but as of yet haven't offered up any statement.)

In a search for patterns one must look everywhere. If one looks on a map of Kaczynski's adopted hometown, Lincoln, Montana at the time he resided there, one sees that the location where he chose to erect his cabin was amid the Scapegoat Mountains and the Scapegoat Eatery.

If one looks at images of Anders Breivik, one sees him attired in a masonic apron.

Sometimes in our modern desire for complexity we overlook the significance of the simplest signals.

The mere fact that he was a Mason and pictured thus is apparently "proof" enough of a conspiracy.

But then again, any plan to perpetrate a criminal act by more than one person is by definition a "conspiracy": 

The police said later they were not ruling out the possibility that Mr. Breivik’s claim of accomplices, which he described as “two more cells” in an organization he called Knights Templar, was accurate. But they also noted that he had previously told them he had acted alone.  (NYT)

Reality or fantasy?

We'll have to wait and see.  I'm led to think of another story about a conservative Christians assuming the Templar/Crusader mantle.

Recall back in 2009 that Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater (now Xe) was accused by a former employee of being a man who "....views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe...." 

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Blackwater/Xe has also been linked to the very real and still-existent Knights of Malta (who have also released a statment of condemantion).

The two riders on the same horse represent poverty.  Could it also mean the Templar never acts alone?
The Templars were a monastic/military order of founded circa 1119 by two French veterans of the First Crusade for the purpose of protecting pilgrims to the freshly-seized Jerusalem.  In pursuit of this goal they came up with an idea that has been described as the forerunner of modern banking.  Let's say you wanted to travel from France to Jerusalem; it didn't make much sense to lug a bag of gold along--too risky.  So what you did was left your gold in Toulouse or Beziers or whereever and the Knights wrote you a receipt, with which you could withdraw part of your deposit along the route.  For a fee of course.

They also spent a great deal of time fighting in the Crusades, which is more important to our narrative.

The templars soon amassed a vast fortune of cash and properties: vineyards, lands, ships, castles.  Far from their ideals of poverty, humility and chastity, they acquired a reputation as both haughty and debauched.  Resented by many, their wealth was coveted.  On Friday, October 13, 1307, French King Philip IV, who'd been hatching a plot with Clement V, ordered the Templars arrested and tortured.  They were accused of heresy, blasphemy, idolatry, homosexuality....but it was pretty much all a pretext for seizing their wealth.

In any event, Clement formally disbanded the order in 1312 and the Templars disappeared.  Or did they?  Some of them may have fled to Scotland, which at the time was excommunicated from the Church.  Although far from proven, there is some tantalizing evidence.  Many point to the sudden appearance of Templar symbols on Scottish gravestones in the years following the dissolution.  Some authors of a fanciful bent (Born in Blood, Holy Blood Holy Grail) posit that these fugitive Templars evolved into Freemasonry.  Bear in mind that these books are considered pseudohistorical by most serious historians, but that aside, this particular claim is not wholly without merit.

Many Freemasons and anti-Masons believe this to be true, however, and many Freemasons who don't believe in a historical link nevertheless honor them.  In the US, for example, the appendant York Rite contains degrees or orders, divided into Commanderies and Grand Commanderies, known as the Knights Templar; both Northern and Southern jurisdictions of the Scottish Rite contain degrees inspired by the Templars.  The Masonic youth group Order of DeMolay is named after the last Grand Commander of the Templars, Jacques DeMolay.  There is a curious legend that upon the death of Louis XVI during the French Revolution, a man jumped on the scaffold an cried "Jacques DeMolay, thou art avenged!"

The Templar history and mythos is such a morass of bullshit that it would be folly for me to try and refute or deny the Templar thesis of Freemasonic origin.  Serious scholarship has produced, however, a strong case for a Scottish origin to Freemasony (David Stevenson. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590-1710.)  It's not an airtight case, but it does at least demonstrate a strong and quite early Masonic presence before the solidly documented existence Freemasonry after 1717.  But that's a whole other story and doesn't involve Templars.

Anders Behring Breivik is not the first Islamophobe to identify with crusaders...his video also cites El Cid as a hero...and if I recall correctly during my researches on Pelayo (Pelagius) I came across a website celebrating him within a militant Catholic/anti-Muslim context.  As I argued in that post and a series of posts about contemporary folklore, the long period of the Crusades and the Reconquista gave rise to a lot of legends celebrating Christian resistance and fortitude set during Late Antiquity.   Contemporary propagandists are similarly reaching back into the Middle Ages for inspiration.

Unlike Anglo-saxon "Blue" Masonry, yet like the Templar Degrees of the York and Scottish Rites, the Norwegian Order of Freemasons is restricted to Christians.  Breivik's affiliation will be an endless source of speculation and "proof" of a conspiracy.  Perhaps it's not so bad that this post has taken me so long to cobble together, today in my inbox I received another essay on the tragedy by Hoffman entitled Anders Behring Breivik: a Judeo-Masonic Terrorist‏. 

Which leads me in many directions.  First I ask myself why I continue to read this kind of shit.  Second it supports my idea that anti-Masonry is often not so cryptic anti-Semitism.  Third is that there is an interesting anti-Zionist narrative being constructed around the tragedy, which I'll leave you to dig into for yourselves.  Fourth, that what counts as "coincidence" and "meaningful" is an extremely subjective and dynamic phenomenon and that when their existence outside of the mind and the eye that sees them are taken too seriously, lead us into the realm of conspiracy.

To what end such a conspiracy?  Again, I'll let you dig into that.  But you can bet their will be more calls for restrictions on hate speech, increased police powers, fearmongering, suspicion....

from Wikipedia.
I for one also can't help but think of a film which has just been released here in France. The English title is Ironclad and it was initially released on March 4 in the UK and July 26 in the US.  I think of it because of the French title:  Le Sang des Templiers (Blood of the Templars). 

The tagline:  "BLOOD. WILL. RUN."


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Chalice & The Sewer, or a Miracle in South St. Paul

A Catholic church in St. Paul, Minnesota, may have a bleeding eurcharist on their hands. This quote from the Star Tribune caught our interest as the chalice & the sewer are both subjects of LoSian concern: [the dropped eurcharist] was placed in a chalice-like container with water so it would dissolve. Then it was to be poured into a special sink not connected to the sewer system.

The miracle was reported by a former soldier priest who took the pics at the top of this post--two callings that require incredible personal sacrifice, but immediately reminds us of the Knights Templar and sets our lizard brains to conspiracy-minded reflexive defensive posturings ("Duck! Xe's got us lined up in their Trijicon!").* An encounter with an army chaplain supposedly kick-started Heller's "Catch-22". I can imagine why.

At any rate, the supposed miracle is being investigated by biologists. I have no idea why biologists would investigate this. What possible good outcome can they envision? If they report it as natural phenomena, well, they just crushed the spirits of the hopeful. And if they report it as a miracle, won't their biologist badges be revoked? And who pays for the lab time?

The "miracle" will almost certainly wind up to be another case of serratia marcescens, a bacteria that looks red and keeps popping in these cases, apparently altering the course of human history.

It seems to be relevant to this story that 21 churches are slated to close in twin cities--including St. Augustine which has reported the possible miracle. When I asked Daurade for his take on this story, he said that "I'd like to see you talk about the merging of churches and how a miracle could boost one church's claim against another. then relate the numerous examples where this was happening, dueling claims to have a certain saint's relics, the traffic of relics etc....something like that?" Well, yeah, I'd like to see something like that, too, but I lack the historical knowledge, so I'll let you share your own stories in the comments.

Meanwhile, the Virgin's appeared in Green Bay, WI!

And boy-oh-boy don't them there pics that the chaplain took look like an eye-nipple?

* An interesting game (that I suspect David Foster Wallace of playing) is to see how many characters (i.e., not letters) you can type in a row without breaking standard grammatical conventions. I have to take this moment to brag on the !").* 5-character combo that led to this footnote. I confess that the asterisk is pushing it (conventions-wise), but 5 in a row is pretty damn good.

Friday, July 22, 2011

هبوب aka "Strong Wind"

The New York Times reports today ('Haboobs' Stir Critics in Arizona) on a skirmish taking place in the op-ed pages of the Arizona Republic.

The dust storms sweeping over Phoenix recently are apparently being referred to in local media as "haboobs", an Arabic word for sandstorm meaning "strong wind."  This has rankled some Arizonans.

It all started here, when one Don Yonts ["Yonts" being an Anglicized version of the German "Janz"] objects: 

....this is Arizona, not some Middle Eastern nation.

I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob.  How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?

Aside from wondering who appointed this guy as the guardian of veterans' feelings, his sentiment is hands down a sign of the silliest sort of nativism

Of course, the debate over loan words isn't a new one, and as any historian of American English knows, Webster single-handedly Americanized English spelling when he published his dictionaries.  His efforts along this line, as well as his work in Americanizing grammar, were part of the era's obsessive push towards creating a national culture, celebrating the virtues of liberty and patriotism.

Not everyone shares Yonts' point of view:

May I remind the writer that, according to his logic, the following words of foreign origin should also not be used as they may insult him and our armed forces? Typhoon, shawl, pajamas and kiosk. Also, we should not teach "algebra," use the "zero" or wear "khaki" pants.

Some are likewise amused, peppering an entire letter with loan words, while others "....laughed at [the] use of fancy words to describe a good old-fashioned dust storm."  According to the latter, the word haboob "has been imposed on us, and we can do nothing about it."  I  love the hapless victim posturing.  Very productive.

The nativist sentiment recurs: 

Why does it surprise Arizonans when our legal aliens (non-natives) call dust storms haboobs?

These are the same strangers who have made no attempt to learn how to pronounce state names and landmarks given to us by our pioneers, Native Americans and Hispanic cultures, ranging back hundreds of years.

Apparently, history is finished.  Hispanic and Anglo pioneers are okay, but more recent arrivals are to be derided.  And Arab words should be avoided.  The process of linguistic enrichment stops here.  A line in the sand!

But these haboob nay-sayers may have a point.  On the discussion page of Wikipedia's haboob article someone writes: 

The term "Haboob" was defined by the indigenous population of the Middle East and Sahara deserts. The name defines the storms of their region that is a subset of dry wind storms that involved primarily sand and usually of a longer duration that North American dry storms. Dust storms of the southwest US and Mexico consist of primarily dust or top surface soil. To compare relatively benign dust storms to the more damaging sand storms of the Middle East and northern Africa is to reduce the impact the name "Haboob" evokes when discussing dry wind storms.

Now, keeping foreign words at bay is a hopeless task...just ask the French, notorious anti-loan worders.  They should know.  Old French and Norman account for more Modern English vocabulary than Old and Middle English. 

All this comes against the backdrop of the Arizona legislature's recent campaign to solicit private donations for a border fence to keep out illegal immigrants, drug runners and haboobs, an effort which netted 58,000 USD on day one.

Advocates of a fence have a powerful ally in reality.  The website for this effort features the following startling image:

When a country must warn people about movng freely within their own borders, there is indeed a problem.

But while most opponents of the fence target it as anti-Hispanic, the website actually dedicates a lot of its time arguing that the danger is in fact not from Latinos but Arabs, militant or otherwise: 

According to an investigation by the House Committee on Homeland Security, intelligence officials have determined members of the terrorist group Hezbollah have already infiltrated the U.S. by crossing at the southern border. Border Patrol agents recovered military-style patches on clothing near the border—one patch contained the word "martyr" in Arabic and another depicted a plane appearing to fly into sky scrapers.

In 2009, according to Homeland Security documents, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials detained 45,279 illegal aliens classified as OTM (Other Than Mexican), many of whom were from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

Additionally, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the House Appropriations Committee stating that these OTMs "are individuals from countries with known Al Qaeda connections who are changing their Islamic surnames to Hispanic-sounding names and obtaining false Hispanic identities, learning to speak Spanish and pretending to be Hispanic.

All this talks of desert storms and barriers and Arabs brings to mind Operation Desert Storm, the US name of the Iraq airland conflict in 1991.  Now, this storm began in 1990 as Desert Shield.  The name is a catchy one to be sure.  It's the English translation of a 2006 offensive by the Iraqi insurgency led by Al-Qaeda in Gulf War 2:  Son of Gulf War. Keeping foreign influence at bay it something shared by all parties it would seem.

So a shield becomes a storm and becomes a shield again, wielded by mad Arabs trying to get through yet another shield into a desert storm-ridden area guarded by Minutemen, glad American patriots who take their name from men who helped wrestle the east coast away from men who'd wrestled it from Indians and then made their way here to wrestle it away from Mexicans who'd wrestled it away from other Indians and who the Minutemen fear are slowly wrestling it back from Americans, etc., etc.

Do good fences make good neighbors?  What exactly is a storm fence?  How does a shield become a storm?  Are we reaching the perfect storm for....something?  Haboob?  Got boobs?  Got milk?  Where's the beef?  Who let the dogs out?

Is there room in this town for haboobs and dust storms?  I think so, but as much as I find the phrase "dust storm" to be evocative for the mind's eye, saying "haboob" is just funny, like "boing", "poob" or "pumpernickel".  I think I'll be using it a lot more in the near future.

And yeah, I actually get the rancor of the Arizona native.  I've seen Florida turn into a giant strip mall as aresult of an endless influx of New Yorkers and other assorted yankees.  I remember when Tampa was actually livable.  Now I live in France and am watching it happen all over again, thanks to the success of Airbus.

And my British friends call me a Yank.  I guess in terms of adding to the urban sprawl in search of a job, they're right.  Which is all a haboob wants, innit?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Copyright infringement

It's everywhere....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fiat Lux

Facebook friend Hudson Luce was kind enough to brighten some photos from my essay on Notre Dame de la Daurade, which I'd linked to in "Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics."

I'd posted that article to Facebook on July 5th on 5:27 PM and he'd done these touch ups and made 'em known by 6:13.  That's pretty quick.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank him publicly and link to his Flickr photostream here.  Here's an example:

Fallen stone: tub plundering

Fallen Stone(s) sahu. 1. Occult mirror through which the powers of man are distracted.


"The meteorite has always exerted a powerful influence over the imagination. What child, nay, what adult, has not marvelled under those graceful arcs of fire, so transient, so tantalizing, that are shooting stars? Is it any wonder that with our contemporary sense of the marvellous, the ancients took the shooting star for something even greater? A stone from the roof of the sky, perhaps even a piece of heaven itself?"
--Elysius Dubord, The Origins of Mormo Worship in Chaldean Mythology (1932)
Twinkle Twinkle
Throughout history mankind has worshipped the unknown and the dwelled in shadow, primitivistic urges little advanced beyond the endless sniffing of faeces so common among dogs and lesser species. The belief system built upon the imaginary will eventually collapse and the society to which it gave stucture will succumb to the forces of Associational entropy, drowning in failed belief, anatelic, crumbling evermore. But what of a God whose Will cracks across the sky in a startling display of atmospheric hullabulloo? What of the shooting star, sparkling like diamonds across the breast of Night, popping the dull cork of religions and landing it, once and for all, in the realm of the real, the Archimedic, beyond eternal Poobanism and like that.

Dubord associates Mormo with a minor Chaldean demigod called Mommo, a great warrior, but human. One day he set out to look for a stone which he had seen fall to earth and blinded by the sun invented the first denumbrator. He recovered the stone, which had fallen from the great vaults of the sky where Sirus soars -- from the very arches that support the heavens and separate the gods from the men of earth. When Mommo found the fallen boundary stone, he aquired great powers. He made of himself a king, so arrogant as to challenge the very gods. As powerful as he had become, however, he was no match for the gods; he was banished by Enlil and forced to roam the planet forever. To protect himself and the other gods, Enlil then hid the fallen stone inside the head of another wandering immortal. In his bitter state of earthbound immortality, Mommo sent his followers in search of the stone; when they found a likely candidate for the living hiding place, they naturally cut the person's head off to look inside for the stone. Dubord claims that Mormo, then, is merely Mommo by another name, and that the sacrifices associated with the former are the result of a misreading by Ankaran worshippers of Mommo's purpose: they knew nothing of a fallen stone but believed their god was demanding sacrifice to augment his power and satiate his thirst for death, as in the Mormo Death Cycle.

Dubord's theory, although far from widely accepted, still inspires provocative questions. An entire sub-genre of occult literature has grown up around his rather modest and rigorously scholarly book which has unfortunately caused many to look upon Dubord as some sort of crank who merits no attention whatsoever. But this is unfair to the mild-mannered professor, who in no way intended to posit what many have sought to ascribe to his writings.

That which was lost
One of Dubord's "wild step-children" is self-styled "investigative mythologist" William Henry, whose article "Shock ‘n Awe: We Will Rock You" (21 March 2003) contains quite a bit of clever word play linking the current war in Iraq with ancient Babylonian mythology.

As Elysuis points out, it is widely believed that during the period of Jewish history known as the Babylonian exile, Chaldean mythology had a great influence on the development of the mysticism found in the Kabbala. Starting with "Shock and Awe," the phrase used by the US military to describe the first phase of its Iraq invasion, Henry sees a reference to the Kabbalistic name of the feminine presence of God: "Shakina," who was exiled after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. In her exile, she has variously been referred to as "the Widow" the "Stone of Exile" and the "Precious Stone." Arguably, her return from exile will precipitate the reconstruction of Solomon's Temple, which--according to the fundamentalist Christians George Bush associates himself with--is necessary before the Christ can make his encore performance.

According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor (6 August 2003), Iraqi folklore credited Saddam Hussein's occult powers to a "magic stone" he wore around his neck. What if the whole point of the Iraq war was to recover that stone? Shakina, the Precious Stone, was associated with the Ark of the Covenant, which makes any army who bears it invincible. Henry also points out that another element of the Shock and Awe campaign were the much-vaunted "decapitation strikes."

In Grail Romances, Percival is almost always, despite all other differences among their various authors, called the "Son of the Widow Lady." In Wolfram Von Eschenbach's version, the Templars are the Grail guardians, which is a stone called "lapsit exillis." This is bastard Latin which can be interpreted as "the stone, exiled." Whether the stone fell from heaven or was forced up by geomantic upheaval matters but little -- for Constantine himself, speaking from beyond Life in the vehicle of decapitation, blessed the Christian forces invading the Holy Land. What more does a sword need than the whetting stone of Christianity's true founder?

An Exemplary Construct
Freemasons are also referred to as "Widow's Sons," and a lost stone plays an important part in their mythology. A lost keystone, for example, is the whole point of the highest degree of the Royal Arch. Hiram Ibiff, the Freemason's martyred hero, is finally killed by a wound to the head while in charge of building Solomon's Temple.

Decapitated heads are often associated with the grail legends as well as the Templars. Richard the Lion-Hearted is said to have decapitated thousands of prisoners during the Third Crusade. The Templars were said to worship before heads and to hold something which guaranteed fertility and protection, much as decapitated heads have figured in Celtic and Welsh mythology (one of Shakina's places of exile is rumored to be Ireland). This could be the Grail or the Ark, both of which were said to hold these powers.

The biggest problem with piecing this history together is that after legend placed the stone in the head of an immortal, it was never retrieved. The historical record lacks any explicit connection, but this has not stopped people from searching. Texts this ancient are few, so many scholars have looked to Biblical references, including chapter 4 of Joshua, where God commanded Joshua to place twelve stones with the Ark of the Covenant. While it takes an extreme leap of faith to accept that these stones were somehow related to the fallen stone, several interesting facts fall into place once you make the jump.

The Ark, and it's accompaniment of stones, was later placed in Solomon’s Temple. The inner sanctum of the Temple, which held the Ark, was demarcated by encircled stones that separated the Profane from the Sacred. It seems likely that these were the same stones brought to the Ark by Joshua. As in Chaldean mythology, the stones demarked the separation of gods and men.

The treasures of the Temple were later stolen by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s name in Akkadian translates to “Nebo, protector the boundary-stone.”1  No mention of the Ark or the stones is made when the treasures were returned to the Israelites. Interestingly, the Kaaba, the holiest of Islamic shrines, contains a similar arrangement to the Temple, wherein a Holy area is set off from the world of sinners. Is it possible that the stones left the Chaldeans, entered the hands of the Israelites, only to be wrestled away by the Muslims who keep it hidden away?

Another possibility has been posited. Nebuchadnezzar also conquered the Phoenician city of Tyre. Curiously, Hiram I, the King of Tyre, had provided vital assistance with the construction of the Solomon’s Temple. Tyre was later conquered by Alexander the Great, and eventually fell under an early Christian influence. Later still, it was absorbed into the Islamic tradition, only to be conquered during the First Crusade. Legend has it the Holy Grail was recovered from Tyre by the Templars. Did they actually take the stone, which as since been misrepresented as the Holy Grail?

Much of the speculation surrounding the stone and Tyre rests on etymology. The Hebrew and Arabic names for the city (Zor and Sour or Sor, respectively) both translate to "rock" or "stone" in an apparent reference to the rocky island where the city is situated. But the word "Tyre" traces back to Indo-European word "Dyeus", which meant “sky”.2

It's not a great leap to see that this was a town alternatively named for the Heavens and the Earth -- perhaps a strong magnet for a stone fallen from the arches separating Heaven and Earth.

Still Crazy After All These Years
If we assemble these references together, a pattern emerges; are the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, an exiled widow, a fallen stone and a decapitated head one and the same? It is no wonder that much has been made of Dubord's theory. If Mommo went around cutting off heads in order to "get his groove back," the Gnomic, Mormo-infested US government might do the same. Plastic Tub believes that if true, the US didn't find what they were looking for when they pulled a gaunt Saddam Hussein from his hole in the ground. Decapitations are still in fashion all over Iraq as so-called "insurgents," most likely CIA operatives hunting for the fallen stone, make their gruesome home movies in a rather clumsy revelation of their search.

Agents haven't met with much sucess in regard to Bin Laden either. Days after 9-11, a small CIA hit squad led by Gary Schroen was sent to Afghanistan to "Capture Bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice." As for his cohorts? Shroen was told to put their heads on pikes. Four years after the attacks he masterminded on 9-11, Bin Laden remains at large. Perhaps his head holds the fallen stone....
"I heard that Saddam Hussein, in solitary confinement, was spending his time writing poetry, reading the Koran, eating cookies and muffins, and taking care of some bushes and shrubs. I heard that he had placed a circle of white stones around a small plum tree."
Eliot Weinberger, What I Heard about Iraq (2005)
The Beat Goes On
The fallen stone has made its way into other mythical traditions as well. At Islam's holiest site, there is a shrine called the Kaaba, or Kaba. One of the cornerstones is a meteorite 50 cm in diameter, surrounded by a silver band that holds it together due to damage sustained while being returned 22 years after it was stolen by Ismaeli raiders in 930 CE. The stone is believed to have fallen during Adamic times and that it was originally a dazzling pure white, having turned black after absorbing the sins of true believers. This stone is called Al-Hajaral Aswad.

(Many have speculated that the Ismaelis were to have some important contact with the Templars. Interesting in this story is that the Templars in their turn are said to have influenced the Freemasons, who place a great deal of importance on symbolic cornerstones. The White House and the Capitol Building, for example, have Freemasonic cornerstones.)

In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus tells a parable known as the "Pearl of Great Price." In this parable a merchant finds a pearl so alluring he sells all of his belongings to buy it, ending up wealthier than ever. In this parable Jesus is commonly believed to be illustrating that the pearl, or the Kingdon of Heaven, is worth sacrificing everything for; it is the ultimate treasure.

In the Acts of Thomas, a Gnostic text from ca. 200 CE, one also finds the "Hymn of the Pearl" (aka "Hymn of the Robe of Glory") as a metaphor for the exile and redemption of the soul. In the Hymn, a noble youth is sent to Egypt to recover a precious pearl guarded by a serpent. Once there, he loses his identity, forgetting not only his family and where he comes from, but who he is as well. After a series of encounters he comes back to himself, lulls the serpent to sleep and snatches the pearl, recovering the splendid, glittering robe which had ben made for him by his parents and which during his "exile" he had removed and forgotten. In a bit of Jungian synchronicity, ancient Chinese lore relates that pearls were formed in the brains of dragons, and guarded between their teeth. The dragon had to be slain before the pearl could be retrieved. Pearls were said to fall from the clouds when dragons fought. The black pearl, in particular, was a symbol of wisdom.

Some of these themes are repeated in the Pearl, a 14th century poem believed to be by the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a Grail Romance. In this poem, a young man falls asleep and dreams that he has lost his precious pearl. Perceiving a maiden, he asks if she is his lost pearl. She says that his pearl is not lost, but a rose which has withered. The youth wonders if the maiden has replaced Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Later, wearing the pearl, she instructs him on sin and redemption and exhorts him to forsake all he has to buy the pearl. He asks of the New Jerusalem, and she says he may not enter but can see it. He is led up a river to a spot where he sees the Blessed entering the Kingom of God and plunges into the river to join them; he awakes from his dream at this point, resolved to fulfill the wishes of God. Is this maiden--associated with the lost stone-- Shakinah, guide to the reconstructed Temple?

In Polynesia, the black pearl was called "the pearl of queens" or the "queen of pearls." Many legends surround the pearl. According to one, Oro, the god of peace and fertility, came down to earth on a rainbow, offering the pearl oyster to man. In another, the spirits of coral and sand adorned one "Te Ufi" with a cloak of the colors of all the fish that swim in Polynesia. The glory of the heavens came to rest on the ocean bed in the iridescent mother-of-pearl, which was considered a gift from the sky to the sea.

The Greeks and Romans thought pearls were born in oysters when rain or dew penetrated between the layers. The Persians thought the same, but they believed that if a pearl was imperfect it was due to thunder in the sky. Another says pearls are born from the meeting of a rainbow with the earth.

The Pearl of Great Price is also the name of the second holiest Book of Mormonism, which of course is a well-known front for a powerful Mormo Cult. Although not a meteorite, the pearl is a stone of great power. In fundamentalist belief systems, the fallen stone represents a literal thing, an object to be retrieved from within someone's head. More mystically-oriented believers feel that the pearl is symbolic of some sort of knowledge, a key to heaven, if you will, represented by a stone hidden in the head of an "immortal," or person of lasting import and influence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics."

Here's a little ditty that brings together a few recurring LoS themes and fancies:  snakes, wimmins, a triangle, political vandalism, violence, sculpture....

It all begins with a quotation from a fellow by the name of Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle, known as "Chucky D" to his pals, not to be confused with Public Enemy front-man "Chuck D".   Actually, I just made that up.  One of his nicknames was, however, "the great asparagus."  Which just goes to prove that truth is stranger than fiction.

Flag of Free France; Wikicommons
Nous dirons à la France, simplement, comme Péguy : « Mère, voici vos fils qui se sont tant battus ». General de Gaulle, June 18, 1942
The line comes from Charles Peguy's poem Ève (1913).  Péguy was an ardent socialist and nationalist (two words which never sound well together) and later in his short life became a devout and mystical Catholic.  He wrote a play Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d'Arc that first appeared in 1910.  Joan of Arc, as we have already seen, remains a potent nationalist symbol in France.  He also had a special fondness for the Virgin Mary; indeed, he spent the night before his death decorating with flowers a small statue in the village where he was stationed.  Despite his devotion to Eve, Jeanne d'Arc and the Virgin, he was killed by a shot in the forehead on the eve of the battle of the Marne on September 5th, 1914.

Charles De Gaulle was evoking Péguy in 1942 to honor the volunteers who fought for Free France. In 1948 a monument was created for these volunteers, the centerpiece of which is a massive bronze sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle, student of Rodin and native of Montauban (prefecture of the department in which I live). Péguy's words "Mère, voici vos fils qui se sont tant battus", undoubtedly because of de Gaulle's speech, are etched on the front.

Appropriate line from a poem (Ève) which also includes the lines:  "Happy are those who die for the carnal earth/ but only if it be for a just war."  I've also come across another interesting piece of information about Peguy's poems here (no author listed):

"The arms of Jesus are the Cross of Lorraine / Both the blood in the artery and the blood in the vein, / Both the source of grace and the clear fountain" (from La Tapisserie de Sainte Geneviève, 1912). Noteworthy, during World War II the Cross of Lorraine was used as the symbol of the forces of Free France. Both the Resistance and the Vichy government cited Péguy's patriotic writings.

The same article also has the following quote:

"Faith is a great tree, an oak tree rooted deep in the heart of France", Péguy wrote in Le mystère des Saints Innocents (1912). 

This is very prophetic, if only a prophecy by coincidence.  The name "de Gaulle" is said to come from either "gaule" a long pole which was used in the Middle Ages to beat olives from the trees, or "galle" which in the language of Asterix means "oak", the sacred tree of the Druids.  One could argue that de Gaulle was France's mighty oak in the storm, rooted deeply and keeping the faith of a Free France alive.  Interestingly, the lance, or long pole (gaule) of the sculpture honoring the fighters of Free France is adorned with olives.  Another prophetic coincidence.  The statue dates from 1922.

Bourdelle's "La France," fourth copy, Paris.  LoS photo.
Peguy's lines translate into ""Mother, behold your sons who have fought so hard."  This line undoubtedly refers to the crucifixion of Jesus as described in John 19 (KJV): 

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 

Indeed the statue features a stylized representation of the crucified Jesus, on an inverted triangle.  I'm not sure why or if there are other examples of this symbolism.  Its inclusion here is certainly to link Peguy's lines to the Crucifixion, thus effectively linking the dead of the Free French Forces ("FFL" in French) to Jesus' martyrdom.  Thinking back to Ève, which begins "Happy are those who die for a carnal earth", one is reminded of the Beatitudes, which begin with either "Blessed are the...." which some translate as "Happy are the...." 
La France, detail.  LoS photo.
We have discussed the serpent quite a bit.  Here it could refer back to the story of Moses in the desert, quoted by Jesus:  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3, KJV) or the conflation of Biblical types indicating that ultimately, the crucifixion was a victory over Satan. 

But the snake isn't looking very vanquished here.  Indeed; it seems to be quite friendly with the woman.  As wee have seen, Péguy seems fascinated by sacred women and in the "trinity" mentioned above, Eve and the Virgin are linked by the serpent, a link explicitly referred to in French Marial iconography.  As Eve is ostensibly responsible for mortality and the need for sexual intercourse to reproduce, Mary, with a sex-free conception, gave birth to the perfect man who could return us to immortality. "If you believe in that sort of thing," to quote my childhood hero Indiana Jones.  (See my essay here for more on this). 

But perhaps this is pushing it a bit far, as I've read else where that the woman is Athena.  Thus the serpent might represent Erichthonius, of whom Athena is the adoptive mother.  According to the tale, Hephaestus once tried to rape Athena and some semen shot onto her thigh.  She flicked the offending glob onto the ground.  It was from this that Erichthonius was born.  There are variations upon this tale.  Erichthonius may be the snake that accompnaied Athena, a mythical ruler who may have been half-serpent or, in a variation, was once seen with a snake coiled about him.  Thus in this context the serpent may represent wisdom or Athena's unviolated purity.  This would be in keeping with a nationalist rhetoric, or to commemorate the Resistance to foreign invaders.
La France, detail.  LoS photo.
I would also comment on the gesture in this statue.  It is said to be Athena scanning the horizon, but it also forms a kind of salute.  There is something of her gesture of the Venus of Lloret, although I may be pushing this a bit to far.  In that post I discussed that both Venus and Athena, according to some legends, were born as fully-grown, independent women.  This would also fit into a nationalist identity; the statue is called "La France" after all, and it is no one's child.

I found quite a bit more about this statue on a website containing extracts of an article originally appearing in Memoire Vive (2010), the journal of the Centre de Documentation Historique de l'Algérie.  I have translated and summarized the important bits as follows.
In 1922 or thereabouts, the French government decided to erect a monument commemorating the arrival of American troops at the end of WW1, in 1917.  It was to be built near Bordeaux and two architects (Ventre and Damour) thought about placing "La France" in front of a lighthouse, scouring the horizon for the arrival of allied troops.

Bourdelle was eventually chosen to execute the work and after some equivocation he took up the task.

The statue was to be 9 meters high, 3.4 meters wide and 1.4 meters deep.  Bourdelle chose to represent France with Pallas Athena in her aspect as warrior goddess, enveloped in snakes, allegedly representing wisdom, but which may have Biblical implications or involve metaphors of purity.  She indeed seems to be holding her arm up as if to look into the distance.  She has a shield and lance, this latter adorned with olive branches of peace (recall that "de Gaulle" may come a word for a pole used to beat olives from trees).

His niece served as the model for the figure, although it was apparently his secretary who posed for the arms.  It is said that when the latter asked why she was enveloped in snakes, Bourdelle smiled and said:  "As they say in France, be careful of the Americans."  (DSK would concur.  Come to think of it, both his tales of woe and Athena's involve an incriminating glob of semen....)

Apparently, four bronze examples of "la France" were made from the original models.

One was used by Bourdelle for his First World War memorial in Montauban.  I'm not sure when it was made, but the memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1932.  It is currently located on the esplanade of the Cours Foucault (pictured here).

Another decorated the entrance to the Grand Palais during the exposition of decorative arts in 1925.  It was stored away waiting for a planned museum of modern decorative arts and it lay there, abandoned.  It was later discovered by the mayor of Birançon, who contacted the artist's widow in order to acquire it for his town.  This one measured 4.55 m in height and was placed on the porch of the local Chateau, gazing over the peaks of the Alps. (pictured here).

In 1938, another example was placed at the exit of the train station of the Bois de Boulogne to salute the arrival a visit by English royals.  The exact location remains unknown and it would appear that this was in fact a gilded plaster copy destined for the Palais de Tokyo, later to become the Museum of Modern Art.

The copy which started this whole post, number four, was erected on June 18, 1948 to commemorate the "appel du 18 juin," the speech by de Gaulle in which Péguy was quoted.  It was erected at the instigation of General de Larminat, president of  the Association des Français Libres.  This rests upon a socle with a plaque honoring the memory of those who fought for Free France, adorned with the Cross of Lorraine.  It replaced the gilded plaster copy while awaiting work yet to be completed, an Apollo by Charles Despiau. 

That same year, de Larminat honored the FFL and colonel Colonna d'Ornano, killed in action in 1941, by placing a similar plaque on the socle of the Algiers version. It reads:

" Mère voici vos fils qui se sont tant battus
Aux volontaires des Forces Françaises Libres morts
pour l'honneur et la Liberté de la France
18 juin 1940, 9 mai 1945 "

This third version (1935) measured 9 meters (high, I assume) and had originally been placed at the entrance of the "foire d'Alger." After the foire, it was put on the terrace of the Musée de Beaux-Arts, where she scrutinized the Mediterranean.  This one has the most storied history. 

As a symbol of de Gaulle, the statue was blown up on the evening of November 26, 1961 by the OAS (Organisation armée secrète), a far-right group who despised de Gaulle for what they perceived as his treason towards Algeria, then a French Department, after his actions led to Algerian independence in 1962.  The socle was pulverized and the statue damaged. 

After this symbolic attack, the pieces were collected and stored until the statue could be repaired.  The French ambassador obtained permission to recover the statue but the French administration refused to pay for the transport cost, instead foisting the responsibility upon Paris' Bourdelle museum.  It was eventually taken to be repaired but the part of the support which depicted the snakes, as well as that part of the lance which held the olive branches, were too damaged to be repaired.  This lance was later sawed down in order for it to fit inside the museum of the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan military academy.  A fitting tribute...this was where de Gaulle earned the nickname "the great asparagus."  Full circle.
La France, version three:
So, it took some digging but some interesting facts have been brought to light.  The version I saw seems largely forgotten, not quite as honored as her sisters elsewhere.  As I studied this curiosity, kids skateboarded below and a couple of French hipsters cadged cigarettes while a few yards away, hordes of people stood in line for the Basquiat expo.  Which somehow seems a fitting example of another Péguy quote:

"It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Gen. Vang Pao & Magical Stones

Gen. Vang Pao ("VP")--who led the Hmong into exile and remained, for many Hmong, their leader in the foreign lands of CA, MN, and elsewhere in the US--died about a week and half ago. [Jan. 6, 2011--this was lost in draft limbo for a while]

There's a large Hmong community where I live, and around here he's been compared to Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Sitting Bull, and Caesar; the Economist compared him to Moses ...

Big words.

But bear in mind that he was recently arrested for trying to overthrow Laos. Not only was he living in CA at the time--he was trained and funded by the CIA back in the 60s and 70s for this very task. Plus he had at least 20 kids. So maybe big words are due.

I read a really great article about him that I'd love to quote in full, but instead, let's hone in on this curious bit (my apologies for the somewhat heavy-handed chopping):

[Vang] told me of the magic stone an old Hmong had given him to protect him, walking for days through the mountains to make the presentation.

The stone, he said, was in a safe-deposit box in an American bank. It, or the spirits, saved him many times. He walked away from eight airplane crashes, was left standing when a U.S. bomber mistakenly dropped four large bombs on his command post (none exploded; figure those odds) and was shot up more than once ...

Nothing daunted him. I have seen him bless women in St. Paul who could not conceive a child and who then became pregnant within months.
Now I haven't been about to find out much else about VP's magic stone, but boy oh boy did that pique my interest. We here at LoS have certainly previously talked about magical stones at length. Magic stones seem to pop up again and again in history and myth as well as contemporary tales; a few examples include:

* The Benben Stone

* The Foundation Stone

* The Fallen Stone: Perhaps related to the Ark of the Covenant, it was rumored to have protected, for a time, Saddam Hussein, and also rumored to be the true goal of the US invasion into Iraq.

* Syvelster's Stone: One of the most terrifying tales ever told.

And of course our explorations in the Masonic fall directly in the cross hairs formed by "stone" and "power".

See also: