Monday, April 30, 2012

Orange Tip

The first warm and dry day in what was the wettest April on record gives the opportunity for butterflies to once more forage and fly. Two Orange Tips (male) spotted in garden this morning. 

Wiki-Link - Orange Tip

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Physica Subterranea

Recently on a BBC 4 programme entitled 'Metal: How it works', the presenter Mark Miodownik chronicled a short history of metal. From early man's mining of copper, to the Bronze Age and Iron Age, to the giant furnaces of the Industrial Revolution and the building of ships and planes, metal more than any other substance has been at the heart of civilization. Mark Miodownik succinctly demonstrated how from the village forge to industrialization and the manufacture of steel, to modern-day electrical wiring to computer conductivity, advancements in metallurgy have significantly altered the lives of each generation in homes, industries and cities throughout the centuries.

One early contributor to the history of metallurgy was the German-born Johann Joachim Becher (1635-1682). In his relatively short life J.J.Becher was an economic advisor to German and Austrian courts. He was also one of a number of 17th century figures who were Janus-like in their intellectual outlook, being  in equal measure both an early scientist as well as alchemist. Not unlike the Belgian alchemist and scientist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579-1644) and the English physician-philosopher Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) J.J. Becher had one foot in the world of early modern scientific enquiry and another in the world of ancient esotericism.

Although the frontispiece illustration of J.J. Becher's Physica Subterranea (above) with its depiction of a mysterious sun-beamed head haloed by planetary symbols is suggestive of the esoteric, in fact it is by all accounts a mundane work of scientific metallurgy which simply lists the geographic distribution of various metals throughout Europe. A copy of Physica Subterranea (1669) is listed as once in  Sir Thomas Browne's library. [1]

J. J.Becher was a contemporary of the British scientist Robert Boyle (1627-91) author of The Skeptical Chemist (1661) which is credited as the first book to distinguish between the activities and preoccupations of alchemists and chemists. Incidentally, Robert Boyle greatly respected Browne's own scientific credentials describing him as 'so faithful and candid a naturalist'. It's not beyond probability that Robert Boyle may have even met J.J. Becher as the German alchemist/chemist travelled from Germany to England in 1678 in order to tour mines in Scotland and Cornwall before dying in London in October 1682. 

J.J.Becher found inspiration in the German polymath Athanasius Kircher's book Mundus Subterraneus (1665) which supported the theories of spontaneous generation, metallic transmutation and the belief that metals grow in the earth. He incurred the wrath and threat of prosecution from Leopold I of Austria when his proposal that the sands of the Danube river could be transformed into gold spectacularly failed . Among his more practical proposals were that sugar and air were needed for fermentation and that coal could be distilled to produce tar. However J.J.Becher also adhered to the core alchemical belief advanced by the seminal Renaissance alchemist Paracelsus that all substances were based upon the trinity of salt, sulphur and mercury, stating- 'nitre, common salt and quicklime contain the principles of all things subterranean'. J.J.Becher also believed that - 'False alchemists seek only to make gold; true philosophers desire only knowledge. The former produce mere tincture, sophistries, ineptitudes; the latter enquire after the principle of things'.

Wiki-link -Johann Becher

[1] Source : 1711 Sales Catalogue of Sir Thomas Browne's Library edited by J.S.Finch and published by  E.J.Brill 1986. Listed on  page 25 no.123 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Laura Nyro

I've just discovered that fifteen years since her untimely death, the American singer/songwriter Laura Nyro (1947-1997) has finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (April 12th 2012).

Laura Nyro was a precocious artist, recording her first album at the age of nineteen. The trilogy of albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) New York Tendaberry (1969) and Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (1970) form the back-bone of her recording career; all three albums showcase her soulful voice in conjunction with her cross-genre song-writing talents.

It was from reading a glowing review by the English music journalist Charles Shaar Murray in the New Musical Express way back in 1976 that I first discovered Laura Nyro, purchasing her Jazz-oriented album Smile on the recommendation of Murray's enthusiastic review. Smile was recorded after a 4 year hiatus away from the studio, and is arguably a landmark return in Nyro's musical career. Although clocking in at little more than 30 minutes it was a long-playing disc which rarely left my record-player turn-table during the Spring and heat-wave summer of 1976, every track on it being a little gem in song-writing and singing. The album concludes with improvised Japanese koto and flute.

Laura Nyro withdrew from the music world on several occasions and never really got the breaks or the fame she deserved in her short life. I notice that the Wikipedia article now discreetly omits any mention of her struggles with cocaine addiction and subsequent recovery.

Tragically she died of ovarian cancer aged only 49 the same age as her mother who also died of the same disease.

With her highly expressive voice, vigorous piano-playing and unique song-writing talents Laura Nyro's music will continue to find new fans. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame although belated, is well deserved. 

1967 – More Than a New Discovery 
1968 – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession *
1969 – New York Tendaberry *
1970 – Christmas and the Beads of Sweat *
1971 – Gonna Take a Miracle (with Labelle)
1976 – Smile *
1978 – Nested 
1984 – Mother's Spiritual
1993 – Walk the Dog and Light the Light
2001 – Angel in the Dark  (recorded 1994–1995)
* Recommended
Wiki-Link - Laura Nyro

Monday, April 16, 2012

C.G.Jung on Emotion

You see, whenever you make an emotional statement, there is a fair suspicion that you are talking about your own case; in other words, that there is a projection of your emotion. And you always have emotions where you are not adapted. If you are adapted you need no emotion; an emotion is only an instinctive explosion which denotes that you have not been up to your task. When you don’t know how to deal with a situation or with people, you get emotional. Since you were not adapted, you had a wrong idea of the situation or at all events you did not use the right means, and there was as a consequence a certain projection. For instance, you project the notion that a certain person is particularly sensitive and if you should say something disagreeable to him he would reply in such-and-such a way. Therefore you say nothing, though he would not have shown such a reaction because that was a projection. You wait instead until you get an emotion, and then you blurt it out nevertheless, and of course then it is far more offensive. You waited too long. If you had spoken at the time, there would have been no emotion. And usually the worst consequences of all are not in that individual but in yourself, because you don’t like to hurt your own feelings, don’t want to hear your own voice sounding disagreeable and harsh and rasping. You want to maintain the idea that you are very nice and kind, which naturally is not true. So sure enough, any projection adds to the weight which you have to carry. 

– C.G.Jung Nietzsche’s Zarathustra 2: 1494-8 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Neptune Collonges

Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacobs wins the 2012 Grand National by a nose in a thrilling finish at 33-1.  I've been following champion horse-trainer Paul Nicholls's grey horse for a few years and have now been amply financially rewarded for doing so. As ever the Scylla and Charybdis the committed gentleman of the turf must steer between to avoid devastation are fear and greed. Still in the game after 20+ years.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mercurius and Saturnus

Together Puer et Senex or child and old man represent not only the earth-bound human condition of Adamic man in Christianity, but also quite specific planetary symbolism.  The reason why Christian art absorbed pagan symbolism and why such syncreticism occurred during the Renaissance is discussed on the page on the Layer monument

The lower pair of Vanitas  and Labor on the Layer monument can  also be interpreted as highly-charged vessels of alchemical symbolism. In the realm of alchemical and astrological correspondences Saturn is the ruler of time and old age, melancholy, grey beards, agriculture and digging. A more fitting example of Saturnine attributes could not be found in the statuette of Labor with his highly expressive suffering features.

Similarly Mercurius, the messenger to the gods is often depicted as a youth or child, sometimes standing upon a rotundum in alchemical iconography to represent his world-wide influence and winged communication. The Layer monument's youthful Vanitas with his playful bubble-blowing could not be more allusive to Mercury in his symbolism. However most revealing of all as regards understanding the rich and complex symbolism embedded within the Layer mandala  is the four-fold relationship between each statuette, human and divine, temporal and eternal.

If C.G. Jung had ever seen photographs of the Layer monument he would immediately have recognised the reason why Vanitas and Labor are paired together, for he noted-

Graybeard and boy belong together. The pair of them play a considerable role in alchemy as symbols of Mercurius. [1]

C.G. Jung amplifies the close relationship between Mercurius and Saturnus -

But the most important of all for an interpretation of Mercurius is his relation to Saturn. Mercurius senex is identical with Saturn, and to the earlier alchemists especially, it is not quicksilver, but the lead associated with Saturn, which usually represents the prima materia.... In Khunrath Mercurius is the "salt of Saturn," or Saturn is simply Mercurius..Like Mercurius, Saturn is hermaphroditic. Saturn is "an old man on a mountain, and in him the natures are bound with their complement [i.e., the four elements], and all this is in Saturn". The same is said of Mercurius. Saturn is the father and origin of Mercurius, therefore the latter is called "Saturn's child". Quicksilver comes "from the heart of Saturn or is Saturn......Like the planetary spirit of Mercurius, the spirit of Saturnus is "very suited to this work".  [2]

[1] CW 9 i:39
[2] CW 13: 274-5

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mary Magdalene and the Red Egg

"Some believe that during the ministry of Jesus it was Mary Magdalene who helped support him and his other disciples with her money. When almost everyone else fled, she stayed with Jesus at the cross. On Easter morning she was the first to bear witness to his resurrection.

"The Eastern tradition believes that after Christ's Ascension Mary Magdalene travelled to Rome where, because of her high social standing, she was admitted to the court of Tiberius Caesar. After describing how badly Pontius Pilate had administered justice at Jesus' trial, she told Caesar that Jesus had risen from the dead. To help explain his resurrection she picked up an egg from the dinner table. Caesar responded that a human being could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand turn red. The egg turned red immediately, which is why red eggs have been exchanged at Easter for centuries in the Byzantine East. In the Eastern Orthodox Church including Russia there is a continued tradition of blood red eggs at Easter. Gold letters are painted onto the red eggs.

"In the Tiberius red egg legend, no mention is made of Mary Magdalene's marriage to Yeshua/Jesus. That part of the story has been kept alive by gnostics, becoming one of the secret teachings of esoteric Christianity.

"Many of the Gnostic Gospels were revered early in the Christian Church only to be excluded from the canon of official Gospels. Mary Magdalene is portrayed in Gnostic gospels as Christ's most beloved disciple. They report that Jesus often kissed her on the mouth and called her - "Woman Who Knows All." Other disciples went to her for Christ's teachings after he died. Mary Magdalene  is described sitting at Jesus' feet to listen to his teachings (Luke 10:38-42) and also as anointing his feet with oil and drying them with her hair. (John 11:2, 12:3)."

The story of Mary Magdalene reminds us of how a patriarchal bias has strongly dominated Christianity ever since it was sanctioned as an official, State-approved religion. Today, whether an embroidered legend or plain truth, the story of Mary Magdalene serves to challenge all Christians to re-examine whether any of their cultural prejudices regarding race and gender, in particular in relationship to spiritual leadership are justifiable  or merely 'received wisdom' acquired from tradition without question or reason.

- quotes from website dedicated to  Mary Magdalene and esoteric Christianity