Friday, July 27, 2007

Messiah Born under a Mushroom Cloud

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I was born Chris King on the Triple Epiphany in 1945, a month before the first plutonium began to run out of Hanford towards the Trinity Test and the nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki seven months later. I was duly circumcised, but there are a few things I found out only many years later ...

Six days after my birth, Robert Graves submitted the manuscript of "The White Goddess" to T. S. Eliot (Oprey 1982 327). Previously the book had been rejected by two editors. The first offered to shout him to dinner if any publisher would accept it, and died of heart failure shortly afterwards, and the second, after saying no one would make head or tail of it, dressed himself in women's underwear and hanged himself in a tree in his garden. Eliot, who immediately accepted it, went on to receive the Order of Merit the same year and the Nobel by the time of the publishing of the book. It was these events, among others, that caused Colin Wilson to dedicate "The Occult" to Graves (Wilson 65 - 67).

"The White Goddess", completed in 1948 terminated with a dire prediction of the downfall of patriarchal society and religion, and in particular Christianity, to the Goddess (Graves 1948 482):

"The Protestant Churches are divided between liberal theology and fundamentalism, but the Vatican authorities have made up their minds how to face the problems of the day. They encourage two antinomous trends of thought to co-exist within the Church: the authoritarian, or paternal, or logical, as a means of securing the priest's hold on his congregation and keeping them from free-thinking; the mythical, or maternal, or supra-logical, as a concession to the Goddess, without whom the Protestant religion has lost its romantic glow. ... it is easier for her to play man's game a little while longer, until the situation grows too absurd and uncomfortable for complaisance. The Vatican waits watchfully. "

... finally pronouncing her return, amid the ecocrisis of planet Earth (Graves 1948 486):

"the longer her hour is postponed, and therefore the more exhausted by man's irreligious improvidence the natural resources of the soil and sea become , the less merciful will her five-fold mask be, and the narrower the scope of action that she grants to which ever demi-god she chooses to take as her temporary consort in godhead"

The other 'twin kettle' drum, as he put it, which Graves wrote simultaneously with "The White Goddess", characterized Jesus' mission as forcing the hour too soon. As he is expiring, Magdalen says (Graves 1946 343):

"His fault was this: that he tried to force the hour of doom by declaring war on the Female. But the Female abides and cannot be hastened" ... Shelom looked despairingly at Jesus. His calm fortified her, and she answered, as if with his mouth "Peace woman! Is it not written of the Kingdom of God : 'I, the Lord will hasten it in his time?' ... But the Kenites knew the lament in its older version". ["Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani!" El El - why have you forsaken me! ]

Michael Ortiz Hill describes the first words following the Trinity test:

It is striking that, following Oppenheimer's lead of naming the site of the first nuclear test "Trinity," Weisskopf and William Laurence - both Jews - saw in the Bomb the glory of Christ. In the Jewish tradition, the character of the Messiah has distinctly human dimensions, a "Son of Man" rather than the "Son of God" of Christian eschatology, while the Christ metaphor speaks to an experience that dwarfs the human realm. Ferenc Szasz notes, "Others whispered, more in reverence than otherwise: 'Jesus Christ' ". Known to be something of a mystic, I. I. Rabi described Trinity by the overwhelming light that engulfed him: "Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way right through you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds....

Oppenheimer said, "We waited until the blast had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most were silent" He recalled the terrible and ecstatic eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, where the warrior Arjuna requests that Vishnu display the nakedness of his transcendental form. Arjuna is cowed in holy terror as the god visits upon him "the radiance of a thousand suns" "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" Oppenheimer quoted the Gita. "I suppose we all felt that, one way or another," he continued. Three weeks later, the pilot of Enola Gay, Paul Tibbets, requested God's blessing upon the Bomb that would initiate the citizens of Hiroshima into the darkest consequences of this ecstatic presence. "Be with those who brave the heights of Thy heaven intoned the chaplain, "and carry the battle to our enemies".

Another striking theme that repeats again and again in the "dreaming up" of the Bomb is that of birth and paternity. On the mythic level, it is clear that the Bomb was not invented as much as "born." Some people recognized the godlike epiphany of light and fire - so long anticipated - as the birthing of something or "someone" new. We can discern a specifically paternal pride and even hints of tenderness toward the Bomb. William Laurence called the rumblings of the Trinity explosion the "first cry of a newborn world".

Graves, in completing "The White Goddess", also notes the connection with Christ in a prophetic foreplay of the current nuclear anxiety about Israel and Iran:

"A New Zealand atomic scientist assured me the other day that Christianity had received its heaviest blow in 1945: A fundamental tenet of the Church, namely that Jesus' material body was immaterialized at the Ascension had he said been spectacularly disproved at Hiroshima and Nagasaki - anyone with the least scientific perception must realize that any such break down of matter would have caused an explosion large enough to wreck the entire Middle East."

Graves went on to tie together a second thread that will only come to the surface much later. In 1949 he received a letter from Valentina Wasson concernign the poisoning of Claudius by mushrooms. From then until 1950 he corresponded with Gordon and Valentina concerning the stories of the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico (Oprey 1984 52, 75, 145), which precipitated their journey in 1952, where they eventually met Maria Sabina, who revealed the pre-columbian tradition of the magic mushroom to the world, after receiving a vision that they would come. In response her house was burned to the ground and one of her sons killed (Estrada 71, 79).

These happenings can be seen to herald three threads:

(1) The advent of the messiah is associated with the reunion with the Sacred Feminine, as a Dionysian consort, coinciding with both Jesus' epiphany and that of Dionysus (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 81).

(2) The role of the messiah is to redeem the verdant fertility of planet Earth in the ecocrisis in reflowering the Tree of Life, hidden since the Fall from Eden in Genesis, yet predicted to reveal its monthly fruits in Revelation, in redeeming paradise.

(3) The eucharist of the messiah and the future of sacramental religious tradition of Christianity revolves around the living visionary sacraments.

  1. Estrada, Alvaro 1981 Maria Sabina : Her Life and Chants Ross Erickson Santa Barbara.
  2. Graves, Robert 1946 King Jesus Cassel, London.
  3. Graves, Robert 1948 The White Goddess, Faber & Faber, London.
  4. Hill, Michael Ortiz 1994 Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse as a rite of Passage
  5. O'Prey, Paul 1982 In Broken Images, Graves Letters, Hutchinson, London.
  6. O'Prey, Paul 1984 Between Moon and Moon, Graves Letters 1946-1972, Hutchinson, London.
  7. Ranke-Heinmann, Uta 1992 Putting Away Childish Things, Harper, San Francisco
  8. Wilson, Colin 1971 The Occult, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

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