• Michael Martin

Cover art: "The Empress" by Catrin Welz-Stein

and a Call for Submissions for Volume 6

One of the great maxims of Waldorf education is that the ideal lesson is one in which the students come to both tears and laughter, the idea being that the emotional panorama of human experience is essential for education to be a truly human endeavor. Editing volume five of Jesus the Imagination on the theme of “The Divine Feminine” was precisely such an experience for me.

Alison Milbank’s beautiful essay “Oiling the Wheels of the Heavenly Chariot: Female Priesthood and the Divine Feminine” brought tears to my eyes as I read through it the first time. I was astonished by its grace and how it (and Alison herself) is suffused with a genuine charism of the divine femininity. It brings a center of healing in the middle of a chaotic realm of gendered confusion.

On the polarity of laughter, I laughed often in my interview (“The Lady in the Temple”) with biblical scholar Margaret Barker—and I laughed all over again as I was editing and proofing it! Margaret offers much wisdom and insight in her words (and in her work), but it was an absolute delight to discover her warm and often puckish sense of humor in our conversation.

back cover art: "Erupting Space" by Stephane Gaulin-Brown

In addition, the essays by Therese Schroeder-Sheker and Michael J. Sauter straddle the line between rejoicing and correction as they interrogate institutional structures too long buried by the detritus of tradition and habit and seek to return us to wholeness in their invocation to a Sophiology both practical and mystical. Likewise, offerings by Sam Guzman, Andrew Kuiper, and Madonna Sophia Compton ask us to consider the sophiological from the perspectives of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and theology. Add to these Miguel Escobar Torres’s exquisite search into the Sophiology of Hildegard of Bingen and James Wetmore’s translation from Valentine Tomberg on the Fourth Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother,” and we have a rich landscape for meditation.

The poetry of John Milbank, Thomas Whittier, Tyler DeLong, Paul Hunter, William Trusiewicz, and Daniel Nicholas, a stunning work of experimental fiction by Max Leyf, a review by Kent Anhari, Lucinda M. Varney’s gentle prayer, “Divine Feminine Spirit” as coda, complete what may very well be the finest volume of Jesus the Imagination to date. You can get one here.

The theme of Jesus the Imagination, Volume 6 will be “Flesh and Spirit,” and we are now inviting submissions of poetry, essays, photography, and artwork. We are also interested in translations! Send no more than 3-5 poems, one essay, or 2-3 works of art (in a file, of course). The deadline is 1 January 2022.

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  • Michael Martin

Today, the 4th of May 2021, marks the fifty-first anniversary of the killing of four college students and the wounding of nine others by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, an event recorded in the annals of infamy as “The Kent State Massacre.” This event, more than almost any of my life (with the exception of 9-11), has been indelibly burned in my memory since its occurrence. Certainly, this has something to do with it falling on the day after my eighth birthday and the confusion and fear it evoked in my tender psyche at the time. But it also has much to do with my subsequent thirty year career as a teacher and professor. Campus violence is a real thing in my imagination, as is the threat of military power. And when the two are one and the same, they represent the totality of a society’s moral and spiritual degradation.

My Waldorf teaching career ended before the days of “Active Shooter Drills” (which should be called “How to Make Sure Children Get on Antidepressants for Life” drills), but I remember my anxieties after a deranged milk truck driver murdered five students at an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in October of 2006. I wondered what I would do if the same thing happened in my school. Should I start carrying a concealed weapon? How would I keep my students safe if that happened? I didn’t have an answer. There isn’t one.

I left Waldorf teaching a year later and became a full-time professor at a small (and now defunct) Catholic liberal arts college, though I had been teaching part-time there for about six years already. I continued to worry about these things happening, even at colleges, as that was becoming a regular occurrence in those settings as well. But, even more importantly, I began to consider the political climate and its increasing hostility and polarization, and wondered how the coercive arm of power might be leveraged on college and university populations.

Every semester since I’ve been teaching college, I have at some point in the semester played the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young angry lament “Ohio” for my students and showed them the horrific images of that gruesome moment of shame. I always tell them, “Don’t think it can’t happen again.” I’ve never shown this clip to students without weeping.

Of course, governments now have more subtle methods for engineering the consent of the governed than loaded rifles and tanks, particularly with college students who, by the time they reach the hallowed halls of academe, have been so traumatized and acclimatized to fear of saying the wrong thing, to manipulation and to propaganda that they are no longer able to feel free enough to think or even challenge the status quo. In my long experience in teaching, “critical thinking” is a value more honored in the user end agreement known as the syllabus than in the classroom. And the professoriate is to blame, as alternative ways of thinking are typically discouraged not only in the classroom but even more so in the faculty meeting. College and university faculty, by and large, are a very fearful breed having lived under the threat of punishment for dissenting opinions in both graduate school and the tenure track. These people understand the threat of being canceled. Higher education is dead, as it is no longer either higher or education.

And these things are not only a problem in state schools and universities. Not long after I published The Submerged Reality, which has a section on Rudolf Steiner and his contributions to Sophiology, Waldorf education among them, I started receiving emails from a good number of former Waldorf teachers who had left the profession when they saw a holistic education acquiescing to the educational zeitgeist that promoted all manner of medical interventions into compromising the Being of the Child. This, from an educational system once the refuge of people seeking a holistic, chemical-free alternative for their children. Depends on who’s paying full-tuition, I suppose. Nevertheless: game over.

For these and many other reasons, I have been mulling over the prospect of the return of the hedge school as a way to save the Idea of Education. At our farm at the moment, we are about to embark on a building project (a yurt) that will house such an endeavor in the near future, hopefully offering classes for other renegade homeschool families and courses for those interested in a deeper relationship to Sophiology and even biodynamic farming.

I have dedicated much of my adult life to the idea of an education that would contribute meaning and hope to this project of being human. I know I’m not the only one. But the institutions available to us owe their allegiance to forces other than the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. It’s time we reclaimed our souls. But expect pushback.

Krishna Killing the Dhenukasura Demon

I remember about thirty-three or so years ago attending one of the Sunday feasts at the Hare Krishna temple at the Fisher Mansion in downtown Detroit. Before the feast, the Krishnas always had a short service followed by a sermon. The speaker that day was a man by the name of Ravindrasurhu (I hope I spelled that correctly!), whose “real” name was probably “Jeff Smith” or something. He had a shaved head, floppy ears, glasses, and a gregarious and almost goofy manner which made him very endearing. And he was also great storyteller (which means he was a great teacher—you can’t have one without the other). He told a story, most of the details of which I forget, in which he contrasted the devotees of Krishna and the evil powers trying to compromise and pollute them. Though I’m paraphrasing, what he said went something like this:

The devotees, you know, they were pretty blissed out. They were there with God in the pasture, just into samhadi, dancing, you know. Stuff like that. But then here come the other guys, like Nazis, trying to take the devotees away from Krishna. But it’s impossible! As we like to say, ‘If God gives you a gift, there is no way you can refuse.’ The devotees had the gift, and the Nazis couldn’t take it away—even if they took everyone away.”

That’s how I envision the hedge school—and not just the one we’ll start here.

More to come.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

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  • Michael Martin

Map of Atlantis by Athanasius Kircher, 1664

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Atlantis. Of course, I’m sure I didn’t know about it as an infant, but I can’t recall when I first heard of the destruction of the island. It’s as if it has ever been percolating in my personal cultural imaginary.

I definitely knew about Atlantis by grade school, perhaps through Marvel Comics’ character The Sub-Mariner, whose home was the underwater realm of Atlantis. Or maybe it was through one of my friends at school telling me about the legend, or maybe through Donovan’s 1968 piece of pop-psychedelic perfection, “Atlantis.” I simply don’t recall. I do remember learning at some point (probably in my early twenties) that legends and myths of the Deluge—like the stories of Noah, Manu, or Utnapishtim—are nearly universal across all cultures, so the myth of Atlantis at least has some relationship to the history of the world.

Over the years, I heard or read many things about Atlantis, not the least of them Plato’s telling of the story in the Timaeus and the Critias. In Plato’s account, 9000 years before the time he was writing Atlantis possessed a sophisticated civilization that boasted a formidable military prowess, posing a real threat to the rest of the known world; but the entire island and its inhabitants disappeared in a violent earthquake that reduced Atlantis to nothing but a muddy vestige in the Atlantic Ocean off Gibraltar, the Pillars of Heracles.

More fantastic, but certainly no less or more true than Plato’s account, other narratives of the Atlantean civilization told of a technologically-advanced civilization that had mastered the powers of plant growth to such a degree that an Atlantean could plant a seed and it would immediately grow and, for instance, allow the individual to climb over a wall or scale a building. This, I recall reading or being told, was still available to cultural memory in the fairy-tales, like Jack and the Bean Stalk or Rapunzel, which spoke of miraculous growth.

One particular version of the destruction of Atlantis—and I do not remember where I first encountered it—is the story of a technologically-advanced, though morally bankrupt, civilization which used its power not to work with nature (as in the Jack and the Bean Stalk motif), but to subvert nature and the natural order. As a result of this hubris, the Atlanteans created monsters—minotaurs, chimera, gryphons, centaurs, and so forth—that so populate world mythologies. The gods, the story goes, were totally not cool with this R&D program and wiped Atlantis from the face of the globe as punishment. End of Story.

I like all of these takes on the myth, and I think each of them has something to say to the cultural imaginary. The story of Atlantis, after all, like so many myths, is really the story of us all. But lately I have been thinking quite a bit about the resonances with the technologically-advanced/morally bankrupt Atlantis and our own moment.

I have been writing, teaching, and warning about transhumanism for about twenty years, and I have been as surprised as anyone by the level of cultural cache the notion has received over the past year—especially since the topic was almost universally ignored over the past two or three decades. That’s a frightening development, to say the least. “Scientific breakthroughs” such as the human-monkey chimera recently announced cannot but help raise the specter of Atlantis’s mucking about with the natural order. In addition, the immanent project to release hundreds of thousand of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida as well as the continuing adulteration of the animals and plants through genetic modification similarly invoke the image of Atlantis’s hubris. And don’t even get me started on synthetic meat and synthetic blood. Add to that the diabolical project to use aborted babies for research and the staggering number of people killed or harmed by experimental therapies over the past few months, including my wife and my nephew (harmed, not killed—thanks for asking) and I’d say we have reached our own Atlantean moment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a sinking feeling about all this.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

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