• Michael Martin

Lee Miller from 'Blood of a Poet' and an illustration of Odin and Gunnlöd

I remember watching a television documentary on the Kennedys (this was probably in the 1970s, since I was in high school) and an interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who must have been in his twenties at the time. He was discussing his father’s state of soul following the assassination of the elder Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy. “He spent as lot of time reading the poets,” the young man said. That made a great impression upon me. My parents, working class Irish Catholics, did not read poetry, but I was ever fascinated by the magic of words—whether in prayer, in song lyrics, or even nursery rhymes. The only poet I can recall RFK, Jr. mentioning was Tennyson. And I can see how a poet given to melancholia and preoccupied with the transitoriness of Things would be welcome reading material to a man who had just lost a brother and close friend to the senseless machinations of evil. In my mind’s eye, I can see Bobby senior poring over The Idylls of the King:

But now farewell. I am going a long way

With those thou seëst—if indeed I go

(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)—

To the island-valley of Avilion;

Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,

Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies

Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair with orchard lawns

And bowery hollows crown’d with summer sea,

Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.

In my own life, I have often turned to the poets for clarity and consolation. Philosophers and theologians don’t offer much at such times. In my early thirties, I turned to Dylan Thomas and William Butler Yeats for companionship and later to John Donne, Jim Harrison, and Czeslaw Milosz. More recently, I have come to rely on Henry Vaughan and Thomas Traherne for spiritual sustenance. And there is always my jovial king and pastor, Robert Herrick.

I write this because recently my wife came to me with a discovery. We homeschool our children and our youngest is now in fourth grade. We follow, for the most part, a Waldorf curriculum (I was a Waldorf teacher for sixteen years) and a central part of the fourth grade year is the Norse Myths. My wife came to me with the story “Odin Wins for Men the Magic Mead” from Padraic Colum’s masterful retelling Nordic Gods and Heroes.

In the tale, the wicked dwarves kill Kvasir the Poet who “had wisdom, and he had such beautiful words with it, that what he said was loved and remembered by all.” The Dwarves are selfish in their wickedness” “‘Now,’ they said, ‘we have Kvasir’s blood and Kvasir’s wisdom. No one else will have this wisdom but us.’” The Dwarves combine the poet’s blood with honey and make mead from it, storing it in three jars. Curiously, they never never drink from the mead; they only want to make sure no one else does.

Eventually, the mead falls into the hands of the Giants, who likewise hide it but never use it. In time, Odin the Wanderer, after a series of adventures, comes to the cave where he meets its guardian, the giantess Gunnlöd. The enchantment she is under has turned her into a monster, hideous and decrepit, and she implores Odin, “save me from all this ugliness.” The Wanderer takes Gunnlöd’s hands; he kisses her on the mouth. And “all the marks of ill favor fell from her.”

My wife was excited about the story, for one thing, because I am a poet and I make mead (though not from my own blood) and she has been wanting for us to start a meadery—in addition to our farm and everything else we do! But more important is that the fact that we—all of us—need to be saved from all this ugliness. It’s everywhere.

I suppose this is the place wherein I should insert Dostoevsky’s famous line “Beauty will save the world,” but the phrase, as Hans Urs von Balthasar might say, may be losing its vitality through overuse. If it finds it’s way onto a meme or a coffee mug, it’s end is no doubt at hand. It’s better, perhaps, to observe that poetry—real poetry—discloses wisdom to us through the beauty of language. Poetry is a sophianic art, which even the medium cannot compromise (as can happen with music) because the essence of poetry is not on the page or screen or other medium. It resides elsewhere.

The poet, artist, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau’s astonishing Orphic Trilogy, made over the course of thirty years (1930-1960) and starting with Blood of a Poet (surely in keeping with the Norse myth) stands as a meditation of sorts on this phenomenon. For Cocteau, the work of art takes on its own life after production by the artist, poet, or filmmaker. The creator simply gives it life (a sentence worth decades of theological-philosophical unpacking!). Cocteau, sadly, may have been one of the last popular figures to meditate upon the vocation of the poet in such a public way.

The poet, the maker, can accompany us on our wanderings and the wisdom and beauty that shine through the utterance can strengthen us on the adventure and save us from all this ugliness. For there is a higher vocation to which all of us are called.

With that, I drink your health with mead from my cellars, a gift from my bees.

A scene from 'Blood of a Poet'

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.

  • Michael Martin

an image from 'Blade Runner' (1982)

Twenty years ago, I began my career as a college English professor, teaching an evening composition course at the Catholic liberal arts college I had attended as an undergraduate. The theme of my course was “Being Human,” and I used a reader by that same title and edited by Leon Kass, M.D. I loved the book, as it included selections from philosophy, mythology, the hard and social sciences, literature, and even science fiction. One of the science fiction selections was a chapter from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was later made into the now classic 1982 movie Blade Runner. I remembered being an unemployed nineteen-year-old when the film came out and seeing it for $1.50 in an afternoon matinee with my buddy and how the film had struck me then. But I hadn’t seen the film in almost twenty years, so I decided to hit the video rental store (remember those?) and rent a copy.

What struck me on that second viewing was that director Ridley Scott does a masterful job of manipulating the audience into sympathizing with the wrong guy. The wrong guy in question is the replicant (the film’s term for “android”) Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer), who is a ruthless murderer but possesses a completely cool postpunk vibe and dashing good looks. The film’s fictional Tyrell Corporation, the makers of the replicants, has as its advertising slogan the phrase “More Human Than Human.” And it is this marker that both Scott’s film (and Dick’s novel, but to a lesser degree) and my course explored.

When Roy first appears on film, he speaks a line of exquisite poetry. “Fiery the angels fell,” he says, “deep thunder rolled around their shores, burning with the fires of Orc.” Game on, right? The line, in fact, is a misquote (or misappropriation) from William Blake’s America: A Prophecy, but Blake’s language says “Fiery the angels rose.” At least we know what we’re dealing with here—but by the end of the film the audience is typically all in for the anti-hero Roy, as he busts out some more poetry in his death scene:

Eventually, I wrote an article on the topic, “Meditations on Blade Runner,” that was published in 2005 and then republished in 2015 (you can find a pdf here).

During about ten years or so of teaching that course, I expanded its focus to be on various aspects of what was being called transhumanism. The students usually thought it was a crazy idea and one that would never catch on. I also used the notorious academic paper “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” by Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini which argues on behalf of the ghastly practice of “aborting” [sic] a child even after birth, “until it can have preferences,” perhaps even to the age of eighteen months or more. I’m so not kidding: it’s in the article.

In many of my courses over the years, particularly in philosophy, I have often raised the problem of transhumanism and asked my students to deeply consider what it means to be human. I’m not sure I was very successful. But I gave it a shot. Nevertheless, as we have seen in recent years, Minerva and Giubilini’s proposal is fast becoming accepted—and now even the world Archons, such as Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum (and, is it just me, or does he look just like Dr. Evil?) and Bill Gates, are endorsing and promoting transhumanism—not in some amorphous future, but as a way to get out of the pandemic. This is fucked up.

My interest in transhumanism (philosophically and theologically) has everything to do with my profession of Sophiology. Transhumanism is the Anti-Sophiology and it’s anti-human, anti-nature, anti-spirit, anti-Sophia, anti-God. Just notice how these demons (or the demons working through them) have capitalized (note the metaphor) on the pandemic as a way to implement the “Great Reset.” It’s not a conspiracy theory if they tell you this is what they’re doing. Their masks have come off, while they force masks on everyone else.

Propaganda is a powerful tool and social media and the internet have made it even more powerful—and we know the guys and dolls over at Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth have been playing all of us like a game of Yatzee. How could anyone trust them? Yet how many times have you heard friends say “They’re privately-owned companies.” And let me say one thing: if Waldorf teachers and Anthroposophists (who have admirably gone against the grain on the “vaccine issue” for decades) overwhelmingly voted for Biden—who promised a mandatory vaccine—we can see just how powerful this manipulation is. There is still time to repent. At least I hope there is.

I imagine this will come to a head, hopefully not in a violent way, though I wouldn’t rule it out. As I heard Catherine Austin Fitts say in a podcast recently, “There are worse things than dying; and slavery is worse than dying.” People need to have sovereignty over their lives and—why do I even need to say it?—their biology. To pretend these powers know what’s best for you is to be a fool. And I know a lot of fools.

Yes, transhumanism is bullshit, evil, and inhuman. But we still have the power to stop it. As St. Paul told the Ephesians:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (6:12-20)

Don’t let yourself be fooled: this is a spiritual battle.

The French connection.

You may find this prayer of help in these trying times.

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.

  • Michael Martin

The dream:

I am at church, waiting for a service to begin (but it’s not the Divine Liturgy). Fr. John is at the altar preparing something like a monstrance (which is odd, since we don’t use a monstrance in the Byzantine Rite). There is no iconostasis and almost all of the icons are covered in green duct tape; the only one not covered is a small icon of Christ. I don’t really want to sit anywhere (I feel estranged from everything) but find a seat to the side facing away. Fr. John comes over to speak, but I have no words.

In the morning yesterday, as my wife and I were getting ready to head out to the barn and milk our cow, Fiona, I told her about dream and how strange the green duct tape was. “It wasn’t tape,” she said. “Those were masks. With everyone wearing all these masks, we can no longer see each other. And then we can’t see the face of God. We’re the image and likeness of God. Without faces, we can’t experience that.”

She’s right. And I was wrong. It wasn’t duct tape. It was, quite literally, masking tape. And Christ’s face (in the dream) was almost too small to see. Truly, the sudden coldness of the world has reduced our experience of Christ. And by design, I fear.

In Greek, the word for face is prosopon, a term used in theology to describe the phenomenon of the countenance of the divinity being turned toward Man. But in the New Testament, this term is also used to describe the encounter of each of us, prosopon pros prosopon, face to face: a desire for which even imprisonment can’t eradicate.

In fact, what we are experiencing is a kind of imprisonment, though cheaper than an electronic tether (we actually pay for that by a monthly service fee). But an imprisonment, all the same. St. Paul knew what this was like as he was held awaiting trial in Rome, but his captivity did not erase his desire for communion (of every kind). As he writes in 1 Thessalonians, “But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face [prosopon] with great desire” (2:17). Interestingly, even the word here translated as “presence” is prosopo.

This same desire for communion characterizes Paul’s (and his community’s) frustration at not being to experience God fully. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” he writes in 1 Corinthians, “but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (13:12). We all desire to know even as we are known by God; and we also desire to be known by each other. I’m coming to the end of a semester at the college where I’ve been teaching. Usually, I know every student’s name and face by the third week. That didn’t completely happen this semester. I have “known” these students for almost twelve weeks. And I still don’t know what most of them look like. We are hidden from each other.

The eschaton, always/already happening, is upon us. It is a moment when “they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). But the countenance before you is the place it begins.

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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