Sacred and Profane Love

Sacred and Profane Love

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Sacred and Profane Love: Pagan & Marion Symbology: The Cult of the Feminine.

M. Buonarroti. Night (detail) 1526-33: (Source WGA)
"Darkness preceded light and She is Mother"
(Inscription on the altar of the cathedral, Salerno Italy)


Nyx (Greek) or Nox (Roman) Night was according to Hesiod's Theogony was of the earliest of the gods:
"From Khaos (Chaos) [Air] came forth Erebos (Erebus, Darkness) and black Nyx (Night); but of Nyx (Night) were born (Aether, Bright Upper Air) and Hemera (Day), whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebos."
(Hesiod, Theogony 115 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.).

...a theology unaware of the unconscious origins of the myth on whose behalf it laboured, would both be victims of unconscious possession and so unwittingly dedicated to the spread of their own unconsciousness...

John P. Dourley
                                                                                                   The Illness That We Are

To understand the agenda that inspires the Sacred and Profane Love, it is not enough to state that Ceres, Proserpine, and the Fountain Cyane are the principle identities of a long sought after classical narrative. Those identities through whom all interpretation must correspond belong to the mythotypes and archetypes of Italian religious culture. The Sacred and Profane Love is a late fifteenth – early sixteenth century ontological investigation into a religious continuum termed the prisca theologia that may be presumed to have begun within an ancient theological revelation (a 'big bang' impetus). Not exactly alternately is the notion of a perennial philosophy which considers a prisca theologia to be an emergent theology. Rather than accepting a this pairing as separate dualistic agitates it may be better to say that the prisca theologia re-emerges perennially through the aeons as a pre-existing cosmic law which importantly unifies the will-to-good of all religions. It may be telling of the Renaissance cultural milieu (in terms of the mindset of a singularity or first cause) as the coinage of the term prisca theologia is given to the fifteenth century Florentine Marsilio Ficino. 

Of the religions that had existed in ancient Italy at one time or another, almost all had entered through the influence of Greek civilization whose profusion of colonies in southern Italy had earned that area the name of Magna Graecia. Perhaps the greatest religion introduced by the Greeks was the ancient cult of the Magna Mater, imported from Phrygia in Asia Minor and which were later established at Eleusis in Attica around 1356 BC. Before we go there, the programme devised for the Sacred and Profane Love reveals a Renaissance consideration that aspires to reconcile three models of religious expression: Alchemy; the Mystery Traditions; and that form of Christianity which developed into the authority of the Holy Roman Church as it was during the latter part of the Quattrocentro. Symbolic traces of the two former systems can be found archetypically in certain deities and rituals of modern Christianity, which itself historically rose from the incorporation of those mystery schools that were contemporary with the early cult of Christ. Through accretion, some rites of the mystery schools were absorbed into the politically unifying Holy Roman Church. Language reveals that certain Christian rites were familiar to the pagan ceremonies, which indicates that the Mysteries and the cult of Christ were never strictly opposed in tradition, the Holy Roman Church assimilating and offering a continuation of those older traditions. According to the writings of Professor Edwin Hatch The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity, language associates the rite of Baptism with the Greek mysteries:

"So early as the time of Justin Martyr, we find a name given to Baptism which comes straight from the Greek mysteries, the name “enlightenment”, photismos... The term mysterion is applied to Baptism and with it comes a whole series of technical terms unknown to the Apostolic Church but well known to the mysteries, and explicable only through ideas and usage's peculiar to them. Thus we have words expressive of either the rite or act of initiation, like muesis, telete, teleiosis, mystagogia; of the agent or minister, like mystagogis, of the subject, like muetheis, or, with reference to the unbaptised, amuetos. In this terminology we can more easily trace the influence of the mysteries than that of the New Testament...”[1]

As a rite that preexisted the Christian Churches, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist is the first description of an individual being baptized as a rite in itself (the only possible reference to baptism in the Old Testament relies on the symbolism of the flood as a cleansing of sin). A further example of accretion or absorption of paganism into the stream of Italian religious thought is the transubstantiation, practiced in the cult of Mithra which also preceded the Christian era. In her book The story of Mysticism author Hilda Graef explains:
 “...a sacramental communion between God and man was not unknown among the pagans; in the Persian cult of Mithras, for example, which had become very popular among the Roman soldiers of the first centuries of our era, there was a sacrament of bread and water mixed with wine by which men were believed to partake in the life of Mithras.”[2]

Predominantly the Mystery religion implied by the figures of the Sacred and Profane Love - now identified as Ceres, Proserpine, Mercury, [and Pluto] - are the Eleusinian mysteries. However the Sacred and Profane Love also sources the Mithraic Mysteries and also employs the curious iconology of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which seems to be an attempt to recover specific religious themes and reconcile these with Italian paganism; Quattrocentro Christianity, and cosmological truths. 

Those imported religious themes that found expression through the myths of the feminine had become indigenous to Italy over time because those seasonal truths began to incorporate geographic locales and combine them with celestial phenomena (the transcendent, mythological region) often expressed using a geometric cosmology. This is to say that agricultural truths remain truths inasmuch as they respond to the rhythms of the seasons (the mundane or Profane) which in turn synchronise with the rotation of the celestial hemispheres (the supernatural or Sacred). By extension those myths which are associated with these twin truths of physical existence are essentially those of sex and death are sometimes known as the mysteries of life and death. The anthropologist Edmund Leach made this observation on the duality of religions:
“Religious belief is everywhere tied in with the discrimination between living and dead. Logically, life is simply the binary antithesis of death; the two concepts are the opposite sides of the same penny; we cannot have either without the other. But religion always tries to separate the two.”[3]

The roots of the Italian tradition run deep within anima mundi and to merely know the identities at the fountain is not enough to interiorise and so, revitalise them. Without immersing ourselves in the living stream of religious sensibility, Ceres to our modern culture appears little more than a distant etymological reference to a toasted and flaked boxed breakfast.  Inside the church the wafer of corn is still prepared for the congregation upon the altar - that relic and symbol of the tomb of the dying and reborn God.

[1] The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianityp. 295-296.
[2] The story of Mysticism; Hilda C, Graef Davies, 1965. p.?
[3] Mythology; edited by Pierre Miranda C. Nicholls & Company, G.B.1972 p.50                                              


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