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Sunday surprise #21 — Defiant Requiem

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the power of music -- Verdi's Requiem in the Terezin / Theresienstadt concentration camp ]
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Two minutes of your time will bring you the Dies Irae of Giuseppe Verdi‘s Requiem, conducted by Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra:

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Yes?

A little over an hour will bring you an astounding documentary, describing how the Jewish prisoners of the Theresienstadt camp ouside Prague rallied around conductor Rafael Schächter to perform that great Requiem, not once but sixteen times, inside the camp…

From the Defiant Requiem Foundation site:

Conductor Rafael Schächter told the choir, “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.” … The performances came to symbolize resistance and defiance and answering the worst of mankind with the best of mankind. The performance is powerful, dramatic and inspirational, with a contemporary message of hope.

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You might wish to support a performance of this work in Detroit, currently being funded on Kickstarter:

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And the Requiem itself — played here by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Ricardo Muti — will take less than two of your hours — you can safely skip the introductory remarks and go straight to the 12 minute mark:

— less than two hours, yet timeless.

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Trumping even the horrors of the camps: the power of music.

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Coronation: the magic of monarchy

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- describing the second of two books I am currently working on -- your comments invited ]
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I’m currently working on two book proposals for a publishing start-up a couple of friends of mine are putting together, and wanted to keep interested ZP readers informed. One proposal is titled Coronation: the magic of monarchy, and the other Landmines in the Garden: religious violence and peace-making. In this post, I want to say a little about coronation and monarchy.

Coronation:

Tregear's image of the coronation procession of Queen Victoria, 1837

Coronation is the secret ingredient in monarchy, the symbolic gesture which sets things turning. It is high ritual — but whereas in general sacred rituals, countly rituals, legal rituals, military rituals and so on are separate and distinct from one another, at a coronation they are combined, with the sacred taking pride of place.

Thus in Tregear‘s image above, we see the loyal subjects, the liveried flunkies, the military, the justices, the noblility, and Her Majesty… but it is the church to which her procession tends, the church in which she is crowned, and the church, in the person of the Archbishop, which crowns her…

Coronation is a fascinating business, and in the course of the book I’ll be exploring coronations far and wide — papal coronations, the coronations of Charlemagne and Napoleon, the tantric union of the Emperor with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omikami in the symbolism of the Imperial Japanese enthronement rites [Holtom, Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies; White, Tantra in Practice, p 27]

Closer to my second home here in the US, I’ll be looking at the coronation of Mormon offshoot leader James Strang, the alleged ordination as “king of the Kingdom of God” of Joseph Smith himself [Shipps, p 199 n 7] — and the extraordinary 2004 coronation of the late Rev Sun Myung Moon in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Ah, well…

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The Anointing:

This golden Ampulla containing sacred oil or chrism was first used at the coronation of Henry IV in 1399

The secret ingredient in the western tradition of coronation is the anointing: it is the signing with chrism that confers on the monarch the blessing of God, the crown being no more than a confirmation of that blessing in terms of visible power and dignity. Thus Sir Laurence Olivier, reading the words of Christopher Fry in the film commentary on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, called it “a moment so old, history can scarecely go deep enough to contain it”.

From a poetic perspective, the sacral anointing of the monarch conveys not merely temporal power, but also a priestly and a healing function. Thus the ceremonial partakes of some of the same features as the ordination of a bishop, while the monarch also receives the gift of healing scrofula with the Royal Touch, as Shakespeare notes in Macbeth:

A most miraculous work in this good king;
Which often, since my here-remain in England,
I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
Himself best knows: but strangely-visited people, 150
All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
Put on with holy prayers: and ’tis spoken,
To the succeeding royalty he leaves
The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
That speak him full of grace.

In monarchy, and by the divine anointing, earthly and celestial powers are ceremoniously aligned.

Notice, too, that in Handel‘s celebrated coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest (video below), it is the anointing of the monarch that is featured:

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The ripples that extend from anointment and coronation across time and continents are many and varied. This video shows one small but beautiful ritual associated with British royalty since the twelfth cedntury, which takes place during the third week of July each year…

At the opposite end of the royal spectrum, if I may call it that, we find the cargo cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu that awaits the coming of the man they call Man Belong Mrs Queen:

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I will close with the ode Handel wrote for the Birthday of Queen Anne, Eternal Source of Light Divine, featuring the fabulous voice of countertenor Iestyn Davies and brilliant trumpet of Alison Balsom, directed by Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert.

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Your comments and suggestions for the book are most welcome.

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Heavy breathing on the line: The ghost of databases past

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

[dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

Sigh

Sigh

What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

Section 2, Amendment XIV:

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Article I, Section 2, U.S. Constitution:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

For working on the paternal genealogy of Howard Ira Milligan, my mother’s father, U.S. Census records have proved to be an important primary source.

(more…)

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Dajjal and Antichrist: the family resemblance

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the assignment of archetypal roles to members of the British Royal Family ]
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For those having trouble distinguishing the Dajjal from the Antichrist, I thought I’d post two screen-caps from a video of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one of whom is identified as the Dajjal:

together with the cover of a book identifying the Antichrist — by his coat of arms — as Prince Charles:

In true conspiracist connect-the-dots fashion, then, the Antichrist is the Dajjal’s father.

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Dajjals, Antichrists, Messiahs and Mahdis all function as Rorschach blots on which people project their hopes and fears, associating celebrities and leaders they despise and admire with archetypal instances of the final evil and the final savior.

By now, we should surely have figured out that this tells us more about those making the attributions than it does about the supposed, dreaded or hoped for end of days…

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Fire walking and the intensity of apocalyptic arousal

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- in response to Steve Engel ]
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Phpto credit: MDeeDubroff

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My friend Steve Engel wrote regarding the Boston bombers and my elucidation of a Mahdist video that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had seen and “liked”:

Thank you, Charles, for your close examination of nuances that may underlie the actions of people who envision themselves as warriors for the sake of ancient prophecy. Those among us who feel that they dwell in meaningless sorrow make likely customers for purveyors of self-hypnosis–whether of this brand or some other flag-waving, self-justifying cruelty.

I’ve been pondering how to express my reasons for paying particular attention to religious and a fortiori eschatological motives for terror for some time now. The varieties of end times thinking have been an interest of mine for decades, to be sure, and both religion and its specifically end times variants tend IMO to be easily ignored in our so rational post-Enlightenment and high-tech times — so I have both personal and analytic reasons to be keenly interested. But there’s more, and I believe StevE’s comment may be just the thing to pry loose a better explanation than I have given up till now.

I’ll use the well-worn phrase, “work expands to fill the time available” as my starting point.

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Turning to StevE’s point about potential recruits to terrorism or other crimes…

It’s easy, it seems to me, to think that just any old ideology would do, that the disgruntled simply pick one and use it as a cover or rationalization — but I suspect that emotions can “intensify to fill the ideology available” to paraphrase the other phrase, and that certain ideologies have structural features equivalent to high ceilings in an architectural space, so that “intensifying to fill the ideology available” can have a certain fierce purity when the ideology is a religious one and pious self-dedication a possibility — even more so when “martyrdom” can be aspired to — and yet more so again where one perceives oneself under divine sanction in the culminating battle of all time, immediately prior to judgment.

I’ve been to two “fire walkings” in my life — the first at Mt Takao, where crowds gather for a yearly ceremony in which one writes one’s sins on a sliver of wood and cast it into the fire, the coals of which which the Yamabushi mountain monks then walk across (see image above), followed by intrepid amateur ascetics…

The second — ah, the second was pitched as an occasion where you could “prove the power of mind over matter” for yourself, and come away from the experience “knowing you had achieved the impossible”. And when the instructor went around the room afterwards and asked people, “Now you know you can do the impossible, what’s next for you?” he got answers like, “I’ll have the courage to ask my boss for a $25 a month raise…”

Times are hard for many of us, and I don’t want to knock either the courage it takes to ask or the value of a $25 monthly raise — but if you’ve just “done the impossible”, is this the most you can ask?

Apocalyptic arousal hopes for more than $25 a month — in most cases it longs for the sudden and immediate reversal of all the good fortune that appears to befall “bad” people right now, and the no less sudden reapportionment of all those blessings on the heads of the “good” people — oneself prominent among them. It shakes the world to its foundations, and it cleanses it.

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I’ll let Richard Landes give you a sense of how believing oneself a participant in apocalypse can make the everyday moment deeply significant, and give the “end times we live in” importance beyond measure — with an excerpt from his great book, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience:

For people who have entered apocalyptic time, everything quickens, enlivens, coheres. They become semiotically aroused — everything has meaning, patterns. The smallest incident can have immense importance and open the way to an entirely new vision of the world, one in which forces unseen by other mortals operate. If the warrior lives with death at his shoulder, then apocalyptic warriors live with cosmic salvation before them, just beyond their grasp.

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Image source:

http://www.weirdasianews.com/2009/08/27/firewalking-festival-hot-japanese-ritual/

Thanks again to Steve Engel for prompting these reflections.

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