Clemenceau & His ‘Carthaginian Peace’

image005Three weeks before the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, John Maynard Keynes resigned as the British Treasury delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. He then retired to Cambridge and wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

His treatise proceeded along two lines; (1) the ‘Carthaginian Peace’ (i.e. brutal crushing of the enemy as the only way to advance peace) with Germany could only further destabilize the world economy and hasten another war and (2) that old-school, emotionally-fuelled, European nationalism was to blame.

It is little wonder that Keynes focussed on the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau to demonstrate his point. It was easy to characterize him as ‘(1) old-school’ – not only was Clemenceau the eldest member of the Council of Four but he was French gentry, (2) emotional –Clemenceau wore his great passion for France on his sleeve and (3) misanthropic – not only did Clemenceau keep to himself but he was also openly disdainful of his colleagues, especially Poincaré.John Maynard Keynes

It was equally easy to characterize him as unsympathetic; Clemenceau had a reputation for being ruthless – ‘he came from a family of wolves’ said a man who knew him well (Macmillan, 38). Likewise, it was easy to categorize Clemenceau as scornful of German mentality; as the result of the Franco-Prussian War, he had watched Paris starve, the French government capitulate, and the new German empire proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (Macmillan, 35). Besides, Clemenceau was a politician and harsh reparations was what the French public said they wanted; France had lost a higher proportion of its population than any of the other belligerents and six thousand square miles of France, which ‘before the war had produced 20% of its crops, 90% of its iron ore and 65% of its steel were utterly ruined’ (MacMillan, 36).

If Clemenceau viewed Europe’s future solely as a continuation of the ‘perpetual prize-fight’ of nations furthered at their neighbours’ expense, he was not the only one. For example, the Belgians also sought territorial gains (Sharp, 25) as did the Italians (Sharp, 26) and Greeks (Sharp, 28). On behalf of the British Empire, General Smuts, the South African prime minister, cleverly managed to gain long-sought access for British traders and investors to French and Portuguese colonies in Africa (MacMillan, 108).

If Clemenceau ‘made no pretence’ of being bound by US president Wilson’s ‘idealism’, he was not the only one. Whilst ostensibly Britain’s Lloyd George went along with Wilson’s centrepiece of Fourteen Points, creation of a League of Nations, he did little to further it (MacMillan, 95). As for ‘national self-determination’, even Wilson had to admit he might (inadvertently) have promised more than could be delivered (Sharp, 100).

According to MacMillan (46), John Maynard Keynes did much to create ‘myths’ about the Peace Conference and I suggest the one he wove about Clemenceau contributed heavily to the notion that everything that later went wrong was as the result. As MacMillan (500) points out, the Council of Four and their delegates did make mistakes and perhaps the Carthaginian Peace’ was one. But realistically it would always be up to those who came afterwards to make good or bad of them.

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Bibliography

MacMillan, Margaret. Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World. London: John Murray (Publishers), 2002.

Sharp, Alan. Consequences of Peace – The Versailles Settlement; Aftermath and Legacy 1919-2010. London: Haus Publishing Ltd., 2010.

Canon Brawl & The Secret Book of John

Excerpt from my (as yet unpublished) novel, Adieu the Rose:

Marseilles
December 1920

“Your anger is that of all the wronged women since the beginning of time, Sophie.” Mother Superior fingered multi-coloured spines. “Yet the answer lies within not without.”

Although deeply pious, the mother superior was surprisingly progressive and she encouraged her nuns to be the same. After a challenging childhood in Corsica, this amazing woman had taught herself to read and write in several languages including English. Not only was she politically astute, but she’d developed strong allies in high places. Much to the chagrin of the Vatican, The Mother regularly published radical ideas about religious reform in the secular press. Her official library contained the accepted canon of Plato, Aristotle, and Saint Augustine. Her personal library – kept under lock and key – was deeply heretical ranging from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to alchemy and a good bit in between.

Most of the nuns found this library alternatingly fascinating and confusing. But the most confusing to Sophie was a collection of sacred alternative texts that had been handed down from ancient Mesopotamia. It was from this collection that the Mother Superior selected a slim volume.

“The Secret Book of John?” squeaked Sophie.

“Like me, child, you search for the truth,” replied the Mother. “Yet when you fail to easily find it you’re all too willing to accept the lies. This Gnostic text explains a good deal about what it means to be a woman and how it came to pass that all women share the same anger.”

“Isn’t anger a personal thing?”

“Is original sin personal?”

Sophie edged closer to the ancient stone fireplace and rubbed her hands before the well-tended fire. It was the week before Christmas and Marseilles was not only miserably damp, but deadly cold.

“According to that text you hold in your hands, original sin resulted not from Eve’s encounter with the snake but from the arrogance of God.” Pouring more tea, the Mother beckoned for Sophie to sit next to her on a comfortable-looking settee. “In order to give life to his human creations, Adam and Eve, God stole light from the Mother Sophia. Eve thought this terribly unfair and it was whilst trying to return the light to the Mother, that she first tasted the fruit of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.”

“If that’s true,” replied Sophie, “then where does that leave Christian redemption?”

This was the most pressing question. Despite the exculpating eulogy that the Bishop of Beraux had delivered at her uncle’s funeral, Sophie prayed each and every day that her relative would never find redemption. It was inconceivable that such a life of wickedness on the part of such a privileged man should receive the same divine pardon as the theft of a piece of bread by a starving child. Nonetheless, it was a sad realisation that like the hungry flames of Hell, her own anger had engulfed her. Likewise it was a sad realisation that anger such as hers had assumed a life of its own. But worst, was the realisation that was that her anger was all that she had and that she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight.

“According to The Secret Book of John, it was with this act of disobedience that Eve kick-started the process of redemption.” The Mother chuckled. “You can imagine that God wasn’t best pleased that his own sin had been found out. Let’s suppose for a moment that this story is true. Then can you imagine how Eve must have felt to be eternally damned for doing something so noble?”

“She’d be angry.”

“Might it then be possible that if, as the Church teaches, all women are burdened with Eve’s sin they might also be burdened with her anger?”

“I think… maybe…yes.” Patting the soft swell beneath her plain, brown robe, Sophie considered whether her anger was driving her crazy or whether it had already done so. “Mother, I’m confused.”

Albeit confusing and anger-provoking, the concept of canon is undoubtedly useful. Elsewise how could it have endured for more than two thousand years? Arguably, however, a more basic question is for whom and for what purpose is it useful and in this regard, I agree with the Mother Superior’s suggestion – the answer lies within not without.

This, however, is not the current view. According to Krupat (157-158), the concept of canon is generally understood in either of two (diametrically opposed) ways: (1) as formed exclusively by power relations or (2) as ‘the very best that has been thought’. I suggest that both keep the focus solely on someone – or something- other than the reader and as such can only further the ‘canon brawl’. As Krupat (158) acknowledges, if we ‘force people to read our books now, not theirs, they will fight back, conflict unending’. As Sophie acknowledges, anger is a very engaging emotion especially when it takes on a life of its own.

Krupat’s proposed solution to the ‘canon brawl’ is to either (1) dispense altogether with the concept of canon or (2) compile a canon to suit everyone’s tastes. I purpose that neither is realistic – let’s face it – some books really are better than others and as for suiting everyone’s tastes – at least in America this has proved impossible. Even after including an impressively extensive list of ethic/racial/gender groups in his sample canon, Krupat admits that he had still left out writers representing Chicanos, Italian Americans, and Scandinavians – not to mention the Jewish immigrants.

If we accept that (1) the concept of canon has existed for at least two thousand years and likely to exist for a few more and (2) in our increasingly globally mobile society, canon formation will not become easier then we need to look for a new solution and I propose that to be a radical change in our point of view.

In this regard, it is instructive to study the formation of biblical canon which, like a literary canon, is a compilation of writings believed to possess some ‘inspired’ special quality which conveys special status. Studies have shown that this special quality is dependent not so much in what it offers the community but instead how it furthers the community’s common values and ‘faith’. While it is true that initially some person or group of persons exercises their higher authority to form the canon, when the community at large no longer supports this canon, de-canonisation takes place (Zaman, 538-542).canon

In other words, biblical canon is formed by and for the benefit of the community in order to establish the norms underlying ‘life and behaviour’ (Zaman, 538). Further the biblical canon is altered and embellished by the literary canon which is arguably itself built on the idea that the collective self can be known and represented through a collective autobiography called canon (Krupat, 160). In other words, rather like a democratically elected government, the canon is ‘by the people and for the people’. Your candidate might have lost this election but he or she may win the next.

For example, it is true enough that if The Secret Book of John had been incorporated into the Bible, Sophie would not have such cause to be so angry; she would never have learned (as have many Western women) to define her place in the collective vis a vis the biblical Eve. Although she might not have realised it, Sophie’s problem grew exponentially when that biblically depicted Eve was further magnified and maligned by the literary canon with, for example, the creation of Milton’s Satanically inspired Eve in Paradise Lost (Gilbert and Gubar, 189).

mqdefaultIt is likewise true that although The Secret Book of John was well known during the first centuries A.D. and still read in the eight century (Barnstone, 51) – it was not incorporated into the final biblical canon. This was not because it did not possess that ‘inspired’ special quality or that the Gnostics were not sufficiently Christian (actually they considered themselves the true and uncorrupted Christians). It was because the Gnostics lost out politically to the orthodox Christians (Barnstone, xviii). If Valentinus, a major Gnostic thinker, had won his bid to be elected as pope of Rome, we can imagine how the New Testament, fixed at Carthage in 397, might have been different. Likewise even though Milton was originally part of the literary canon, he has since been down-graded by a ‘political act masquerading as a poetic revaluation’ when TS Eliot and critic FR Leavis determined to ‘drag’ English Studies into a ‘bright new hard-edged future’ (Jacobs, 51).

It is likewise true, however, that both Paradise Lost and The Secret Book of John still remain readily available for any and all who wish to read them. As the Mother Superior points out to Sophie, even for those who search for the truth it’s all too easy to accept lies. Whilst a canon is a compilation of writings believed to possess some ‘inspired’ special quality conveying special status, canon is not ‘truth’ set in stone by those with higher authority. Nor is it ‘lie’ similarly perpetrated by that higher authority to perpetuate that truth. When the community at large gets fed up with the existing canon, de-canonisation does and will take place. Who knows but that The Secret Book of John may yet (re)join the biblical canon much in the same way that Milton might be reinstated to his.

Viewed in this way, canon takes on a different significance than simply a method by which to ‘force people to read our books now, not theirs’. Viewed in this way, readers can acknowledge that canon represents community views regarding the norms underlying ‘life and behaviour’. It is neither an edict from on high any more than it is set in stone. Whilst such change in point of view might have been difficult to sell to previous generations, I suggest there is little or no excuse for present company not to at least entertain the idea.

In summary, let’s face it – some books really are better than others and as for suiting everyone’s tastes – although the Mother Superior’s official library contained the accepted canon of Plato, Aristotle, and Saint Augustine, her personal library – kept under lock and key – was deeply heretical ranging from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to alchemy and a good bit in between – but (most importantly) this amazing woman was surprisingly progressive and politically astute enough to acknowledge and bridge the difference.

Excerpt from my (as yet unpublished) novel, Adieu the Rose:

“Confusion comes when you’re unable to see things for what they are,” said the Mother. “Anger, however, comes when you refuse to accept things as you know they are. Eve couldn’t change her situation, Sophie, but imagine how miserable she’d have been if she’d refused to accept it?”

“How do I find the courage to accept my situation, Mother?”

“Prayer, child, and plenty of it.” Mother Superior softly kissed her cheek. “It’s your anger that’s keeping you from God and you’ll feel better when you and He are reunited.”

Passing through the dimly lit hall on her way back to her cell, Sophie came to the bewildering conclusion that not only was her anger keeping her from God but it was also keeping her from herself.

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Bibliography

Barnstone, Willis, ed. The Other Bible. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1984.

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic, 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Jacobs, Richard. A Beginner’s Guide to Critical Reading, An Anthology of Literary Texts. London: Routledge, 2001.

Krupat, Arnold. ‘The Concept of the Canon, The Voice in the Margin’ (157-162). Debating the Canon: A Reader from Addison to Nafisi. ed. Lee Morrissey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Zaman, Luc. Bible and canon; a modern historical inquiry – Studia Semitica Neerlandica; 50. Leiden, Koninklijke Brill NV, 2008.

The Fatness of Falstaff & the politics of redemption

Word on the street is that Wonga, the controversial Internet payday lender, is preparing for an IPO (Initial Public Offering). This anticipated share flotation could yield its owners in excess of £100 million.

But first, after having been publically disgraced for charging interest rates in excess of 5,000% (APR) and using fake law firms to harass its hapless borrowers, Woimagesnga must redeem its ‘bad-boy’ public image.

In October 2013 Wonga reported £1.2 billion in lending (an increase of 68%) and pre-tax profits of £34.5 million (an increase of 35% on the previous year). In October 2014, following government intervention, Wonga is writing off £220 million in customer receivables and revising its lending practices. Some market-savvy commentators suggest such redemption is strategic for that anticipated IPO. I can only imagine how right they are in that.

In his first soliloquy of Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV (1.2. 185-204), Hal (the future Henry V) plots his own ‘redemption’. Like Wonga, he will shed his ‘bad-boy’ image being ‘like a bright metal on a sullen ground’ – a light that will ‘attract more eyes’ than if it had ‘no foil to set it off’. By referencing the ‘base contagious clouds’ and ‘foul and ugly mists’ the ‘vapours’ of which ‘did seem to strangle him’, Hal announces his foil to be none other than ‘fat-guts’ (2.2.29) Falstaff – and friends – that charismatic, largeUnknownr-than-life, ‘oily rascal’ –(2.4.507-508) with whom he has chosen to spend so much time.

There have been as many theories about why Falstaff is fat as there are those who have pondered the question; a parody of puritan ethics (Bulman, 160), signature of the opacity of character (Bulman 161), symbol of Vice as in Morality plays (Bulman, 162).

At first I had concluded that the question of Falstaff’s fatness need not be more complicated than as a proper foil for Hal – ‘a starveling,’ an ‘eel-skin’ a ‘bull’s pizzle’ and a ‘stockfish’ (2.4.237-238) – Falstaff had to be fat – really fat – larger than life, fat. Indeed he must be fat as life itself – ‘banish plump Jack, and banish all the world’ (2.4.461-462). The more obvious is the difference between Hal and Falstaff, the better. Contrast of colour or quality to set something off to advantage is what being a ‘foil’ is all about (OED n 6).

This is the easy option. This is the most obvious, most moral answer. This the solution to which, at least modern audiences, are most attuned. I mean with the words ‘I banish thee’ as ‘I have done the rest of my misleaders’ (2 Henry IV 5.5.62-64) who wouldn’t want to believe that Hal was nothing more than an ordinary adolescent under pressure to put his youthful rebellion and associated friends behind him?

Yet the more I considered the question, the more I became convinced there was more to it than that. After all if according to Desmond Barrit (143), who played the role of Falstaff in an RSC production, Falstaff was the most complex part he has ever played then as Falstaff’s counterpart, Hal must be equally as complex.

According to Adrian Lester (148) who played the role of Hal in an RSC production of Henry V, in that first soliloquy (1 Henry IV.1.2. 185-204) with its image of the clouds hiding the sun, Hal reveals the kind of ego necessary to fill the role of king to which he was born. Not only that, but Lester suggests that by introducing the notion that he should be ‘wondered at’ (1.2.199), Hal is signalling that we should never be too certain that we know or understand him.

So why had Hal ordered Peto to search Falstaff’s pockets while he was asleep (1 Henry IV .2.4. 510-530)? Why had Hal allowed Falstaff to falsely claim he had killed Percy – especially after having told his father that he would ‘redeem himself’ on Percy’s head’ (3.2.132)? If Hal is so quick to comply with Falstaff’s deception – ‘(I)f a lie may do thee grace/I’ll gild it with the happiest terms I have’ (5.5.152-153), then what other deceptions might he be willing to perpetrate?

In that first soliloquy, Hal reveals all – by paying ‘the debt I never promised’, he plans not only to ‘redeem time’ (redemption implies the ‘discharge or paying off a debt or obligation’, (OED, n 6b) but also to ‘falsify men’s hopes’.

It is possible that debt to which he is referring is the repayment of the money Falstaff plans to steal from the pilgrims at Gad’s Hill. Yet it is difficult to imagine that if, as he said himself – he was neither a thief (1.2.130) nor did he intend to involved in this caper (except to the degree he agreed with Poins to return the money to its rightful owners – 1.2.136) why Hal would believe this to be his debt to repay. It is even harder to imagine that by returning something to its rightful owners Hal would ‘falsify’ the ‘hopes’ of anyone.

Whose hopes, then, does Hal intend to ‘falsify’? The obvious answer is Falstaff’s. That those hopes might have been unrealistic from the start does not alter the fact that Hal has constantly sent Falstaff mixed messages in regards to how far he might push their relationship – one moment Hal playfully suggests he will renounce Falstaff (2.4.463) and the next he allows Falstaff the glory of having been responsible for Percy’s death (5.5.152-153).

To whose ‘debt’, then, is Hal referring? This answer is not so obvious although I suggest that it was that of his father, incurred in usurping the throne of Richard II. There is little doubt that some believed that Henry IV had incurred such an obligation – Hotspur says as much (1.3.185) when he urges his kinsmen to obtain ‘revenge’ from this ‘proud king’ to ‘answer all the debt he owes.”

Likewise there is little doubt that said debt weighed heavily on Hals’ father’s mind. Indeed Shakespeare chose to commence the play with Henry IV’s ruminations on the ‘bitterness’ of the ‘civil butchery’ that ensued from his actions (1.1.13). Bulman (158) suggests this was why Hal chose to idle away his time in a tavern rather than at his father’s court.

Let’s face it – Wonga is not writing off £220 million in customer receivables to be nice guys. By repaying a ‘debt’ that ‘he never promised’ to pay, Hal is not being a nice guy either. Bulman (158) reminds us that Elizabethan audiences were aware of the importance of public self-fashioning. Being publically seen to redeem oneself could not have been any less politically astute in Elizabethan times than it is today and if we know anything about Hal, it is that he is politically astute.

I suggest that if we believe that it was only with Percy’s head that Hal planned to redeem himself, we would be wrong. Elsewise he could never have so easily have given that distinction to Falstaff. In truth, Hal needs something much more than Percy’s head to ensure the success of his own IPO (Initial Public Offering) and that something is to secure a legitimate alternative to divine right to the throne via redemption of his father’s debt.

Bottom line then is that however much Hal might have genuinely cared for Falstaff, he had planned from the start to use him up like a Kleenex – because in order to complete his redemption, the prodigal son must consume the ‘fatted calf’.

By comparing himself to the well-appreciated sun coming out after being obscured by those ‘base contagious clouds’ (1.2.180-190), Hal clarifies his understanding that those who redeem themselves are more revered than those who remain steadfast. He also clarifies that he intends to use this to his advantage – ‘I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,’ (1.2.204). Finally (1.2.183) he clarifies that it was for such purposes that he never intended to remain long with Falstaff and friends – ‘I know you all, and will awhile uphold (emphasis added). He even hints that Falstaff will become the sacrificial ‘fatted calf’ – while play-acting with Falstaff, Hal refers to him as a ‘roast manningree ox with pudding in his belly’ (2.4.336) who ‘run and roared as ever I heard bull-calf’ (2.4.252).

That Falstaff is sacrificed every bit as is the ‘fatted calf’ is undeniable. In the final scene of 2 Henry IV (5.5.46-47) Hal tells Falstaff ‘I know thee not, old man’ and then leaves the Lord Chief Justice leave to toss Falstaff and friends in jail (5.5.88-89).

Bulman (173) suggests that if Falstaff had not been so presumptuous as to publically claim Hal as his own ‘sweet boy’ (5.5.39) in the midst of his coronation, Hal would not have so callously denounced Falstaff. That might or might not be true. But I suggest that if Hal knows anything about Falstaff, he knows that that Falstaff loves him like a father and that such treatment will be the death of his fat friend.

bad boysAt the end of the day it is not Wonga’s owners (nor their equity investors) who will pay for its redemption but those two million customers who have already paid interest rates in excess of 5,000% (APR). Likewise, at the end of the day it is not Hal (nor his family) who will pay for his redemption but Falstaff. Such is the politics of redemption – success requires sacrifice and this is best accomplished through the sacrifice of someone else.

In summary, (1) both Hal and Wonga need to redeem their ‘bad boy’ imagesimages-2 and t (2) such redemptions are best funded at the expense of someone else. It remains to be seen whether Wonga’s redemption pays off for its founders but we already know that Hal’s most certainly did. As the Bishop of Ely replies in in answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s marvelling over Hal’s ‘reformation’, ‘we are blessed in the change’ (Henry V. 1.1.76).

 

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Bibliography

Bevington, David, ed. Henry IV Part One. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Taylor, Gary, ed. Henry V. Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1982.

Weis, Rene, ed. Henry IV Part Two. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Barrit, Desmond. ‘Falstaff in Parts I and 2 of Henry IV’ (128-144). Players of Shakespeare 6. ed. Smallwood, Robert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Bulman, James. C. ‘Henry IV, Parts I and 2’ (158- 176). The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays. ed. Michael Hattaway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Dollimore, J. and Sinfield, A. eds. Political Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.

Greenblatt, Stephen. ‘Invisible bullets: Renaissance authority and its subversion, Henry IV and Henry V’, (pp. 18-47), ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield. Political Shakespeare: Essays in cultural materialism, (Ithaca), Cornell University Press, 1994.

Harriss, GL ed., Henry V: The Practice of Kingship. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1993.

Lester, Adrian. “King Henry V” (145-162). Players of Shakespeare 6. ed. Smallwood, Robert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

 

 

 

New Moon in Virgo – party’s over – time to clean up the mess

The HermitAfter the many ego excesses of Leo, it’s time to drop back and regroup and what better energy with which to do this, than with pure Virgo.

In the tarot, Virgo corresponds with the 9th card of the Major Arcana, The Hermit.

The Hermit is a venerable and mysterious figures of solitary intention. Leaning on his staff, he pauses to hold up his lamp (of intellect) and drive away the darkness (of ignorance).

Contrary to popular belief, the Hermit is not a lonely, sorry individual bereft of family and friends. Quite the opposite. He is the kind old wise man whom others eagerly seek out.

But in many respects he does stand alone in that he separates himself from the crowd so that he’s no longer controlled by their moods and desires.

To be like The Hermit does not mean you must renounce society.

But what it does mean is that you must stand aside from it long enough to turn on your own lamp ti discover who and what you really are.

What would you do, be, wear, or think if no one else were watching?

What would you spend all your time doing – not for money to be gained from it – but for the pure joy of doing it?

What would it feel like to forget all your troubles?

This is not to suggest your troubles have gone away – but only that if you can use the energy of the new moon in Virgo wisely, you and your troubles will no longer one and the same.

Today is a ‘Tower of Destruction’ Day

The TowerWith the Sun in Virgo (perfection) and the Moon in Leo (aspiration), today is a ‘Tower of Destruction” day.

Throughout history, there have been plenty of examples where hubris (i.e. excessive self-confidence, OED, n) has been the cause of a disastrous fall. Check out The Icarus Syndrome by Peter Beinart for insight.

Yet if in today’s world we’re pushed to ‘be all that we can be’ (and more) then where ought we draw the line between well-deserved success and hubris?

Meditations on the Tarot (A Journey into Christian Hermeticisim) provides a thoughtful answer:

Every Christian has been taught that man was ejected from the Garden of Eden for desiring more ‘knowledge’ than God wished to reveal.

Yet why was it so important to have such knowledge?Meditations on the Tarot

Origen (circa AD 185) suggests this is hard-wired in our souls – i.e. we are built to push the boundaries of nature with the purpose of breaching them – i.e. for example through scientific research.

According to the Hermetic tradition, this is dangerous for if God wished us to have such knowledge, He would have revealed it.

Does it mean that we should never strive for more than we’ve been given?

Of course not. The StarAccording to Hermetic wisdom, it is absolutely necessary for us to work and grow – to think and await the ripening of our thoughts – to cultivate and maintain ourselves as we would care for our garden – wherein we realise all will grow and be harvested in its own time.

So why do we push ourselves more than we push our gardens?

Hermetic wisdom suggests that (through ignorance), we identify ‘self’ with ‘ego’ – ‘I’ must have this or that because ‘I” want it (not because I need it or because it is good for me but because I WANT) – and such behaviour is further fueled by advertisements suggesting you should want whatever is for sale for no other reason than because ‘You’re worth it’.

Danger – danger – danger !!!!

What will you be ‘worth’ after your personal fall?

If on a ‘Tower of Destruction’ day, you’re tempted to push beyond your boundaries- beyond the bounds of your own nature  - and like Icarus, fly too close to the sun, resist and be heartened.

In the tarot, the card following ‘The Tower of Destruction’ is that of The Star’ – a kneeling woman with two urns being poured in equal measure so as to achieve balance and equilibrium.

The Astrological Fortunes of Richard III

IShakespeare's Richard IIIn the times of William Shakespeare, the ‘stars’ were always a force with which men must reckon. There’s no doubt that in those days, the world was viewed as ‘fated’ – and whether this was a reflection of the ancient cosmos where the gods pulled all the strings or an inherent recognition of what Carl Jung would later posit about the covert operations of the unconscious, we will never know.

But we do know that the idea of ‘fate’ as shown in the ‘stars was woven oft through his work:

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,

Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky

Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull

Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.

(All’s Well that Ends Well, 1.1.209), Helena

Having just finished reading Shakespeare’s play Richard III, I wondered how Richard was ‘fated’ to stack up?180px-Richard_III_of_England

Ptolemy identified six levels of fame/success:

  1. Kings & Princes

Both luminaries in masculine signs and at least one of them to be found in an angle. This alone is pretty good. However – as well, they (both) be attended by a doryphory (including rays)  composed of all five planets – then this is REAL GOOD. In addition this rank is helped if the planets in the doryphories are also in the angles or configured with the MC.

  1. Chieftain

The Sun only masculine with the Moon feminine and only one of them in an angle. If both, however, have good doryphories as described above, then the person will reach chieftain level, with the power to judge life and death. NOTE – a good doryphory has  benefics in good shape or on angles (or ruling them).

  1. Governor or Commander

If the natal chart has the luminaries as for a Chieftain but the doryphories do not involve the angles, these people will not be invested with sovereignty, but will reach eminence.

  1. Civil Leader

If neither of the luminaries be in the angles, but both have good doryphories which are in the angles or ruling the angles, they will have a leadership role in their community. Councillor, President of a club, Mayor of a small town and so on.

  1. Undistinguished

If however, neither luminary is in an angle (Sun still masculine and Moon feminine), and the attending planets are not involved with the angles by placement or rulership, then the person will lead a humble life.

  1. Lowest Level

If neither luminary be found in a masculine sign, nor in an angle, nor attended by any benefics they will live lives of “quiet desperation” and obscurity.

Richard III

  1. Sun in Libra (in fall) in a masculine sign succedent in the 11th house – OK – but could be better – the 7th house Moon in Taurus is in a feminine sign but it is angular and exalted) so overall this is pretty OK.
  2. This might get him to Chieftain level if the doryphories of one or both of the luminaries is strong.
  3. The doryphory is an interesting technique focusing on the ‘retinue’ of helpers either of the two lights or luminaries (i.e. sun or moon) have in their ‘train’. The more planets in the retinue, the more helpers and if additionally those helpers were themselves strong the more help they could give. Imagine yourself a feudal lord trying to raise an army to fight a foe – the more rich/strong neighbours (i.e. able to raise their own armies) you have supporting your cause, the more likely you were to succeed.
  4. Note that when considering if a planet throws a ‘ray’ into the doryphory, benefics (Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and the Sun) can only do so by sextile or trine and the malefics (Saturn and Mars) can only do so by opposition or square.
  5. Richard III’s solar doryphory (i.e. attendants to his sun at 17 Libra) is as follows: Because the sun’s retinue PROCEEDS him, we look to other planets in either Libra (18 -30 degrees) or Scorpio:
    1. Saturn in Libra (exalted) and succedent
    2. Mercury in Scorpio
    3. Venus in Scorpio (in detriment) yet angular
    4. Jupiter in Aquarius (retrograde) throws a ray into Libra by trine
  6. Richard III’s lunar doryphory (i.e. attendants to his moon at 28 Taurus is as follows: Because the moon’s retinue FOLLOWS her, we look to planets either in Taurus (29-30 degrees Taurus) or Aries:
    1. Mars in Aries – strong by rulership but not angular
    2. Jupiter casts a ray into Aries by sextile
  7. A solar doryphory of four planets isn’t bad – but none of these four are in rulership by sign or term – and although Saturn is exalted, Venus is in detriment (alternative) – but she rules the DSC angle (Taurus). Mercury is reasonable shape and also rules the MC angle. Likewise Jupiter is in reasonable shape in Aquarius and rules the IC angle – so overall pretty good
  8. A lunar doryphory of only 2 planets is not so good – But that Mars is so powerful (albeit also retrograde) that it alone could win the day – not to mention that it is the chart ruler because Scorpio is rising. This means Mars rules this angle. Mars is further empowered by being in reception with the Sun (the Sun is exalted in Aries so that Sun in Libra- charming and strategic – gives all it has to Mars. Being retrograde does not impede its power but will effect the outcome in the sense that this power is never really under control.
  9. Overall, this gets Richard III to chieftain level – but not to King – and that shouldn’t be surprising because although he was crowned king, it was only because he killed off or pushed aside all others entitled to wear the crown. He held the throne for only two years before being toppled himself by Henry Tudor (who’d been smart enough to remain in France whilst Richard was bumping folks off), whose claim to the throne was much stronger.

Love’s Alchemy & the Alchemical Marriage

MercuryIn alchemy, the female mercurial principle symbolises the mutable aspect of natural processes, their fluidity and changeability.

Hence ‘he/she’ (Mercury is oft pictured as hermaphrodite) is known to alchemists as the White Queen.

According to Johannis de Monte Raphim (Deutsches Theatrum Chemicum, Nuremberg, 1728):

“The process laboratory-workers wanted to rule him (Mercurius) and force him into (the) process. But he constantly escapes, and if one thinks about him, he turns into thoughts, and if one passes judgment upon him, he is judgment itself.”

Mercury is prized by alchemists because, as the result of ‘his/her’ own divided nature, ‘he/she’ unites opposites. Keeping in mind that the alchemical process is all about separation, purification, and reunification, we begin to grasp the benefits of Mercury. Keeping in mind that Mercury is poisonous however, we can also begin to understand how (as Johannis de Monte Raphim warns us) it might all go terribly wrong.

Mercury = psychopomp = guide between the unconscious and the conscious.

The aim of the alchemical game is to bring up all the dross and impurities (as shown by your natal chart) to the surface (consciousness) so that you can deal with them. How else will you be able to assemble them, purified, back together again?

For example, the heroine of Love’s Alchemy, Judith Shakespeare, has a Mars/Saturn conjunction in the 12th house in Scorpio.

Mars/Saturn contacts are dangerously flammable:

Mars = passionalchemical symbols

Saturn = fear & inadequacy

Whilst her Mars/ Saturn contact operates unconsciously, Judith’s long-term personal relationships will be disastrous. Initially she is highly passionate (Mars). But as her Saturn kicks in (as it must with any form of commitment), she becomes increasingly cold toward her lover and potentially even violent.

Enter Mercury to facilitate the active dialogue and transference which is at the base of all therapeutic work.

With Mercury, Judith’s Saturn can help Mars become more considered and less impatient whilst her Mars can help her Saturn achieve his carefully conceived plans. It’s fairly obvious then that if Judith is to be successful in her alchemical transformation, she must find someone in whom she can confidently confide.

She and I are both hopeful that someone will be Master Francis, the character who is meant to play the King to her Queen.

Because Mercury, or the White Queen, is so fluid, she needs an active force to define and shapes her – this force is the male principle of sulphur known to alchemists as the Red King.White Queen

The union of Red King and White Queen is often called the alchemical marriage. In illustrations, it is depicted as courtship and sex. Sometimes they are garbed, as if just starting to be brought together, offering each other flowers. Sometimes they are naked, preparing for consummation of their marriage that will eventually lead to an allegorical offspring, that all important elixir, the Philosopher’s Stone.

Does Judith want to find the Philosopher’s Stone?

You bet!!

Will she be successful?

That remains to be seen.

 

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