Birds, Fishes, & Hares
This year, Easter Sunday falls on April Fool’s Day. I don’t believe in coincidences. That Christ’s resurrection corresponds this year with the celebration of the Fool points to an esoteric, mythical tradition, one that is observable in the story of Amfortas, the Fisher King (a quite different story from the movie of the same name). Like Christ, Amfortas—also called the Grail King—was pierced by a spear. He received a wound (usually said to be in his thigh) that never healed. Amfortas languished away for years, too ill to live but not sick enough to die. None could heal him.
Parsifal, the youngest and “greenest” of the knights of Camelot, wandered one day into Amfortas’ castle, on his quest for the Grail. Parsifal was supposed to ask a specific question to the King, but he flubbed it—Fool that he was! It was only on his return, some years later, that he managed to articulate the question, to heal the king, and to restore order to the Grail Kingdom.
In profane terms, foolishness equals the opposite (or the absence) of wisdom; yet it is also what transcends wisdom—potentially—by attaining higher forms of it. Hence: “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise” (English poet William Blake). The sickly Fisher King represents a wisdom and moral order that has grown old, tired, and morose, that has sunk into lifeless dogma. Parsifal, the unformed and impetuous youth, is the element of chaos and folly that is required to bring new life to the ancient order and resurrection to the King.
So how does this square with Christ? Christ as Messiah is the Word of God made flesh, the Logos. This makes him the ratio between things (the “colon” that mediates between God : Man, Heaven : Earth, Soul : Body). This is symbolized by the vesica piscis, Christ being the oval shape of the intersection between the two circles, partaking of both but limited to neither.
This is partly why the earliest Christian symbol was that of the fish (note the shape). And of course, the Easter egg! The other reason is astrological, something every good ex-hippie knows: Jesus Christ initiated the 2000-year Age of Pisces.)
For Christians, Christ is the Son of God and God, the Son. Like the Fool, He acts spontaneously and unpredictably, unrestricted by law or doctrine. Probably this is why Jesus breaks so many of the damn commandments in the Gospels, albeit with the qualification: “Just chill: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill the law.” (Matthew 5:17) Since Christ died for our sins, we are “Not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)—that’s the good news! As the divine principle incarnate, Christ was unencumbered by time-bound traditions. He was moved only by eternal principles, by the Holy Spirit that “bloweth where it listeth” (John 3:8), that can’t be fixed into cultural forms or conventions of worship or dogma.
The resurrection signifies the emergence of the eternal Word of God into fully incarnated (articulated) being, following the crucifixion of the flesh, that is. The flesh is like the egg that has to be cracked open for the bird of the eternal word to be born. Or is that a hare? : /
The Unseen I
Recently, someone in the thrift store asked me if I was proud of my book being published (she was referring to Prisoner of Infinity, which “coincidentally” is released on April Fool’s Day this year). I couldn’t answer her question very easily, because the focus of it felt off. Never mind that pride is the first of the cardinal sins, being published (fixed in time as doctrine) is nothing to be proud of in itself, since it surely depends on what is being published. I have written more than one book that I now wish to God I had never published, because it was spewed forth in a time when I was persisting in my folly without knowing it, and very far from approximating wisdom. It was in the time of the first aimless iterations of Parsifal, when I didn’t even know what questions to be asking, being far too busy plucking half-baked answers out of the furnace of my fevered imagination. Not much to feel pride about there!
Seen and Not Seen is the first book I feel genuinely proud of (I hope not sinfully so), and the reason, I think, is that it began in earnest the process of asking the right questions. It was the time I started honestly examining my life to identify the wound-that-would-not-heal, running my fingers over the brail-like scars of “original sin” (my primary programming) that caused me to miss the mark of a fully embodied spiritual life, a life in Christ, if you like—if Christ is both the symbol and presence of our true and pristine, divine “fool” natures. To know God means knowing ourselves; knowing ourselves means finding and counting all the ways we are not ourselves. This is the question Seen and Not Seen begins by asking: “Who am I—really?” And it’s the question I plan to ask all over again, now I am outside the comfort zone of my own “private” (ha) literary ramblings, at the book reading I have scheduled for this month in Hope.
The answer I am in the process of discovering, for starters, is this: I am not who or what my cultural conditioning led me to believe I was for most of my adult life. Not at all. So then, you may ask, who was I busy being all that time? It is as if a literal false self was installed in me, via a combination of trauma and dissociation (retreat from trauma); as if the precise combination of the two allowed me to assemble and escape into a fantasy image of a self. I traced this (I think universal) process, by way of an examination of “my life in movies”—most especially violent movies that simulated (for me) both the original trauma and the dissociated fantasy that protected me from it, i.e., a Hollywood revenge fantasy of violent heroic retribution and/or rescue, as seen (and adored, by me and countless others) in Clint Eastwood movies and their ilk.
I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I started Seen and Not Seen. I began writing about a lifelong love of movies, comic books, literature, and music, popular culture). I ended up staring at the shadowy flickering images of deeply buried childhood traumas and well-closeted family skeletons. It was a bit like the archetypal horror movie in which a family home is overrun by hungry ghouls, ghouls that can only be put to rest by bringing to light some ancient grisly crime, locating the hidden bones of the victims, and placing them into holy ground. Not at all pretty or fun—but it has to be done.
The Fisher King is only healed by returning to the source of the wounding—and that’s the necessity of asking the right question. By mapping the order I had imposed on my own soul (a false cultural identity provided in part by Hollywood myths), I made my way back to the edges of primordial chaos that overwhelmed me as a child. It’s here that the overlap, the intersection, the ratio, the line between order and chaos, is found, as represented by Christ’s death and resurrection and by the meeting between the innocent Fool and the wounded King.
Parsifal asks the only question that can heal Amfortas, the question that only a fool is innocent enough to ask:
“What ails thee?”
It took me half a lifetime to ask this myself. It’s the thing about us we can neither see nor not-see. That’s why it takes someone outside of us to see it first.
Jasun will give a book reading for Seen & Not Seen: Confessions of a Movie Autist in Hope, B.C., Sunday 22 April, at 3 pm. If interested, go here.