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Salvador Dali, “Christ of St. John of the Cross”, 1951

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The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s.It depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although a crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood, and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. His depiction of the crucified Christ, is later confirmed when Dali discovers a drawing

St. John’s sketch

by St John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish mystic, of a triangle (Trinity) nested inside of a circle (of life). Dali’s composition is also based on a triangle and circle (the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by Christ’s head). The triangle, since it has three sides, can be seen as a reference to the Trinity. Dali explained, “In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!”

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St. John of the Cross

Of all of the human conditions, it is probably hardest to explain why God would allow suffering. Yet it is often suffering, and not enjoyment, which brings the soul away from the distractions of life, to focus on it’s relationship to God.

Born in Spain in 1542, St. John of the Cross learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver’s daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love — God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John’s own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fireand light. He had nothing left but God — and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God’s love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that “Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?” and “Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” — excerpt

In fact, the importance of the cross in the life of the true Christian disciple became St. John’s maxim: “Do not seek Christ without the cross.” For St. John, innocent and voluntary suffering embraced in the way of the cross becomes an avenue to sublime intimacy with the Risen Lord. Therefore, suffering with the Savior is one key to the lofty heights of contemplation, which opens the door to the loving embrace of the Holy Spirit, transforming pain into unheard-of joy. While such a concept is quite foreign to contemporary society, it is entirely compatible with the Gospel. – excerpt

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On her CD The mask and mirror, Loreena McKennitt sings a song entitled The dark night of the Soul. Loreena writes in the CD-booklet about this song:

May, 1993 – Stratford … have been reading through the poetry of 15th century Spain, and I find myself drawn to one by the mystic writer and visionary St. John of the Cross; the untitled work is an exquisite, richly metaphoric love poem between himself and his god. It could pass as a love poem between any two at any time … His approach seems more akin to early Islamic or Judaic works in its more direct route to communication to his god … I have gone over three different translations of the poem, and am struck by how much a translation can alter our interpretation. Am reminded that most holy scriptures come to us in translation, resulting in a diversity of views.

Here is the full English translation of this poem from the original Spanish:

St. John of the Cross On a dark night

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he
(well I knew who!) was awaiting me
— A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,
and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand
He wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

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St. John of the Cross himself has written two books on this poem, explaining its meaning as a metaphor of a soul that unites with God. The books are “The Dark Night of the Soul”, the title Loreena chose for her song, and “Ascent of Mount Carmel“.

Loreena McKennitt’s official website

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The quadrivium – the classical curriculum – comprises the four liberal arts of number, geometry, music, and cosmology. It was studied from antiquity to the Renaissance as a way of glimpsing the nature of reality. Geometry is number in space; music is number in time; and comology expresses number in space and time. Number, music, and geometry are metaphysical truths: life across the universe investigates them; they foreshadow the physical sciences.

Quadrivium is the first volume in many hundreds of years to bring together these four subjects. Composed of six successful titles in the Wooden Books series (Sacred Geometry, Sacred Number, Harmonograph, The Elements of Music, Platonic & Archimedean Solids, and A Little Book of Coincidence) – it makes ancient wisdom and its astonishing interconnectedness accessible to us all today.

Beautifully produced in six different colours of ink, Quadrivium will appeal to anyone interested in mathematics, music, astronomy, and how the universe works.

via Quadrivium Wooden Books Collection – Clouds Online.

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The Celtic Music Fan

There is something special about the culture and geography of this lovely island located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles.  Laura Rowles is one of my contacts and she is heavily involved with the cultural affairs of the island. This is from her. I was looking for a youtube video for this article and I found one ! Enjoy.

Yn Chruinnaght Inter-Celtic Festival – 14-21 July 2012

2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Mona Douglas, the founder of Yn Chruinnaght Inter-Celtic Festival. Throughout her life Douglas was passionate about promoting and supporting Celtic culture, and she was respected throughout the Celtic world for this. Douglas had a vision of a Manx national festival, and this resulted in Yn Chruinnaght being started in 1977. However, unfortunately she did not live long enough to appreciate the huge success of her legacy.
Yn Chruinnaght aims…

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A travelling musician, a saxaphonist, on a temporary trip to the States from his home country Australia, had this to say in his blog about an aspect of the local music scene (“the secret jam”) in Portland, Oregon:

It’s not a secret as such, people know it exists, but players who attend the secret jam only invite others they know can cut it. It’s not held in a music venue, any sort of venue, rather an old shed hidden behind a giant hardware store. There is no audience, just players, the invited few.

You’d think I’d be honoured to be invited. I am. One of the few white boys I’m sure. I won’t go. I can’t see the point in playing music without an audience, no matter how good the music. It is spilling the seed upon the ground. Vibrating air only becomes music when it is received by a human ear. The relationship between player and listener, the shared love, is the reason to play, playing to hear ourselves is masturbation, I can do that alone.

There is nothing created, no new life without the audience.

Parkstreet.
http://www.kentparkstreetblog.com

It’s philosophical, but after a couple experiences in the local music industry in Oregon I have an inkling what he’s talking about. Such a jam can turn into a musical ‘showdown’ with the players trying to dominate the song, drowning out each other, rather than genuinely trying to “make music”. It’s surprising what such a waste of talent these events turn out to be. A cacophany of egos.

But the musical rivalry and oneupsmanship goes much deeper into the industry. Those who control what an audience hears, in effect control who rises to the top. In other words, popularity is not determined by the preference of the ears which listen, so much as the music which is presented to the ears. We are conditioned to like what we hear, because it’s the only music placed before us. A lot of good musician’s talent is bypassed by the mainstream, because those who present the media only funnel their favorite performers to the top, regardless of the true talent others possess.

The musician must make his choice whether he plays at the top of his skill level for the music, the audience, himself and his soul, or whether he will let the industry place him in an artificial setting of predominance in fake ratings. It’s a sad state of affairs — blues without soul. But you see it all the time. The music industry is controlled by those who control access to airtime – and our ears.

This is why some of the finest music you may hear this summer is being played in the streets, not on the radio.

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Stonecircle

The group Stonecircle reminds me why I love the celtic genre. Still thoroughly acoustic, with flute and violin instrumental flourishes, the sound is authentic, tight, yet not overly polished. It has none of the New Age synthesized background, and the drum rythm is held back to something pre-rock, and not a recorded track.

Stonecircle reminds me of early Jethro Tull–“The Minstrel in the Gallery”, “Heavy Horses”, etc…before Ian Anderson got fused into heavy metal. Stonecircle falls under the Celtic genre, but it does not fall into the traditional trap of jigs and reels, accordians and bagpipes, nor the cloyingly peaceful harping that modern audiences fear when they hear the label.

Stonecircle is upbeat, polished, varies its pace and types of songs, infusing old melodies with new life—not “new age”. Worth a listen.

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