God: an Anatomy, and Other Recent Readings

Francesca Stavrakopoulou, in her most recent book, God: an Anatomy, presents a vivid portrait of Yahweh, primarily as seen by his ancient devotees. She takes us on a journey throughout the Levant and Mesopotamia, covering thousands of years, multiple empires, and dozens of gods and goddesses. It’s rigorously researched throughout, and she (literally) gives us chapter and verse for each point along the way, using Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Jewish texts and art to support her portrait.

The Yahweh of her book evolves over time, his body changes, his focus and activities shift. Starting out as a Canaanite storm god and fearsome warrior, a deity among many other deities, he’s usually depicted as a young god, but morphs over the centuries into a supreme being in his own right — from the son of El to the father god himself.…

Honor in our dreams

More paintings, more departures. Utilizing a digital knife for blending, and a steel wool effect in some cases. Imagining all of this on massive canvasses, propped up on giant easels, in one of a dozen rooms in my ancient castle by the sea. Thick walls, high ceilings, stone floors — sun and moon seeping in from on high. And mead. Lots of mead.

Castles fill my mind often, but the most recent trigger was seeing two films: The Last Duel, and The Green Knight. I liked them both, but the latter was, well, strange, which is a good bit of the point for A24 movies.…

More short fiction plus Campbell

We’ve added a short story by William Kitcher to the Spinozablue mix, and some more paintings by yours truly. As always, your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Finished Campbell’s fine collection of lectures and informal talks, Goddesses, and had some additional thoughts to share.

First off, I imagine my main takeaways are not the same as other readers, and what stands out for me now may not resonant with the majority. This is likely the case, as they probably wouldn’t have resonated all that much with my younger selves. I remember focusing more on the mythological stories as stories in their own right, their beauty, strangeness, and mystery, mostly delinked from current concerns or implications.…

The Tree of Knowledge

The Expulsion From Eden, by Thomas Cole. 1828

Philip Pullman’s usage of the myth of Adam and Eve had me revisiting the metaphors, symbols, and scenarios in that ancient garden. While there are many different interpretations of the myth, and a wide range of disagreements between Jewish and Christian exegesis, I thought Pullman was really onto something fundamentally important.

Contrary to much of the received wisdom about that story, Adam and Eve did the right thing. They sought knowledge. In effect, consciousness. Had they stayed in the garden, they would have remained unfree, ignorant, and stunted. The god of the story wanted them that way, apparently.…

The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott, by John William Waterhouse. 1888.

I love this painting. It’s mystical, edgy, sharp, ethereal, and the stuff of dreams. Tennyson’s Elaine of Astolat. Elaine of the curse, something out of Plato’s cave, mixed strangely with the myth of Medusa, as if in reverse. Obliquely. Tangentially.

She could never look at reality directly. Only through a mirror. Doomed to see reflections, doomed to observe others in love while locked away. An allegory for artists and writers and anyone who separates themselves from life, remains severed from it, looking at life from afar.

King Arthur and Lancelot and Elaine.…

Cuchulain, The Irish Achilles

Cuchulain slays the hound of Culain. Stephen Reid. 1904.

The character of Cuchulain has always fascinated me, ever since I first read his adventures at the age of nine. Discovering him along with the Iliad and the Odyssey proved to be one of the key formative events in my life. It led to a lifetime of reading mythology, of digging deeply into the sources for those myths, and how subsequent centuries of literature use myth to deepen and broaden fiction, poetry and drama.

My chief source as a young lad was Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902), supplemented by her Gods and Fighting Men (1904).

The Question

Humans have two choices. Well, we actually have millions of choices, but for the purpose of this post, we have two.

Believe in a divinity that guides our lives and controls the universe, or in a universe that guides itself, leaving us basically on our own.

Strike that. There may just be a third choice in there somewhere. Yes. At least for the purpose of this post. The belief in a divine entity that no organized religion has yet described, defined, or even remotely gotten close to. Remember, there have been thousands of organized religions throughout the centuries, and thousands of deities on display.…

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