Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Squaring up

The photo was taken some years ago from the top of the Mole Antonelliana in Turin and it hid in my files for that time! Frankly I can't recall taking it! Because the building is mostly squares it reminded me of this rhyme. "A graduate student at Trinity.Computed the square of infinity.But it gave him the fidgets.To put down the digits, So he dropped maths - and took up divinity." For Jung, a square is a “quaternity”and such a symbol might be “in the form of a cross, a star, a square, an octagon". Jung famously conceived of the human personality as having four sides and sought balance in each. The square is a  symbol of wholeness and when it appears in dreams, it could be about self realisation. When the circle is squared it becomes a mandala, a symbol of the transcendental. Yet even though there are many squares I couldn't imagine anything spiritual about what looks like a battery farm. Why should we want to live or work in little cubes? They are strong of course. Would you rather stand on a chair with with four legs or a stool with three? It's a fundamentally stable structure and everything holds everything else up. If you could remove a single cube from this structure it's unlikely it would collapse. Functional yet boring - something a lot of people seem to strive for. But we are more than four sides. We need to square up to being multi-dimensional.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crocodiles, Aggression & the Collective Unconscious

I saw this in Brussels a while ago and forgot about it. But at the time I took the shot, I thought that crocodiles had a good symbolic existence! This art is part of a current penchant for outsize creature statues in impossible colours, but I do like some very much. This crocodile doesn't look like a creature of the underworld, yet that is how crocodiles often appear. In Ancient Egypt, Crocodile Sobek weighed souls. He was called the Devourer - and when souls were unable to give a good account of themselves he would eat them and they would would become excrement in his bowels. The Egyptians had a refreshing way of looking at things. There were temples dedicated to crocodiles and a town called Crocodilopolis. Yet elsewhere in Egypt, crocodiles were feared. Eyes were dawn, jaws were murder. And its tail brought brought darkness and death. In the West, crocodiles were held to be primeval creature and they may represent the aggressiveness of the collective unconscious. So if you dream of crocodiles, there could be some collective aggression of which you feel part. Excrement is another symbol for another day. But despite excrement's association with strength and gold, I wouldn't like to be excrement in the bowels of the crocodile!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wine of life - freeing the spirit.

I found these flasks lying at the side of the local wine co-op in Casorzo, Piedmont. I'm at the limit for distortion on the wide angle lens but I didn't feel like cropping the image too much. The flasks looked a useful size for taking home. Here, you can roll along to your local co-op, buy wine in bulk then bottle it yourself. It's a civilised approach to wine. The symbolism of wine is very much about intoxication - not the general drunkenness that bedevils cities of northern Europe on a Friday night, but the sacred intoxication of the Gods. Blake said that the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. I believe that's a knowledge and wisdom, imparted through the sacred aspects of wine. As usual symbolism is uneven and even contradictory. Wine in most cultures represents strength and life but sometimes it can represent God's wrath. "He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword." And wine is also a symbol in Islam with many references in the Koran. "Choice wine shall be given to them to quaff." [76:21]. In general, wine is a positive life-giving symbol, The Sufi believe in the pre-existence of souls and moreover that "these souls we intoxicated with immortal wine." (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī). We arrive with the natural mysticism of the drink! But not the Gods of the Underworld. They are disallowed wine - as are the Muses, who rely on memory. And dreams of wine? It all depends. It could be a very positive pointer to transformation. Wine liberates the earthly and frees the spirit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Lighthouse and The People

I tried for some time to get a decent photograph of the lighthouse, but perhaps the problem was that it's no-where near the sea. It's on the Gianicolo Hill above Rome and it was a gift to Rome from Argentinian Italians in 1986, marking 30 years since the Argentinian military coup. Under its rule, thousands disappeared. No-one knows the real number so a lighthouse is entirely appropriate because it is a very practical boundary between light and dark. In the maritime sense, it signals rocks or cliffs hidden in the darkness, waiting to tear out the hull of some unfortunate vessel. Light is also internal - the Koran sees God and heaven as light within a lamp encased in glass -  and the human heart is light too, a glass lantern set in the recesses of the body.This monument is about life so it's worth repeating the chilling communique that heralded the new rule. "People are advised that from this date, the country is under the operational control of the Joint Chiefs General of the Armed Forces. We recommend to all inhabitants, strict compliance with provisions and directives emanating from the military, security or police authorities, and to be extremely careful to avoid individual or group actions and attitudes that may require drastic intervention from the operating staff. Signed: General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti."
The lighthouse marks the boundary between the light of humanity and the dark forces that stand ready to assault it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Many chairs and the seat of God

I can't resist assembled chairs and they do make good photographs. I really can't remember which church in Rome this was, but the light was good enough for the depth of field that a wide-angle lens offers. The symbolism of chairs is clear. A chair is a sign of authority and if you offer someone a chair, you recognise the status of the visitor or guest. If you remain seated while others stand, this is a sign of your authority. The Holy See originates from sedes, Latin for chair. And the chair of the meeting is in charge and has a casting vote. But the seats in this church reminded me of an old occasion where I had to organise a conference. The venue was a London ecumenical centre, where Roman Catholic and Church of England congregations were allocated separate worship areas. However, one section had soft seats and the caretaker refused permission for the chairs to be moved to make conference guests comfortable. Looking back, it was all most amusing. Yet at the time, it was stressful. So I'm pleased to say that after much theological debate, reason prevailed and the soft chairs were duly allowed! The chairs in the photograph don't look comfortable at all, do they? In Rome, most older churches would be dedicated to kneeling or standing. Pews and sitting came about in the Middle Ages. You didn't get to sit because God has the authority. It's God that sits. But a throne is a subject for another blog!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Dark Tunnel of the Underworld

This is an impressionist piece! I tried for a long time and on many metro trips to get this right. I used the small camera and gave it a steady resting place against the rear window of the train - then I squeezed the shutter and hoped for the best. There were many failures, but this one seems to have some sense of speed to it - even if the train in the image is braking for he next station! A tunnel is usually associated with a quest and as well as darkness, can involve anguish and punishment. Tunnels frequently appear in dreams, but as usual, the symbol is ambivelant -  there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Being in the tunnel is stressful, yet the task of exiting demands thought and consideration. Once when I was in this very tunnel (and near enough this location) I experienced an earthquake, It was unusual for Turin. The train slowed nearly to a standstill and there was a most curious atmosphere. That truly might have become an underworld adventure. In many ancient cultures, there was a belief in an underground highway. The dead and the Sun would travel along the highway and emerge to a new dawn. But in these times, millions of commuters disappear into dark highways under the city every day, In this case they soon return to the familiar world they know. But in the dark Tunnel of the Underworld, one can only emerge to a new place of light, a fresh birth.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Balloon Coincidence

It was an unusual expedition because the next day I took a short trip in this balloon. The shot is taken from the top of the Mole Antonelliana which houses the film museum in Turin, and I thought I was lucky to see a balloon. But it transpires that this is a permanent Turin fixture and if you look closely, you'll see the balloon is tethered. Passengers are loaded and then it slowly rises, attached to its line, for about twenty minutes. Part of the basket's floor is transparent - so if you're nervous of heights it might not be for you. But if there's an opportunity, I feel compelled to go up on high things and look around. A balloon is a sphere and has a special place in symbolism - because it is the "cube of the circle" and adds another dimension to it. Domes in temples are hemispheres and express a wholeness that is the combination of the circle and the square. If perfection must be pictured, it would have to be in the shape of a sphere. But something else appeared in the photo and I hadn't realised it was there until today.  A helicopter is making it's way to a landing pad at the Centre for Orthopedic Trauma, a Turin hospital that I know extremely well. It was a day of photographic coincidence - or perhaps as Jung believed, there really is no such thing.