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Sharing D.H. Lawrence on the Cosmos

Sharing D.H. Lawrence on the Cosmos

D.H. Lawrence is most well-known for his loverly novels, but I am most fond of his book “Apocalypse.” I picked it up again when it caught my eye, patiently waiting, wedged between Bataille and Baudrillard – out of order, why? I opened it up to a random page, and found this passage. I loved it so much that I want to share it with you.

Perhaps the greatest difference between us and the pagans lies in our different relation to the cosmos. With us, all is personal. Landscape and the sky, they are to us the delicious background of our personal life, and no more. Even the universe of the scientists is little more than an extension of our personality, to us. To the pagan, landscape and personal background were on the whole indifferent. But the cosmos was a very real thing. A man lived with the cosmos, and knew it greater than himself.

Don’t let us imagine we see the sun as the old civilisations saw it. All we see is a scientific little luminary, dwindled to a ball of blazing gas. In the centuries before Ezekiel and John, the sun was still a magnificent reality, men drew forth from him strength and splendor, and gave him back homage and lustre and thanks. But in us, the connection is broken, the responsive centers are dead. Our sun is quite a different thing from the cosmic sun of the ancients, so much more trivial. We may see what we call the sun, but we have lost Helios forever. We have lost the cosmos, by coming out of responsive connection with it, and this is our chief tragedy. What is our petty little love of nature – Nature!! – compared to the ancient magnificent living with the cosmos, and being honored by the cosmos!

And some of the great images of the Apocalypse move us to strange depths, and to a strange wild fluttering of freedom: of true freedom, really, an escape to somewhere, not an escape to nowhere. An escape from the tight little cage of our universe: tight, in spite of all the astronomist’s vast and unthinkable stretches of space: tight, because it is only a continuous extension, a dreary on and on, without any meaning: an escape from this into the vital cosmos, to a sun who has a great wild life, and who looks back at us for strength or withering, marvellous, as he goes his way. Who says the sun cannot speak to me! The sun has a great blazing consciousness, and I have a little blazing consciousness. When I can strip myself of the trash of personal feelings and ideas, and get down to my naked sun-self, then the sun and I can commune by the hour, the blazing interchange, and he gives me life, sun-life, and I send him a little new brightness from the world of the bright blood. The great sun, like an angry dragon, hater of the nervous and personal consciousness in us. All these modern sunbathers must realize, for they become disintegrated by the very sun that bronzes them. But the sun, like a lion, loves the bright red blood of life, and can give it an infinite enrichment if we know how to receive it. But we don’t. We have lost the sun. And he only falls on us and destroys us, decomposing something in us: the dragon of destruction instead of the life-bringer.

And we have lost the moon, the cool, bright, ever-varying moon. It is she who would caress our nerves, smooth them with the silky hand of her glowing, soothe them into serentiy again with her cool presence. For the moon is the mistress and mother of our watery bodies, the pale body of our nervous consciousness and our moist flesh. Oh, the moon could soothe us and heal us like a cool great Artemis between her arms. But we have lost her, in our stupidity we ignore her, and angry she stares down on us and whips us with nervous whips. Oh, beware of the angry Artemis of the night heavens, beware of the spite of Cybele, beware of the vindictiveness of horned Astarte.

For the lovers who shot themselves in the night, in the horrible suicide of love, they are driven mad by the poisoned arrows of Artemis: the moon is against them: the moon is fiercely against them. And oh, if the moon is against you, oh, beware of the bitter night, especially the night of intoxication.

Now this may sound nonsense, but that is merely because we are fools. There is an eternal vital correspondence between our blood and the sun: there is an eternal vital correspondence between our nerves and the moon. If we get out of contact and harmony with the sun and the moon, then both turn into great dragons of destruction against us. The sun is a great source of blood-vitality, it streams strength to us. But once we resist the sun, and say: It is a mere ball of gas! – then the very streaming vitality of sunshine turns into subtle disintegrative force in us, and undoes us. The same with the moon, the planets, the great stars. They are either our makers or our unmakers. There is no escape.

We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body, of which we are still parts. The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever. Who knows the power that Saturn has over us, or Venus? But it is a vital power, rippling exquisitely through us all the time. And if we deny Aldebaran, Aldebaran will pierce us with infinit dagger-thrusts. He who is not with me is against me! – that is a cosmic law.

Now all this is literally true, as men knew in the great past, and as they will know again.

By the time of John of Patmos, men, especially educated men, had already almost lost the cosmos. The sun, the moon, the planets, instead of being the communers, the comminglers, the life-givers, the splendid ones, the awful ones, had already fallen into a sort of deadness; they were the arbitrary, almost mechanical engineers of fate and destiny. By the time of Jesus, men had turned the heavens into a mechanism of fate and destiny, a prison.

The Christians escaped this prison by denying the body altogether. But alas, these little escapes! especially the escapes by denial! – they are the most fatal of evasions. Christianity and our ideal civilisation have been one long evasion. It has caused endless lying and misery, misery such as people know today, not of physical want but of a far more deadly vital want. Better lack bread than lack life. The long evasion, whose only fruit is the machine!

We have lost the cosmos. The sun strengthens us no more, neither does the moon. In mystic language, the moon is black to us, and the sun is as sackcloth.

Now we have to get back the cosmos, and it can’t be done by a trick. The great range of responses that have fallen dead in us have to come to life again. It has taken two thousand years to kill them. Who knows how long it will take to bring them to life?

When I hear modern people complain of being lonely then I know what has happened. They have lost the cosmos. – It is nothing human and personal that we are short of. What we lack is cosmic life, the sun in us and the moon in us. We can’t get the sun in us by lying naked like pigs on a beach. The very sun that is bronzing us is inwardly disintegrating us – as we know later. Process of katabolism. We can only get the sun by a sort of worship; and the same with the moon. By going forth to worship the sun, worship that is felt in the blood. Tricks and postures only make matters worse.

D.H Lawrence, Apocalypse. Viking Compass Edition, 1966, pp. 41-47. Copyright The Estate of David Herbert Lawrence, 1931.



JW Blood Loss Death, Under 15 is Parental Abuse

JW Blood Loss Death, Under 15 is Parental Abuse

A Japanese women has died for lack of a blood transfusion after a Caesarean birth.

The hospital said it had agreed with the woman before the surgery that it would not administer a transfusion.

Although she bled a great deal after delivering the child, doctors only took steps to arrest the hemorrhaging. She died several days later, the hospital said.

“We briefed her about the danger (before the surgery) and we repeatedly urged her family to accept a blood transfusion. But in the end we respected the patient’s wishes,” a hospital official said Tuesday.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ officials said the hospital acted appropriately in treating the woman in accordance with her wishes.

Also from Japan, a joint committee of the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy, Japan Surgical Society, Japan Pediatric Society, Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists and Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has judged that refusing a blood donation for children under 15 who are considered to be immature in terms of their self-determination capabilities constitutes an abuse of parental rights. Their new guidelines stipulate that doctors should give necessary blood transfusions during surgery on patients under 15 years of age – even if their parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The joint committee started discussing the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses in response to requests from doctors who have said they are troubled about prioritizing either religious freedom or respect for life.
… The committee said it would finalize the common guideline agreed by the five societies this year after hearing opinions from followers of the religious group and bioethicists at a symposium to be held at Tokyo Medical and Dental University on Saturday.

What the blood policy means for JWs in the real world – and how fellow JW’s treat people in life-and-death situations:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBW_nKOdfgY[/youtube]

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne Meed Ward of the Toronto Sun has my admiration. She has written an opinion piece – in the Lifestyle Section, yet – that connects some of the dots in the conflict between the Jehovah’s Witness belief in the total abstention from blood and the welfare of children in cases where life-saving blood transfusions may be needed.

There are big themes here – civil liberties, freedom of (and from) religion, freedom of (and from) speech, child welfare, biblical scholarship, and the line between religion and the state.

Are such deadly biblical interpretations and movements a matter of natural/cultural selection? Or are they, as believed by followers, a mark of God’s true people?

What if you wanted to sacrifice, say, geese – at the town square every Sunday morning?
What if people decided, as Jehovah’s Witnesses used to, that vaccinations were also to be banned by God’s people?
Or – public education?
Or that we should pluck out what offends us – such as the eyes of the youngest, or oldest, of our nuclear family as a “body”?

Shall I become more ridiculous, or are you following me here? This debate could go anywhere. I hope some talented people get involved – Jehovah’s Witnesses have been a good place to practice such debate before.

In my reading of the various holy books, life always trumps law.

Thank you, Marianne. That is a great place to start! It’s a good place to start for a lot of the debates we should be having. Go read the article, people.

(Thank you again, Danny, for keeping me up to date)

The case really is one that should be debated. It probably needs some general unearthing even for some JWs – they don’t actually keep to kosher laws about meat and blood, and the leadership has gotten a bit technical on the “parts” of the blood that are not covered by the ban on blood transfusions. Presumably some bits of the blood are excluded as being without that elusive “soul” element that cannot be shared. Incidentally, the “soul” element is also completely distinct from the “spirit” of/in breath, which is not considered sacred and it therefore ok to share in life-saving circumstances. Imagine if we were arguing about resuscitation or oxygen therapy!

This would be a fascinating debate on many levels – in and out of the courtroom. In larger terms, it would be good for the planet (I hope) to confront some of the conflicts between some religious behavior and the general welfare. At this point, I have to say, however regretfully, that I believe that any debate of that sort could be better argued in Canada, far from the neo-legalististic pseudo-theocrats of America* – or those of the Middle East.

The issue of blood transfusions is not likely to create sources of destructive violence. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t fight in wars. Nor do they vote. That seems pretty safe. They are, for the most part, good people who are trying to do what they believe is right.

Let’s start talking again about what is right. Let’s have more of a meta-discussion.

I define “religious” very broadly. I can’t actually say that I have met very many people whose ultimate concern really seemed to be God, but perhaps I am not as perceptive on that as I would like to be. One thing, though, the ones I trust tend to have little need to trumpet pronouncements.

In any case, the peoples of the book have got to talk, and this is a good place to start. It can be a practice run to learn terms of reasonable, spiritually responsible, terms of (and for) debate.

Think of the possibilities for discussion! Jehovah’s Witnesses are a minority group, who believe that “persecution” proves their righteousness in the end times. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Corporations (and their governing body of a dozen men in New York at the Watchtower building/block next to the Brooklyn Bridge) hold great sway over many aspects of their followers’ lives. For the most part, the stated aims have good effect, although there are some harmful aspects too (destructiveness to families, abuse, psychological problems, and other issues discussed here and elsewhere). Still, they are no worse than many other groups in terms of their somewhat totalitarian hold.

Cognitive dissonance can be a problem for JWs, and against that the leadership limits information and damps down possibilities for debate (unlike the Jews and early Christians they say they admire). The scholarship is questionable, the learning is by rote repetition of selected, highly interpreted biblical passages.

Despite the leadership’s changing policies on the blood issue, most Jehovah’s Witnesses consider this life-or-death decision as an important way to choose to stand for God. By doing so, they believe that they may be chosen to live forever on a Paradise Earth (after the oft-rescheduled impending Armageddon). It’s a blind faith fundamentalist fixation, reinforced.

Yet I believe that this debate – the debate itself – may save lives. Once people are used to debate and critical thinking, I believe that they can love it. There will be some for whom the cognitive dissonance will finally become irrepressible. They may be thrown into crisis and may start to think things through for themselves. This could have a larger impact on the population at large.

On the negative side, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be told that the debate is being brought – as persecution – from the worldly reality of Satan’s control. Some of these will hunker down and refuse to think at all. Independent thinking (outside the guidance of the “organizaton”) is against their religion. It may be that the leadership simply gets “new light” from God. One possibility is that they could say that each person is responsible for themselves. Who decides for children? Parents? Doctors? A corporation in New York? Can they decide for themselves? It’s a very messy issue, and a fruitful one.

I also have a personal interest in observing what religion scholars have to say. I’ve read a lot on this issue, and it would be extremely fun for me. I wrote a chapter in my dissertation comparing communion and vampirism along viral questions of framing, and it is also a theme in my novel (the writing of which still doesn’t get enough of my time). I have always wanted to see the issue of blood debated by the very best of minds. What is this quasi-spiritual, quasi-physical substance of soul, and sacrifice? Where and when does spiritual communion turn into literalism, into cannibalism? What is this that promises immortality, and what is the cost of such beliefs?

*P.S. The intrusive side trains of thought. These should really be separate blog entries, but to me they are related.

Most Americans can’t get their heads around why it might be a tad bit idolatrous to take a pledge of allegiance to the nation’s flag. Indivisible? Oh, please. Don’t get me started on liberty and justice…for all. I don’t think most people even think about what they are saying. It’s a ritual, like “Heil.” The reds. The blues. Yet our world is fractal, complex – not dualist. We need a new synthesis of thought – a breakthrough to a better path.

If there is a God, whatever that God might be, we all would have to be (by definition?) “under God,” all the time. And not only “America,” not only people of one particular religious path or discipline. What do we mean by “under God” anyway? Under God’s rule? Under God’s banner? Under God’s protection? Under God’s blessing? Can anyone truly claim God as their property? Or it is meant to be a statement of humility? Nah. Don’t think so.

A lot of people look for the Kingdom in the world. But didn’t God warn against the desire for human kings? The kingdom (the corporation? the tribe? the nation?), the relationship to the cosmos, the eternal, is within you.

Another JW Death – No Blood Transfusion

Another JW Death – No Blood Transfusion

Jean-Claude Lavoie, 26, is another victim of the Watchtower interpretation of the biblical command to abstain from blood. He died in late December after refusing a blood transfusion while being treated for an intestinal tumor.

His (former Jehovah’s Witness) brother, Jonathan Lavoie, has launched an Internet petition calling on the Canadian federal government to make it illegal for a person to refuse treatment on religious grounds.

His father stated that the death was “unfortunate, but it came to that. It’s important to respect Jean-Claude’s choice.”

If anyone has the url for Jonathan’s petition, please comment. I think that his wording is too general. It would not be a good precedent to make refusal of treatment for religious reasons illegal, but perhaps there is another way to frame it.

Another JW Death by Blood Refusal

Another JW Death by Blood Refusal

British Jehovah’s Witness Alison Mallinder (44) died as a result of refusing blood products. After years of abdominal pain, she was scheduled to have a hysterectomy. When the surgeon got in, he discovered that “some of her abdominal organs were stuck together as a result of a previous operation.” For three hours, four surgeons worked to separate them, and she suffered heavy bleeding. Her hemoglobin levels dropped, so that oxygen couldn’t be carried adequately to her major organs. Neither the drugs intended to counteract blood loss or the ventilator worked: she died a few days later.

Professor of reproductive surgery and medicine Ti C Li said: “She did not want to make a fuss about the fact she was a Jehovah’s Witness which is why she had not mentioned it until the day before the operation.

“I asked her if she wanted to go on because of the increased risks, especially if there was significant bleeding. But she was clear in her mind that she wanted to get on with the operation. Having satisfied myself that she realised the risks, we proceeded with the operation.”

… Coroner Chris Dorries gave a narrative verdict that Mrs Mallinder died after suffering complications during and after surgery “and the subsequent treatment regime against a background of refusal to accept blood products”.

It seems to me that the family ought to go back to the previous surgeon to discover how on earth her organs could have fused together.

The Religion News Blog doesn’t hold back on their opinion. These are fairly strident terms within which to frame the Jehovah’s Witnesses resources next to the post:

Theologically, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult of Christianity. The oppressive organization does not represent historical, Biblical Christianity in any way.

Sociologically, it is a destructive cult whose false teachings frequently result in spiritual and psychological abuse, as well as needless deaths.

In order to be able to support its unbiblical doctrines, the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization has created its own version of the Bible. The so-called “New World Translation” is rejected by all Christian denominations.

Research resources on Jehovah’s Witnesses

Language is a Virus

Language is a Virus

I was looking at my dissertation today, wondering if I can yet make a readable book out of it. Now that I’ve got a little distance from what was an agonizing process (at least until the last bit, when I actually started enjoying it), it seems better than I thought at the time. Today I’m posting a very select few of the quotations I used as a kind of shorthand that helps me remember the train of thought that’s at the back of a novel I’m writing. Between mommy-brain and constant distractions, it might be helpful to keep this here – as a touchstone of sorts.

My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognised as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the Other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute.
– William Burroughs

This Snow Crash thing–is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”
Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?
– Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

How does Gemüt, the mind, speak, how does the heart speak, how does the voice of the blood speak in the time of AIDS? Does the virus expose this voice to a cacophony, a cacophony that does not even form a negative unity within which it still resonates? How is such exposure possible? Can the voice of the blood recognize itself in the cacophony caused by the virus?
– Alexander Garcia Duttman

About all, we need to resist, at all costs, the luxury of listening to the thousands of language tapes playing in our heads, laden with prior discourse, that tell us with compelling certainty and dizzying contradiction what AIDS really means.
– Paula Treichler

Discourse, alas, is the only defense with which we can counteract discourse, and there is no available discourse on AIDS that is not itself diseased.
– Lee Edelman

If Amanda had cancer or a brain tumor, they’d be bringing her casseroles and cakes.
– Alice Hoffman

Sh*t, do you realize that only about a tenth of infected Americans can get these new drugs? It kind of makes you wonder about the other thirty million people on this planet with HIV. I mean, how many people in Africa or Asia do you think are able to get any of these cocktails?
– R.D. Zimmerman, Hostage

The brain works like a collection of viruses, the Consensus said one hundred and fifty years later, when viruses were difficult to avoid.
– Geoff Ryman, The Child Garden

For each illness that doctors cure with medicine, they provoke ten in healthy people by inoculating them with the virus that is a thousand times more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill.
– Marcel Proust

The life of the flesh is in the blood.
– Leviticus 17:11

But you must strictly refrain from eating the blood, because the blood is the life; you must not eat the life with the flesh.
– Deuteronomy 12:23

Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
– Matthew 26:28-29

Think on the nature of this great invisible thing which animates each one of us, and every blood drinker who has ever walked. We are as receptors for the energy of this being; as radios are receptors for the invisible waves that bring sound. Our bodies are no more than shells for this energy.
– Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned

It is along the frontier of blood – on the red line between pure and impure – that the inexhaustible drama between the sacred and the profane is played out: between the history of the divine, and the history of the human element that would struggle free of the human.
– Piero Camporesi

Medicine is magical and magical is art
The Boy in the Bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart
. . .
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby don’t cry
Don’t cry
– Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble, 1986

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