So, this past Sunday I went to church for what will probably end up being the last time this year (while I’m in Boston and on tour I probably won’t be attending, and, as I have mentioned, the current experiment with Christianity may need to be revamped in order to remain relevant to current experiences/desires). I walked to church and turned on the old iPod which I had recently loaded up with Holst’s The Planets Suite.
A bit of background - after studying some in astrology, Gustav Holst decided to write a suite based around the astrologically important planets of his time: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Pluto hadn’t been discovered when he started, so it isn’t included. He wrote each part of the suite to evoke the astrological/mythical aspects of the given planet. For example, the opening is “Mars, The Bringer of War”, there’s “Venus, The Bringer of Peace,” etc.
On my way to church, and feeling in a syncretic mood, I dialed up “Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity.” I hate the title, by the way. It’s gets at the Latin roots of the word jollity, i.e. Jove, another name for Jupiter, but Jollity seems so frivolous, and neither the piece, nor the Thunder God, are frivolous. The music, however, perfectly captures the sense of what is traditionally longed for in the Christian vision of God – a generous, loving, joyful daddy whose concern and mercy is complete and utter. Since Jehovah is essentially a Semitic Thunder/Sky God, it’s very easy to draw parallels. The music is both majestic and playful, the sound of Leviathan gamboling in the deepest oceans. There is a both weight and lightness to the sound that is created, a solemnity that has, at its heart, a deep and abiding joy.
In listening to the piece, I was reminded of Alan Moore’s Promethea. At one point, Promethea is ascending the Tree of Life and she comes to the sphere of Chesed (also know as Mercy), which is traditionally associated with Jupiter. She remarks, “This is bigger than the love people have for each other. This is the unconditional love of the universe for its children. For itself.” and later, a character (I can’t remember who) says that the universe would take a bullet for us, if it could. It is the strong, protective love of the father.
I was struck, as we went through the service, of the prevalence in traditional Christianity of the flip side of Chesed (the qlippoth, for those keeping score at home), tyranny. It is characterized by intolerance for the possibility of ambiguity or other opinions on how to deal with the world. This is what happens when any one aspect of the world is too strongly emphasized. It becomes it’s opposite. I saw this most strongly while talking a number of years ago to my friend Mary (those who have ears, let them hear). I read the book of Revelations under her influence, and saw deep into the heart of the qlippoth of Chesed. I saw a God so grief-stricken at his creation’s fall that he sees no choice but to destroy it utterly. The wrath and sorrow made perfect sense. This is the God that condemns unbelievers to Hell, that licks the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah clean with tongues of flame. This is the God that most of us know, the S&M God fetishized into reality by Goth kids, Death Metalheads, and Fundamentalist Christians.
I don’t know if “God” is really like this. Presumably, even though it is an extreme position, it represents some aspect of the universe that has manifested at one point or another. It isn’t healthy, in my opinion, but that’s just me.
The vision that I saw while reading Revelations, and the vision I had listening to Holst were flip sides of the same vision. But I know which I prefer. It was very nice to have, in my heart and resonating in my mind, a vision of God which is both loving, and majestic, not to mention totally divorced from the vengeful Daddy fantasies of the Fundamentalist Christian Wing.
And, as a side note for all you bourgeoning Qabbalists out there, do take note that Holst’s The Planets is really excellent for invoking planetary energies. Enjoy!