An essay on accepted truths and those who identify with them
Movie Review by John Humphries
A recurring question asked at the QFS is “Who benefits?” when we come across an idea or action or consequence that seems out of the norm; or consider an action that, at face value, seems controversial.
“The Passion of the Christ” – the new flick – is one such example.
This is where we encounter “belief” and the resulting baggage and labels that go with “belief”. With “belief” comes “truth” and one’s subjective or objective view of “the truth”. The two terms are quite often inter-related and slip into the very grey areas of reason.
For example, this website was initially set up as an organ for Laura and Frank’s Communications with the Cassiopaeans, plus a bit of her research (and none of Frank’s since he didn’t do anything except hang around while Laura did all the work). What could have turned out as a site of Cassiopaean quasi-religious worship, taking every part of the Cassiopaean Communications as a “truth’ or a “belief” (much the same way as “The Nine” at Esalen turned out in the 70’s) has actually evolved into what I call the three R’s:
Research, research research!
Cassiopaean transcripts are pulled out from time to time, if it can be correlated with research or offers some out of the box thinking, but nobody is pushing the C’s as having the answers to the worlds problems; not even the C’s themselves.
With the Cassiopaean sessions the QFS members can see an element of “truth” there. Interestingly the sessions are rarely used on the QFS mailing list, as once again the three R’s come to the forefront. Check and verify wherever possible, constantly question, always doubt.
But, most importantly, use the three R’s….. first and foremost. For that reason alone I’m leaving the sessions that discuss the man known as Jesus out of this article and am using what I’ve gained in knowledge through my research.
The teachings of Gurdjieff are regarded very highly due to practical experiments by pretty well all the QFS members. We’ve all come from diverse back grounds, but we all can SEE how this material applies in our world. I discussed this with some of the Signs editors when I visited France to find where our backgrounds lay. An Irishman, an American, a Canadian, and an Australian. “How did you stumble across the Cassiopaean website?”
What, in hindsight, I find interesting whilst writing this little piece on a current movie was that the answer all four of us gave was that we were doing RESEARCH.
I have learned much from the ideas of A.R Orage who was one of Gurdjieff’s closest aides during his time in France and was also the USA organizer in the Fourth Way, staying there for seven years to establish a school. Unfortunately Orage died early, and as far I was concerned, was one of the few who actually understood Gurdjieff’s teachings. (The English version of Beelzebub’s tales to his Grandson was penned and edited by Orage.)
Orage died soon after delivering a talk on Social Credit economics for the BBC. The list of presenters was of a fairly high calibre. One of the other guest presenters was another Brit, John Keynes whose theories eventually won out to the present day in Keynesian economics. Put it thisway, Orage was no lightweight.
So how does all this seemingly unrelated and self indulgent preamble involving the Cassiopaean website, Gurdjieff, and Orage relate to Gibson’s film? Glad you asked.
I decided to do some stichomancy using Orage’s book On Love and Psychological Exercises to get a direction, overcoming the writer’s block I was experiencing in trying to write anything at all about Gibson’s movie. There was no scientific rationale behind this action, no facts, just an urge – a “feeling” – that one gets which, in this case, proved quite helpful.
Here is the first passage I came across when I opened the book. It’s a letter from John Cowper Powys to Orage.
“…Jesus thought Jehovah was as ‘good’ as He was Himself. We know what [sic] Jehovah was better than Jesus! But of course if for Jehovah you put your life, it is true that any man of exceptional genius like yourself comes much closer to Life by keeping his skin naked so to say (naked to humility) than by twining it round with those flannel swaddling bands Augustus, according to Seutonius, used; or even by wearing the proud armour of Lucifer.”
So in my “random walk of discovery” once again using the 3 R’s, I go and find out whoSuetonius is
“Suetonius, born about A.D. 69, wrote spectacular biographies of the first twelve emperors, full of intrigue, sex and rumor. His work has been of such immense popularity that it set the pattern for much western historical writing up to the present. An imperial official himself, Suetonius is one of our best historical sources for the period, despite his tendency to mix rumor and fact. In this selection, Suetonius describes the personal life and character of the emperor Augustus.”
How very strange. A scribe who is almost contemporary with the authors of the earliest gospels! A scribe who writes from the perspective of “accepted” truth and comments on this from rumour which muddies the facts. This scribe is then selected as a purveyor of “accepted truth” and is used as “the best historical source” by later historians. The quote “Tell a lie often enough and it becomes truth” comes to mind.
By just following my nose and researching without prejudice, I had stumbled upon an interesting thread to follow. I started to get a glimmer of how Laura must have felt all those years ago when she began the research that turned into her book Secret History of the World . How very Cassiopaean!
The quote from Suetonius that Powys uses is about Augustus from chapter 82 of theTwelve Emperors: The live of the Caesars.
“In the winter, he was protected against the inclemency of the weather by a thick toga, four tunics, a shirt, a flannel stomacher, and swathings upon his legs and thighs. In summer, he lay with the doors of his bedchamber open, and frequently in a piazza, refreshed by a bubbling fountain, and a person standing by to fan him.”
So we have a Roman scribe commenting on rumour circa 100 AD. Almost two millennia later, this is regarded as an “accepted” truth. We don’t even know for sure if Augustus wore all those clothes or if he actually spent his summer vacation being fanned while lazing beside a fountain. It makes Augustus sound namby pamby. The fact is, these descriptions of how the guy dressed probably have nothing at all to do with what was going on inside his head, though many people have taken the measure of the man based on such and that seems to have been Seutonius’ intent.
Meanwhile two millennia later, an American /Australian makes a movie about an event that occurred in Galillee around the same time, that by all accounts involved a pretty insightful and, dare I say, subversive individual who we have come to know as Jesus. The point being: Is Gibson taking rumour and presenting it as an “accepted truth”?
Is Mel Gibson a modern day Suetonius?
The film isn’t so much a thing of beauty or esoteric meaning as it is a film about a two hour torture scene. The term “Christian snuff movie” used on the the Signs page brought about some understandable emotional reaction from one reader, but it wasn’t far from accurate. The term “Jerusalem Chainsaw Massacre” brought howls of delight from those who don’t take Christianity too seriously, as did a reference found on the net that cried out “Gory, Gory, Hallaleuah!”
This film, rather than being identified with the insights and deeper meanings of Christianity, is more about box office grosses, business risks, controversy, anti-Semitism, and the peculiar relation of “suffering” to the Stations of the Cross. “The Passion of the Christ” identifies more with Mel Gibson than it does with Jesus Christ himself.
Put it this way, name the actor who plays Jesus Christ in this movie.
Back to Powys’ letter to Orage
“….it is true that any man of exceptional genius like yourself comes much closer to Life by keeping his skin naked so to say (naked to humility) than by twining it round with those flannel swaddling bands Augustus, according to Seutonius, used; or even by wearing the proud armour of Lucifer.”
So I suppose if we are to use this random quote that the universe has mysteriously placed in my hands, we have to ask is this an “humble” film?
From my position of “truth” so painstakingly explained in the preamble, I can say no. It has been spun and publicised and beat up into a PR agent’s paradise. The bean counters and Hollywood box office types are talking terms “Return on Investment”, “Bigger than Titanic” (which coincidentally has the hero freezing to death saving his love) and “Is still number one at the box office”.
There are brief scenes of humility in the film, mainly in flashback form. The majority of the film concentrates on the brutal flailing, subsequent dragging of a cross through the streets of Jerusalem, and the inevitable crucification complete with close ups of nails going through hands.
Any esoteric meaning of Jesus’ teachings are subsequently burried in a sea of blood, shredded skin, and gaping flesh. It is a film that graphically looks at the suffering of the body and skims all too briefly over the suffering of the soul.
Gibson identifies with this film both as a Catholic and the bankroller of the project. Using the maxim “Who benefits?” Gibson gets a major slice of the pie both in publicity and dollars rolling into his bank account. Far from being “humble”, it is largely self indulgent. And as a modern day Suetonius, Gibson has taken a rather humble story passed down by “rumour” and exploited it across the screen.
The accepted truth for any of those who see this movie has now become one of blood, pain and sadistic torture. The gentleness, humility and insight of the gospels has all but been stripped away. Even to myself, the almost benign images I had of the crucification have largely been replaced by the “Gibson meme”. It’s hard to forget.
And what of those who see this film and identify with this accepted truth? Those who identify with this film have me worried. Are we talking about the same people who identify the Columbine shooting with film violence? Are we talking about the same people who would want “satanic films” dealing with extreme violence banned? It wouldn’t be too hard to call this a schlock splatter movie except due to the realism. Yes, it almost is a “snuff movie”.
Whilst I’m on the subject of identifying, I should comment on the Jewish reaction to the anti-Semitism of the film. This is one I’ve thought about quite deeply about. The “Jews and Hollywood” subject comes to mind and a brilliant piece about this can be read here (written by Ben Stein)
Most films following the Hollywood melodramatic theme have a villain. There are German villains, Nazi villains, South African villains, British villains, Catholic villains, Protestant villains, Legal villains, Military villains, Intelligence villains and yet a lack of Jewish villains. Why? Because any depiction of a Jewish character as a villain will invariably result in the emotional tag “anti-Semitic”. Think about it.
Gibson made his movie with Jewish evil-doers, and that is exactly what happened: he was accused of anti-Semitism. Not that I can blame the Jewish people being upset in this instance; to be identified as the villain in this rather graphic movie and associated with it negatively is understandably upsetting.
Yes, the movie is anti-Semitic, much in the same way as the sexual predator priest in “Primal Fear” makes that an anti-Catholic film. Perhaps Gibson as a Catholic decided to one up the Hollywood machine against its negative image of the Catholic Church?
I’m still trying to fathom how the Catholic Church benefits from the film as a whole. Perhaps they are counting on a long line of converts who somehow appreciate some poor bastard going through this at the hands of some bloodthirsty Romans, Jews, whoever. What I find ironic is that this small cult from Israel eventually set up a head office in the enemy camp of Rome, and 2000 years later the cult sanctions a movie showing the ancestors of their locale (The Romans) as sadists.
As for seeing the film. Do it if you must. I think you’d be better off renting “Monty Python’s The Life of Brian”. It reflects and identifies the human condition and mindset so much more beautifully and memorably……..and of course it was considered blasphemous by members of the Roman Catholic Church.
They liked Seutonius, by all accounts.