Tag Archives: Andrei Tarkovsky

Iconoclasm and the word


Before the tourist flow will start, Carla, Man and Narrator visit the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. They are looking at the Sacred Heart statue in the middle of the lawn.
Begijnhof Amsterdam[1]
Begijnhof - Heilighartbeeld[2]
“This Begijnhof – founded before 1346 AC in the Middle Ages – is the only inner court that exist in the Amsterdam within the Singel. Originally the Begijnhof was entirely surrounded by water with the Nieuwezijdsvoorburgwal, Spui and Begijnensloot; the only access was a bridge over the Begijnensloot at Begijnensteeg. The Begijnhof was not a retirement provision founded by private individuals; it was a sort of nunnery – with patron saint St. Ursula – where beguines lived with more freedom. They had made a vow of chastity and they had felt obliged to daily visit Holy Mass and to perform prayers during fixed moment every day, but they were allowed to leave the inner court at any time to get married.

After the Alteration in 1578 AC – wherein the Catholic administration in Amsterdam was replaced by a Calvinist administration – the Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic institution that was allowed to continue its existence because the houses were private property of the beguines. The chapel, however, was closed to be allocated in 1607 AC to the English Presbyterian church in Amsterdam. Since that time, the chapel is named the English Reformed Church [3].

In September 1898, Piet Mondrian – an iconoclast in modern art – was commissioned to make four wooden relief panels for the pulpit in the English Reformed [4]. It is interesting to see the development in the work of Piet Mondrian; starting with these panels in the pulpit, via the painting of the tree in gray/blue, to abstract paintings with coloured surfaces, to – like Gerrit Rietveld – determine the painting with white, perhaps because he was one of the few who wished to create paintings by undistorted light. After his iconoclasm Piet Mondrian had kept to the strict rules of abstract paintings according Neoplasticism [5] and he only used horizontal and vertical lines to divide the surface of the painting; lines that enclose and lines that exclude, although in the last paintings both lines no longer enclose and exclusion. Piet Mondrian never used diagonal lines like Theo van Doesburg [6].
Preekstoel - Engelse Kerk - Mondriaan[7]
Boom Mondriaan[8]
Schilderij vlakken Mondriaan[9]
Schilderij Grijs Wit Mondriaan[10]

Via this contemporary iconoclasm by “De Stijl” movement, it may be good to continue with your introduction of iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago”, says Narrator.

Carla, Man and Narrator sit against the wall around the lawn in the Begijnhof.

“Thanks you for this fascinating introduction to the Begijnhof and its history. Before I will start with the iconoclasm of 2500 years ago in the early Jewish history, I would like to bring to mind Moses’ effort to get the One – Yahweh – recognised as the only God without a picture by the Jewish people. After Moses had receive the Ten Commandments from the One (written with the finger of Yahweh) – including the first two commandments: “I am the eternal God and Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – and returned again to his people, he saw the chosen people worshiping a golden calf: the chosen people had completely forgotten Yahweh. Furiously Moses threw the tables of the Ten Commandments in pieces. Hereafter he had to climb the mountain again to receive new tables of the covenant from the One. These tables were carried in the ark of the covenant; probably the ark was destroyed in the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem [11]. Since that time, the tables of the covenant including the first books of the Tanakh [12] are carried as Torah [13] by a Jewish community on a roll – made of parchment from the skin of a kosher animal – wherever they go. The text of the Torah is overwritten and copied by hand on parchment for every Jewish community wherever they live. Because of these roles the covenant with the One is no longer physically bound to the original tables in an ark of the covenant.
Thorarollen[14]
Around 600 BC the first temple in Jerusalem – built around 1000 BC under the reign of King Solomon – had been destroyed and a large part of the chosen people had been taken to Babylon in three groups between 597 and 582 BC. A small group of the people had remained and they lived as shepherds among the ruins of Jerusalem [15]. A generation later, the part of the chosen people in Babylon could return to Jerusalem, and many of them returned. With the group that had stayed behind in Babylon, a close relationship remained that almost two thousand years later is still in place, because after the chosen people spread all over the earth, the descendants of this group staying behind in Babylon were still consulted on the interpretation of religious matters. After the return of the exiles the rebuilding of the new smaller – second – Temple started in Jerusalem; this second temple had been finished in 515 BC. At that time, there was a high degree of literacy among the chosen people in Palestine; this is shown in correspondence between Jewish soldiers and their officers from that period [16].

In 445 BC Jerusalem – with the second new temple – is still a city of half-ruined walls where people lived among the weeds and the rubble. In that year Nehemia – the deputy governor of the Persian king – decided to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem; walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the construction, the weapons were ever ready to repel sudden attacks of opponents; trowel in one hand, sword in the other hand.

After the building of the walls had finished, all the chosen people gathered one month later – in the seventh month of the year – near the restored Watergate. The chosen people asked Ezra – the high priest and scribe – to get the Torah including the law of Moses. Before the gathered crowd in Jerusalem, Ezra opened the Torah and everyone stood up. The native language of many of the attendees was Aramaic; during the reading of the Hebrew text of the law of Moses, the Levites [17] – the tribe of my ancestors [18] – gave explanation in order that the people understood the text. The next day Ezra, the Levites and Elders assembled to study the Law. They read that in the seventh month of the year, the chosen people had to build tabernacles. Hereafter the chosen people gathered foliage from the environment to build huts [19]. A month later, the chosen people entered a new covenant with the One; a covenant that connects and a covenant that excludes. Herewith the chosen people promised to read these laws regularly and they committed themselves to maintain the covenant including e.g. the commandment to refrain from marriages with outsiders .

This call of the chosen people to read the laws was a revolution in the ancient Near East, where usually the people were called by rulers to hear the power, the sacred majesty and the words of the local king, and to worship the king and his images.

The worship of the chosen people was centred around scrolls with words; it was a worship without a king, and it was a covenant within the whole community of the chosen people with the One. Through this public reading, the old habit of loudly reciting the Torah at fixed times was restored and today this practice is still carried out by the chosen people [20].

This iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago is very similar to the iconoclasm of 1566 AC during the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands. In 1566 AC on Walcheren in the dunes of Dishoek the first so-called “hedge sermon” [21 ] took place in the open air. From that moment, and the next few years many sermons had been held in the open air held by Protestants since overt religious practice outside the Catholic Church had been banned. Partly because of these sermons and the reading of the Bible itself – the Holy book given to chosen people by the One – created a mutual bond between believers. They would have experienced this as a worship without a king and as renewed covenant between the One and the whole community whereby they surely had read the book of Nehemiah about the covenant between the One and the chosen people 2000 years before. And still in Reformed families in the western part of the Netherland a next passage from the Bible is read at every meal; this usage is derived from the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands, but it is also a result of the renewed covenant that the chosen people entered with the One more than 2,500 years ago”, says Man.

“With this explanation of the iconoclasm from the Jewish history in relation to the iconoclasm in the Golden Age of Holland, you fulfil the role of the Levites again; the same role that your ancestors had fulfilled 2500 years ago. Obviously at that time this covenant had been a revolution as far as a commitment to the One concerned, but I have my reservations about the walls that enclose and the walls that exclude. A revolution that wishes to separate the elect from outsiders and/or dissenters is of all time. According to Bakunin [22], many revolutionaries become worse than the former ruler after a short time. How did this revolution of 2500 years ago via a renewed covenant with the One continue?”, asks Carla.

“Nature flows where is cannot flow anymore. This also applies to my role as a Levite [23]; this certainly applies to the development and the continuation of the renewal of the covenant with the One. Less than a month later, a document of this covenant had been prepared containing a large number of provisions , including the names of the elect, marrying within their own circle, and exclusion of populations in the vicinity [24]. In the western part of the Netherlands, the Reformation had followed a similar path . In London in 1550 AC the first Reformed church service had been held; in Emden in northern Germany a first Synod had been held; then in Dordrecht during the Eighty Years’ War– whereby several key persons could not be present – the two Synods of 1574 and 1578 AC had been held, and in Middelburg in 1581 and in The Hague in 1586 AC two other Synods had followed. These Synods had aimed at mutual agreement within the Reformed churches, but also to ward off foreign elements; also here walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the pillarisation after the time of Napoleon, faith groups married in their own circles and lived in their own circles. During the school struggles in the 19th century there has been fought hard for freedom of education within their circles with an equal financial footing by the Government; this freedom of education – and equality in public financial contribution of private schools with public education – is enshrined in the Constitution of the Netherlands [25].

Due to my life course, I could never feel at home at religious walls that enclose and exclude; I have always sought and found the interconnectedness – with hope and consolation [26] – of the many ways of religion”, says Man.

“Not intentionally, but intuitively I have asked you to visit this Begijnhof as a way of interconnectedness within the separation in history between Catholic Beguines and the English Presbyterian church in the Protestant area of Amsterdam”, says Narrator.

“Shall we visit both churches?”, says Man.

“That is good”, say Carla and Narrator.

________________________________________

[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam)
[2] Sacred Heart statue made by Johannes Petrus Maas in 1920 AC in the middle of the lawn in the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. Due to the pillarisation in the Nederland at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century these statues were allowed within their own circle. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heilig_Hartbeeld_(Amsterdam)
[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformed_Church,_Amsterdam
[4] Source for the description of the Begijnhof in Amsterdam: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam) en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof,_Amsterdam
[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nieuwe_Beelding
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Doesburg
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engelse_Hervormde_Kerk_(Amsterdam)
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[10] Source image: http://www.dekunsten.net/01+.html (fair use)
[11] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence, Part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 104 – 106 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_of_the_Covenant
[12] The Bible of the Jews. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh
[13] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thora
[15] Source: Potok, Chaim, Omzwervingen, ‘s-Gravenhage: BZZTôH 1999, p. 175 – 182
[16] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 81, 82
[17] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levite
[18] The original name of Man Leben is Levi Hermann. See: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 129
[19] See: Nehemia 7,72-8,18 from the Tanakh
[20] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 59, 60
[21] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagenpreek
[22] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin
[23] See also: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 128
[24] See: Nehemia 9 – 13 from the Tanakh
[25] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_struggle_(Netherlands)
[26] Last words in de film “Offret – The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky

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Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – the Word


This post is a transition to the next stage “Five” on our Odyssey. In the next stage, we will look at five contemporary realities:

o Facts and logic
o Intensities and associations
o Void
o Change
o Inter-connectedness

In this post we start with the “Word ” as “object in the middle” in the transition from “Three – Dubio transcendit” to “Five – five contemporary realities”.

During the stage “Three” we have seen the role of rituals and sacrifices that are continually made ​​to establish and maintain the basic mutual trust – Credo (I believe) – between gods, priests, people and categories of individuals. The contemporary world is full of similar rituals and sacrifices within society, in private life and in religious beliefs: again and again the rituals and sacrifices will give trust and comfort. In a nutshell, you and I have met the “person in the middle, ” the “object in the middle” and the “spirit in the middle”.

When looking at the end of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” – by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986, we have seen the son – who looks at the crown of the tree coming to life – saying his first words in the film: “In the beginning was the Word [1]. Why Father?”. This question is absolutely right, because this son needs no words for his sacrifice, his life and his knowledge, and his actions precede all words.

Words indicate and include, and words exclude. In Psalm 119 from the Old Testament these two aspects of the word are shown: ” Your word is a lamp for my feet, I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.” [2] By following God’s word and light, the believer is in God’s grace. A little further: “You reject all those who stray from your statutes, for their deceit is vain. All the wicked of the earth, do ye away like foam.” By not following God’s word and light, exclusion will be the consequence. His actions are not optional for the believer alone, but it also has major consequences for others and the environment. The Word of God forms a hard separation between confidence and hospitality on one hand, and infidelity, rejection and exclusion on the other hand. The other metaphor for the mystery of life does basically not exclude; within Indra’s Net, everything is totally enclosed, and everything takes shape within mutual reflection. Later in our journey we will see more of Indra’s net.

In the film “Offret”, the father sticks to his word to God. After the salvation of the world – as promised – he sacrifices and gives up all his possessions and all that binds him to this life. Without any direct say, his family and relatives lose the father/friend, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved.[3]

The wife and son of Siddhartha Gautama – the future Buddha – are without husband and father after Siddhartha Gautama left his family to respond to the inner necessity to illuminate the world. A contemporary description of Buddha’s life has a whole chapter devoted to describing the loss and the grief of the wife of Siddhartha Gautama.

“You and I have left our family at the beginning of our Odyssey. They certainly bring a great sacrifice by our absence”, you say.

“Always I feel guilty about the decision to make this quest. Because I follow this inner vow, other people and perhaps the universe are affected accordingly”, I say.

“It amazes me that the lost son [4] in the New Testament receives much more joy than the son who continues his normal life. Maintaining day to day life is the foundation of everything. It deserves great joy and reward”, you say.

“In the New Testament, the lost son stands for the unbeliever who – after many years wandering – returns into the womb of faith. Of course, the lost son receives joy and happiness! The other son and all believers experience a constant joy of their faith in maintaining everyday life [5]“, I say.

“The name “Dubio transcendit” for this stage on our Odyssey begins to dawn on me. Believers overcome their doubts by maintaining the life of all days with a constant joy and certainty of their faith. It does not convince me completely, but the beginning of an understanding is there. Where did you get the name of this stage?”, you say.

“From the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista of Pope John Paul II, which is a circular letter of the pope as supreme bridge builder [6] between heaven and earth. In this letter the role of the Eucharist in the church is exposed. This circular includes the passage: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit [7]” which means: “The mystery is great, that transcends us doubtless”. In the circular, this passage refers to the mystery of faith. I like this short passage, because the mystery of life – with all doubts and all divisions – transcends us by far. Even our faith and certainties, our disbelief and our doubts fit easily into the mystery of life, with and without faith. For this reason, I named this stage on our Odyssey “Dubio transcendit”. With and without faith, with and without a sacrifice, the mystery of life transcends our doubts and divisions”, I say.

“Have you received a final answer on the mystery of life during this stage?” you say.

“Therefor the mystery of life is too great.

Fremd bin ich eingezogen,

fremd zieh‘ ich wieder aus.

Der Mai war mir gewogen

mit manchen Blumenstrauß.

Ich kann zu meiner Reisen

Nicht wählen mit der Zeit:

Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen

In dieser Dunkelheit.

Es zieht ein Mondenschatten[8]

Als mein Gefährte mit[9].[10]“, I say and sing.

“Beautiful sung. I know four performances of Winterreise. Peter Schreier with Sviatoslav Richter on piano, Hans Hotter with Gerald Moore, Christa Ludwig with James Levine and Brigitte Fassbaender with Aribert Reimann”, you say.

“All these versions are beautiful in their own way. Time to go to the next stage”, I say


[1] See also: Opening of John’s Gospel from the New Testament.

[2] Source: Psalm 119:105-106 en 118-119

[3] Interpretation of the role of an offer is based upon: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, pagina 125

[4] See: Gospel of Luke 15: 11-32 from the New Testament.

[5] See also “in dubio” in the post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God” of 3rd June 2011.

[6] See also: post “Introduction: Three – Person in the middle” of 1st of May 2011

[7] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_eucharistia_lt.html:  IOANNIS PAULI PP. II SUMMI PONTIFICIS, LITTERAE ENCYCLICAE ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Rome, 2003

[8] Literally: a moon shadow. For the moon symbol also footnote 11 to the post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of Gods” of 3rd June 2011.

[9] Poem by Wilhelm Müller. First song from the song cycle “Winterreise” by Franz Schubert.

[10] Translation: “As a stranger I came, I leave again as stranger. The month of May was favourable to me with many bunches of flowers. I am not free to choose my time for the journey: I have to choose my own way in the darkness. A shadow in the moonlight travels as my companion.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God


In the previous post we have looked at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this, you and I have looked at the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986. At the end of the film we have seen how the father has sacrificed everything he owns and binds him in this life, to God. He has made this sacrifice to save the world, in order that everything remains as it was before the threat of war and to be freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. This sacrifice of the father is as well an unintentional sacrifice of his family and his relatives.

The son brings three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He is constantly giving water to the dead tree and therefore he brings the tree – the tree of life – back to life. By the third sacrifice he remains silent throughout the film.

The son asks to his father – and to God – why his father should keep his word. The son does not need any words for his sacrifice; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes words.

Rightly the son asks at the end of the film: “In the beginning was the word. Why Father? ”

This question brings us to the first sentence in John’s Gospel in the New Testament [1]. Later in our Odyssey, we will try to give answers to this unavoidable question of the son.

In this post we will look further at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. We look at the painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent. This painting depicts Jesus in the form of the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God is described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel in the New Testament: “The next day St. John sees Jesus approaching. St. John says: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”[2]

[3]

In me I hear the Agnus Dei from Mass in B – minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Dona Nobis Pacem. [4]

“It seems that the last weeks of our Odyssey we are travelling according parts of the liturgy of Holy Mass from the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago we started with the Kyrie: the word “church” probably originates from Kyrie[5]. Inside the churches, we continued with the Credo in the form of light and hope. The reflection and the sermon followed within two meditation rooms. And now we arrive at the sacrifice by watching the movie “Offret” and at the Agnus Dei [6] as the Lamb of God, “I say.

[7]

“I could never say the Credo – or I believe – with conviction. It is not possible for me to believe in the Christian theology”, you say.

“You’re not alone and I feel this doubt with you. Also Thomas one of the disciples of Jesus, cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the resurrection of Jesus as salvation and resurrection of all people or believers. Caravaggio’s painting shows that. This doubt of Thomas is not taken away by feeling the wound. Probably, faith and doubt go hand in hand for many Christians”, I say.

[8]

“I believe that every day the sun rises as resurrection and I believe in my next breath. But I cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God as salvation of the universe”, you say.

“People have also questioned the next rising of the sun and the next breath. Hereof many rituals are known for establishing and perpetuating this confidence. People know a lot of uncertainties about the past, the present and the future. Christian theology tries to overcome these uncertainties (“in doubt” or “doubt” in Latin) by faith, rituals – including offerings – and hope. A deeply religious Christian once said: “The last thing I want to lose is my faith.” For me, this sentence includes even a trace of doubt. A rock-solid belief never fades. By rituals people try to establish and maintain trust and hope. The Christian faith says: “And they that know your name, will put their trust in you.” [9]  The painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck nicely show this: the Father, the Son as the Lamb of God and the Holy Spirit as trinity”, I say.

“The Bible includes the Book of Job that is about a rock-solid faith [10]. I also think of the Japanese poet Rӯokan. Once at night everything was stolen from his simple hut:

“The thief leaves behind,

the ever changeful Moon

at the firmament.” [11]

The moon [12] points to the firm belief of Rӯokan”, you say.

“The faith of people in the past often seems more certain, because we see their past as well established. But maybe their rock-solid faith does also know uncertainties in their lives. If we look with their eyes, do we see a different world, other uncertainties, different expectations, a different religion? I do not know”, I say.

“Me neither. Shall we continue with the Dove as the Holy Spirit in the next post?”, you say.


[1] St. John 1:1 from the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

[2] St. John 1:29 and 1:36 from the New Testament.

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamb_of_God

[4] Translation: Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

[5] The source of the word “Church” probably is Greek: “Kūrios” meaning “Lord, Master”. Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins, the hidden History of English Words from A to Z. London: A &C Black, 2008. Maybe the word Church originates via the German word “Kirche” from the compound of Indo-European words “kr” (karoti, kurute) meaning “make, do, perform”, and “ish” depending on the “sh” sound either “sacrifice” or “ruler”, or “ich – I ” in Sanskrit.

[6] “The Agnus Dei is part of the Mass in the Catholic church and seems to be introduced for the first time during a Mass by Pope Sergius I (687-701 AD).  Agnus Dei means Lamb of God and literally refers to Christ in his role as the perfect sacrifice that reconciles the sins of mankind in the Christian theology. The prayer dates from the time of the ancient Jewish sacramental sacrifices. The Agnus Dei is sung during Mass when the priest breaks the Holy Bread and unification takes place, the priest drops a piece of the wafer in the chalice – filled with wine and water as blood of Christ.
The sacrifice of a lamb and the blood of the lamb are often used metaphors in the religions of the Middle East. It refers to the ancient Jewish custom to liberate people from their sins by a sacrifice. In the Protestant churches in the Revelation the phrase “washed in the blood of the lamb” is used to designate the deliverance of the original sin supposed by the churches. On our Odyssey, we already have encountered the cattle-sacrifice in the myth and Trito cattle cycle.
In art, Agnus Dei, the figure of a lamb bearing a cross, symbolizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. This metaphor is often used in Christian art, where the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent is famous.
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnus_Dei

[7] Source image: http://www.bertsgeschiedenissite.nl/middeleeuwen/eeuw15/jan_van_eyck.htm

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio.jpg

[9] Source: Psalm 9:10: “God, the protector of the believers”.

[10] Also Job despairs when he and his wife feel the big setbacks directly in their bodies. Job asks God why he deserves these setbacks, his faith is unconditional. In a storm God replies: “Where were you when I separated the sky and the earth and created the universe!”. Hereafter Job recognizes his ignorance, he calls for teaching and confesses that he has directly God in his omnipotence. Job does penance in dust and ashes. After a cattle sacrifice, God’s wrath disappears and prosperity returns for Job.

When Job would have recognized all setbacks as part of himself, may Job have answered God that he is present in the separation of air and earth? May he have the courage to say that his appearance in the separation of air and earth is adapted to the circumstances?  That he always remains one during and after the separation of air and earth and during and after all the crackle that follows?

[11] Source: Stevens, John, Three Zen Masters, Ikkyū, Hakuin, Rӯokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993. Page 131.

[12] Rӯokan is a Japanese Zen Buddhist. Zen Buddhism starts in China by a merger of Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism knows Tao as a keyword meaning “road or course of life”, but this word is probably derived from the ancient Chinese word for “Moon”. Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993 Page: 35.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Sacrifice


In the previous post, we have entered two meditation rooms. The first room is the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston. The other meditation room is everywhere and always present.

Now you and I consider the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this we look at the last part of the movie “Offret” or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986.

[1]

Before we start watching this part of the movie, we read first several introductions and reflections on this film. We start with “The sealed time” [2]: reflections on the cinema by Andrei Tarkovsky.

“The sealed time” is also a good name for the interior of the Mark Rothko Chapel”, you say.

In these reflections Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “The protagonist of the film” Offret ” is meant as a weak personality. No hero, but a thinker and an honest person who is able to sacrifice for a higher ideal. If the situation requires, he does not back and tries to leave the act of sacrifice to someone else. He faces not being understood by others and to be seen as destructive and desperate. He exceeds the permissible limit of normal behavior by which he is seen as insane, because he feels bound to the fate of all mankind. He only responds to the call of his heart. He is not master of fate, but only servant. His efforts remain unnoticed and misunderstood, but do contribute to the harmony of the world.[3]

“Do you recognize yourself in this description?” I ask.

“With shame. I often follow my own way and I have neglected other people unnecessarily”, you say.

“Who does not?” I say.

“Saints?”, you say

“We both aren’t,” I say.

In the afterword to these considerations Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “Throughout history ideologues and politicians have shown people “the only right way” that can save the world. To partake in this salvation the individual should – according to ideologues, politicians and/or society – give up all own ideas in order to channel all energy to the proposed rescue. For this progress, that has to safeguard the future of humanity, the individual sacrifices his inner life. His personality is lost in following this ideal. Because mankind thinks of the interests of all, it forgets its own personal interest as Christ preaches: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This means: “Love yourself so much that you respect the divine principle in yourself, the suprapersonal that prohibits selfishness and obliges you to give yourself to others unconditionally, loyalty to yourself from the I as a personal centre of life.” [4] [5]

“This requires a major balancing act between self-interest – in which the world is reflected – and sacrifices for others – whereby each sacrifice for another is a sacrifice to yourself”, you say.

“Somewhere I read that a beggar and a benefactor show compassion for each other by an offering. The beggar gives the benefactor the opportunity to demonstrate compassion and the benefactor shows compassion with another expression of his own life”, I say.

“To give offerings in an unconditional manner, we still have a long way to go. Andrei Tarkovsky describes a first step towards a Buddhist bodhisattva [6]. The ideal of salvation and the unconditional offerings to others is present. Only the efforts and the ways to achieve one’s own perfection before the bodhisattva encourages others to prepare for enlightenment, lacks”, you say.

“Within mahâyâna [7] Buddhism enlightenment is only possible for everyone at the same time. The metaphor of Indra’s Net shows this. First one’s own glass bead has to be prepares for enlightenment. Thereafter, all other glass beads have to be able to enter enlightenment. If one glass bead is illuminated, all other pearls are also lit: no jewel within Indra’s Net is left behind, because otherwise the dust on one non-enlightened jewel reflects on all”, I say.

“Absolutely. Because the protagonist is not clear in his mind, he cannot save the world. If he does so, he remains behind with his faults and is at least one small part of the world that is not saved. Hereby the protagonist is not a bodhisattva, but a tragic hero”, you say.

“He cannot be a classic tragic hero, because he believes in a God who may grant him salvation,” I say.

“Later on our Odyssey, we will encounter enlightenment again. You and I share the same shortcomings as the protagonist in the film. I hope we are able to see a glimpse of the enlightenment. Odysseus has been tied to the mast of his ship in the vicinity of the Sirens. The ears of his crew were filled with wax to prevent noticing the seductive sounds. This reasoning is not sound, anyway”, you say.

“Let us watch the movie”, I say.

The last film of Andrei Tarkovsky – finished shortly before his death – begins with the monologue by the father – Alexander – to his son who will not speak during the entire movie due to a throat disease: “A long ago, an old monk named Pamve was in an Orthodox monastery. He has planted a dead tree. His pupil – named Ivan Kolvo – may give water to the tree every day. Every morning he climbs with a full bucket of water uphill and gives water to the dead trunk. On one day after three years, the tree blooms with full blossom [8]. Every action has its consequence. If you perform undisturbed at the same time every day the same ritual, the world will change irrevocably. [9]

“My mother once put a dead stick on the ground outside to the wall. After several months, the stick has rooted”, you say.

[10]

During the film a threat of a war develops that will destroy everything and everyone. Under this pressure, the main character – Alexander – goes to his study. He kneels on the ground and does something he never has done before. He prays: “Lord, save us in this fearful hour. Do not let my children and friends die, my wife, everyone who loves and believes in you. And those who do not believe in you because they are blind and have not given thoughts to you because they have not really been unhappy. Anyone who will lose his hopes now, his future his life and the opportunity to be guided by your word. Those who are filled with fear and feel the end is nearing. Who do not fear for themselves but for their neighbours. For those who nobody else can save but you. Because this war is the last, a terrible war. After this there will be no victors and vanquished any more. No towns and villages, trees and grass. No water in the springs or birds in the sky. I give you everything I own. I leave my family that I love. I destroy my house and take away my son. I will remain silent and talk to nobody. I renounce all that binds me to this life. If you only ensure that everything is as it was. And I am freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. Lord, help me. I will do what I promised.”

The next morning, the threat is disappeared. Alexander sticks to his word and lures all the residents to the seaside before putting the house on fire. All his possessions are on fire. He sacrifices his soul for his neighbours and the world. He is retrieved by an ambulance for admission to a mental institution.

[11]

“This sacrifice is not only a sacrifice of the protagonist. It is also a sacrifice made by his family and friends. Without any direct say, they lose Alexander, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved “[12], you ask.

While the ambulance passes, the son is ready to water the dead tree with full buckets of water. The Aria “Erbarme dich“ from St. Matthew Passion begins.

“Erbarme dich,
Mein Gott,
Um meiner want Zahren
Schaue here
Herz und Auge weint vor dir
Bitterlich.”
[13]

The son looks at the crown of the tree and says his only words during the film: “In the beginning is the word [14]. Why Father? “.

At the appearance of the text mentioning that the film is dedicated to the son of Andrei Tarkovsky – with hope and consolation, the crown of the tree seems to bloom.

“The son makes three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He makes his second sacrifice by continuously giving water to the tree and bringing this tree back to life. By the third sacrifice he remain silent throughout the film. Fully justified the son asks his father – and God – why his father must keep his word”, you say.

“For me this is a film of hope, because the last film by Andrei Tarkovsky is dedicated to his son with hope and consolation. At the end of this film, the light gives bloom to the tree of life. The life of his father – now a dry tree, because he has stopped acting – becomes a tree of life for the son by means of water. The son does not need any words for his sacrifices; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes all words”, I say.

“A great enhancement of my impressions. Tarkovsky transcends “the sealed time” with this end of his last film”, you say.

[15]

The next post is about the Lamb of God as sacrifice.


[1] Source image: front of DVD-cover of the Swedish version of the film “Offret”.

[2] Tarkovski, Andrei, Sculpting in Time – Reflections on the Cinema. 1989

[3] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 203.

[4] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 207 – 208.

[5] For consideration: Indra’s Net as metaphor; see also: “Indra’s net” in post “Introduction: One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8th April 2011

[6] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of mahâyâna buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone and everything for enlightenment.

[7] Mahâyâna means “large vehicle”. All and everyone is enclosed in this large vehicle, no particle is excluded.

[8] See also the post of 2nd of April 2011 “Introduction One – Blossom.”

[9] See also the posts of 24th en 27th March 2011 on rituels.

[10] Source image: http://www.jaapnoordzij.nl/credo/2010/09/offret-het-offer.html

[11] Source image: http://www.discordance.fr/top-5-les-meilleurs-epilogues-du-cinema-27740/1_offret

[12] Source: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, page 125

[13] Aria from the St. Matthew Passion by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Translation: “Have mercy, my God, regarding my tears, look at me, heart and eyes weep for you bitterly.”

[14] See also: Opening of the Gospel of St. John from the New Testament.

[15] Source image: http://www.elitisti.net/artikkeli/2005/02/004308/offret_1986_uhri.html