Saturday, October 31, 2015

For the Fun of It

Americans seem to have a preoccupation with "fun." However, the word has a checkered history, etymologically speaking.

As noted by Douglas Harper, its earliest uses are bound up with notions of trickery.

"fun (n.) ...'a cheat, trick' (c. 1700), from verb fun (1680s) 'to cheat, hoax,' which is of uncertain origin, probably a variant of Middle English fonnen 'befool' (c. 1400...). Scantly recorded in 18c. and stigmatized by Johnson as 'a low cant word.' Older senses are preserved in phrase 'to make fun of' (1737) and 'funny money' [designating] 'counterfeit bills' (1938, though this use of the word may be more for the sake of the rhyme). ...1680s, 'to cheat' ...mid-15c., 'foolish, silly' ..."[1]

Of course, the Tarot trumps begin with the Fool - emblazoned with the 0. About the word, Aleister Crowley noted: "...'Fool' is derived from 'follis,' a wind-bag."[2]

For information on the veiled meaning of the phrase "Sow Your Wild Oats," see "Sometimes, Sayings Say More than The Sayer Wants Said.".


[1] Douglas Harper, "Fun," Online Etymology Dictionary, 2015, <>.

[2] Master Therion [Aleister Crowley], The Book of Thoth, reprint ed., Stamford, Ct.: U.S. Games Sys., Inc., 1996, p. 53.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

'Lord of Time'

In his intriguing article “Saturn and the Jews,” Eric Zafran notes:[1]

“[O]ne significant aspect or transformation of the ancient planetary deity …[is] the [historical] interrelationship and even identification between Saturn and the Jews. …St. Augustine considered Saturn a god of the Jews… [A] treatise of the ninth or tenth century by Alcabitius …claims for Saturn ‘the faith of Judaism’. …[A]n eighteenth-century work by J. W. Appelius …finds the melancholy temperament which derives from the influence of Saturn ultimately responsible for the ‘despicable timidity’ of the Jews as a race.”[2]

“A 17th-century professor of mathematics at Frankfurt, David Origanus, wrote that ‘Saturn is the significator of the Jews’. …The identification of Saturn as the ‘Star of Israel’ and [the assertion of] its ‘domination of the Judaic religion’ has been made in a different context…”.[*]

One should not neglect, here, to mention that the northern pole of the planet Saturn sports “[a] bizarre six-sided feature” known as “Saturn’s hexagon.”[3]

Of course, the symbol of the nation of Israel and, by extension, of the “Jewish people,” is the misnamed “Star of David” - a “magical” hexagram (which, as depicted, fits neatly inside of a hexagon).[4]

(From episode number 125, "Bargain With Evil," of the 1980s kids' cartoon show He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Note the magical hexagram on the floor and the red Saturn design on the woman's dress.)

Curiously, several recent popes have donned a hat called the “cappello a saturno” or “saturno” for short. This so-called “Saturn hat” is a version of the “cappello romano.” The red “Saturn hat” is connectable to Popes Benedict XVI, John XXIII, John Paul II and Pius XII (at least).

It is interesting, in light of these longstanding identifications, to reflect on the words of the American existentialist thinker Paul Tillich.

“[T]he Jewish nation is the nation of time, in a sense which cannot be said of any other nation. It represents the permanent struggle between time and space going through all times. …It has a tragic fate when considered as a nation of space like every other nation, but as the nation of time, because it is beyond the circle of life and death it is beyond tragedy.

“The people of time, in synagogue and in church, cannot avoid being persecuted because by their very existence they break the claims of the gods of space who express themselves in will to power, imperialism, injustice, demonic enthusiasm, and tragic self-destruction.

“The gods of space, who are strong in every human soul, in every race and nation, are afraid of the Lord of time, history and justice, are afraid of His prophets and followers.”[5]

Tillich continued: “[S]ynagogue and church should be united in our age,[6] in the struggle for the god of time against the gods of space.”[7]This is even more interesting perhaps, in light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the United States.

The New York-based Jewish periodical Forward reported: “Nearly 50 years after the Vatican officially proclaimed Jews free of guilt in the killing of Jesus, Pope Francis made a surprise change to his schedule on the final day of his U.S. tour to convey his own message of respect for the Jewish people. In an unannounced event, the pontiff stopped Sunday to bless a sculpture commissioned by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia that repudiates a centuries-old anti-Semitic image. At his side, was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, his good friend and literary collaborator, who had flown in from Buenos Aires, to be the keynote speaker at the dedication of the work, which took place on Friday. …

“Titled ‘Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,’ the sculpture is of two women seated next to each other, much like two sisters. One holds a book, the other a scroll, and they are looking at each other’s sacred texts in mutual respect. (Nostra Ætate means ‘in our time.’) The work was designed to counter a medieval motif depicting the triumph of Christianity over Judaism. In the ancient sculptures, found in churches all over Europe, the Christian ‘Ecclesia’ stands proudly, wearing a crown, while the defeated ‘Synagoga,’ is blindfolded by a serpent, her staff broken, her tablets slipping from her hand.

“The pedestal of the new sculpture bears a quote from Pope Francis, ‘There exists a rich complementarity between the Church and the Jewish people that allows us to help one another mine the riches of God’s word.’”[8]

Complementarity” is an interesting word. In Catholic contexts, it is often employed in discussions of matrimony and human sexuality. Most basically, “complementarity …means …than men and women are fundamentally different” and that they complete or “perfect” each other.[9] On this reading, the Pope is saying that Christianity and Judaism “complete or perfect” each other. St. Paul proactively answers with a question: “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”[10]

But “complementarity” is also a word that crops up in quantum physics - where it is crucially defined in terms of time. Here, it designates “the concept of properties that are not simultaneously measurable. …The principle of complementarity in its general form is a guideline for how we must describe nature. Quantum things, that is, very small things, cannot be described as having both exact position and momentum, just as they cannot be described as either particles or waves. They must be described as both, but never at the same time.”[11]

On this, admittedly more difficult and speculative reading, the Pope might be hinting darkly at the difficulties that attend to ascertaining the Church’s trajectory. Do the press releases have an esoteric/exoteric duality? To put it another way, are the statements issuing from (in particular, but not necessarily limited to) the Post-Vatican II Church, susceptible to two readings: one available at the general, public level, the other only available to the few, initiated into the secret purposes at play?[12]

Is the Church currently two-faced, like the Roman god Janus - another time deity?

Tillich, pictured on the Time cover next to a human skull, had inspired the so-called “Death of God Theology.”[13]

The idea of the “death of god,” in this context, can be traced back to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who in his Die fröhliche Wissenschaft wrote:[14] “…Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it? There was never a greater deed - and whoever is born after us will on account of this deed belong to a higher history than all history up to now!”[15]

“‘This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays kings, ruins town, And beats high mountains down.’ Poor Bilbo sat in the dark thinking… His tongue seemed to stick in his mouth; he wanted to shout out: ‘ Give me more time! Give me more time! But all that came out with a sudden squeal was: ‘Time! Time!’”[16]

“[H]is last riddle, delivered when he thinks ‘the time had come to ask something hard and horrible,’ derives from a poem in Old English, the riddle-game, or more precisely the wisdom-testing exchange, between Solomon and Saturn.

“In this, Saturn, who represents heathen knowledge, asks Solomon, ‘What is it that …goes on inexorably, beats at foundations, causes tears of sorrow …into its hands goes hard and soft, small and great?’ The answer given in Solomon and Saturn is, not ‘Time’ as in Bilbo’s desperate and fluky reply, but ‘Old Age’: ‘She fights better than a wolf, she waits longer than a stone, she proves stronger than steel, she bites iron with rust: she does the same to us.’”[17]

"In our solar system, the Law of Octaves is the overall pattern of harmony in the universe expressed as a seven-stepped formula embedded in our solar system. The first seven notes of the musical scale represent our progress through the planets... In our solar system, [the] eighth note is Saturn, the one planet the alchemists considered both the beginning and end, the alpha and the omega of our transformation."[18]

"And now I must tell you its real purpose, which we have managed, with great difficulty, to keep secret from the general public. You would have been given all the facts as you approached Saturn; this is a quick summary to put you into the picture. Full briefing tapes will be dispatched in the next few hours. Everything I am about to tell you has the highest security classification.

"Two years ago, we discovered the first evidence for intelligent life outside the Earth. A slab or monolith of hard, black material, ten feet high, was found buried in the crater Tycho. Here it is. ...

"The most astonishing thing about this object is its antiquity. Geological evidence proves beyond doubt that it is three million years old. It was placed on the Moon, therefore, when our ancestors were primitive ape-men.

"After all these ages, one would naturally assume that it was inert. But soon after lunar sunrise, it emitted an extremely powerful blast of radio energy. We believe that this energy was merely the by-product - the backwash, as it were - of some unknown form of radiation, for at the same time, several of our space probes detected an unusual disturbance crossing the Solar System. We were able to track it with great accuracy. It was aimed precisely at Saturn."[19]


[1] Scholar Moshe Idel has continued and extended this line of inquiry with his Saturn's Jews: On the Witches' Sabbat and Sabbateanism, London: Continuum, 2011.

[2] Eric Zafran, “Saturn and the Jews,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 42, 1979,p. 16; citing Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art, London: Nelson; New York: Basic Books, 1964, pp. 161, n. 115, 132 and 121; Alcabitius, Introductorium maius, MS at Oxford, Bodl. Marsh 663; and J. W. Appelius, Historisch-moralischer Entwurff der Temperamenten, 2nd ed., 1737. St. Augustine speaks of “[s]ome [who] say that [God] is Saturn” and he notes the possibility that this identification results from “the sanctification of the Sabbath; for those men assign that day to Saturn.” Harmony of the Gospels, book 1, chapt. 23, section 30; see Augustine of Hippo, The Harmony of the Gospels, Catholic Primer Reference Series, <>.

[*] Zafran, op. cit., p. 16; citing Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1934, vol. 7, pp. 145-6 and Emma Jung and Marie Louise von Franz, The Grail Legend, New York: Putnam; Carl G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, 1970, pp. 205-6.

[3] “Saturn’s Strange Hexagon,” NASA [got] gov, Mar. 27, 2007, <>.)

[4] A.k.a. the “Shield of David,” Magen David or even the Seal of Solomon. It is an alchemical sigil having nothing to do with King David of the Bible. “It was ‘bequeathed’ to rabbinic leaders in the 14th century by the hermeticist King Charles IV of Bohemia, and formally adopted as ‘the Star of David’ in 1898 at the Second Zionist Congress in Switzerland.” Michael Hoffman, Judaism Discovered, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Independent History and Research, 2008, p. 784; citing Wolf Gunther Plaut, The Magen David: How the Six-Pointed Star Became an Emblem for the Jewish People, Washington, D.C: B’nai B’rith Books, 1991.

[5] Paul Tillich; quoted by Elisabeth Siftonm, The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War, New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2005, p. 160; archived online at <>.)

[6] Cf. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 4, New International Version.

[7] Ibid. The Biblical God, Yahweh, is indeed sovereign over linear history. But this is evidently not Tillich’s meaning, since he explicitly espouses a sort of Nietzschean perspectivalism, from which contemporary “situation ethics” proceeds. “Afraid of missing the eternal truth, [some theological systems] identify it with some previous theological work, with traditional concepts and solutions, and try to impose these on a new, different situation. They confuse eternal truth with a temporal expression of this truth. This is evident in European theological orthodoxy, which in America is known as fundamentalism. When fundamentalism is combined with an antitheological bias, as it is, for instance, in its biblicistic-evangelical form, the theological truth of yesterday is defended as an unchangeable message against the theological truth of today and tomorrow. Fundamentalism fails to make contact with the present situation, not because it speaks from beyond every situation, but because it speaks from a situation from the past. It elevates something finite and transitory to infinite and eternal validity. In this respect fundamentalism has demonic traits. It destroys the humble honesty of the search for truth, it splits the conscience of its thoughts adherents, and it makes them fanatical because they are forced to suppress elements of truth of which they are dimly aware.” Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, [1951] 1973, p. 3; archived online at <>.

[8] Dotty Brown, “Pope Francis Makes Surprise Stop To Bless Sculpture Symbolizing Catholic Unity With Jews,” Forward, Sept. 28, 2015, <>.

[9] Jay Michaelson, “Is Pope Francis Backpedaling on Gays?” Daily Beast, Nov. 18, 2014, <>.

[10] The Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 15, New International Version.

[11] Peter Kosso, Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics, New York and Oxford [U.K]: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998, pp. 124 and 150.

[12] See Craig Heimbichner, Blood on the Altar: The Secret History of the World’s Most Dangerous Secret Society, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Independent History and Research, 2006. For a visual hint, see Francis Bacon, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953; archived online at <’s_Portrait_of_Pope_Innocent_X>.

[13] According to his widow, Hannah (née Werner-Gottschow), Tillich was also a philanderer who had encouraged his bride to enter into an “open marriage” (i.e., a “marriage” in which - ostensibly, anyway - both partners agree to jettison the mutual promise of fidelity). Hannah wrote: “He had left me often, flirting with other women, leaving each one of the in turn for another at the succeeding dinner party. Hannah Tillich, From Time to Time, New York: Stein and Day, 1973, p. 145; archived online at <>.

[14] “The Gay Science,” Chemnitz, Germany: Ernst Schmeitzner; New York: E. Steige, 1882. For more on the “gay science,” see Michael A. Hoffman, “Of Human Alchemy and the Gay Science,” Revisionist Review [weblog], Aug. 4, 2012, <>. See also here, here, here and here.

[15] Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche: The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, Bernard Williams and Josefine Nauckhoff, eds., Cambridge [U.K.]: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001, p. 120; archived online at <>.

[16] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, reprint ed., New York: Ballantine, 1988, pp. 77-78.

[17] Carl Runyon, “Bilbo’s Riddle-Exchange with Gollum,” n.d., <>. Saturn - as “Father Time” - does indeed represent old age and senescence.

[18] Dennis William Hauck, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, New York: Alpha; Penguin, 2008, p. 125.

[19] Arthur Charles Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, reprint ed., New York: New American Library, 1993, p. 159; archived online at <> and <>. Of course, in the movie, Saturn was changed to Jupiter. See Leonard F. Wheat, Kubrick's 2001: A Triple Allegory, Lanham, Md. and London: Scarecrow Press, 2000, p. 32; archived online at <>.