Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Cult of the Mother-Goddess by E.O. James

 Here's Brahms Piano Sonatas.

 My house Friday, February 19:

My house the following Monday:

 As I write this on Tuesday, it is 78 degrees Farenheit outside.  I'm trying not to put on the air conditioner.


 Fascinating read of the origins of the worship of female idols.

James is mostly empirical with his observations with very little speculation, which I appreciate. He does not try to tell us who these goddesses were or why they were worshiped. He mostly describes the archeological finds and where they were discovered. The reasons they were worshiped are evidenced in early manuscripts or can be derived from surrounding artifacts.

In a nutshell, they were worshiped for fertility of both the land and humans.

He begins with the earliest known civilizations as developed in Mesopotamia, and works his way into surrounding Middle Eastern countries, Syria, Anatolia, Palastine and Egypt, then goes east as far as India.

He then turns around to go west and compares and contrasts the earlier goddesses and how they were possibly, if not probably, absorbed into the Greco-Roman Pantheon.

Finally he compares the attributes of the mother goddess and her relationships with men, both as husband and son and makes a case for how this resulted in a syncretism of Christian and pagan beliefs, explaining the rise of Mary as, not only the earthly mother of Jesus, but into the Mother of God, perpetual virgin, and co-redemptix of mankind.

What I find striking is that the exaltation of Mary did not occur before the 4th century and she was not offically recognized as the Christian Magna Mater until the 19th century, the same century when the infallibility of the pope was made official Roman Catholic doctrine.

The reverence of Mary as Magna Mater in the Greek Orthodox Church must have occurred earlier since the schism between Roman and Greek churches occurred during the middle ages.

In conclusion, this book answered a lot of questions I had concerning the history of Mariology in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. 

A question that does arise for me is how fertility goddesses morphed into the Co-Savior of mankind.  These are two very different functions.  The one is worshiped in order to provide earthly needs, the other for the salvation of the soul.

James' conclusion is a valid one.  Since both religions developed on parallel lines, starting at the turn of B.C. to A.D., it is logical to assume that, as Biblical illiteracy increased due to less people knowing Latin, that some pagans converting to Christianity could create sects deviating from the original faith and retained vestiges of their old worship practices. 

 But it is remarkable they carried over the attributes of the mother goddesses, but changed her purpose.  I also feel he did not satisfactorily explain how the relationship of Mother reigning over a subordinate son cropped up in pagan religions and then was attached to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox religion.  I felt James created the one relationship in order to explain the other.

However, there is still enough attributes of both pagan goddesses and the Mother of God to gain an understanding as to how Mary, who is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, rose to such prominence in Roman and Orthodox Churches, as well as the hundreds of years this development took place after the dawn of Christianity.

One wonders what Mary herself, who humbly referred to herself as the Lord's handmaiden "to do with as he pleased" would think of all this.


The author:

 The Reverend Professor Edwin Oliver James (1888 – 1972) was an anthropologist in the field of comparative religion. He was Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Religion in the University of London, Fellow of University College London and Fellow of King's College London. During his long career he had been Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Leeds, Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Wilde Lecturer at the University of Oxford.

 He received his education at Exeter College, Oxford and at University College London, where he studied under the famous egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie.

From Goodreads.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Dr. Suess and Mr. Geisel: a Biography by Judith and Neil Morgan

 To be honest, I'm listening to music few of you would like, but just in case, here's Pavel Haas:  String Quartet.


 It has been unbelievable here in Texas.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon sitting at my window watching all the birds snatch up seed from my feeder.  I had to refill it today.






 "You're crazy to be a professor," she blurted after class. "What you really want to do is draw." She glanced at another page and smiled. "That's a very fine flying cow!"

These are the words of Helen, a young woman Theodor Geisel met at Oxford, who later became his first wife.

And I have to say that this is a very fine biography of one of my very favorite authors and illustrators in the whole world. You cannot beat Mr. Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss for creative genius.

I remember as a child being so delighted with the illustrations of Hop on Pop and The Foot Book that I felt I could almost eat the pages (you know I love something if I associate it with food).

Judith and Neil Morgan give an exuberant, yet honest narrative of Theodore Geisel's life, growing up in Springfield Massachusetts, trying to become an academic and failing (he dropped out of college, including Oxford).

It took Geisel a while to find himself, traveling across Europe, falling in love with and marrying Helen and then finding success as an advertiser illustrator/
propaganda cartoonist during both wars.

He was part of the "Hollywood Five" where he became lifelong friends with the famous director Frank Capra and Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame. Eventually he and Jones would collaborate to make one of the most firmly rooted American Christmas traditions: watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (with my favorite horror actor, Boris Karlov as the voice of the Grinch).

We learn not only of Geisel's genius, but also his darker side. He suffered from his demons like everyone else. He was concerned with poverty, never quite understanding how much money he was making from his books.

He loved children, although never had any of his own. He was a champion and warrior of making books that would build children's reading vocabulary without dulling their imagination.

Unfortunately he also felt qualified in his later years to make anti-war and environmentalist propaganda books as well. Both of which were as naive as they were preachy. I mean, I think everyone knows that if people would just do the right thing there'd be no war or pollution. It's called sinful behavior. If you can't acknowledge the latter, don't complain about the former.

I was also a little shocked that he threatened legal action against pro life groups who were chanting "A person's a person no matter how small!" I mean, what the...? I guess only the people Geisel considers people are people. Very disappointing.

He also had an extramarital affair that probably led to his first wife's suicide. He married the affair and, by all accounts, were happy until death they did part, which was 25 years later.

What I conclude from all of this is that Theodore Geisel was a simply brilliant wordsmith and illustrator. As a philosopher he was certainly entitled to his opinions, but the rest of us can give them all the credit they're worth, at least, according to our own viewpoints.

I highly recommend this book, because there is so much information about Geisel, how he created his famous books, each book is given special description, the publishing business and, really, how does one create a whole book inside the limitations of a young child's vocabulary, while stretching his reading skills?

No easy task that, and Geisel accomplished better than anyone else. 




Monday, February 15, 2021

Emil Holzhauer: The Portrait of an Artist and my own art critic


 Maurice asks himself the burning question:  But is it art?

 Listening to the Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 played by Alfred Brendel,  an Austrian artist who played every. single. work. written by Beethoven for the piano, both solo and ensemble by the ripe old age of twenty-eight.

 As I mentioned in a previous post, I happen to be friends with the woman who is the present curator of Holzhaur's works.  If you'd like to see his work you can go to this link.

 This book is written in the style called, "creative non fiction". I'm not quite sure what that means other than that I suppose the essential people and events in this book are true, while the actual conversations, facial expressions etc. are a product of the author's imagination, albeit, I'm sure Edwards did her utmost to maintain biographical integrity.

As she could well do since she was a neighbor of the author in his latter years.

Emil Holzhauer was a member of the "Ashcan" school of art. While it was popular at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century to create pretty, ornate paintings, pleasing to the eye, the Ashcan School, founded by Robert Henri, went in the opposite direction. They painted gritty scenes in the New York Bowery, the segregated shanty towns where the black community lived. They did not limit themselves to the rich and decorous, but also painted the poor and pungent.

Edwards' biography traces Holzhauer's life from his harsh upbringing by an alcoholic father and loving, but passive mother in Germany, to immigrating to New York City as a young man still in his teens who spoke no English. There he worked in factories, using his skills as an engraver, while attending Henri's school at night.

During WW's I and II, he faced severe discrimination as a German. Nevertheless, he managed to slowly over his lifetime achieve his own style and taught at different art schools, even though he himself lacked a college education.

By the time he was in his fifties, he had finally achieved national fame and his paintings have hung in the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Galleries as well as in the galleries of various colleges.

The University of Northwest Florida in Niceville, Florida has been the fortunate recipient of many of his works because that is where he settled in his old age having by this time tired of the fast paced, glitzy culture of the northeast.

Anyone interested in art and artists will enjoy this book as a source of inspiration to how one man with self-discipline and determination cut his own way through life and left the rest of us a priceless legacy. 


I bought my copy of the book on eBay and found this inscription inside.



Sunday, February 7, 2021

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

 Here's some nice winter music.


What a delightful, charming book!

Not very long, written in the second person in the form of letters between the author and a manager of a bookstore in London.

Starting in 1949, Helen Hanff, a writer for the Ellery Queen TV series and aspiring Broadway Theater playwright, orders books from her Manhattan apartment, from a man who is the chief buyer of Marks and Co., an antiquarian bookstore of rare and old books on 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Their letters start off professionally, but gradually get more and more personal as the years go by.

By the time the bookstore man, Frank Doel, dies in 1969, other bookstore staff and Doel's wife were also corresponding with Hanff, as well as an elderly neighbor. By the 60's Helene, Frank and the rest are firm, fast friends, yet they are never destined to meet in person.

There is no plot, but the reader (or listener as in my case) is drawn in to the individual lives of all the correspondents as well as their families.

At first I thought this was a nice piece of fiction, but it is non fiction and after Doel's death, Hanff published their letters and launched her writing career.

And I must say, if you are an avid lover of books, you will enjoy reading about all the books that Helene Hanff orders and Doel's efforts to find particularly obscure and hard to find editions.

The story is not long. I was on my way to stay with my parents in Niceville, Florida from Texas. I started the audiobook as I was leaving Jackson, Mississippi and finished it by Pensacola, Florida.

If you need some cheer to liven up these dark, unsure days, take a break and read this sweet book.

Meet my new baby.  Josh and I went to a reptile show.  He found some millipedes to take home and I found this precious baby.  I think I'm going to call her Crystal.  She's a white-faced pearl drop cockatiel.  She's missing her crest feathers.  Another bird chewed them off.  She needs me.