Monday, March 26, 2012

MoonMasks--A Filamental Emblem


MoonMasks shelter pendant
      Worlds from infinite
            Darknesses of pinpoint
      Stars ineffable and lit
      against the lightless pit

of night. Floating MoonMasks gently
      wash pitch skies
            with repeated, amply
      varied blurs of whites
      and greys, shadowed lights

encircling Earth. MoonMasks approach,
      oppose gravities—
            lunarchic coaches
      joining cosmic levity
      to material solidity

and—masked—reveal deeper blazes
      beyond sky-dark,
            behind star-ghost lasers—
      MoonMasks mock
      Fear…and sheen dull, earthly rock.

 
Filamental Emblems

The popularity of Emblems as literary and artistic forms dates from the Sixteenth-century, when books appeared that printed an engraving of a common object—a rose bush, a mariner’s compass, a spider and web, a beehive—along with a scriptural passage, a quotation from a Greek or Latin philosopher, or a short poem explaining how the object implicitly represented a specific moral, spiritual, or religious truth available to the contemplative reader/viewer. As time passed, those simple images became increasingly complex and suggestive, until finally a sin­gle engraving might communicate iconographically—or hieroglyphically, to use the terminology of the times—such vast concepts as Life, Death, Nature, Justice, God, and Eternity.
 

By the middle of the Seventeenth-Century, Emblem books were common and were among the most popular books of the day. English poets such as George Wither and Frances Quarles firmly established the tradition with their virtually encyclopedic treatment of major literary and artistic symbol sequences, while continental writers transformed the simple Emblem into a complex metaphorical system of universal correspondences embracing key theological, philo­sophical, moral, and ethical Truths. Other Seventeenth-Century poets, such as the more fa­mous metaphysical poets John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, did not specifi­cally write in Emblematic forms but often demonstrated in their poetry an awareness of the Emblem tradition—of the intricate relationship between image and word, between common­place form and its larger significance.

These modern Filamental Emblems extend the metaphor-making capacity of Renaissance emblems. Filamental Emblems abstract rather than represent, suggest rather than preach; but they similarly attempt to re-create subjects simultaneously in word and image. Each combines poetry with the visual art of intricate crocheting, often incorpo­rating as few as two or three strands of fine sewing thread in subtle arrangements of colors that vary from round to round, providing as many possibilities for nuance and blending as might an artist’s palette. A single Emblem may include thirty or more individual threads, each color selected for its relation to the overall pattern, to other colors surrounding it, or to the cen­tral idea, image, or symbol—embodied in verbal form in the overlaying poem—that the Em­blem explores.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ellen Datlow's BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS--From the Extreme to the Ethereal


Once, in the distant long-ago, I was sitting in my accustomed seat in class, listening to a substitute high-school Algebra teacher drone on and on about a solution to a problem…and getting it wrong at that. I was minding my own business, possibly even taking notes on what was going on up at the blackboard, when suddenly….
Jellybeans!
All at once, I had to have jellybeans.
I still had two periods to go before the final bell, and a goodly portion of Algebra to survive, but unaccountably, insistently, I had to have jellybeans. I could taste the, smell them, feel them.
I had to walk an extra mile home that day, but I made it to the nearest Sprouse-Reitz Five-and-Dime (yes, they actually sold some things for as little as a nickel) before I imploded, spent forty-nine cents or so, and walked out with a plastic bag full of at least a pound of jellybeans.
They were half gone before I reached home. By then, I felt queasy, if not downright sick, but I had satisfied my…craving.
For the first time, I began to understand the power of the word.

I was fortunate. My craving cost me only a few cents and hurt no one.
For the characters in Ellen Datlow’s horror anthology, Blood and Other Cravings, satisfaction is much more difficult to come by, and far more costly, to themselves and to others. The seventeen tales included begin with the familiar—with those archetypal victims of unutterable cravings, vampires—and quickly move into uncharted territory:
·         A survivor who has his zest for life stolen;
·         A woman whose love for her son overwhelms everything else…including his life;
·         A creature of mist whose desperate craving for a physical body does not take into account that most terrifying of human emotions…love;
·         A woman so desperate for love that she is willing to go to any extremes to attain it, including performing horrific surgery on her lover;
·         A man so terrified of vampires that he turns into the image of the thing he fears most;
·         A woman whose image of the perfect home turns out to be more than she can handle;
·         A woman so driven for revenge that she willingly sacrifices one of her oldest friends.

Datlow has adroitly blended the traditional with the extrapolative in her selection of stories, suggesting that just as vampires and other blood-suckers may perhaps best be interpreted as metaphors for desperation, so otherwise ordinary-seeming human lives may equally become metaphors. Horror need not arrive wearing a black cape and avoiding mirrors—it can occur in any situation, as need overpowers control and transforms into obsession. In the process pain and anguish can spread to include not only the victims but also the victimizers.
Blood and Other Cravings is a well thought through compilation, solidly presented and well worth reading. Datlow indicates in her introduction that her goal was to move beyond stereotype and cliché—and she accomplishes that goal beautifully.
I enjoyed reading the anthology—taking it with me to a local fast-food restaurant and sampling a story or three at a time. Each story posits its own world, its own milieu for terror and horror, and develops that world so convincingly that it is almost a shock to go to the next tale and discover yet another world, totally unexpected and equally well developed.
I recommend Blood and Other Cravings for anyone tired of the old, the tried and true, and eager to see where else cravings might lead.
And believe me, these cravings are deadly…there are no jellybeans in any of these stories.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Grandmother's Attic--A Filamental Emblem



In Grandmother’s attic
Time seemed to stand still—
The whole world grew static
Within its grey sills; 

Fine dust of long decades
Hung thick in dry air
Or fell in quaint brocades
On oak planks once bare; 

Dark’s deep purple fingers
Reached out from low walls
In shadows that lingered
Long before sunset-fall. 

But time-hidden treasures
Invited young hands
To discover lost pleasures,
Like strange, distant lands; 

A drawer frilled with laces,
Pink ribbons, age-paled;
An album with faces
Grown brittle and frail; 

A toddler-sized teacup
With porcelain plate;
Wood buttons to thread up
On twine gray as slate.

Each corner … sweet hours
Of diligent play;
Each carton … a bower
Where Time’s kept at bay— 

In Grandmother’s attic
Where memories thrill,
And past years lie static—
Where they slept … and sleep still. 

Filamental Emblems 

The popularity of Emblems as literary and artistic forms dates from the Sixteenth-century, when books appeared that printed an engraving of a common object—a rose bush, a mariner’s compass, a spider and web, a beehive—along with a scriptural passage, a quotation from a Greek or Latin philosopher, or a short poem explaining how the object implicitly represented a specific moral, spiritual, or religious truth available to the contemplative reader/viewer. As time passed, those simple images became increasingly complex and suggestive, until finally a sin­gle engraving might communicate iconographically—or hieroglyphically, to use the terminology of the times—such vast concepts as Life, Death, Nature, Justice, God, and Eternity. 

By the middle of the Seventeenth-Century, Emblem books were common and were among the most popular books of the day. English poets such as George Wither and Frances Quarles firmly established the tradition with their virtually encyclopedic treatment of major literary and artistic symbol sequences, while continental writers transformed the simple Emblem into a complex metaphorical system of universal correspondences embracing key theological, philo­sophical, moral, and ethical Truths. Other Seventeenth-Century poets, such as the more fa­mous metaphysical poets John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, did not specifi­cally write in Emblematic forms but often demonstrated in their poetry an awareness of the Emblem tradition—of the intricate relationship between image and word, between common­place form and its larger significance.

These modern Filamental Emblems extend the metaphor-making capacity of Renaissance emblems. Filamental Emblems abstract rather than represent, suggest rather than preach; but they similarly attempt to re-create subjects simultaneously in word and image. Each combines poetry with the visual art of intricate crocheting, often incorpo­rating as few as two or three strands of fine sewing thread in subtle arrangements of colors that vary from round to round, providing as many possibilities for nuance and blending as might an artist’s palette. A single Emblem may include thirty or more individual threads, each color selected for its relation to the overall pattern, to other colors surrounding it, or to the cen­tral idea, image, or symbol—embodied in verbal form in the overlaying poem—that the Em­blem explores.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Frost-Berry--A Filamental Emblem

Frost-berry
Ice-wherry
For a Merry
Christmas-time;

On a bough
Winter’s vow,
Silver prow
And crystal rime;

On red and green
Ice-shards keen
Serpentine
In frozen chime;

On circled snow
Frost-berries glow—
Bright colors show
A joyous mime.

[Posted out-of-season in memory of this morning's first-day-of-Spring near-blizzard. Regardless of
what the calendar reads, it feels like the dead of winter.]
 
 
Filamental Emblems

The popularity of Emblems as literary and artistic forms dates from the Sixteenth-century, when books appeared that printed an engraving of a common object—a rose bush, a mariner’s compass, a spider and web, a beehive—along with a scriptural passage, a quotation from a Greek or Latin philosopher, or a short poem explaining how the object implicitly represented a specific moral, spiritual, or religious truth available to the contemplative reader/viewer. As time passed, those simple images became increasingly complex and suggestive, until finally a sin­gle engraving might communicate iconographically—or hieroglyphically, to use the terminology of the times—such vast concepts as Life, Death, Nature, Justice, God, and Eternity.

By the middle of the Seventeenth-Century, Emblem books were common and were among the most popular books of the day. English poets such as George Wither and Frances Quarles firmly established the tradition with their virtually encyclopedic treatment of major literary and artistic symbol sequences, while continental writers transformed the simple Emblem into a complex metaphorical system of universal correspondences embracing key theological, philo­sophical, moral, and ethical Truths. Other Seventeenth-Century poets, such as the more fa­mous metaphysical poets John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, did not specifi­cally write in Emblematic forms but often demonstrated in their poetry an awareness of the Emblem tradition—of the intricate relationship between image and word, between common­place form and its larger significance.

These modern Filamental Emblems extend the metaphor-making capacity of Renaissance emblems. Filamental Emblems abstract rather than represent, suggest rather than preach; but they similarly attempt to re-create subjects simultaneously in word and image. Each combines poetry with the visual art of intricate crocheting, often incorpo­rating as few as two or three strands of fine sewing thread in subtle arrangements of colors that vary from round to round, providing as many possibilities for nuance and blending as might an artist’s palette. A single Emblem may include thirty or more individual threads, each color selected for its relation to the overall pattern, to other colors surrounding it, or to the cen­tral idea, image, or symbol—embodied in verbal form in the overlaying poem—that the Em­blem explores.



Michaelbrent Collings' THE HAUNTED

I am one of the lucky few who have had an advance trip through the horrifying world of Michaelbrent Collings’ new novel, The Haunted.

Not since reading Dean R. Kooontz’s aptly named Intensity have I encountered such a compression of terror as Michaelbrent offers unwary readers in this novel. Now, Michaelbrent is my son, so I am bound to be biased, but that didn’t stop me from becoming so absorbed in the final pages of The Haunted that I could almost feel my Kindle growing warmer beneath my fingers as I sped from screen to screen in a flurry to find out what was actually happening.

The set-up is, perhaps, nothing new. A young married couple—the wife pregnant with their first child—moves into a new house that, from what we have learned from the “Prologue,” may or may not be haunted. Immediately, strange things begin happening. Their moving van starts and stops without any visible cause. Boxes seem to move mysteriously from room to room. A box-cutter apparently teleports across the kitchen. Little things like that.

But the events do not remain little and soon become life-threatening as grey ghost-like faces appear at windows and a shadowy figure appears in the surrounding woods. As the various apparitions move closer and closer…well, you’ll have to read The Haunted to find out more.

The novel is told with such predecessors as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House clearly in mind, especially in the tone and pacing of the “Prologue,” but Michaelbrent rapidly asserts control of his materials and moves them into unanticipated directions. His writing is crisp, often fragmentary as befits the harried, breathless nature of his narrative. He does, however, allow readers one fairly long moment of near respite in the middle of the book…or at least, it seems so.

But then...nothing in the world of The Haunted, however, is quite what it seems.

Father or not, as an authority on Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and horror writing in general, I thoroughly enjoyed THE HAUNTED. Highly recommended.

The book is available now at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/The-Haunted-ebook/dp/B007MI1KXO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1332268181&sr=1-1)  BUT please wait until Wednesday, 21 March to order it—he is working up a “book bomb” that will help skyrocket The Haunted on Amazon’s sales charts, something it richly deserves.

Highly recommended

Monday, March 19, 2012

Filamental Emblem--Dawn


       Dawn 
Dawn
Bursts
Darkness—
Rises with
Triumphal ardor—
Strains through cool blues of fruitful Day...
And
Soars
Beyond
Heaven's Crown—
Embraces with light
Bright regions of sweet Summer Stars

  * * * *


Filamental Emblems

The popularity of Emblems as literary and artistic forms dates from the Sixteenth-century, when books appeared that printed an engraving of a common object—a rose bush, a mariner’s compass, a spider and web, a beehive—along with a scriptural passage, a quotation from a Greek or Latin philosopher, or a short poem explaining how the object implicitly represented a specific moral, spiritual, or religious truth available to the contemplative reader/viewer. As time passed, those simple images became increasingly complex and suggestive, until finally a sin­gle engraving might communicate iconographically—or hieroglyphically, to use the terminology of the times—such vast concepts as Life, Death, Nature, Justice, God, and Eternity.


By the middle of the Seventeenth-Century, Emblem books were common and were among the most popular books of the day. English poets such as George Wither and Frances Quarles firmly established the tradition with their virtually encyclopedic treatment of major literary and artistic symbol sequences, while continental writers transformed the simple Emblem into a complex metaphorical system of universal correspondences embracing key theological, philo­sophical, moral, and ethical Truths. Other Seventeenth-Century poets, such as the more fa­mous metaphysical poets John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, did not specifi­cally write in Emblematic forms but often demonstrated in their poetry an awareness of the Emblem tradition—of the intricate relationship between image and word, between common­place form and its larger significance.

These modern Filamental Emblems extend the metaphor-making capacity of Renaissance emblems. Filamental Emblems abstract rather than represent, suggest rather than preach; but they similarly attempt to re-create subjects simultaneously in word and image. Each combines poetry with the visual art of intricate crocheting, often incorpo­rating as few as two or three strands of fine sewing thread in subtle arrangements of colors that vary from round to round, providing as many possibilities for nuance and blending as might an artist’s palette. A single Emblem may include thirty or more individual threads, each color selected for its relation to the overall pattern, to other colors surrounding it, or to the cen­tral idea, image, or symbol—embodied in verbal form in the overlaying poem—that the Em­blem explores.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Black Hole--A Filamental Emblem


Midnight Rose, dark bloom
swallowing vestige light and hue, 

collecting in great sweeping swirls,
swirling frantic furls of Color-Space; 

tighter, tighter, until all components
compress—a shrinking ball of blackness 

smaller than figment
nothingness.


Dark bloom, midnight rose—
red to purple, purple-black; Rust-mote 

collapsed beyond sheer sight
beyond sensation—gravity 

compelling even
light; Imprisoned 

Time serves
dark     Eternity


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another view of THE HOUSE BEYOND THE HILL

Paul Genesse just posted a review of The House Beyond the Hill at Amazon and on his blog (http://www.amazon.com/The-House-Beyond-Hill-ebook/dp/B004RZ2BII/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331780108&sr=1-1). I deeply appreciate him taking the time to read it, the first of my three Tamarind Valley horror novels.

Here are his kind words:

The House Beyond the Hill by Michael R. Collings is a very creepy horror novel. It's a challenging book that will make you think. The descriptions are top notch and the author really knows how to turn a phrase, which as an author, I appreciate a lot.

I also really enjoyed the style of short scenes within chapters, though there were a lot of characters to keep straight. The author does skip between the characters quite frequently, making some of the book a little hard to follow, but eventually it all comes together and the horror of what's going on hits you full force.

It starts with a truly depraved criminal entertaining himself by shooting people who are driving on the freeway, and goes from there with twists and turns you don't expect. The supernatural aspects were scary and the ending and the last few chapters were truly chilling. Overall, I loved the vivid way it was all described and the author knows how to create a mood.

This is not an easy book where the author spoon-feeds the reader all the information, but fans of horror and those looking for something different to entertain themselves will find The House Beyond the Hill an excellent read. The book is available as an eBook or a trade paperback and I flew through my e-copy.

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

Monday, March 12, 2012

Functional Creation: John H. Walton’s THE LOST WORLD OF GENESIS ONE

John H. Walton. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. InterVarsityPress Academic, May 2009, 192 pp. $16.00 paperback. ISBN-10: 0830837043; ISBN-13: 978-0830837045. Kindle edition: May 2009, 1340kb. $8.10 ebook. ASIN: B003VM8QK0

First, thanks where thanks are due: I was introduced to John H. Walton’s study of the worldview of Genesis 1 by means of D. John Butler’s astute reading of and responses to Walton’s work in Plain and Precious Things: The Temple Religion of the Book of Mormon's Visionary Men  (please see my review/essay at http://michaelrcollings.blogspot.com/2012/03/d.html).  It is rare that references and footnotes in one book stimulate enough interest for me to search out another title, but in this case, it was well worth it.

Having said that…on to the essay:

It is a truism of literary studies that the great works (often Great Works) survive because they speak anew to each generation. What is also true but frequently less understood and less often applied is a second fact: that in creating the Great Works of the past anew for each generation, we fundamentally alter those works, sometimes removing them quite far from what their authors intended.

We continue to read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, for example, because in them we see great minds engaging with fundamental, undying truths of human existence. It is only when we begin to search and study, to dig into the ruins of past times and cultures that we realize that many of the truths we have found are not always there in the originals. Beliefs change. Gods rise and fall. Cities, kingdoms, and cultures die…and with them die essential presuppositions about the nature of things…Earth, Heaven, God (or the Gods), the Cosmos.

One of my pet peeves concerning contemporary literary criticism centers around the way a great number of modern critics have denigrated Milton’s accomplishment in Paradise Lost by focusing on one small element of his epic: his treatment of Eve. He has become, in modern eyes, a wild-eyed misogynist, a rampant patriarchalist, an unrepentant sexual chauvinist of the worst kind. And it is relatively easy to extract individual lines and passages from the poem to support such a view.

When we take the time to look at the prevailing views of the seventeenth century, however, something almost magical occurs. Those pernicious –ists largely disappear, submerged beneath a deeper awareness that for his time Milton was, if not pro-feminist (for one thing, that phrase had not yet been invented), at least quite remarkable in his treatment of Eve. She is created from Adam, to be sure, and is subordinate to him; but she is also independent, capable of thinking for herself, more than willing to tackle the task of stewardship in the garden separate from Adam, and—most critical of all—ultimately capable of accepting her role in the Fall and submitting to her punishment from God.

As we read even more widely, we discover that Milton advocated readily accessible divorce for what we might now refer to as irreconcilable differences…and stipulated that such divorces be available to both male and female equally. True, he did not escape all of his century’s predispositions toward women—he did not teach his daughters to read and write, for instance—but in key ways he was far from being a misogynist.

 Or to take another example:

With few exceptions, modern readers are tempted to see the great Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as essentially an exercise in storytelling, with the villains of the piece—the monstrous Grendel and his equally hideous mother—as metaphors, symbols, abstractions for the natural forces that surrounded the poet’s community, threatening them from all sides. Even the fleeting references to Christianity are frequently explained away as merely interpolations by a later scribe—perhaps the one who first set the ancient poem to parchment. Neither the old gods, nor the new one, are taken seriously.

One of the key exceptions, however, was J.R.R. Tolkien, who, in 1936, delivered a lecture on “Beowulf: the Monster and the Critics,” in which he argued that such readings risked missing entirely the Beowulf-poet’s intentions…and for a simple reason: the original audiences of the poem believed in monsters. Monsters, demons, dragons—all were taken literally by the Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, for the year 793 (somewhere around the time Beowulf was being performed as an oral poem) the prose Parker Chronicle reported such forbidding omens as “excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons flying in the sky.”

Reading the poem from that perspective alters nearly everything in it. The monsters may be symbolic, and many of the structures literary and poetic…but the poem is also real.


Given my background in ancient literatures, particularly epic, Walton’s proposals in The Lost World of Genesis 1 were immediately fascinating.

What if we have been reading Genesis incorrectly? Basing our interpretations on modern presuppositions rather than upon the assumptions of the ancient Israelites? What if they were in fact more closely allied in their cosmology—and their imagination—to other Ancient Near Eastern cultures that they are to 21st-Century Western thought?

Specifically, what if the account in Genesis 1 is not a scientifically-oriented retelling of the material creation of the cosmos—the creation of matter ex nihilo, out of nothing—but rather concentrates on another form of origin entirely?

Here Walton reaches out to touch upon Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, and other Near Eastern accounts of creation—many of them only re-discovered in the past century or so—to argue that they have one particular feature in common: they are far more interested in functional creation than in material creation. Almost none of them, Genesis included, betray any interest in the mechanisms of creation—those very scientific elements so acerbically argued about today, including the contradictory principles of evolution and creationism. Instead, they saw creation in terms of how the various stages and objects related to human community.

By working carefully through a series of propositions, The Lost World of Genesis 1 posits a non-functional cosmos prior to God’s first utterance in Genesis 1:1. Material creation, he argues, had been accomplished already…and most critically, by the Word of God. The actual mechanisms—the science—involved is, from this perspective, irrelevant. God created the universe; how He did it is up to Him. That He might have employed evolution as we currently understand it is possible; that He might have employed other means we do not yet understand is also possible. What is crucial is that He did create this world and its surrounding space, and that He did it for a specific purpose. And that until his purpose was completed, the cosmos existed but did so without function.

That purpose was to establish a place—a Cosmic Temple—in which He might dwell and from there interact with the human race He designed for that world. The Earth was not created because God needed it; it was created because humanity needed.

By replacing a material-oriented creation with a function-oriented creation, Walton makes practically irrelevant a number of modern concerns. How old is the Earth? It could either be very old or very young, depending upon the mechanisms God used; either way, we simply do not know and Genesis does not tell us. Was the Earth created in six days? Again, we do not know; but Walton makes a solid case for Genesis as a ritual, in which God established both function and functionaries in his pre-existent world, and that might have indeed been performed in six days’ time.

He continues with other key questions, but these indicate the course of his thought. Genesis was not intended to be scientific. The ancient Israelites who received it would not have understood such things, nor were they interested in them. They might, however, like their neighbors, been comforted by hearing their Creation epic repeated—or perhaps even enacted as a ritual—and with each repetition the sense of order and meaning in the universe would be enhanced.


It is more than a bit presumptuous to distill 192 pages into a thousand words or so. For that reason, I recommend reading Walton’s own words and following his meticulously detailed arguments.

And thinking about them.

That is what I found most exciting about the book…the new directions of thought he proposed. A number of them were implicit in Butler’s analyses in Plain and Precious Things. Others emerged from the discussions and supports Walton elicited.

For example: He spends a fair amount of time on the first verb in Genesis 1, “create.” He notes—quite rightly, I think—that for us to understand anything about Genesis and creation, we have to go beyond the modern meanings of the word, since they inevitably lead us to speculations about material origins. What is required, he argues, is that we go back to the Hebrew texts, and then beyond those texts to the cultural milieu in which the original word—bara—was used. Ancient usage, not etymology or modern definition, is crucial.

The creation of the sun, for instance, is not at all concerned with the sun as a great burning globe of hydrogen with such-and-such a surface temperature, of such-and-such dimensions. Genesis provides no clue as to how God made the sun. What it does emphasize is that the sun was made for a purpose—to give light to the earth and to govern the day.

Throughout Genesis, the verb create is associated with functions…which led me to an “Ahah!” moment: what Walton was really saying is that in Genesis, the cosmos is not newly created but rather is given its final function and purpose…is organized to fulfill a specific goal.

And that, of course, led me to Joseph Smith’s lecture on God and Creation in the “King Follett Sermon,” in which he states that the word translated as “create” actually means “to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.” Nearly 170 years before Walton, Joseph Smith came to the same conclusion; the primary difference is that Walton’s analogies involve building computers and establishing companies.

Coupled with Butler’s commentaries on the Book of Mormon in Plain and Precious Things and my own frequent ruminations on The Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, it was a logical step to move beyond Walton’s text and in essence turn it toward a purpose it did not originally have (having just explained in great and gruesome detail to beware such tendencies)—it becomes, not proof of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling per se, but another evidence that many of the things Joseph Smith said are virtually unaccounted for by any other means.

He understood, long before the discovery of Asshurbanipal’s library in the mid-19th century or the translations of numerous ancient Middle Eastern creation epics in the 20th that context counts.  If, as Butler argues, in 1830 he published a book that incorporates throughout detailed Temple references and Temple imagery gauged to be understood by initiates and paralleling in many aspects Ancient Near Eastern ritual and ceremonial; and if in 1844, he suggested that the creation of this universe as detailed in Genesis is crucial for the why not the how –the purpose not the mechanisms—it becomes increasingly difficult to account for how he could know such things…unless the same Creator who spoke to the Old Testament author of Genesis 1 had also spoken to him.

Ah, you might think. There he goes again, interpreting everything in Mormon terms. Typical.
Well, sometimes it is difficult not to, especially when the book under discussion opens the possibility itself.

Toward the final pages of The Lost World of Genesis 1, Walton (who has been citing bible scholars and authorities throughout) suddenly cites a new kind of writer—a novelist. Orson Scott Card.
Seeing that name in the context of a non-LDS biblical study is nearly as disconcerting as hearing a General Authority cite C. S. Lewis in General Conference, especially when the citation is to something clearly defined as fiction…and science-fiction at that.

Using a passage from Card’s The Call of Earth, Walton discusses the nature of coincidence, relating it to cause/effect relationships we do not yet understand. Even more significantly, a few pages further in he cites Card again, this time from Prentice Alvin, in a long passage discussing the fact that everything—down to the tiniest particles of existence—acts through intelligence and owes obedience to God.

The Call of Earth, from “The Homecoming” series is among Card’s most explicitly LDS novels, based as the series is on the Book of Mormon; and Prentice Alvin, from the “Seventh Son” series, is among his most explicitly Joseph-Smith oriented novels.
This is not to argue that Walton is proposing an LDS version of creation; far from it. But it is to suggest that, for LDS readers at least, his dissection of language in Genesis 1 and the conclusions he reaches about the nature of  Creation and of the Cosmos may sound a familiar tone.

Walton does not conclude that all matter is eternal, as Joseph Smith states; and he certainly does not venture to mention any other LDS doctrines. But his reading of Genesis as a functional Creation epic seems spot on and fits comfortably into the doctrines of the Restoration.

Strongly recommended.

Music of the Spheres--A Filamental Emblem


Earth—Air—Water—Flame—
Fire falling from crystalline Outer Sphere—

Sphere of God—down to Earth-Dust-World—
World where we are second-born—

On its way—pure-poured Flame vibrating Sun—
Moon—Stars—Wanderers through blue Night—

Flame touches incandescent eternals—
Spirits of Fire eager for breath and dust—

Eager to descend concentric Spheres—
Become one with Earth—pass through Water—

Ascend Air—rejoin the Fount of All-Flame—
Elemental Unity at the End of All—

Unity—Infinity—Eternity—
Earth—Air—Fire—Water…
Children of Highest God ….


Unlike most of the other Filamental Emblems, which range from six to eight inches across and are crocheted from three strands of sewing thread, this one was intended to be large...cosmically large--or at least as close to that as I could get with a crochet hook and yarn.
Mounted, it is nearly four feet across. Each distinctive round represents one of the seven classical crystalline spheres that compose the cosmos--the center being Earth, and the outermost being the Realm of God. When all of the crystalline spheres move in concord to the will of God, it was believed, each would rub against its neighbors and set up a vibration. When all seven vibrated properly, the result was a chord, the "Music of the Spheres."
Such an image is elegant and sophisticated, concrete and ethereal, as I hoped the final Emblem would also be.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Playing "All is Well"--A Filamental Emblem

and fingers
      feet   heart
            explore whole

worlds long paused
      static in
            breath-notes

powerfully
      present when
            thin metal pipes

press solemn sound
      over children's
            children’s heads

remind feet of long
      marches day
            by wary day

remind fingers of wood
      worn smooth
            on handcart rails

remind hearts who
      they are—
            what parents led

toward a desert
      waste in
            vision-faith alone

and raised massed voices
      acclaimed
            pronounced their faith— 

Singing “All is Well."