Letters to the Editor
Frank Thomas Smith wrote in his "non-review" of The Passion of the Christ:
“Will I be writing my own review of 'The Passion' when it finally comes to Argentina? No, I think I'll give it a pass - the movie I mean. I could, however, give Mel Gibson some advice. If he wants to make a sequel, how about the resurrection, the important and meaningful side of Christianity? But he won't, for he and the Church he considers too liberal are obsessed with death instead of life.”
Gibson is not the first artist to devote a major work to the Passion. Consider Bach's St. Matthew and St. John Passions. While he wrote his Easter Oratorio, the two Passions are far more prominent works. The latter is to the former two something as the Resurrection panel of Gruenewald's Isenheimer Altar is to the main panel of the Crucifixion. Gruenewald's famous painting is not the only example of Renaissance art that emphasizes the Crucifixion, often in the most gruesome representations. There are scores of such works by other painters. There are many more representations of the Passion than of the Resurrection, more of the Crucifixion than of the teaching and healing work of Christ.
There are good reasons for this. One problem of the artistic rendering of the Resurrection is that there is so little one can say about it. The Resurrection itself is not even described in the Gospels. When the curtain rises on Easter morning the tomb is already empty. The angel rolls away the stone to show the women that he is not there. The Resurrection is the more invisible pole of the Event of Golgotha. The other pole of the whole drama of Holy Week, those last hours ending with the death on the cross and the burial, belong to the visible side of the Event. Artists from the Renaissance onward have recognized that it is through the depiction of the Passion in the right artistic way that the Resurrection and its meaning can be revealed to the soul that is open to it, and that the Resurrection without the Passion is meaningless. The right depiction of the Passion can provide the catharsis which prepares the soul, enabling it to behold and realize the meaning and power of the Resurrection.
This central place of the Passion is also part of what Rudolf Steiner describes as the path of "Christian Initiation." In this path, described by Steiner in Lecture XIV of the lecture cycle The Gospel of St. John (Hamburg), the Resurrection itself is not even one of the stages of the path. The meditant works his way through the six stages of the Foot washing, Scourging, Crowning with Thorns, Bearing the Cross, Mystic Death, and Descent into Hell. In this path, the Resurrection does not even play a role. When the pupil goes through these stages, the final denouement is not the Resurrection but the Ascension.
We then have the experience of being laid in the Earth, the Burial. And being united with the Earth, we have also risen from it. For in this experience we have tasted what is meant by the words: `The earth is in process of becoming a new Sun!' In these fourth, fifth, and sixth stages of Christian initiation we have attained the qualities enabling us to behold, in personal vision, the Event of Golgotha, and to live in intimate knowledge of it. We have now no need of traditional documents. These have served their purpose in leading us from step to step. We have then reached the 7th stage, called the Ascension; in other words, the ascent into the spiritual world. This is the stage of which it is rightly claimed that no human language is capable of describing it; for no idea of it can be formed save by one who has learnt to think without the instrument of the brain. The miracle of the Ascension cannot become the object of thought save when the thinker has learnt to dispense with the physical brain as the instrument of thought.
Thus, in the Christian Initiation path, the Resurrection is embodied in the Passion. It is necessary for the candidate for initiation to go through the soul-agonies of the Passion in order to be able to realize inwardly the Resurrection in the death itself and to experience inwardly the Ascension into the spiritual worlds. The contemplation of the Passion itself is a necessary preparation for the soul. The Resurrection is not something that can be represented, but only experienced inwardly by the soul who has gone through this preparation. We can see from this something of the reason why in classical art and music the treatment of the Passion is so much more prominent than the Resurrection, and why Gibson's choice of subject for his film was in order.
In Catholicism, the popular, "exoteric" equivalent of the Christian path of Initiation is the exercise of the Stations of the Cross, usually performed walking through a course where representations of its thirteen scenes are provided for meditation and prayer. While they do not mirror the six preparatory stages of Christian Initiation, they have a similar effect, the cathartic effect of purging and cleansing that opens the soul of the lay meditant to behold the Resurrection as an inward, real experience. Mel Gibson uses the model of the Stations of the Cross, aided by the visions of Anne Katherine Emmerich, to form the structure in which the gospel accounts of the Passion are presented in his film. The effect of the film for thousands of people who have seen it has been strikingly similar to what we have been describing here. It is significant that Protestants and especially Evangelicals among them have this cathartic experience with especially strong intensity. They behold the scenes, often so brutal that they have to turn away their gaze, but in the end they are reduced to tears and silence. There are abundant reports of people simply dropping to their knees at the end of the film, tearful and prayerful, strangely full of the profoundest joy. The Resurrection is revealed for them, only hinted at briefly on screen but in fullness in their own souls.
This extraordinary response by Evangelicals to The Passion of the Christ is telling. Before the film was released there was much doubt expressed from the Evangelical side about how "Catholic" the film would be. But invariably the response of Evangelicals who have seen it has been overwhelmingly positive. I believe that a reason for this is that since the Reformation, the Protestant world for the most part abandoned its crucifixes. With a few exceptions (notably the Anglican), you will find no representation of the crucifixion in Protestant sanctuaries. One sees at most the empty cross, and sometimes not even a cross is present. Although the gospel that "Christ died for our sins" is central to the Protestant/Evangelical message, the actual inward contemplation of the Passion goes largely neglected. Protestants do not have crucifixes in their houses or on chains around their necks. They celebrate the Resurrection but without sufficient depth in the reality of
the Passion to truly appreciate it. The realization of this lacuna in their life of worship and contemplation is their embracing of Gibson's film.
Thus Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, whether he intended it or not, has turned out to be a gift from a Catholic to the Protestant world, at least for many Protestants. Not all have embraced the film, and some recoil almost instinctively against it. Yet it is remarkable that praise for the film is so strong in that part of the Protestant world where one would expect to find the most resistance to anything Catholic, to the emphasis on the Passion itself and to the extra-biblical representations from Catholic tradition that are so much a part of the film.
Rudolf Steiner spoke about the path of Christian Initiation as one of the two older paths (the other one being the Yoga path) that are no longer suitable for our modern age of consciousness. Rather, the Rosicrucian path is the one that is best suited for our time. But in this path, too, such as he describes it in An Outline of Esoteric Science, there is a main preparatory stage in the contemplation of the Rose Cross that basically embodies inwardly the essence of the six stages of the Christian Initiation. Gibson's film is an exoteric representation meant for the general viewer. What its reception by the public reveals is that there are many souls in the world today who may not be consciously taking the path of initiation but who need this purging catharsis that The Passion of the Christ offers them, and they have embraced it as one hungry and thirsty receives food and drink.
The Resurrection is not neglected in The Passion of the Christ. It is very much present, not on the screen but in the souls of the many for whom it is able to open their inner eyes to behold it […]
First of all thank you for your Southern Cross Review which provides interesting articles. I read your 'non-review' about the Passion movie and I appreciated the approach of including positive and negative reviews. It also included Bobby's review, whom I met a few years ago in New Orleans where we had a good conversation.
At the end of your non-review you wrote about what potential advice you might want to give to Gibson: "If he wants to make a sequel, how about the resurrection, the important and meaningful side of Christianity?" I saw the movie and the resurrection is actually there, briefly at the end. Unfortunately, the music, in my personal opinion, does not fit with the depiction of that event. It would have been interesting if Gibson had not rejected Lisa Gerrard's music score for the Passion. She previously wrote some tracks for Gladiator, that were perfect, and for the Passion she even sung in Aramaic the 'Our Lord' prayer. Anyway, I don't want to digress too much. The resurrection is shown in a very delicate way, as an emptying of the sheet covering the body. And then the risen Christ is shown in act of standing up as He starts walking to exit the Tomb.
As for the teachings, that are conveyed in brief significant moments, so the resurrection is briefly shown, but is there. What I wonder, instead, is what is more proper to be displayed in our time.
We have been donated the Christology with the Fifth Gospel by Rudolf Steiner, and it appeals to the consciousness soul. That is right for our time. The movie appeals to our feelings, although what it shows is the most important event in history, the death and resurrection of the Christ. Maybe the positive aspect of this movie is that, in a time where gratuitous violence and bad taste is not only the norm, but is even lauded, it may act like a strong medicine, like a remedy to remind people what is most essential. It may bring people to reflect. But, we should be aware that the time for mystical approaches is over.
Best Regards and Happy Easter,
Congrats on your Non Review! I hope lots of people read it! Especially the part about NOT TAKING THE CHILDREN TO SEE IT!
RE: 9/11 Conspiracy Theory Freaks
Thanks for continuing excellent and important work with SCR.
I am however very disappointed with your recent editorial. Have you heard the term "straw dog"? Something put up that is easy to knock down, but is in fact a distraction? I don't understand why you bothered with the examples you chose; do you really think they are a factor for the particular readers who turn to SCR? I would hope you have a better opinion of your readers.
I am pretty a-political; largely that is due to my own weakness. But that was a pretty earth-shaking event around here (I'm in NY state), and I have been wondering. There a lot of reports just as reputable as Clarke's, not about conspiracy per se, but about pointers that are only explained by something just as nefarious. I'm not the one to enumerate them for you; one place you can find information is at "gunsandbutter.net", in the cd's they offer (admission - my son is the engineer for the show).
What let me personally to take it more seriously was hearing Chris Schaefer on the topic; he had a list of, as I recall, seven inexplicable facts, having to do with foreknowledge; and with the fact that absolute standard procedure on hijackings is that fighters are immediately scrambled to intercept the planes and at least accompany them. This did not happen for an hour-and-a-half.
Sorry, I just don't understand your motivation, but would welcome a careful handling of these questions. They are HUGE! We anthroposophists are far too a-political. Political action needs to be a free deed; but we are also called on to be fully immersed in actual life (SCR is a good example), and I don't like that these questions are not taken up (I was shocked, and gratified, that Chris has; but it would be such a help to actually have the references, and whatever rebuttals have been made -- my impression is that we are being ruled by silence; by unconsciousness; by our own apathy).
I do appreciate that you have "stirred up" the topic; hmmmm, maybe I have a hint of motivation .... ?
Before the next time you try taking pot shots at so-called "conspiracy theorists" with such threadbare arguments as those in the latest issue of Southern Cross Review, you might like to re-read the article appended below .....and ponder how you, almost the entire American population for most of the 20th century, and so many other countries throughout the world have been screwed over by the oligarchs who run your society. Yes, there will always be some crackpot theorists, but that doesn't mean you have to lump them all together with serious researchers and besmirch the lot.
Just as with the General Anthroposophical Society constitution issue, the truth will out in the end, even though it may take a long time. With the GAS constitution issue, there were the first tentative moves in the 60s, which were ignored and brushed aside, then the Witzenmann saga in 68, then Lauer in '75, then von Beckerath and others (and yourself) in '86, then Heidt in 96-97, and finally the current debacle.
The Bush-Nazi connection was first brought to light by Prof Anthony C. Sutton in his "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler" (1976) but that was ignored. Then in the early 90s came "The Unofficial Biography of George (H.W.) Bush" by Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, which has been available as on online book for years. Now material is coming thick and fast from all directions, and the article below is further proof (which of course, is not to say there aren't parts of it with which one could quibble, but the main points are clear now). As Rudolf Steiner said back on 4 Dec 1916, referring to the facts of July 1914 and the origins of World War I, and quoting with approval Dr Jakob Ruchti of the University of Berne: "...history cannot be permanently falsified; the myth cannot stand up to the scrutiny of scientific research; the sinister web will be brought into the light and torn to pieces, however artfully it has been spun." (Karma of Untruthfulness Vol 1, lecture 1, Rudolf Steiner Press 1988)
Terry Boardman, U.K.
Strong congratulations. The April issue is a serious feast for the mind. You may be perpetrating the world's finest magazine. "The Frequent Flyer" astonishes me. I had no idea you could set up a completely realistic suspense story that well. The authenticity convinces me that you're experienced in airlines security. For me, the writing has a bite like that of Hammett or Pelecanos. I want the next installment. I want it to be a novel. […]
Jim Foley, USA