Book of Mercy #6-7

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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mat james
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Postby mat james » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:32 pm

DB, you said/asked;
the basic notion of sin: where does it come from?
My understanding is that the word "sin" has Greek origins and is about the notion of "missing the target", inaccuracy.
An archer, who missed the bull's eye was said to "sin" . And the degree of his sin was based on his degree of inaccuracy.
Sin, originally was about taking aim and going for it.
Our culture may set standards that we take on and aim at and when we fall short of hitting the bull's eye, we are said to sin.
In archery, sin was expected but it was also expected that one would keep practicing and occasionally hit the bulls eye.
So originally the notion of sin was not that negative.

What was probably frowned upon was more likely the "notion" of not having a shot.

"your sins are forgiven" easily when looked at in this light.
In this context a baby "sins" every time it stumbles when learning to walk. I am sure the creator expects us to stumble a bit too on our journey.

Another interesting question is "Who polluted the word sin"?

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Postby lizzytysh » Wed Jan 03, 2007 6:49 pm

I've never heard this exact interpretation. Not only does it make sense in a spiritual sense of striving for 'perfection' [as near as man can hope for when seeking the 'likeness of G~d'], but it's one that's much easier to accept. According to Christian theology, "Original sin" would have been simply missing the mark of obeying G~d's command, then, regarding the apple and the serpent. Heavy consequences for such a miss, but still just a miss. Thanks for bringing that info here, Mat.

I've heard the 'falling short of the glory of G~d' interpretation, but I prefer the continuity of simply missing the mark; any mark, really.


~ Lizzy
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Postby lazariuk » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:38 pm

mat james wrote:Another interesting question is "Who polluted the word sin"?
Very interesting Mat and it also leads me to wonder how different the poem might be if the word sin was not so polluted.

Your question also brings my attention to another part of the poem and a word which may be just as polluted.
gather my heart toward the gravity of your name
"the gravity" seems to me to be the central position of the poem.

I have a little experiment that I have been conducting for the past ten years. I ask most people I meet this very simple question. " Do you think there is any scientist living in the world who knows what gravity is?"
I get different answers but I am fairly confident that I am being honest if I say that 99% of the answers can be covered with the word "probably"

Gravity is a mystery. No one knows what causes it or what it is. It also seems to be 100% reliable and does not require a physical contact between bodies for it's force to be effective and a limit to how far it can reach has never been demonstrated. There are things about it that can be stated in very simple and elegant ways, poetic ways, like "every time you half the distance between objects you fourfold the attraction"

It is sad that our children are robbed of the experience that we live in the face of so much mystery.
gather my heart toward the gravity of your name
So too, this attraction between the male and female is a mystery but with it's thousand kisses a thousand times it saves us from our thousand sins.

Speaking as one who has gone a thousand kisses deep into sin.

Jack
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Postby lazariuk » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:59 pm

DBCohen wrote: In many cases – as I was trying to show in Book of Mercy for example – he is an esoteric writer, and one needs several tools of analysis to get to the bottom of his meaning, and even then you can’t be sure you got it right.
And I am trying to make the case that all you need is an open and honest heart and you will find yourself at the bottom of his meaning and you will be sure you got it right.

Which doesn't mean to say that I am not willing to go your way too, so please plod on.

Jack
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Postby philo » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:16 pm

i do not understand the venom which has been directed at lizzy from certain quarters. but here is my opinion, having met her and experienced her kind and loving nature. she has proved to me that she is a woman of great integrity and has shown me great kindness in my times of trouble. that is all the proof i need.
life is the school, love is the lesson.
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mat james
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Postby mat james » Thu Jan 04, 2007 1:18 am

Jack, you are onto something here.
Gravity is a mystery. No one knows what causes it or what it is. It also seems to be 100% reliable and does not require a physical contact between bodies for it's force to be effective and a limit to how far it can reach has never been demonstrated.
If we go back to the original Greek interpretation of "sin" and the inaccurate archer,,,and add your word/notion "gravity" as the secret ingredient needed when aiming and releasing our arrow of intent, to "hit the bulls eye" once, or maybe more often, then.....

....in a Zen way,
we become Archer, bow, arrow, energy and target (we become One) by utilising this "gravity"...

We become one with the energy and (transcendentally) are drawn in to that which we are aiming at.
In summary, aiming at the creator may best be done by allowing oneself to gravitate towards that Target.

Probably all those koans and eccentric Zen practices point to this notion also.

It could be said then
To be "sinless" (to hit the mark!) one needs to surrender to the gravity of the One.

"I did not know
I'd be caught in the grip of
an undertow" Leonard.

or

gather my heart toward the gravity of your name

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Postby lazariuk » Thu Jan 04, 2007 2:43 am

mat james wrote:It could be said then
To be "sinless" (to hit the mark!) one needs to surrender to the gravity of the One.
Considering this specific book we are looking at I think the cover suggests being drawn by the gravity of the Two.


Jack
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Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:39 am

Joe, there is another case in the Bible about a young woman bathing. A young woman bathing in a water out the town and having been seen by to old men. A kind of this Jean de la Fontaine's fable :

http://www.aestheticrealism.net/poetry/ ... ntaine.htm



The pollution of notion of sin, now :

If we have a look on the seven deadly sins and the seven cardinal virtues which are two faces of a same energy - so to speak - we see that there is nothing there but health. Mental and physical health.

Have a look here if a) your memory censured something about the 7 sins and 7 cardinal virtues b) you have learned or believed that God is a Boogyman who will punish you the second you enjoy life. Sad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

Religion, it is a little bit like income taxe : people in charge should use it to the good of the whole society and every individual should participate, but in fact, we know that there is a lot of cheating from both parts. Nevertheless, something enough good remains to have things going on and for a hope of better use of it.

Pardon me to be so down-to-earth but I do believe that spirituality is life and life is... quiete down-to-earth.

Also the act of Love is the contrary of the act of judging and the big poison is to using the notion of sins in another energy than the energy of Love, but to the contrary being judgemental and harsh.

OK. It is not possible to hit the target every time - nobody's perfect - but who asks for perfection? From a religious point of view : not God, as it is written not to bother with our imperfections as God loves human beings as their are.

It is not so much a state of perfection than a state of harmony - health.

Good mental and physical health, healthy relationships with others, and healthy social structures.

I guess that no one would return to a state of sickness once one has experiment a good health which means a wonderful state of being : the paradise.

I agree with the idea that it is more of less the same notion as Zen.

I even think that all big religions and oriental philosophies are attracted by the same center of gravity.

In other words, humanity already found the base of harmony in theory but is not yet able to put it into practice.

To be emotionnaly intelligent seems to be more difficult than to be intellectually intelligent.
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Postby tomsakic » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:08 pm

lazariuk wrote:
gather my heart toward the gravity of your name
"the gravity" seems to me to be the central position of the poem.

Gravity

I never tried to see your face,
Nor did I want to know
The details of some lower place
Where I would have to go.

But love is strong as gravity,
And everyone must fall.
At first it's from the apple tree,
And then the western wall.

At first it's from the apple tree,
And then the western wall.
And then from you and then from me
And then from one and all


We have it all again here - gravity, which causes us to fall, from where? From the apple tree, and then from civilisation ("the western wall")...
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:21 pm

Not unlike Leonard would be to include alternate meanings of the word "gravity" in this line, "serious or critical nature: to ignore the gravity of one's illness" [though illness wouldn't need to be what it's about, as it's used in the sense of 'the gravity of the situation,' ~ any situation, too; and "serious or dignified behaviour" ~ I see it as there always being another layer or two or three, with Leonard. There's even a third one here, "lowness in pitch, as of sounds" ~ though Leonard may not have had this at all in mind, it's not out of the realm of possibility, either, and one might consider its potential; when one thinks of speaking the name[s] of G~d, seriously and with lowness of pitch.


~ Lizzy
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:01 pm

Pardon me to be so down-to-earth but I do believe that spirituality is life and life is... quiete down-to-earth.
Yes, Tchocolatl, this is true, too. It reminds me of Leonard's comment [very loosely paraphrased, as I don't have time to locate it] about needing to be able to live your spirituality whether you're on a mountaintop, amidst a traffic jam, or in one's busy, everyday life. I hope that's enough to recall it :roll: . Sorry for the poor rendering; it was a great quote to begin with :shock: . This also brings to mind Jack's comments on the different approaches that can be taken with Book of Mercy.


~ Lizzy
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Postby Simon » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:13 am

gather my heart toward the gravity of your name
I hope you will excuse my french but I too interpreted 'gravity' as in grave, serious, important. Maybe that is a gallicism that sprang out of some french corner of his brain. But to me it makes more sense with this meaning.

Gee it's hard to catch up with the last 10 pages or so. I'll probably leave out important stuff, but at first glance here are a few things that struck me from the discussions over the last 3 psalms:

The Crown

Crown and crowning is somewhat part of many buddhist traditions. The Buddhas are often said to be crowned and are depicted in that way:

Crowned Buddha Shakyamuni
Image

... so even if it's a bit streching the religious context of psalm I.5
... let me sit beneath the mighty ones whom you have crowend forever, and let me study how they rest.
could also allude to the Buddhas.

As a paranthesis I'd like to mention also the importance of the indo-europeen root KRN (as in crown) in celtic esoterism. Some stories and legends link KRN, and words deriving from it, directly to the Graal quest. But that is another very vast subject.
Matt wrote:It is important to note that Adam and Eve were alone in that original Eden
It may also be important to note though how Christianity has so successfuly evacuated the figure of Lilith, who was Adam's first wife and was part of a famous "love triangle" in Jewish tradition. It's too bad because Lilith brought a lot of "bubbles" to the paradise play. Maybe DBCohen could tell us more about Lilith from a judaic point of view. It might actually be fruitfull to bring her dynamics to the interpretation of LC's relation to the feminine.

As for "The Fall", I tend to perceive it as the fall into language, not as the fall into sin, but that may just be the zen angle surfacing here.

But the notion of sin in the book is of course very important.
Joe wrote:I believe that this entire work is prayer that is aimed at how one lives in this world rather than how one achieves heaven or nirvana
I agree with you Joe even though it may be too early to come to conclusions. LC often said in interviews that his main concern was to find balance in his life, roughly balance between the Crown (the spiritual) and the Kingdom (the physical). My understanding is that LC is aiming for an impeccable balance. He is an impeccable chap in a way...

Impeccable comes from the Latin pacatus, which means "sin". The im in impeccable means "without", so impeccable means without sin. He is striving for an impeccable daily life...
Blessed be the name of the glory of the kingdom forever and forever
Here, as an atempt to throw some light on this passage, is an extract from an interview LC gave to Doug Fetherling in 1984.

From: Fetherling, Doug. Leonard Cohen. In Books in Canada. Vol. 13, no 7 (august/september 1984) p. 30
BiC -- Do you hold as strongly as you once did views about the importance of ceremony in everyday life?

LC -- I think that whether we call them ceremonies or not people fall into patterns of greeting one another, of experiencing phenomena. My feeling is that there are certain patterns that have been developed and discerned to be extremely nourishing. It seems to be a waste to discard them. There are some of them from our traditions that I think are very worthwhile.

BiC -- Of the religious sort?

LC -- In a real religious life, such as I don't lead but have led from time to time, there is a vision for everything that comes up. For instance, in the orthodox Jewish tradition there's a blessing for everything: when you see a rainbow, when you meet a wise man, when you meet a stupid man, when you hear bad news. They all start off, "Blessed are Thou, King of the Univers, the True Judge...." In other words, we can't determine where bad news fits in. When you see someone who's very beautiful, or who is deformed, it's the same blessing. It's "Blessed are Thou, King of the Universe, who varied the apearance of this creature...." I'm not saying that everyone should learn the blessings, but that kind of approach to things, where there is reference always beyond the activity, is a perspective that I think is very valuable. Most of our ceremonies, the ones we develop ourselves, usually out of cowardice, ambition, or just mean-spiritedness, all have that.
Jack wrote:I did wish that Simon got here before we continued because I wanted to ask him about the meditation technique that Leonard uses to confirm something that I think is highly likely
I'm sure that when LC sits in zazen next to the most beautiful girl in the zendo, he is being attentive to "her" breathing and thinking that satori can wait. That's not called a sin, it's called procrastination... (if that was the purpose of your question?)


Love and blessings to us all for this fresh new year.
Cohen is the koan
Why else would I still be stuck here
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Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:46 am

L&B to you

Pronunciation: pr&-'kras-t&-"nAt, prO-
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -nat·ed; -nat·ing
Etymology: Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow
transitive verb : to put off intentionally and habitually
intransitive verb : to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done
synonym see DELAY
- pro·cras·ti·na·tion /-"kras-t&-'nA-sh&n/ noun
- pro·cras·ti·na·tor /-'kras-t&-"nA-t&r/ noun

This is call "look right in the eyes of the ennemy"... and being defeated by it.

Lilith part of a love triangle? O. I won't call "love triangle" an orgie with demons. According to the legend the lady did not want to be under Adam she wanted to be on the top and as God and Adam refused, she left them and go play for Satan.

Then God have another mate for Adam made from his body, which was submissive enough for him to stay with her for a while, but not for long.
Morality : when a lover has a personal problem to solve 1) he often blames his mate 2) changing mate does not resolve the problem.

Some say those myths are giving a negative image of women, but, phew, how negative an image it gives of men : not able to get along with a woman without having big problems and blaming the ladies for eveything.

It is true that the God of Jews and Christians is male for the males to dominate over the females and nature.

We are far from Cybele, Gaia, or any name of the Great Mother of religions before the One.

OK. We are far from the crown to.

Without any sort of gravity.
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mat james
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Postby mat james » Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:00 am

So true, Simon.
I'm sure that when LC sits in zazen next to the most beautiful girl in the zendo, he is being attentive to "her" breathing and thinking that satori can wait. That's not called a sin, it's called procrastination...
It does suggest that one looks at their "motive" for participating in group meditations.( No good or bad here Tchocolatl, just motive clarity)
Meditating within the "gravity" of beauty is surely a high point of existance, and as the meditation practice occurs over an extended period of time, it could be likened to an extended orgasm and certainly that is being "one with the creative process/creator" !

:idea:

In Australian Aboriginal practices they separate women and men for certain practices (probably spiritual) and they call these ceremonies/practices:
"secret women's business"
and "secret men's business"

Perhaps they had a broader understanding of "motive" than we do.
he is being attentive to "her" breathing
And the Hindu's?....Well, when reading about "the seven rays" one soon realises that all rays lead to Rome for them!!!
I love this about Hinduism....anything goes, as long as you (atman) find your specific way back to Brahma....and this fits in perfectly with Tchoc's understandings she posted earlier on the not so good and evil.

So far I am loving this thread (and the family-like emotions that go along with it). All my siblings fought like cat and dog (like my parents) but we have great conversations now and get on great gun's.

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:48 am

Lizzy, I like also Lazariuk's opinion about mystery. It is difficult to keep track and develop the path for all the interesting matter people are bringing here.

Mat James, good and bad, ah! Before the One, there was no notion of good and bad. Powerful gods and powerful godesses, like human beings, were both good and bad - oh yes, they can be baaaaaad.

Then comes the Unique God and here comes the good and bad. God all good and Lucifer all bad. But look how the last is necessary to the first to explain some phenomenon of our life.

I do believe all this is a symbolism. Who is the scientist who said that a good theory is sooo useful? I forgot. Never mind. In any case myths are necessary to process information.

Carl G. Jung, the so controversial psychiatrist was one of the few courageous persons to explore de depth of human unconscious, such a no-no for "real" herr doctors scientists. He said that such a separation in the divinity was necessary to humanity, for the evolution. He does not said exactly why or I did not get it at the time. In fact, he said that people had to be strongly polarized to integrate a real deep change of mentality.

All this seems so simplistic but when one has a look into History, it makes sense.

For example, I did bring here a long time ago a link toward an article about the city of Pompeii and the artefacts that were found there and were hidden by archeologists because they were "bad". There were bad in regard of the morality of their time. Big, medium and small representation of the phallus, and erotic scenery everywhere : not "good".
We know that Rome had some big "parties" called orgies and it was part of their customs, nothing was strange about that.

The Catholic Church had to fordid masturbation in churches to the monks in Europe in the Middle-Age and all other kind of fornication. Some asian monks had a "bad" reputation for fornication between them to.

And this is not just for sexual habits, we can think about how evolved the notion of cruelty as we have a look in the museums to all kind of torture tools and stories. Name it.

Oh! What a perfect example is the 4000 years school boy of Greg in the other thread, the one the masters would be put in jail in 2007.

The list would be too long of the changes in mentality that we take for granted now.

Not to mention that it is quiete difficult to imagine how life was going in those ancient times. It takes time to travel there in imagination.

Not to say either that we are "arrived" if we want to think in term of evolution and to reach a certain center of gravity that would attrack us all.

For example there is still a lot of control vs liberty - like I said they changed the whip for the pills but control is control.

But a complete liberty is a challenge that humanity may not be able to face yet - right now. Maybe when there will be a majority of free human beings, like you said matt, in the sense of the hinduism mentality that explain it with technicality details.

Men and women of every cultures usually like to join groups of their respective sex without having the other sex in their way. I don't find it sexist at all, as long as it does not deprive a sex from some advantages the other could not get.

The exctasy in the spiritual practice. Ay! Another path that I can not explore right now.

Have fun guys!

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