Sunday, October 12, 2014

In which, for a meditative Sunday, the pond enjoys the company of schismatics, splitters, heretics and Bunuel ...

(Above: the end title for The Milky Way, with the pond delivering brand new content to the full to overflowing intertubes)

The other night the pond spent an engaging hour and a half or so watching Bunuel's 1969 La Voie lactée.

Well it was more fun than casually dropping in on GEM, starting to watch a movie, and then be startled when the movie stopped stone cold dead, with the third act never to be screened, and a sitcom cranked up in its place.

Fuck you GEM, fuck you, and fuck your ratings ...

Never mind, it's the reason why the pond usually gets its movie fix by other means, which brings us back to The Milky Way, which can be found on Criterion or elsewhere ...

Now you can wiki the film here, and the NY Times review on its first release in the US is here.

Vincent Canby enjoyed the film:

...if you're willing to do a little homework, the film can become so fascinating that you're likely to recall a disturbing remark made by one character, who materializes briefly and is identified in the cast only as The Lecturer. "My hatred of science," he says with bored resignation, "and my horror of technology will finally lead me to this absurd belief in God. . . ."

It's an idiosyncratic shaggy dog story, a gleeful trawl through assorted Catholic heresies, and it has a proud concluding title, which the wiki translates this way (you can do your own on the screen cap above):

Everything in this film concerning the Catholic religion and the heresies it has provoked, especially from the dogmatic point of view, is rigorously exact. The texts and citations are taken either direct from Scripture, or modern and ancient works on theology and ecclesiastical history.

You can imagine how the pond fell off the chair when the pond's partner, a lapsed Catholic, confessed to never having heard of Priscillianism (Greg Hunt it here) or Jansenism.

You can of course look up the Catholic Encyclopaedia to get the full story on heresy, and specific forms of the disease, like Arianism, and the neo-Manichaean Albigenses and the Nestorian heresy, and Jansenius and Jansenism.

And many more besides, and at the end of it, you'll find Bunuel's film infinitely funnier ...

Which got the pond to thinking how what Islamic fundamentalists need is a film-maker of Bunuel's class.

The whole absurdity of Islamic fundamentalism is that it derives from schismatic arguments about heresy, which go back to the very start of all the Islamic nonsense.

But instead of a Bunuel, Islamics in Australia have got to cop an artful Waleed Aly explaining in legalistic ways how moderate Islam has got its shit together ... and never mind the splitters and the schismatics and the rival cultists at the heart of the religion, as Sunni and Shia keep going hard at it, and you can of course Greg Hunt the deep divide here in a sanitised, cleansed form...

This produces a reaction in the pond roughly equivalent to the pond's sighting a trailer for a film about heroic Mormons ...

Meet the Mormons?

It sounded like a sitcom like Meet the Fockers ...

Now the pond has nothing against the particular people in the film, but Joseph Smith, Greg Hunt him here, was a fraudulent liar and hustler, an early version of an L. Ron Hubbard ...

The point of course is that Smith overlaid his own cult nonsense over the cult known as Christianity, and so the charges of heresy flew, and are still flying to this day ...

It's the essence of all of the cults that each claim to be in sole possession of the absolute truth, and that anyone who disagrees by definition is a heretic, which is the whole point of Bunuel's amusing film ...

Happily for the pond and for anyone interested in the cult mind and the cult mentality, the Jensenists provide a splendid practical example this meditative angry Anglican day, though the image the hapless angry Anglican graphic artist comes up with to illustrate the piece is suspiciously Mormon:

Now the pond isn't going to spend too long with the Jensenist heretics, because the reader can find the whole delicious experience personally reserved for themselves by attending Jensen's The view from the top, but even the header gives an idea of the paranoid megalomaniac tone of the cultist who as an exclusive grip on the truth:

In an age of tolerance poisoned by relativism, inclusive multi-culturalism, and cultural sovereignty which is still coping with the guilt of colonialism, any exclusive claim to truth, salvation or God has to be challenged. 

Don't you just love it? Inclusiveness and multi-culturalism are a poison ...

Oh Bunuel would love this man ...

...whenever we put forward the claims of the gospel the following questions are asked: “Don’t all religions lead to God?” “Aren’t they all just different ways up the same mountain?” “Isn’t it arrogant to think you are right and everybody else is wrong, or that God is the god of Christians only?” 
 Christianity’s claim to exclusive uniqueness comes from its Monotheism. There is only one God for the entire world. He created everything and everybody. Everybody is answerable to him and to him alone as we should worship God and him only. He may choose individuals or a particular nation but he is not a local or national god; he is the universal, world-wide God. He is the God who made the universe and there is no other God as an alternative or rival to him. 

Of course one of the jokes in the Bunuel is that the angry Anglicans and other cultists don't just worship one god. They're trinitarians and worship a schizophrenic god ... or gods ...shape shifters that manifest in different forms ...

Bunuel would also love this angry Anglican outburst, which contains a prideful claim to uniqueness and singularity:

Around the world and down the centuries people have worshipped many gods. But all other gods are mythological non-existent beings who live in nothing other than human imagination. However, it is suggested that these are not false gods but the same God under different names. And that while the worship may look quite different it is just a different way to communicate with God, similar to our different languages by which we communicate with each other. There is nothing inherently wrong with French, Swahili or Korean, they are just different ways for people in communities to speak to each other. So the different ways to worship God are equally valid. Thus there are many ways up the mountain to God just as there are many ways to worship him. Each person on his own journey may think his is the only way, or not even know of any other way, but when you stand back and look at all the roads people journey on, they lead to the same destination. 
Sadly this analysis is another demonstration of human sinfulness. Our desire is always to play god ourselves. We wish to determine good and evil. We want to tell God his business. It is God, not us, who determines whom he will communicate with, and when and how. That is because he is God and we are not! The person who looks at all the roads leading up the mountain – all the journeys that other people are on – is not on the mountain, let alone climbing to God. It is the arrogance of the omniscient scholars who, from their ivory tower, can analyse the affairs of humanity without being aware of their own journey. It is true arrogance to be unaware of self while patronisingly describing others. What people believe about their chosen road matters to them, it may be wrong but it is not to be dismissed as irrelevant to their religion. 

What a ripper. And so to the dealing out of truth and justice and righteousness to the heretics:

 Religion is not just a matter of subjective experiences or opinions. For the Muslim, Jesus wasn’t crucified. For the Jew, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. For the Christian, Jesus was crucified and did rise from the dead. All these ‘opinions’ cannot be true as they are all dealing with ‘facts’: Jesus did or did not die and rise. All of them may be false – Jesus may never have lived. But they all cannot be true. Therefore those who believe 'all religions teach the same truth' must also be false as at least two, if not all three, of these major religions cannot be true. 

Indeed. But of course the problem for cultists is not only that other religions are wrong.

The heretics in their midst are also wrong. So for the Anglicans the Catholics are off to hell, and vice versa, and all the other fringe cults are busy consigning other heretics to life with Satan while they sit alongside Jesus, at a resort where every day is heaven (yes the pond caught up with Monty Python too, and The Meaning of Life and what a fine place heaven looks for the gentleman lover of Broadway musicals)

The funny thing is that it's impossible to have a sensible conversation with splitters and cultists.

Here's a classic example. Jensen starts his next par this way:

This is not dealing with some minor point of obscure and unimportant religious minutiae. It was, and is, the core belief of the Christianity.

He then proceeds to deliver his own form of dogma via religious minutiae.

Now Bunuel's film is very big on deviants who swerve from the approved dogma, and indulge in religious minutiae, and lordy lordy, would he have had a field day with this:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus’ death and resurrection are the very centre of Christianity. In the end Christians don’t even believe they are on a road up the mountain to God but rather standing at the foot of God’s journey down to us. For, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). We don’t go up to him, because he has already come down to us. We celebrate that at Christmas. And the foot of his journey is his cross, where God made “him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We celebrate that at Easter. Remove Christmas and Easter, Jesus’ incarnation, his death and resurrection and you no longer have Christianity in any recognizable form.

Uh huh. So quoting the bible makes it Anglican true, and only the angry Anglicans know the truth and the way and the path, and there shall be no alternatives:

To accept alternative ways for us to reach God is to reject God’s way down to us. To reject God’s way, by suggesting there are other equally valid ways, makes the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross completely unnecessary. If we could come to God without the cross of Christ, why would Jesus come to die for us? It is the arrogance of humanity to think that we can get to God without him coming to rescue us. It is the humility of Christ to accept God’s way of salvation.

It is, in microcosm, as splendid an example of the ways of dogma and cultists and the shrill, arrogant insistence on the unique possession of a unique truth.

Only the righteous, most particularly, the angry Anglicans know the true path, which helps explain why they're angry with other Anglicans who don't quite see it the angry Sydney way ... especially when it comes to gays and complimentary women (would you like one or two?)

It's a splendid example of all that Bunuel satirised in his film, even though Catholicism was his main target.

The Jensenist intolerance, its dismissal of others, could be multiplied in every other form of cult and dogma - Jews, Islamics, Mormons, every religion on the planet has its splitters and its heretics, and every so often they go to war ...

Now if that's what the fight's about, some bloody useless Caliphate, count the pond out ...

Bunuel himself had a hard time at the hands of Franco, but as often happens, the artist's movies are still watched, while only a few diehard fascists mourn Franco ...

Here's hoping the same result greets the Islamic fundies ...

But wait, there's even more comedy to hand:

The answer to WIJDN?

Well, he's sitting at the right hand of god, an interminable and lengthy business, and every so often, while sitting, he intercedes ....

Which is no doubt why the world is in such splendid shape, and there's not a splitter or a heretic to be found ... Jesus the sitter and the interceder and the fixer is on the case ...

Of course Bunuel proposed a role model for the pond:

Alternatively there's always Christmas in heaven, essential to the angry Anglican vision of Christianity:

Steady, gentlemen musical lovers in the front row. Please sit down so others can enjoy heaven ...

Those images are a little soft, but that's because amazingly for the moment, the Internet Archive is hosting a copy of the film here. Get it while you can.

At least GEM won't be able to fuck up your viewing pleasure ... did the pond mention it's dearest wish, Fuck you GEM?


  1. My seventeen year old is a reasonably good forecast of what mainstream Australia can expect in the future.
    Does not watch mainstream commercial TV, a heavy duty laptop is all he requires.
    Has never read and will in all probability never buy a commercial hard copy newspaper.
    Thinks all politicians are quote "sphincters in suits" unquote.
    Complains loudly and bitterly when forced to participate in school religious activities.

    1. Blessed are the young because they'll inherit the earth, or maybe that should read fucked are the young when they get what's left when the current bunch of old farts are finished fucking it over.
      As for school religious activities, the pond was turned towards atheism above all by an extremely portly Irish Catholic priest - let's not go into the seven deadly sins - who was clearly anxious to play golf rather than discuss theology with Catholics who had been shoved into public school by perverted parents. He scarpered, often before the bell rang, and gave every appearance of not giving a toss for the souls in his temporary care.
      Conservatives don't get this - they swallowed the kool aid while young - but any young 'un with an independent mind can spot horseshit when it's dumped in their trough ...
      Government paid for propaganda delivered by crazed minions will produce a decent bunch of rebels. When it doesn't, when there's conservative control, you end up with Iran ... or maybe Australia if the neo cons have their way ...

    2. Good Lord - as a fellow Old Tamworthian, DP, would I be correct in assuming that this was the late Father Meehan of St Edwards Parish, South Tamworth? His Sunday Masses were always popular with the young who were only there to please their parents, as we could be assured of him ripping through the Mass in about 20 minutes in order to hit the links as early as possible.

  2. That would have been me if I'd had an internet back in the day...

  3. Hi Dorothy,

    Like Pierre-Simon Laplace when asked by Napoleon as to why there was no mention of God in his discourse on the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter, I too would subscribe to his reply that “I had no need for that hypothesis”.

    I do however find religion as an aspect of society quite fascinating. The start of the Industrial revolution in the North of England in the 18th and 19th century led to mass migration into the cities and mill towns. The old parish system practised by the Church of England was left behind and instead a myriad of new denominations sprung up. It was a time of great innovation in Christianity and quite bizarre congregations appeared.

    The Shakers (now only remembered for their simple elegant furniture) started in Bolton led by Jane Wardley and later Mother Ann Lee they led their meetings with marches, singing and dancing where they often twitched, jerked and shouted.

    The Independent Order of Rechabites started in Salford as an offshoot of the Callithumpians promoting abstinence from all alcoholic beverages with lodges known as the Tent of Ebenezer.

    The Christian Israelite Church was founded by John Wroe after experiencing a series of visions. His attempt to build a new Jerusalem in Ashton-under-Lyne came to an ignoble end when he was accused of indecent behaviour with the seven virgins provided to his household. There was quite a good BBC TV miniseries with Johnathan Price and Minnie Driver depicting the events.

    There were many many more. I do wonder that maybe something similar is occurring within the Muslim world now. Stripped away from their parents old traditional village and town life with it’s moderate Imam’s, young Muslim’s also feel disconnected with western culture and are therefore more likely to be attracted to radical and firebrand preachers.


    1. thanks DW, some great lesser known cults there which we'll check out. That MS sounds interesting and worth hunting it out - hadn't heard of it until your note.

      The pond loves its cults, and is loose enough in the use of the wording to include football and the reptiles at the lizard Oz. Where would Monty Python, or on a much less grand scale, the pond, be without a decent cult or two?

      Everything applied to splitters in Life of Brian could be applied with equal fervour to Islamic fundamentalists.
      The pond has no explanation for the phenomenon of fundamentalism, or the quest for certainty in an uncertain world, or the need to swear allegiance to pie in the sky - greater minds have assured the pond it's not genetic but you have to wonder at the how and why of allegedly civilised societies following Hitler or Mao's cultural revolution.

      It does suggest that there needs to be an even-steven policy when it comes to fundies - Islamics, Jews and Xians are all barking mad, and equally problematic. The madness infests the Republican party, and conservatives everywhere, and for every ratbag Islamic fundie it's easy to turn up a Pastor Danny. The conviction that someone else knows what's best for everyone is the first sign of the fever, and the disease does find fertile soil in the outcasts, the reviled, the dispossessed and the humiliated. In that sense Tony Abbott, like many other conservative politicians, is one of the best incubators of fundamentalism doing the rounds.

  4. Jesus isn’t always sitting in heaven. St Stephen said he saw him standing. But it was when he was stoned, so perhaps not that reliable.

  5. Ms Pond
    Stop it. Your constant links and references are forcing me to "Hunt" the intertubes for edification. This is cutting into the time that could be more usefully spent wiring my house with Cat6 cable.
    I need to do this because, as Anon and Old Bugger (above) have noted, young people need access. My wireless router does not cut it any more (are you listening Malcolm Turnbull, or maybe ASIO can send a copy). A teenage sleepover swamps, not only my wireless, but also the copper connected to theinner city Telstra exchange 500m away. I am lucky that I get a 20.3mb/s service (when it is not raining) which is somewhat better than the 15Mb/sec Big Mal has promised the average use of the NBN.
    OOPS a little of topic there, sorry

    1. 20.3? Luxury, sheer luxury. Try Optus. You'll be grateful to be connected, and think of dial up as the speed for kings and queens.
      BTW fear and loathing of big Mal and his intention to destroy the NBN and all who sail and google on her is never off topic. The pond struggles each day not to direct hate-filled diatribes at big Mal and occasionally succeeds, but it's a struggle ...

  6. Thankyou DW. I did not now Callithumpians really existed or that the word was spelt with a double 'l'.

    Love the Tent of Ebeneeeeezer. A great name for a nightclub.

    Funny how the Shakers were such elegant furniture designers and such overwrought dancers.

    1. Thank you Anon, and now the pond nows that now is spelt now ...

      We all learn knew things every day ... even soup and grandma nazis


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