September 2013

Mystics, Mediums, Max & Moritz

An ornate chapel has been built on the peculiar alliance between Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr. Among pockets of the elect it is judged doltish, possibly wayward, not to attend services there. Or so it seems from some of last week’s email. Permit me to say it again: Credulity is no friend to the truths of our faith. On the contrary, it discredits the uncreated mystery we are called to witness. Rather than serving to renew the faith, it undermines it. Continue Reading
Intermezzo

We will come back to idolatry next time. This is Friday, a good day for a small palate cleanser between courses. There a moral to this one. No one needs me to draw it. You will do it yourselves. Jackson Pollock. Full Fathom Five (1949) Detail. Neuberger Museum, Purchase NY. How many times have you read an Artist Statement that mentions—oh, so casually—that the artist listens to jazz while working? It has been more than half a century since Jackson Pollock wrapped himself around a tree in a drunken accident. Continue Reading
Anonymous. Franz Mesmer’s “assistant magnetizer” practices Animal Magetism—or Mesmerism—on a patient. From Ebenezer Sibley’s A Key to Physic and the Occult Sciences. London (c. 1798)

The name of Hans Urs von Balthasar has become a kind of a code word among Catholics. Like the password to a speakeasy, it signals membership in a confidential circle on sequestered ground. Nonmembers have to tread carefully. Signs to “Keep Off the Grass” are everywhere. The lawn is beautifully kept. At the risk of tripping over those staked warnings, I have to admit a high degree of nonplussment over the writings of Adrienne von Speyr and Balthasar’s drive to promote them. Continue Reading