May 28, 2009

Forty Years in the Desert

Gay consciousness is officially forty years old on June 28: the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Forty years is just busting with symbolic possibility:

In the time of Noah, the rain fell for forty days and nights. Afterwards, the rainbow is given as the sign of the covenant. Genesis 7:12

Joseph embalmed his father Israel for 40 days. Genesis 50:3

Moses stayed in the cloud on the mountain top for 40 days and nights, neither eating or drinking. Exodus 34:28

The nation of Israel, after "coming out" of Egypt, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, surviving on Manna. Numbers 14:34

A prisoner cannot be flogged for more than forty lashes. Deuteronomy 25:3

Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and forty nights, being tempted by Satan. Mark 1:3

The number forty seems to be related to a time of trial and testing. I'm not sure why, but I note the number four is related to the four seasons, four elements, four points of a compass, the four major points of a clock face, and yea... the four horsemen. Perhaps, at least in part, it signifies a period of time or a complete rotation, the completion of a passage, or an odyssey. Forty is also the year that a man finally leaves all pretense of youth behind.

Gay consciousness has survived in the "wilderness" for forty years, and we've had our share of testing. I remember sitting in with a group of straight progressive Christians (yes, there are still a few) some years ago, and the subject came up about how to manifest meaningful and effective care for your "brother", and someone mentioned the gay community's response to the AIDS crisis as a positive example, and I thought it was kinda nice to be lumped in with the "good example" for once.

Anyway, the next step is over the River Jordan, and I think the coming year might be pretty amazing. Jericho's walls are building higher and higher:

California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, confirming the denial of marriage equality to gays. --SF Gate

Pro-Israel lobbyists declared their intention to threaten government and corporate sponsorship of the annual Toronto Pride Festival unless the organisation banned pro-Palestinian marchers from the parade.

But the higher they build, the greater they fall. Where DID I put my old trumpet?


Cogent Ascending said...

I hate to be the nay sayer and party pooper but forty, or four as it would be considered numerologically, bodes poorly as far as anniversaries go. Four is a destructive number. The combination of too many creative efforts strained into a single outpouring of strenuous action that burns too brightly to illuminate. It can only blind at such a fever pitch. But forty one? Well thats entirely different.

Anadæ Effro said...

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho!
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho & the walls came tumblin' down!

So goes the "old Negro spiritual", as African slaves' work songs were termed, all in all martial ballads, building morale during exceptional opposition & oft times unconscionable work conditions.

The apocalyptic science fiction TV series, Jericho, finds a seemingly post-nuclear strike struck US scrambling to get back on its feet. the Poor Man's Johnny Depp, Skeet Ulrich, plays one of its lead protagonists, Jake Green.

But, my having been a virginal seventh grader when the infamous Stonewall Riots exploded on Greenwich Village's Christopher Street, allegedly taking place the same day as Judy Garland's last rites commenced, forty years ago, I'd like to underscore other numerological interpretations of the number 4 that do not bode as gloomily as Mr Cogent Ascending's rendering of the Western conceit ahead of me:

Native American: As in other cultures, ceremonies and ritual acts are repeated in fours. The Native Amercican cultures have used the number 4 most frequently as in the four cardinal directions. The four winds are depicted by the symbol of the cross and by the symbol of the swastika. The swastika as some misbelieve was not created by Hitler. It was instead borrowed from the Native American and occult beliefs of which Hitler had great interests. Hitler derived his "insanity" of power from his misdirected interpretation and use of metaphysical principles. He used knowledge that his human consciousness couldn't possibly understand and the use of this knowledge for personal gain is part of the imbalance that creates the chaos and karma.

Buddhism: The Damba Tree of Life has four limbs and from its roots four sacred streams of Paradise that represent the the four boundless wishes of compassion, affection, love impartiality. It also represents the four directions of the heart as well.

Chinese Buddhism: there are four celestial guardians of cardinal points are Mo-li Ch'ing, the East, with the jade ring and spear; Virupaksha, the West, the Far-gazer, with the four-stringed quitar; Virudhaka, the South, with the umbrella of choas and darkness and earthquakes; Vaisravenna, the North, with the whips, leopard-skin bag, snake and pearl.

Chinese: Four is the number of the Earth, symbolized by the square. There are four streams of immortality. Four is even an number. It is Yin in polarity.

Continued …

Anadæ Effro said...


Christian: Four is the number representing the body, with three representing the soul. Again we see the theme of the four rivers in Paradise. There are four Gospels, Evangelists, chef arch-angels, chef-devils, four Fathers of the Church, Great Prophets. There are four cardinal virtues--prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance. The are four winds from which the One Spirit is said to come. There are four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The Book of Revelation: There four angels standing at the four corners of the Earth, holding back the four winds of the earth (Rev 7:1). The great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language (four-fold description) - Rev 5:9 11:9 13:7 14:6 the four-fold description indicates that these people come from all over the earth.

Egyptian: Four is the sacred number of Time, measurement of the sun. Four pillars support the vault of heaven. There are four canopic jars placed around the dead at the four corners guarded by the four sons of Horus who are associated with the cardinal points. In the Hermetic it is the divine quaternity. It represents God.

Gnostic: belief in Barbelo, the Four-ness of God.

Greek: Four is the sacred number of Hermes.

Hebrew: Four represents measuring; beneficence; intelligence. In the Kabbalah four is memory; four represents the four worlds of the Kabbalah.It also represents the four directions of space and the four levels of the hierarchical organism of the Torah.

Hindu: Four is Totality; plenitude; perfection. Brahma, the Creator is four faced. The temple is based on the four sides of the square, symbolizing order and finality. There are four tattvas the four bodies bodies of human and kingdoms of nature which are animal, vegetable, mineral, mind. There are four yugas. Four is the winning throw of the dice. There are four castes and pairs of opposites.

Islamic: tradition the four terms of the quaternary are the Principle which is Creator; Universal Spirit; Universal Soul; and the primordial matter. These correspond to the four worlds of Kabbalism. There are four angelic beings and four houses of death. There are four levels to the Bardo.

Mayan culture four giants support the celestial roof. Four is seen as the number of support .

Pythagorean: Four is Perfection; harmonious proportion; justice; the earth. Four is the number of the Pythagorean oath. Four and ten are divinities. The Tetraktys 1+2+3+4=10.

Scandinavian: there are four rivers of milk flowing in Asgard.

Sumero-Semitic: Four astral gods are indentified with the four cardinal points.

Teutonic: four dwarfs support the world.

Taoist: There are four celestial guardians, Li, with the pagoda; Ma, with the sword; Cho with two swords; Wen with a spiked club.

Don't forget, too, the now sadly senile Terry Pratchett's rendering of a humongous cosmic turtle upon whose shell stand four likewise behemoth elephants whose backs support his fantastic alternate reality, Discworld.Have a wonder-fill'd weekend,
Anadæ Effro (•:-)}

Michael said...

CA - thanks for commenting, and for the comments on the other posts. The "Tell Me What You Want" article was collected from emails of Jeff Fairhall (RIP). I think VALIS was talking through him.

Adadae - now that's a four square list! Thanks so much for filling out the references. One of my favorite convoluted synchs is that in the show Jericho (which I've never seen, but wikipedia has a MASSIVE entry) what's left of the U.S. Government was warning the town about a dangerous Hudson River Virus. As long time readers of Gosporn know, the Hudson is symbolically the River Jordan, so any "virus" coming from the river and threatening Jericho, would be the invading "Israelites".

Threats of invasion are everywhere now, from the "yellow peril", swine flue, all Mexicans in general, aliens, gays, etc. The walls of Jericho are looking a bit vulnerable.

Michael said...

Oh yea - personal synch: while I was writing this yesterday evening, a young man came to the front door, selling something. Var got the door, and when he returned he reported that the guy looked Egyptian, and was absolutely, stunningly handsome. So I'm writing about Moses, etc., and then an Egyptian comes to the door, selling SUNday subscriptions to the Seattle Times! Akhenaten is door belling the neighborhood?

Anadæ Effro said...

Hmn, veddy intedesting … was he as stunningly handsome an Egyptian as the spirit medium in the new Sam Raimi, opening today? Lemme Gno (•:-0}

Christopher Knowles said...

Being a bit of an outsider and not much of a numerologist I can only offer a couple little personal bits.

That neighborhood is part of my own psychic landscape- my work friends used to party at the Dew Drop Inn, which had that gay/straight mix you see in a lot of West Village hotspots. I also used to walk down from the ESB on the 33rd st to the Path station on Christopher, hitting all of the record stores (like Rebel Rebel on the corner of Bleecker and Christopher) on the way searching for Clash bootlegs or places like East/West searching for spiritual enlightenment. So I know the area well.

Joseph Campbell lived in his tiny apartment right near the Stonewall all of his life, which I always found interesting.

Bonus pseudo-numerological factoid: the Stonewall riots happened three days before my third birthday.

Devin said...

Lovely post as always Michael!! I so hope you are right about the higher the walls go the harder they will have to go down to crash-best to you and Varen always!! very much enjoyed the comments also!!

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