Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps

Having been immersing myself in the last year, not to mention couple of months with the current Green Lantern series, Blackest Night and it’s almost never ending prequels and tie-ins, I figured that I’ve had it and would not be tempted, bullied, seduced to get another tie-in. 

Boy, was I wrong.

After much “research”, I knew I just had to reneg on that promise I made to myself and just had to get the Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps. 

I know I was burned into collecting the last one which was Rise of the Black Lanterns on harbound (ouch!), I apparently have not learned from this lesson. 

Now shouldn’t I be rewarded with an Orange Ring? Ah paging Larfreeze! 

This compilation collects Green Lantern Corps #39-47 and shows us the damage (not to mention carnage) that the Black Lanterns inflicted on OA, while the main Blackest Night Storyline takes place on Earth, with Hal Jordan and the rest of the Justice League, Justice Society, The Titans and the rest of the DC folks all keeping the bad guys (and Guardian) in check. J

The book starts with Guy Garnder and Kyle Rayner on their way back to OA, after having come from Earth to attend Tribute Day. (Yes, Flash isn’t the only one who has this). They are met by Lantern Soranik of Korugar and Lantern (Princess) Iolande of Betrassus. They are the first to encounter a horde of Black Lantern Rings making its way to OA, and realizing that willpower-powered barriers erected to stay their flight proved futile.

Sure enough the Black Lantern Rings find their way, infiltrating the Lantern Crypt, overwhelm caretaker Lantern Morro of the desert planet Sarc, and revive all deceased Green Lanterns and turn them into Black Lanterns. 

Some of these include casualties of the preceding Sinestro Corps War like Lantern Jack T Chance of Garnet; Lantern Katma Tui of Korugar; Tomar Re of Xandor;  

Lantern Jade (daughter of Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern) and Lantern Ke’hann who was then rumoured to be harboring feelings for Lantern Arisia inspite of his marriage. After his death, she became a Red Lantern, successfully channelling her rage and frustration.

Most Green Lanterns were not spared with meeting the deceased and corresponding Black Lantern that held the most emotional connection to them in their lifetime. 

Like Kyle was met by Jade; Guy Gardner by Lantern Bzzd of Apiaton and Lantern Ke’hann. Trainmaster Kilowog wasn’t spared as he was met by his mentor and now Black Lantern Ermey!

The onslaught of the Black Lanterns was so overwhelming that even the main power battery on OA was threatened. These conflicts were just some of things that happened and why I felt I had to have this as part of my Green Lantern collection in an effort to bring me up to speed in my Lantern education. 

Wouldn't want to give anything else away if in case you are contemplating whether or not to collect this volume. And would want to keep other aspects of the storyline a surprise. But if not for anything else, seeing Guy Gardner aptly channel his rage and become a Red Lantern should be a good reason for you to get this.

Why then did he become a Red Lantern?

Well I guess you would have to get your copy and sign up in the Corps to know all about it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Knowledge & Enlightenment at a Price...and it's a STEAL

            When Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code first came out, people were shocked and amazed at the concepts that the book was hinting at. So much so that the people were torn whether to read it and have their faith tested or to avoid it completely for fear that what they have held on as the truth be put into question.

                Being a bibliophile, I was one of the many who waited for my copy and read it voraciously and loved it. It was a deconstruction of the basic fundamentals of Catholicism and somehow it all made sense. That the sense of history about the beginnings of the Catholic faith itself was born from, evolved and got itself entangled into the realm of faith as much as politics and power play.

        Throughout that time, books supplementing as well as decrying the concepts Dan Brown proposed sprouted out like mushrooms. Left and right, different authors and books pertaining to Mary Magdelene, the Knights Templar and The Holy Grail dominated the bookshelves of local bookstores and suddenly there was a craze. People could not get enough of the concepts and wanted to know more. Books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail also saw resurgence in its sales since its original release in 1982.

The Catholic Church itself quickly rose to defend its own tenet and founding principle by claiming that the concept of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene and having a bloodline that can be traced to the Merovingian Kings of France was not only heretical but also blasphemous.  And it is with this knowledge that I chanced upon an audiobook of Da Vinci Code Decoded for only P45 at a Book Sale branch in Megamall.

It was the last copy with 2 discs worth of interviews and information. I felt so lucky and couldn't wait to listen to it. And wonder why anyone rummaging through the store could have missed it.

                In the course of the week that I started listening to it repeatedly, I found myself in a Holy Grail frenzy and dug up my old and still unread copies of Holy Blood, Holy Grail as well as the Magdalene Legacy. I also had to watch the movie version of Da Vinci Code again and relished the moment when Sir Leigh Teabing, played brilliantly by Sir Ian McKellen would tell Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveau what the Grail was and who were the Priory of Scion. Such revealing moments can always be milked further for what they are worth.

                And as if it were not enough, here I am writing about what I have heard and digested so far from a week long act of repetitive listening. I shall divide them into 2 parts like the Audio Book and further detail them into bullet points for sub categorization. 

                The First disc was about the introduction to the supposed Code, the origin of the mystery itself and some unearthed facts or points of discovery about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

     a.       Sauniere’s Secret – The disc opens with the story of how a parish priest named Berenge Saunier, in the town of Rennes Le Chateau in the Languedoc region of France, found 4 parchments in a hollow Visigoth column of the Church back in 1891. Two of these documents were said to have comprised genealogies, one dating from 1244, and the other from 1644. The other two have been composed in the 1780’s by one of Saunier’s predecessors. The latter two documents contained some Gospel passages in Latin and contained a secret message by way of some letters which were raised slightly in the parchments, thereby highlighting their presence. 

These documents he brought to Paris and later returned to the humble town a rich man. Sauniere used this newly acquired fortune to refurbish the church, pave the roads from below the mountain leading up to the Church. Scholars say that the Sauniere was paid  huge sum of money to keep quiet for the documents he found jeopardized the Catholic Church in some way. 

The message on the parchment, later transcribed by Henry Lincoln (one of the author’s of Holy Blood, Holy Grail) read that the treasure belongs to Dagobert the 2nd and to Sion.  Prior to Saunier’s death, his sudden fortune was viewed upon with much suspicion and later attributed to the crime of Simony, which is receipt of payment by a priest to say mass in forgiveness of one’s sins. 

       b.   The Da Vinci Code Itself – This segment talked about the enigmatic genius of Da Vinci himself being a lot of things from being a scientist, a painter, a heretic and how he was dismayed at the developments being made by the Catholic Church. Being who he is, Da Vinci would later channel his frustration through his work for it was forbidden then to express his disappointment. Clive Prince, co-author of the book, The Templar Revelation, speaks of how it was his book that Dan Brown used to flesh out the ideas being conveyed & suggested by Da Vinci’s artwork. In fact, chapter 1 of the book was entitled, The Secret Code of Leonardo da Vinci.  

The authors continue on to speak that what sparked Da Vinci’s interest began with the Shroud of Turin, which turned out to be a hoax in fact. Experts in the 1980’s went as far as carbon dating the cloth itself and deduced that the cloth dates back to the 1200 or 1300’s. This result in itself already proves that the Shroud could not have been used to cover the body of Jesus, which in turn has imprinted his supposed face onto the cloth and thus has sparked much talk and controversy ever since.

Da Vinci himself is said to be the one responsible for the creation of the much debated Shroud as none of his paintings ever depicted the crucifixion, even if his paintings all totalled 17 and his subjects were major players in the hierarchy of the Catholic faith. One explanation of the Shroud is that it was burned on top of the layer of the fabric with the use of what we call, a camera obscurer. This is done with the use of light and some primitive form of camera imprint and goes as far as putting an image onto the cloth itself. Da Vinci apparently used his own, just for kicks. That was his sense of humor as speculated by the authors and experts. 

Da vinci himself was said to have the habit of painting his own image, very much like Alfred Hitchcock who would have cameo appearances in his own films. (Of course, I would add Marvel’s, Stan Lee, to that list now)

With that said, the conversation moves to the similar elements of Clive Prince’s book and Dan Brown’s; from the opening sequences of the novel involving the murder of Jacques Saunier, curator of the Louvre who was sprawled onto the floor just like the Petruvian Man of Da Vinci, to the hidden clues in his painting of the Last Supper.

The sprawled form of Saunier in the form of Da Vinci’s Petruvian Man represents a Pentacle; a pagan symbol of protection consisting of a 5 pointed star in the center of a circle which sadly is an image much maligned and misused by horror movies to depict dark rites involving Satanism. Clearly it is not so. (You have been informed) 

The authors also extensively narrate the clues that Da Vinci has in his painting of the Last Supper and it is the authors themselves who discovered these clues and not Dan Brown. (She just had to get that one in, I swear)

c.       Jesus & Mary: Fact and Fiction (Part 1)- Authors Lynn Picknett (Templar Revelation & Mary Magdelene: Christianity’s Lost Goddess and Henry Lincoln (Holy Blood, Holy Grail)  tackles the notion that Jesus in fact was married to Mary Magdalene and cites different scenarios to support their claim. Henry Lincoln also begins to make a clear distinction that what they are referring to was the historical case of Jesus, the Man of Nazareth and not Jesus, the subject of Faith. They are two different areas of discussion, he stresses. 

Henry Lincoln also says that what they discuss in their respective books is in no way an attack on the Catholic faith. For him, faith is a gift and it is also a choice that an individual makes based on what he is comfortable and on what believes. So in fact, nothing that they say should even matter to one who professes to have that faith and continually espouses that is rock solid and unshakeable. (Pretty much the same reasoning I told my trainees in my speech classes then when we talked about favorite books)

Lincoln continues on that what characterized their work was more of the search of a balance in probabilities. What was more real and easier to accept? That Jesus was born with traces if not origin stemming from Divine means, born of a Virgin, can walk on water and rose from the Dead? Or that Jesus was indeed married, like the requirement of Jews during his time for Jesus is considered a rabbi, had marital relations with Mary Magdalene who bore him a daughter after she escaped to France.

Author Margaret Starbird adds to the discussion of her own experience and how initially she found Holy Blood, Holy Grail, unreadable and blasphemous until she was flipping the pages of her scripture one day to chance upon a passage that says, “Behold my wife, she who is espoused to me.” That got her to read and make it a point to inform herself more and thus accept the hypothesis presented by Henry Lincoln that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were in fact married and Mary herself is the Holy Grail, bearing the child of Jesus and also representative of the sacred feminine and the lost bride. 

In her pursuit to know more, she also discovered that the said Anointing of Jesus as indicated in the Bible; in olden times have sexual connotations for it is a nuptial rite between the bride and groom. It was also common place then for a Rabbi to be married and Jesus certainly was considered one as well. In addition to that, Jesus, who is a descendant of the Davidic line, apart from his basic Jewish tradition, was required to marry and to sire (2) sons by the age of 40.  

The wedding at Cana that appears in the gospel of John doesn’t also specifically talk of the wedding but a scene wherein Mary, Jesus’ mother tells the servants to obey whatever Jesus tells them is indicative of the fact that apart from the groom in a wedding nuptial, no one else has “authority” to command servants to perform tasks for him.

Mary Magdalene, whose identity is combined as Mary the sister of Lazarus, as it was, is present once more at that wedding and was said to have anointed Jesus with a type of oil called, Spikenard; only be used by those of the Davidic line (Descended from King David). She is also the same Mary who is spoken of in Holy Blood, Holy Grail not to mention talked about in the coast of France, responsible for bringing the Holy Grail there.

The Holy Grail which in old French is called Sangraal, does mean “Holy Grail” when one divides the word after the letter “N’. But it takes on a newer meaning when one divides the word after the letter “G”. And to do that, it would give it a new translation which means, “Royal or Holy Blood”. And of course, holy blood is not contained in a jar sealed tightly with a lid but one that flows in the veins of a child. 

Dr. James Robinson, noted Bible scholar and author of the English Library of the Gnostic Gospels says that history has confounded things because of too many Mary’s mentioned and that she is generalized as only one Mary who was a prostitute and washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. The Church merely consolidated these accounts of different Mary’s and fused them into one.

Mary Magdalene herself is described in the same Gnostic gospels (written in an older language called COPTIC) as a frequent recipient of Jesus’ kisses on her mouth. This already confirms that Jesus was a man, was married, was conforming to the requirements of his Jewish tradition and had a family. Lynn Picknett adds that one of the lost & forbidden Gospels, called the Gospel of Thomas, was purposely taken and excised from the New Testament because an entry in it tells of a time when Peter often questions Jesus and of his frequent display of affection towards Mary Magdalene. The Gnostic gospels themselves refer to Mary Magdalene as the “Koinonos” which literally means, “Consort”.  

The Church knowing the influence that Mary Magdalene has on Jesus fears that women would take upon her example and would assert themselves accordingly. This already shows why the Church has never been open to women holding any form of clerical office in their Hierarchy much less assert themselves and gain power. This in turn gives rise to the belief that perhaps Jesus actually left his ministry to Mary and not to Peter. 

Lynn Picknett closes the first disc by citing that some lost Gospels actually tells of Peter telling Jesus that Mary Magdalene is not be included in their circle, for women are not worthy. Another entry speaks of Mary herself coming to Jesus and telling him that Peter hates her and has threatened to kill her. This personal prejudice and bias already is the seed on which later on why Peter claims that he is the Rock, for he felt that no one else is worthy save him, especially women and most especially Mary Magdalene. It prefigures why the Church has this misogynist attitude towards women. It started with its founder.

      By the time I reached the end of the first disc, I was riled up and couldn’t stop. I had to go on.

d.      Jesus & Mary: Fact and Fiction (Part 2)- The second disc continues the discussion with author Dan Bursnstein (Secrets of the Code) saying that in Jesus’ time, it was not uncommon to have female religious leaders. Mary Magdalene can be said was the leading figure in the feminist movement at that time.  

In 1958, a letter was discovered in a monastery near Jerusalem. The letter which was written by Bishop Clement of Alexandria and received by Theodore, states and requests that (2) parts from the Book of Mark be omitted. The first part describes Lazarus crying out of the tomb when in our present version says him to be dead. What in fact happened was that Lazarus was excommunicated. And the standing rule then was that if the person involved was not delivered within the period of (4) days, then his soul is thus barred and banished to hell forevermore. On the 3rd day, Jesus got to hear of it and made plans to restore him to his previous status. This thus brings Lazarus back into the fold and “back to life”. 

The second part of the letter depicts Jesus and his apostles visiting the house of Mary and Martha.  In the current version, it tells of Mary’s hesitancy and reticence in going out the house upon Jesus’ arrival. The original Book of Mark states that Mary actually stepped out of the house and if the old law were to be applied then, it is only the wife, upon being given permission by the husband, who is able to leave the house, for women back then are confined to their homes and are not permitted to go out.  This once more adds strength, if not proof, to the idea that Mary Magdalene had indeed been married to Jesus. And because they were married, her role in Jesus’ life is nothing short of integral. This includes his ministry and even his death.

Jesus’ death, the dying and rising god, also draws much parallelism among the other Goddess worship cults during the time of Rome. Some of these drew their liturgy from Greek and also Egyptian lore. These included Dionysus, Adonis, and most specially Isis and Osiris.

 One scene, that author Lynn Picknett, finds interesting is when Mary Magdalene bumps onto one of the Apostles on the street, upon news of Jesus’ resurrection. She doesn’t recognize him in her emotional state and when asked why she was crying, she replies that she is distraught for her lord has been taken away and she knows not where he is. That line, according to Lynn, is the exact line that is said in the Osiris mystery plays that are enacted during yearly festivals dedicated to Osiris and Isis. In Egyptian lore, Osiris was torn to pieces by his brother Seth and his body parts all scattered throughout Egypt and Isis ends up wandering throughout the land and crying that she knows not where her lord has been taken and she is distraught.

    e.      The Constantine Conspiracy – The question thrown to these authors for this segment of the Audio Book was if 4th Century Emperor, Constantine of Rome, ever re-wrote the Bible in order to gain control of Rome’s growing Christian populace.  

Dan Burnstein begins that Constantine is one of the misunderstood figures of history. He says that Constantine, who then is known to be a very superstitious pagan, most probably converted to Christianity on his deathbed and whose curiosity was initially aroused when upon return from battle noticed that some of his Christian soldiers have carved crosses on their shield and returned unharmed and unscathed. 

He often spoke of his desire to unify Rome. What he and his advisers saw in Christianity was a political opportunity to bring the different disparate states of Rome together. He also saw this as another opening to bring Emperor and Pope closer together and assure him of that further desire to expand the Roman Empire; all possible under one belief system that was also growing among the Roman populace.

Dr. James Robinson continues on and elaborates that Constantine also saw the advantages of Christianity for most of his soldiers were Christians. And to continue to be true to his pagan ways, will most certainly not endear him to his troops. No Christian soldier would be motivated to fight the wars of a pagan king. He thus all too conveniently reveals a vision of a cross in the sky and it is by this sign of a vision that his battle will be won. Of course, his troops upon hearing this quickly rallied to his cause and subsequently won the battle.  

Other authors added that Constantine’s father was actually the one who started jumping on the bandwagon of Christianity after seeing similarities in it among the two prevailing religions at that time which were Sol Invictus and Mithraism. Some of the Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter have directly been lifted from these religions. Constantine also ordered that all documents prior to his century be burned and destroyed and the Gospels since then have been rewritten.  

Scholars, linguists and bible experts also are in agreement that the Gospels that we know now to be the definitive version have actually been written (at their earliest) 30-40 years after Jesus’ time or 100 or 120 years after, at their latest. Dan Burnstein says that it’s like having his grandchild write about the impeachment of Bill Clinton when even a year after that actual event, most people have already forgotten about it, much less the details surrounding that incident. And to take Dan Brown’s suggestion a step further, the Gospels were actually chosen from a handful of other accounts. In effect, someone edits and gets to choose which segments to include and which to take out, based on their own preference if not religious standards.  

Further talk leads to the Knights Templar who are said to be not just a real historical organization, occupying the Temple mount in Jerusalem and figuring greatly during the Crusades but were also the earliest bankers to the Church, the ambassadors of its power. The Knights were in a way, the playboys of that century; being able to do almost anything and most of the populace wanting to be like them and be in the elite group.

They were that strong and influential that King Phillip the 4th of France, who actually owes them money and Pope Clement the 5th orchestrated their execution based on a fabricated charge on Friday the 13th, in the year 1307.

f.        Lynn Picknett on Jesus – Author Lynn Picknett describes the stories of Jesus performing miracles and accounts of supernatural if not magical fea tsare nothing short of an Egyptian conjurer. She says this as she references another book written by another author entitled Jesus: The Magician. The author of this book tells accounts of Jesus magically writing on the sand and the accounts of walking on water and these are basic elements of what an Egyptian conjurer or itinerant magician would be doing. 

She adds that people of that time were extremely superstitious and it wouldn’t be too far from the imagination to picture this “exotic” group of people along with a probably exotic looking Mary Magdalene coming into the village and gets their attention by all these feats of magic and after that delivers his message. It was just like Barnum and Bailey circus and heralding the arrival of the Greatest show on Earth. And since Jesus himself also spent a lot of time in Egypt, he was thus surrounded with a lot of mysticism, the occult and magical lore.

She goes on to saying that Catholics have Christian cult busters where they note down the qualities of a cult leader and tell people to stay away from. Applying these to Jesus, he would most certainly and ironically fit the bill and every box that bears the quality of thinking he was partly divine, asked to leave one’s family and parents, and promises sole and eternal salvation through them would most certainly be ticked off and checked!

Now, there were other topics of similar interests nearing the end of the 2nd and final disc that were also talked about like the early and common notions of the Grail, the controversy about the placement and importance of John the Baptist in Jesus’ life and in Da Vinci’s works like Madonna of the Rocks and others. 

All in all, these scholarly debates and academic speculation about what Jesus is, what he could be or could not be will most certainly be around as he is one of if not the most important figure in history. His influence and reach, whether one is indeed a devout Catholic or decides to be selective of his teachings, is undeniable and almost everywhere.

What I take from listening to these accounts and talks of history being re-written in order to benefit a chosen few, is not to take anything at face value. I loved the spark that Dan Brown’s novel has done. It has prodded people to once again ask questions and to further supplement their own search for personal truth. Because one cannot really impose one’s faith on another, especially if one is not ready or open to it. I, being a Wiccan, certainly understand the need for personal space and the respect that comes along with it. We cannot help when we are not asked. We cannot also give what we do not have either.

So I end this blog by taking a quote from the current book that I am finishing which is The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova and it says, Faith is what is real to you.

And because what is real, by way of personal experiences and perception, to another may not be true of his or her neighbour, then might be also said the same of practices? In this case, religious beliefs and what we deem to real and truthful to us. To each his own indeed. So stop the hate and embrace love.

There is nothing wrong with diversity nor is there in exclusivity. But to exclude the truth for the benefit of those who sought to manipulate the means to benefit their ends, then that is wrong. And it is there where the line must be drawn.  Who should draw it then? Scholars? Historians? Bibliphiles? Christians? Jews? Students? The Government?

The debate can go on as to who deserves it. But one thing remains; and that the search for truth continues. Live for the truth. Live with truth. Be true to yourself and to what you want. For it is there, that lies the greatest treasure; there lies the purpose of the quest.

And that for me, is the truth.