Friday, November 23, 2007

So, Jesus was a Space Alien?

Iconography is the study of the subject matter of antique, didactic art. A few posts ago we looked at an analysis of a personification of Saturn by a long-time Tarot enthusiast. He was unable to recognize or unwilling to admit the typical attributes of Saturn. Today we'll examine another analysis, again by someone who has been doing this sort of thing for many years and considers herself a scholar. She does recognize Saturn, this time the ringed planet itself, but in a very odd place. The post was to the same Tarot forum as the previous example, only a few days later.

Am I imagining it, or is the 'word of God' being drawn here as Saturn... descending in the beam of light? If so.. why Saturn?

Exactly what neo-Pagan fantasy was being indulged here is difficult to guess. However, the linked image was an Annunciation, one of the most popular subjects in late-medieval and Renaissance art. This particular version was by the Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio, painted in 1504, a scene from a cycle of the life of Mary. In the upper-left is God the Father, who is sending the Holy Spirit to Mary in the lower-right, while Gabriel occupies the lower-left. These conventional elements are instantly recognizable to anyone who has any familiarity with period art, even in a very poor reproduction, but they mean little or nothing to Tarot enthusiasts. Another poster was more open minded in his reading of the detail, asking "Why Saturn?"

Saturn isn't the only ringed planet -- it could be Uranus. Maybe it just represents "planets" and not a specific planet because a "ball" might not be seen as a planet symbol.

Indeed. So another poster helpfully invented a rationale for the Saturn interpretation.

Coincidentally I was reading an astrology book last night, that describes Saturn as the entry point for the incarnating soul. (As the most distant of the tradition planets, it takes a role like a gate of entry for the journey of incarnation, if I am understanding correctly). So in that context Saturn would be very appropriate, whether it was intended or not.

This is another breathtakingly vapid and sadly typical example of the common methodology of both traditional occultists (although even they were not ignorant enough to commit this particular blunder) and modern New Age nitwits. First, something that is not understood in the least is dissected, and some detail is taken out of context. Then an anachronistic interpretation is attached, based on preconceptions and free association. Such interpretations are often initially presented as "possibilities" or phrased as a question, before further speculation is layered on and eventually the nonsense is taken as a given, forming a basis for subsequent inventions.

The next step might have been to observe that the image interpreted as the ringed planet Saturn could just as easily be interpreted as a UFO. Why not? If we're just making up stories based on blurry details taken out of context, and if we're going to craft our tales to appeal to New Age preconceptions, it's a small step from neo-Pagan astrology to the edges of the Fortean Fringe. Of course, if the Virgin were impregnated by an energy beam from a flying saucer, as seemingly illustrated in the crappy JPEG image, that would mean that the baby Jesus was a alien-human hybrid. This would explain so many things that the idea cannot be dismissed without serious consideration... except that our would-be art historians didn't get quite that far. There were some rational people watching the forum that day. One of them bothered to look at a better image, posting a link and this note.

There's a dove visible in this larger image. Took maybe five minutes to find it.

Not to be too critical, but it should have taken about 30 seconds. A great wealth of art is available at the Web Gallery of Art, in relatively decent quality JPEGs, making it the preferred first stop for such material.

Tragically, no alien-human Jesus need be posited. Nor was Saturn the father of Jesus, which might have had unpleasant implications, given Cronus' taste for infanticide. The detail that was obscured in the small, poor quality JPEG, which was perversely interpreted as the planet Saturn, was in fact exactly what any rational person would expect: the Holy Spirit in its most conventional depiction, a dove. In a better quality reproduction this was immediately apparent even to those who fail to understand the subject matter of the picture. (Not that they admitted their cringe-worthy howler, but they did move on to other fantasies on other threads.) But there was more -- another rationalist posted. There was more context to consider than just the rest of the picture and centuries of Annunciation paintings and the entire history of Catholic teachings. There was also the anachronism of seeing Saturn's rings at all.

I don't see Saturn's rings in this picture. No one saw Saturn's rings in 1504. No one saw them until Galileo looked with his telescope in 1610. The rings are invisible to the naked eye.

Those damned historical facts... always getting in the way. The alien-hybrid Jesus theory might have worked out really well, if it had only been given a chance to grow, to be molded and incorporated into the larger body of Ufology, maybe linking up at some point with the Holy Blood, Holy Grail lore... a chance to flourish without those hyper-critical fact-checking... aw, never mind.

The Annunciation (Vittore Carpaccio)