An Interesting Note on Compartmentallization


from God's Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

[referring to the Translators' notes on "The Song of Songs."]

That aching gap, between the ecstatic sexulaity of the poem and of the rather helpful and intersting notes which the Translators provide, might make us smile now, but it was clearly not a comic effect that the Jacobean Translators were after. The modern reaction to their binding of the religious and the erotic experience is a measure of what Eliot called the 'dissociation of sensibility' that occurred to English consciousness at some time later in the seventeenth century. We can no longer imagine that erotic passion and religious intelligence can be bound together into one living fabric. All we see in the commentary of Chaderton's company is what looks like their prudishness, their refusal to see the erotic and the passionate for what it is. But in doing that, we patronise them, we assume they were trying to conceal what they were so clearly and self-consciously making vital and present.

I have often wondered about this--about the lack of blood in the Crucifixion, that so easily got critics worked up about its violence, about the santization of religion, the removal from it, even in Catholic circles of some of the elements of sexuality. We tend to shy away from the overtly sexual imagery of the Song of Songs, to allegorize it before we have even absorbed it. The erotic and the passionate have little place in the sphere of modern religious sensibility. And perhaps that is the way the pendulum swings right now. At other times, it well could have been quite different.

But I recall an example in my own life, one that I occasionally still grapply with. I remember reading or hearing that the Chassidim, a group within Judaism that I do not sufficiently understand well enouogh to explain, were regarded among the very finest people for the diamond industry because of their strict scrupulosity in all money matters. And I remember upon first hearing it thinking, "How can turly religious people desire to make a lot of money?" For me their was a discrepancy between seeking money or wealth and religion. And yet, it is not money that is evil, it is the pursuit of money and the love of money above all else. I had somehow come by a generalilzation that suggested that money equalled a lack of a holy life. And certainly, that can happen. But didn't Jesus tell us "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I would assume that if one's first goal were always the love and service owed to God, then it would be perfectly all right to work at whatever profession.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 23, 2004 11:39 AM.

Blog Images was the previous entry in this blog.

A Prayer of John Bruen is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll