Saturday, 18 June 2016

Jacob's Ladder

 

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For other uses, see Jacob's Ladder (disambiguation).
"Ladder to Heaven" redirects here. For the South Park episode, see A Ladder to Heaven.
Picture of the Jacob's Ladder in the original Luther Bibles (of 1534 and also 1545)
Jacob's Dream by William Blake (c. 1805, British Museum, London)[1]
Jacob's Ladder (Hebrew: Sulam Yaakov סולם יעקב) is the colloquial name for a connection between the earth and heaven that the biblical Patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau, as described in the Book of Genesis. The significance of the dream has been somewhat debated, but most interpretations agree that it identified Jacob with the obligations and inheritance of the ethnic people chosen by God, as understood in the Judeo-Christian-Islam panoply. It has since been used as a symbolic reference in various other contexts.


Sources[edit]

The description of Jacob's ladder appears in Genesis 28:10-19:
Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it [or "beside him"] and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you." Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Afterwards, Jacob names the place, "Bethel" (literally, "House of God").

Judaism[edit]

The classic Torah commentaries offer several interpretations of Jacob's ladder. According to the Midrash, the ladder signified the exiles which the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Messiah. First the angel representing the 70-year exile of Babylonia climbed "up" 70 rungs, and then fell "down". Then the angel representing the exile of Persia went up a number of steps, and fell, as did the angel representing the exile of Greece. Only the fourth angel, which represented the final exile of Rome/Edom (whose guardian angel was Esau himself), kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Jacob feared that his children would never be free of Esau's domination, but God assured him that at the End of Days, Edom too would come falling down.[citation needed]
Another interpretation of the ladder keys into the fact that the angels first "ascended" and then "descended". The Midrash explains that Jacob, as a holy man, was always accompanied by angels. When he reached the border of the land of Canaan (the future land of Israel), the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land went back up to Heaven and the angels assigned to other lands came down to meet Jacob. When Jacob returned to Canaan he was greeted by the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land.
Yet another interpretation is this: The place at which Jacob stopped for the night was in reality Mount Moriah, the future home of the Temple in Jerusalem.[citation needed] The ladder therefore signifies the "bridge" between Heaven and earth, as prayers and sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple soldered a connection between God and the Jewish people. Moreover, the ladder alludes to the giving of the Torah as another connection between heaven and earth. In this interpretation, it is also significant that the Hebrew word for ladder, sulam (סלם) and the name for the mountain on which the Torah was given, Sinai (סיני) have the same gematria (numerical value of the letters).
The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo, born in Alexandria, (d. ca. 50 CE) presents his allegorical interpretation of the ladder in the first book of his De somniis. There he gives four interpretations, which are not mutually exclusive:[2]
  • The angels represent souls descending to and ascending from bodies (some consider this to be Philo's clearest reference to the doctrine of reincarnation).
  • In the second interpretation the ladder is the human soul and the angels are God's logoi, pulling the soul up in distress and descending in compassion.
  • In the third view the dream depicts the ups and downs of the life of the "practiser" (of virtue vs. sin).
  • Finally the angels represent the continually changing affairs of men.
A hilltop overlooking the Israeli settlement of Beit El north of Jerusalem that is believed by some to be the site of Jacob's dream is a tourist destination during the holiday of Sukkot.[3]

Christianity[edit]

Jesus said in John 1:51 "And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." This statement has been interpreted as associating or implicating Jesus with the mythical ladder.[citation needed]
The theme of a ladder to heaven is often used by the Church Fathers. Irenaeus in the second century describes the Christian Church as the "ladder of ascent to God".[4]
In the third century, Origen[5] explains that there are two ladders in the life of a Christian, the ascetic ladder that the soul climbs on the earth, by way of—and resulting in—an increase in virtue, and the soul's travel after death, climbing up the heavens towards the light of God.
In the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus[6] speaks of ascending Jacob's Ladder by successive steps towards excellence, interpreting the ladder as an ascetic path, while Saint Gregory of Nyssa narrates[7] that Moses climbed on Jacob's Ladder to reach the heavens where he entered the tabernacle not made with hands, thus giving the Ladder a clear mystical meaning. The ascetic interpretation is found also in Saint John Chrysostom, who writes:
"And so mounting as it were by steps, let us get to heaven by a Jacob’s ladder. For the ladder seems to me to signify in a riddle by that vision the gradual ascent by means of virtue, by which it is possible for us to ascend from earth to heaven, not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners."[8]
Jacob's Ladder as an analogy for the spiritual ascetic of life had a large diffusion through the classical work The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus.
Furthermore, Jesus can be seen as being the ladder, in that Christ bridges the gap between Heaven and Earth. Jesus presents himself as the reality to which the ladder points; as Jacob saw in a dream the reunion of Heaven and Earth, Jesus brought this reunion, metaphorically the ladder, into reality. Adam Clarke, an early 19th-century Methodist theologian and Bible scholar, elaborates:
That by the angels of God ascending and descending, is to be understood, that a perpetual intercourse should now be opened between heaven and earth, through the medium of Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh. Our blessed Lord is represented in his mediatorial capacity as the ambassador of God to men; and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, is a metaphor taken from the custom of dispatching couriers or messengers from the prince to his ambassador in a foreign court, and from the ambassador back to the prince.[9]

Gallery[edit]

Pseudepigraphic apocalyptic literature[edit]

The narrative of Jacob's Ladder was used, shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple in the Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE), as basis for the pseudepigraphic Ladder of Jacob. This writing, preserved only in Old Church Slavonic, interprets the experience of Patriarchs in the context of Merkabah mysticism.

Islam[edit]

Jacob is revered in Islam as a prophet and patriarch. Muslim scholars, especially of the perennialist tradition,[clarification needed] drew a parallel with Jacob's vision of the ladder and Muhammad's event of the Mi'raj.[10] The ladder of Jacob was interpreted by Muslims to be one of the many symbols of God, and many saw Jacob's ladder as representing in its form the essence of Islam, which emphasizes following the "straight path". The twentieth-century scholar Martin Lings described the significance of the ladder in the Islamic mystic perspective:
The ladder of the created Universe is the ladder which appeared in a dream to Jacob, who saw it stretching from Heaven to earth, with Angels going up and down upon it; and it is also the "straight path", for indeed the way of religion is none other than the way of creation itself retraced from its end back to its Beginning.[11]

Cultural references[edit]

Jacob's Ladder has been depicted in many artworks the largest of which is the facade of Bath Abbey in England where sculptures depict angels climbing up and down ladders on either side of the main window on the west front.
The name has also been applied to a number of outdoor public staircases throughout the world noted for their steepness where the religious derivation is not immediately obvious.
  • Auckland and Saint Clair, in Dunedin New Zealand.
  • Brisbane, Townsville, Cockburn, Perth and Castle Hill, Queensland in Australia.
  • Ramsgate, Sidmouth, Falmouth, York Castle, Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, Wenlock Edge at Eaton-under-Heywood, Shropshire, Alton Towers & the Cheddar Gorge in England
  • Edinburgh, Newtyle, Oban, West Dunbartonshire & Finnich Glen in Scotland.
  • Devil's Bridgea, Ceredigion, in Wales.
  • Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • Wuppertal, Germany
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Waco, Texas, Chester in western Massachusetts, Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire and a State Park in New York, USA.
  • Jamestown on the island of St Helena - this example has 699 steps, it is 900 ft in length, and ascends 600 ft (183m). It is the longest straight staircase in the world.
  • Falmouth, Cornwall, UK
There are also several songs derived from Jacob's Ladder, a number of toys, video games, two novels and at least one motion picture.
A type of plant (a Polemonium) is commonly called Jacob's Ladder.
The term is also used for a type of nautical rigging, a type of obstacle course involving rope ladders as well as at least two mathematical problems. Most poetic, and closest to the Biblical source, is the use of the term to describe the Crepuscular rays shining down a hole in the clouds.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (eds.). "Jacob's Dream, object 1 (Butlin 438) "Jacob's Dream"". William Blake Archive. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 
  2. Jump up ^ Verman, Mark (Fall 2005). "Reincarnation in Jewish Mysticism and Gnosticism (review)". Shofar 24 (1): 173–175. doi:10.1353/sho.2005.0206. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  3. Jump up ^ Bresky, Ben (30 September 2012). "Sukkot Music Events Abound in Israel". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  4. Jump up ^ Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III,24,1
  5. Jump up ^ Origen, Homily n. 27 on Numbers, about Nm 33:1–2
  6. Jump up ^ Gregory of Nazianzus, Homily n. 43 (Funeral Oration on the Great S. Basil), 71
  7. Jump up ^ Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses 224-227
  8. Jump up ^ John Chrysostom, The Homilies on the Gospel of St. John n. 83,5., Text from CCEL
  9. Jump up ^ Clarke, Adam (1817). The holy Bible, from the authorized tr., with a comm. and critical notes by A. Clarke. 
  10. Jump up ^ The Vision of Islam, Murata and Chittick, Pg. 84
  11. Jump up ^ The Book of Certainty, Martin Lings, Pg. 51
  • Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (1993). The Chumash. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications.

External links[edit]

Artistic inspiration

 

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A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Inspiration (from the Latin inspirare, meaning "to breathe into") refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. The concept has origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism. The Greeks believed that inspiration or "enthusiasm" came from the muses, as well as the gods Apollo and Dionysus. Similarly, in the Ancient Norse religions, inspiration derives from the gods, such as Odin. Inspiration is also a divine matter in Hebrew poetics. In the Book of Amos the prophet speaks of being overwhelmed by God's voice and compelled to speak. In Christianity, inspiration is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
In the 18th century philosopher John Locke proposed a model of the human mind in which ideas associate or resonate with one another in the mind. In the 19th century, Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Shelley believed that inspiration came to a poet because the poet was attuned to the (divine or mystical) "winds" and because the soul of the poet was able to receive such visions. In the early 20th century, Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud located inspiration in the inner psyche of the artist. Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung's theory of inspiration suggests that an artist is one who was attuned to racial memory, which encoded the archetypes of the human mind.
The Marxist theory of art sees it as the expression of the friction between economic base and economic superstructural positions, or as an unaware dialog of competing ideologies, or as an exploitation of a "fissure" in the ruling class's ideology. In modern psychology inspiration is not frequently studied, but it is generally seen as an entirely internal process.


History of the concepts[edit]

Ancient models of inspiration[edit]

In Greek thought, inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods' or goddesses own thoughts to embody.
Inspiration is prior to consciousness and outside of skill (ingenium in Latin). Technique and performance are independent of inspiration, and therefore it is possible for the non-poet to be inspired and for a poet or painter's skill to be insufficient to the inspiration. In Hebrew poetics, inspiration is similarly a divine matter. In the Book of Amos, 3:8 the prophet speaks of being overwhelmed by God's voice and compelled to speak. However, inspiration is also a matter of revelation for the prophets, and the two concepts are intermixed to some degree. Revelation is a conscious process, where the writer or painter is aware and interactive with the vision, while inspiration is involuntary and received without any complete understanding.
In Christianity, inspiration is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul said that all scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy) and the account of Pentecost records the Holy Spirit descending with the sound of a mighty wind. This understanding of "inspiration" is vital for those who maintain Biblical literalism, for the authors of the scriptures would, if possessed by the voice of God, not "filter" or interpose their personal visions onto the text. For church fathers like Saint Jerome, David was the perfect poet, for he best negotiated between the divine impulse and the human consciousness.
In northern societies, such as Old Norse, inspiration was likewise associated with a gift of the gods. As with the Greek, Latin, and Romance literatures, Norse bards were inspired by a magical and divine state and then shaped the words with their conscious minds. Their training was an attempt to learn to shape forces beyond the human. In the Venerable Bede's account of Cædmon, the Christian and later Germanic traditions combine. Cædmon was a herder with no training or skill at verse. One night, he had a dream where Jesus asked him to sing. He then composed Cædmon's Hymn, and from then on was a great poet. Inspiration in the story is the product of grace: it is unsought (though desired), uncontrolled, and irresistible, and the poet's performance involves his whole mind and body, but it is fundamentally a gift.

Renaissance revival of furor poeticus[edit]

The Greco-Latin doctrine of the divine origin of poetry was available to medieval authors through the writings of Horace (on Orpheus) and others, but it was the Latin translations and commentaries by the neo-platonic author Marsilio Ficino of Plato's dialogues Ion and (especially) Phaedrus at the end of the 15th century that led to a significant return of the conception of furor poeticus.[1] Ficino's commentaries explained how gods inspired the poets, and how this frenzy was subsequently transmitted to the poet's auditors through his rhapsodic poetry, allowing the listener to come into contact with the divine through a chain of inspiration. Ficino himself sought to experience ecstatic rapture in rhapsodic performances of Orphic-Platonic hymns accompanied by a lyre.[2]
The doctrine was also an important part of the poetic program of the French Renaissance poets collectively referred to as La Pléiade (Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay, etc.); a full theory of divine fury / enthusiasm was elaborated by Pontus de Tyard in his Solitaire Premier, ou Prose des Muses, et de la fureur poétique (Tyard classified four kinds of divine inspiration: (1) poetic fury, gift of the Muses; (2) knowledge of religious mysteries, through Bacchus; (3) prophecy and divination through Apollo; (4) inspiration brought on by Venus/Eros.)[1]

Enlightenment and Romantic models[edit]

In the 18th century in England, nascent psychology competed with a renascent celebration of the mystical nature of inspiration. John Locke's model of the human mind suggested that ideas associate with one another and that a string in the mind can be struck by a resonant idea. Therefore, inspiration was a somewhat random but wholly natural association of ideas and sudden unison of thought. Additionally, Lockean psychology suggested that a natural sense or quality of mind allowed persons to see unity in perceptions and to discern differences in groups. This "fancy" and "wit," as they were later called, were both natural and developed faculties that could account for greater or lesser insight and inspiration in poets and painters.
The musical model was satirized, along with the afflatus, and "fancy" models of inspiration, by Jonathan Swift in A Tale of a Tub. Swift's narrator suggests that madness is contagious because it is a ringing note that strikes "chords" in the minds of followers and that the difference between an inmate of Bedlam and an emperor was what pitch the insane idea was. At the same time, he satirized "inspired" radical Protestant ministers who preached through "direct inspiration." In his prefatory materials, he describes the ideal dissenter's pulpit as a barrel with a tube running from the minister's posterior to a set of bellows at the bottom, whereby the minister could be inflated to such an extent that he could shout out his inspiration to the congregation. Furthermore, Swift saw fancy as an antirational, mad quality, where, "once a man's fancy gets astride his reason, common sense is kick't out of doors."
The divergent theories of inspiration that Swift satirized would continue, side by side, through the 18th and 19th centuries. Edward Young's Conjectures on Original Composition was pivotal in the formulation of Romantic notions of inspiration. He said that genius is "the god within" the poet who provides the inspiration. Thus, Young agreed with psychologists who were locating inspiration within the personal mind (and significantly away from the realm either of the divine or demonic) and yet still positing a supernatural quality. Genius was an inexplicable, possibly spiritual and possibly external, font of inspiration. In Young's scheme, the genius was still somewhat external in its origin, but Romantic poets would soon locate its origin wholly within the poet. Romantic writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Poet), and Percy Bysshe Shelley saw inspiration in terms similar to the Greeks: it was a matter of madness and irrationality.
Inspiration came because the poet tuned himself to the (divine or mystical) "winds" and because he was made in such a way as to receive such visions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's accounts of inspiration were the most dramatic, and his The Eolian Harp was only the best of the many poems Romantics would write comparing poetry to a passive reception and natural channelling of the divine winds. The story he told about the composition of Kubla Khan has the poet reduced to the level of scribe. William Butler Yeats would later experiment and value automatic writing. Inspiration was evidence of genius, and genius was a thing that the poet could take pride in, even though he could not claim to have created it himself.

Modernist and modern concepts[edit]

Sigmund Freud and other later psychologists located inspiration in the inner psyche of the artist. The artist's inspiration came out of unresolved psychological conflict or childhood trauma. Further, inspiration could come directly from the subconscious. Like the Romantic genius theory and the revived notion of "poetic phrenzy," Freud saw artists as fundamentally special, and fundamentally wounded. Because Freud situated inspiration in the subconscious mind, Surrealist artists sought out this form of inspiration by turning to dream diaries and automatic writing, the use of Ouija boards and found poetry to try to tap into what they saw as the true source of art. Carl Gustav Jung's theory of inspiration reiterated the other side of the Romantic notion of inspiration indirectly by suggesting that an artist is one who was attuned to something impersonal, something outside of the individual experience: racial memory.
Materialist theories of inspiration again diverge between purely internal and purely external sources. Karl Marx did not treat the subject directly, but the Marxist theory of art sees it as the expression of the friction between economic base and economic superstructural positions, or as an unaware dialog of competing ideologies, or as an exploitation of a "fissure" in the ruling class's ideology. Therefore, where there have been fully Marxist schools of art, such as Soviet Realism, the "inspired" painter or poet was also the most class-conscious painter or poet, and "formalism" was explicitly rejected as decadent (e.g. Sergei Eisenstein's late films condemned as "formalist error"). Outside of state-sponsored Marxist schools, Marxism has retained its emphasis on the class consciousness of the inspired painter or poet, but it has made room for what Frederic Jameson called a "political unconscious" that might be present in the artwork. However, in each of these cases, inspiration comes from the artist being particularly attuned to receive the signals from an external crisis.
In modern psychology, inspiration is not frequently studied, but it is generally seen as an entirely internal process. In each view, however, whether empiricist or mystical, inspiration is, by its nature, beyond control.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jump up to: a b Grahame Castor. Pléiade Poetics: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Thought and Terminology. Cambridge University Press: 1964, pp. 26–31.
  2. Jump up ^ Michael J. B. Allen. "Renaissance Neoplatonism." The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Vol III: The Renaissance. Glyn P. Norton, ed. Cambridge U: 1999, pp. 436-438. ISBN 0-521-30008-8.
  • Brogan, T.V.F. "Inspiration" in Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds., The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. 609-610.


Georgiana Houghton

 

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Georgiana Houghton
Georgiana Houghton (1814–1884) was a British artist and spiritualist medium.[1]
Houghton was born in Las Palmas but later moved to London. She began producing 'spirit' drawings in 1859 at private séances. She produced her watercolour drawings to the public at an exhibition at the New British Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1871.[2]
Houghton became associated with the fraudulent spirit photographer Frederick Hudson to sell reproductions of his photographs.[3][4]
In 1882, Houghton published Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings and Phenomena Invisible to the Material Eye. The book included alleged spirit photographs from Hudson and other photographers featuring mediums such as Agnes Guppy-Volckman, Stainton Moses and spiritualists Alfred Russel Wallace and William Howitt.[5] The photographs in the book were criticized by magic historian Albert A. Hopkins. He noted how the photographs looked dubious and could easily be produced by fraudulent methods.[6]

Publications[edit]

  • Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings and Phenomena Invisible to the Material Eye (1882)
  • Evenings at Home in Spiritual Séance (1882)

References[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ Tucker, Jennifer. (2013). Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-4214-1093-7
  2. Jump up ^ Smith, Bernard. (1998). Modernism's History: A Study in Twentieth-century Art and Ideas. University of New South Wales. p. 70. ISBN 0-86840-736-4
  3. Jump up ^ Østermark-Johansen, Lene. (2014). Walter Pater: Imaginary Portraits. The Modern Humanities Research Association. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-1-907322-55-6
  4. Jump up ^ Ball, Philip. (2015). Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen. University of Chicago Press. p. 73. ISBN 9780226238890
  5. Jump up ^ Willburn, Sarah A. (2006). Possessed Victorians: Extra Spheres in Nineteenth-century Mystical Writings. Ashgate. p. 59. ISBN 0-7546-5540-7
  6. Jump up ^ Hopkins, Albert A. (1897). Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography. Sampson Low, Marston and Company. pp. 432–438