26 August 2006

In Theology There Is No Novelty Without Danger

Filed under: First Lines — ktismatics @ 4:38 pm

The gardens ravaged, the altars and chalices profaned, the Huns rode their horses into the monastery library and mangled the incomprehensible books and reviled and burned them – fearful perhaps that the letters of the books might harbor blasphemies against their god, which was a scimitar of iron.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Theologians”


A palpable nostalgia broods over a beginning catastrophe. Of course the gardens were paradisiacal; of course the holy vessels, untarnished and empty, had graced the sacred space. The codices and palimpsests, whose subtle illuminations granted iconic access to the thrones of heaven itself – had they fueled the very holocaust that consumed them? Annealing themselves in those enflamed words, the worshippers of the forged blade bridled their ungainly horses as, tentative and ashamed, they pawed the ashes.

Though the labyrinthine gardens had for a time perplexed the victorious riders, they had come to know that in such places the heart and the mind are one. In their legends the garden itself was the center; in their conquests they would fight themselves as, breathing the scented and bowered air, they maintained their soldierly discipline until the devastation was fulfilled.

The altars they recognized but did not fear, for their god had been born of fire. But the books? That the monks would seek protection from their books seemed madness, for the monks themselves had made them, had rendered them vulnerable. It was an honor to destroy those who would render homage to such weakness.

When, seeking tribute and refreshment, the riders returned to the monastery, they would not find the scriptorium where the monks labored, bringing forth the fragile new gods of their infinite pantheon.


Rules of engagement. Freud drew our attention to the obvious — that all the people who occupy our dreams come from within our own imaginings. Does this make them also part of ourselves?



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