Saturday, October 9, 2010

The anti-occult Tempest - a preview

Caliban, Miranda and Prospero

Anyone concerned with occult influences on society can't help but to have noticed the upcoming movie adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The trailer for the movie is full of dark magical imagery and symbolism. This is nothing less than a deliberate misinterpretation of Shakespeare's last play. It is well accepted that the magician Prospero in the play practices a type of "white magic".

The deliberateness of this misinterpretation is on display through the choice of a female Prospero. This bow to feminism will not dare be criticized. While the racist depiction of the brute Caliban as a Black man will scarcely be commented on. Such is the depth to which our "politically correct" society has descended.

I confess that I have never read the Tempest and am only now beginning to familiarize myself with this famous piece of stagecraft. So this is only a preview of my thoughts on the play after reading some plot summaries and a few commentaries on the theme of the play.

Nevertheless I have begun to craft an analysis of the play from a Catholic perspective. At first this seemed daunting, if not impossible, given the play's obsession with magic and pagan gods. But I think that Shakespeare gives us the key to unravel this drama hidden within the last few lines of the play.
Gentle breath of yours my sails must fill, or else my project fails, which was to please.
Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair, unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
The key word here is "indulgence". This inescapably points to the Catholic view of the afterlife which includes Purgatory. Indulgences were one of Martin Luther's chief complaints against the Catholic Church and Protestants hastened to condemn the very concept of Purgatory. Or as the Bard might say...
"They purg'd it from 'er Bibles, and fed it to 'er geese;
So all poor sinners 'ternal souls, shall'd freely be r'leased.
The clue that William has left for us here in the last line of his last work -- spoken by Prospero, a character that most critics have associated with the Bard himself -- is that the fantasy that the audience just witnessed did not take place on some lost island in the Mediterranean or any place else on planet Earth for that matter. It takes place in some remote corner of Purgatory.

Prospero and all the rest of the inhabitants of the Island left the world of the living and entered into the world of the dead - which is where the story unfolds. The tempest, the storm at sea, represents the transition from life to death. Lost souls that they are, they don't realize that they have died.

At the end of the play, the characters have achieved the state of Grace necessary to leave their Island-Purgatory and go their final resting place in Heaven. "All's well that ends well." Think of the Wizard of Oz and how we find out in the ending that it was all a dream. Well in this case it was not exactly a dream, but what we find out at the end is the reason for all the strange goings on.

"O brave new world!"

As I was reading about The Tempest, I was reminded that the title of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" is derived from the play's dialogue.
O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in't!
How tragic it seems for the transhumanist Huxley to have quoted from the Catholic Shakespeare. Huxley, who fashioned himself to be a great intellectual, grotesquely misinterprets Shakespeare's true religious beliefs. The "brave new world" that Shakespeare imagined was Heaven; while Huxley's "brave new world" was a dystopic inferno.

Perhaps Huxley imagined a world of super-humans like Prospero's where magical powers became reality, but Prospero relinquishes his magic at the end. He has learned the secret of life; that Grace comes through the submission to the Divine Will. This is the paradox of Christ's teachings; that we become truly free through submitting ourselves to our Divine Master.

In Huxley's last writings he ponders the mysteries of Shakespeare, and of The Tempest specifically. He went to his grave thinking he had discovered some existential truth, when in fact he had been deceived. The Truth was always there, easily within his reach. Perhaps as Prospero says, a prize that is won too easily is not always appreciated for its true worth: "this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light."

For the "intellectual" like Huxley, the story of Salvation in the Bible is "too easy", or just too accessible. They search the world looking for a better answer, like an incurable romantic looking for a new adventure - the more exotic and more intellectually challenging the better. But why would God make eternal happiness only available to a few intellectually gifted? As even the ancient Greek philosophers warned us, it is our own Hubris which is our greatest impediment to attaining Holiness. True humility is a rare commodity, and even rarer among the gifted and talented.

Becoming a saint is not easy, it only appears to be so to those who have never attempted the first steps down that path. Pray for your departed loved ones in Purgatory. Ask the Saints in heaven to intercede on their behalf. St. Thérèse of Lisieux specifically dedicated herself to pray for the souls of sinners.

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.