Spring is sprung & O joy ’tis 2b alive on Ancient of Days 35

March 21, 2010

the familiar rhythms… the old dance… in names and forms forever new…

I have claimed The Southwark Mysteries as a prophetic work and in the 11 years or so since it was set in print, many of its prophesies have came to pass. The Mystery Play was indeed performed once only (so far) in Shakespeare’s Globe and Southwark Cathedral on 23rd April 2000. The work at Crossbones graveyard flowered into the creation of the memorial shrine, the annual Halloween of Crossbones and the vigil held on the 23rd of each month – a tradition now unbroken for nigh on seven years. Our Friends of Crossbones campaign to create a garden of remembrance on the site of the old pauper’s burial ground has gained wide local support and pledges from Southwark Council to protect it as public open space.

Prophetic? All those things were in the air – “in the aether” as some mediums like to say. The information that Crossbones was an outcast’s graveyard with a tradition linking it back to the Winchester Geese was ‘out there’, in the vaults of our local studies library. As was, presumably, the news that it had been dug up circa 1992-94, during work on the Jubilee Line Extension, that Museum of London archaeologists had removed 148 skeletons, including the 18th century “skull of a young woman with syphilitic lesions.’

The thing is, I had no conscious access to this information. It first came to me on the 23rd November 1996, in the voice of The Goose and The Vision Book she gave me and the journey she led me in the middle that night, as John Crow, first in mind, then in body, through the deserted streets of the Borough, up Redcross Way to the rusty iron gates looking onto a derelict vacant lot.  It was there she gave me John Crow’s Riddle and the knowledge that this was ‘our Cross Bones Graveyard’.

So, yes, all this was out there, ‘in the air’, in both the spooky and the everyday sense of a writer tuning into what’s happening in his culture, that much reported Zeitgeist – only in this case amplified by the fact that it was literally all in my own back-yard, and that I’d chosen this urban shaman persona, John Crow, as representative of a particular tribe of outsiders and marginals.

Which brings us to the Irrevd. John Crow’s  reflections on the story of the week out there in Big Media World – and the extent to which The Southwark Mysteries could be said to have seen it coming. I speak of the problems currently engulfing the Mother of all Mother Churches and its shameful abuse of power.

The abuse of children by those in authority – be they parents, teachers, priests – is truly a crime, perhaps even as close as most modern minds can conceive of as ‘Mortal Sin’ in the  old medieval church sense. The more power the abuser has over the child, the more insidious the corruption of that innocence. What makes those Irish (and German and Austrian and English and and and…) Catholic priests so particularly  appalling is that they invoked their authority in the name of God and all that a catholic child is taught to fear and obey – used it  first to justify their own repression / perversion of human sexuality, then to swear their victims to silent complicity.

A decade and more ago, when I was writing the Mystery Play, all this was very much in the air. In The Southwark Mysteries,  Jesus makes a strong distinction between consensual and coercive acts. Having defended gay priests in loving relationships, he pointedly observes:

JESUS But them that do wilfully destroy
Who abuse and exploit and corrupt and defile.

SATAN                  The Bishop who buggered the altar boy?

JESUS                  May well in a Hell of his own stew awhile.
But not just to stew in his own rancid juice,
But to repent and be reconciled,
To repair the damage, and to heal the abuse,
The scars he has left in the heart of the Child.

The key words are ‘repent’, ‘be reconciled’, ‘repair’ and ‘heal’ – words much (ab)used by the church in general to cover a multitude of its own sins, and most recently in the Pope’s message to the Irish Catholic church in particular.

My friend Core is a survivor of such abuse. He saw The Southwark Mysteries back in 2000. When he heard those words spoken by Jesus, and in a church, they affirmed his own journey to heal himself – a journey he has made with great personal courage. Partly as a result of that strong connection, he and I became close friends.

Core jokes that the abusers should all be taken off into the rainforest, given massive doses of Ayuhuasca and forced to choose between healing or becoming ‘worm-food’.

I understand he’s not ready to forgive them – and why should he? Those priests were fond of telling us that ‘repentence’ is a pre-condition for ‘forgiveness’. Such words are not be used lightly, in some facile, cheesy ‘forgive and forget’ fashion. Repentence and reparation surely begin with self-knowledge, with recognition of the wrong, the harm they have done to those in their care, to seek their forgiveness, yes, but not on the perpetrator’s own easy terms, no, first to listen to them, their survivors, to what they need, what they demand for justice, in reparations.

At the very least, it seems to me, the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland, and other Christian churches must finally accept that these monstrous acts – the secret rape of the very innocents it professed to protect – were born and bred of that church’s own unwholesome mistrust of and alienation from human sexuality, its pathological attempts to demonise and defile those ‘female’ Mysteries of nature and ‘the flesh’ in the name of God and ‘spirit’.

Having confessed its Sin, according to its own doctrine, then, in the name of the church, to offer atonement for its diabolical abuse of power, Pope Benedict, as the current incumbent – and regardless of what he did or not know in the case of the German paedo-priest allegations now surfacing – should at least consider doing the honourable thing, the symbolic sacrifice, a small sacrifice indeed compared which that made by Our Lord.

And all the Fathers who rule Mother Church turn back to the Daughters and Sons, to the Children saying:

‘We who in shame betrayed your trust and our own vows of service, who shut up our guilt and shame in you, in silence and in Fear of The Lord; we have taken the name of Our God in most foul vanity and for gratification of our own shadow selves, and we have thereby foresworn all rights to mediate between you and your God – howsoever you conceive He or She to be – or to judge, inhibit or otherwise exercise any more power over you and yours, in this life or the next…

But you, our victims, in whose faces we see the face of Jesus Christ flayed alive and crucified more vivid and true than in all our pious preaching, have pity on us, forgive us and teach us anew to walk in the paths of righteousness…’

In our apocalyptic dreams! And in the dreams of church reformers throughout the centuries.

It won’t happen yet – yet in a very real sense, it already has – happened! Their power ‘shorn’.

The Vatican, like the bankers with their bonuses – still don’t get it. The game’s up. The real world has already moved on. The Age of the High Priest is ended, as prophesied, long before I ever heard voices, by that ascended Astral Master, the poet William Blake:


Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly black, with hoarse note curse the sons of joy. Nor his accepted brethren – whom, tyrant, he calls free – lay the bound or build the roof. Nor pale religious letchery call that virginity that wishes but acts not.

For every thing that lives is Holy.’

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