‘Sister Sorceress,’ an Erotic Short Story

Mary MacDillon, 22, thought nothing of her being moved to a new convent in a new city. She assumed most of the nuns here, just as they were in the one she’d just left, would be almost all plain-looking or much older than she.

As soon as she came in, however, she noted a peculiar thing about the place. Not only were there, as she first started looking around at all the nuns, more…and more…young, slim nuns with pretty faces, but all of them were young, slim, and pretty…without exception!

What a strangely fortuitous occurrence, she thought…with a bit of a shudder. It was paradoxically good and bad luck for her. Secretly, she had lesbian desires that her strict Catholic upbringing would never accept, so being surrounded by unattractive women would keep her safe from temptation. But now,…

The bad luck was precisely that this was also good luck.

She whispered a “Hail, Mary” prayer over and over again as she approached the cell where she was to sleep. As she looked over the sea of faces of nuns walking by, hoping to see at least one wrinkled face or one obese body, yet being disappointed (and secretly thrilled) to see only beauties, she noticed one nun from a distance who lifted up her tunic to reveal a creamy-smooth white leg with a…tattoo?…up towards her left thigh.

No, it couldn’t be a tattoo! Mary thought. What self-respecting nun would have one of those on her body? My eyes must have been deceiving me! It was a large birthmark of some kind, surely.

Finally, she reached her cell. “Here you are, Sister Mary,” said Father Funn, the only male (also young and handsome, not that she was interested) who lived in this convent…alone in his own cell, surely! He put down her two bags of luggage by the door. “In you go now, and meet your cellmate. If you need anything, you know where to find my cell.”

“Thank you, Father,” she said as he turned around to leave. “Goodbye.” She faced the door. Before opening it, she took a deep breath and said another “Hail, Mary.” Lord, don’t put me to the test, she thought as she slowly turned the doorknob. Please, cellmate, be fat, old, and ugly.

She opened the door wide. Not only was her cellmate not fat, old, or ugly, she was also…not…dressed.

Mary stared at the naked loveliness of her new cellmate with her eyes and mouth at their widest. The young woman had her back to Mary, who in a daze was admiring her coffee-coloured skin, her curves, and her round buttocks. Her hair was a wavy cascade of brown that draped down to just below her shoulders.

She turned her head around to see Mary. She grinned from ear to ear. “Oh!” she said in high-pitched delight. “You must be Sister Mary MacDillon, my new cellmate. So nice to meet you finally. I’m Sister Jessica Bell, but everyone calls me Jessie.”

She turned around and walked towards Mary to shake her hand, displaying her frontal nudity–firm, medium-sized breasts with erect, brown nipples, and all her pubic hair removed!–in all insouciance.

Mary, in her amazement, had forgotten that the door was still open.

“Mary,” Jessie asked with a smirk, “do you want to display my body to all passersby, or do you want to close the door?”

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Mary said, snapping out of it and immediately turning around to close the door.

As the door clicked shut, Jessie began to say, “Father Funn just passed by before I reminded you of the door. I’m sure he just got the best thrill he’s had in a long time.” She giggled lewdly at this.

“I’m sorry,” Mary said again, trying to look Jessie straight in the eyes and not look any lower. Why does she have to be so immodest?

“That’s alright,” Jessie said. “It’s my fault. I just returned from the shower and took off my bathrobe. It’s been such a hot day that I didn’t want to put anything on at the moment. Instead, I was making some tea, which just heated up the cell even more. Would you like some? It’s really tasty.”

“Oh, yes, please, Jessie, I’d love some.” Why won’t she put some clothes on? God, why are you putting me to the test?

“Have you eaten dinner? They just finished serving it, and we all just ate in the dining hall, so I think you’ll be too late to have some.”

“Oh, I’ve eaten already. I’m quite tired actually, and ready for bed.”

“Oh, good,” Jessie said, handing Mary a fresh cup of hot tea.

Mary brought it up to her nose. “That’s quite a unique aroma.”

“Yes, I combine a lot of special ingredients–herbs, spices, mushrooms, and other things–to get a unique flavour. Try it. It’s also very healthy.”

“Yes, of course,” Mary said, then took a sip. “Mmm. As you said, it’s really tasty.” She turned away from Jessie for obvious reasons, put the cup on the bedside table, and looked with alarm at the one bed she was to share with Jessie every night, Jessie who was as unashamed as Eve was before eating the forbidden fruit. Trying to take her mind off her temptation, Mary reached down to her bags to begin unpacking, and said, “I always thought cells were supposed to be lived in by only one person at a time. In my previous convent, we all slept together in a dormitory, but I thought I’d be alone in my cell here.”

“Well, there are budget constraints in our convent, so we nuns are paired up in our cells,” Jessie explained, still not bothering to put anything on. “Often, new nuns like you are paired up with nuns like me, who have been here for quite a while, to show the new girls the ropes. Only Father Funn sleeps alone in his own cell, and I hardly need to explain to you why that is.” She giggled lewdly again.

“I see,” Mary said with a sigh of annoyance at Jessie’s flippant attitude. Mary took some clothes out of her bag and put them in a drawer by the bedside table.

“Drink your tea,” Jessie said. “Don’t let it get cold.”

“Oh, I won’t.” Mary picked up the cup and had another, larger sip, then went back to unpacking. She looked out the window for a moment: the sun was setting. She noticed, while still trying to resist the temptation to look at Jessie’s body, that her nude companion wasn’t having any tea for herself. “Aren’t you going to drink some?”

“Oh, I’ll have some a little later. You just enjoy yours for now.” After that, Mary noticed that Jessie was whispering something to herself…was it in Latin?

Once Mary finished unpacking, she began taking off her habit. It would feel good to take it off, for as Jessie had observed, it was a really hot day; though Mary had her own reasons for sweating so profusely–her nervousness, for the eyes of ever-naked Jessie had lit up to note her undressing. Mary had another gulp of her tea and tried not to think about that naughty nun.

She made sure that she had her nightgown ready to throw on as soon as she was stripped down to her bra and panties, for Jessie was still looking at her. Jessie also hadn’t drunk any of the tea she’d made, though Mary finished her cup and gave it back to Jessie with a “Thank you,” naïvely not even considering the possibility–with all of her worries of her naked cellmate watching her undress–that there might have been something…unusual…in that tea.

Mary got into bed and closed her eyes, now feeling remarkably relaxed. “Good night, Sister Jessie,” she said, then let out a big sigh and let herself go.

After turning off the light, ever-nude Jessie climbed into bed beside Mary, using the dim night light from the opened window to watch her silhouette drift into…what Mary would assume to be…unconsciousness.

Jessie continued chanting in Latin, but no longer in whispers. Mary was able to make out fragments of what Jessie was saying, the first fragment being, “Blessed art thou among women…” Was Jessie chanting the ‘Hail, Mary’ prayer? Mary wondered. Whatever she was chanting, it suggested that Jessie was a good nun after all, if a little eccentric.

Next, Mary heard, in Latin, “He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love,” emphasizing the word love. Again, Mary felt reassured of Jessie’s commitment to her faith. Her nudity must have been an anomalous occurrence, nothing more. Mary was able to relax even more, though something in her was making relaxing surprisingly easy.

Then she felt a light, brief kiss on her lips.

Instead of rising from her bed in wide-eyed shock, though, Mary just enjoyed the sensuous touch of Jessie’s lips. She opened her eyes slowly and saw…her young mother’s face? No, that couldn’t have been: her mother was now fifty-five and living in a city on the other side of the country. Mary must have been having a dream.

The dark room was moving left to right in slow waves, as Mary saw it. A spot of moonlight from outside, coming in the window from Mary’s far right, was trailing in a wavy line when her eyes moved to the left, away from it. She felt her body undulating with the waves in the air all around her. She felt as if she were merging with her surroundings.

She felt another kiss on her lips. Her eyes, having adjusted to the dark, met those of her kisser, and she could make out Jessie’s face this time. Again, though, instead of being shocked, she welcomed the kiss. Something in her body was telling her there was nothing sinful about what she and Jessie were doing.

She felt more soft kisses on her lips, cheeks, nose, and forehead. She fell Jessie’s hands stroking her hair and caressing her cheeks. Jessie said in Latin, “These three last forever: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love,” this last word being stressed, as before.

Now Mary felt Jessie moving up on the bed to bring her breasts level with Mary’s face. She felt the raspberry nipples of those sugary breasts brushing gently against her face. Mary opened her mouth and took Jessie’s left nipple inside. She sucked on it for several seconds, then looked up at the face of her naked lover.

The face shifted back and forth between being Jessie’s and being her mother’s. Still, Mary wasn’t shocked: she just enjoyed her ‘dream.’

Jessie moved back down to bring her face level with Mary’s again; as she moved down, she brushed her breasts against Mary’s chin, neck, and chest.

They resumed kissing, but this time with Jessie sliding her tongue deep inside Mary’s mouth. Jessie put Mary’s right hand between her legs, soaking her fingers. She also put her hand under Mary’s nightgown and slid her fingers under her panties to touch her in the same, wet place. As she stroked Mary’s vaginal opening and hymen, Jessie did more Latin chanting, but this time it was nothing from the Vulgate Bible or anything Mary recognized as being even remotely Catholic. In fact, Mary felt herself to be in such a dream-state that she couldn’t make out the meaning of this Latin at all; she only knew that it was Latin.

She didn’t want to listen to or interpret any Latin, anyway. These were the best sensations she’d ever felt in her entire life! After another minute or so of this delectable touching, she let out a high-pitched sigh with Jessie, and they both climaxed. In Mary’s dream-state, she had a vision of a river flowing from between her legs.


She woke up just as the sun was beginning to peek through the window. She saw Jessie in an almost unrecognizable form: she was fully dressed, in a nun habit!

Jessie looked over at her with an unexpectedly innocent smile. “Oh, you’re awake!” she said. “Good morning, Sister Mary. You must be hungry. Hurry up and get dressed if you don’t want to miss breakfast in the dining hall.”

“Oh, yes,” Mary said as she got out of bed. Nowhere on her body did she feel any traces of the sensations she’d felt the night before, though she remembered them all vividly. It was just a dream, she thought.

As she changed into her habit, Mary found herself always wanting to look at Jessie’s pretty face. Oddly, now that her cellmate was finally decent, this was when Mary found she couldn’t stop staring at her.

Jessie didn’t exactly look like Mary’s pretty mother, though her eyes and voice bore an uncanny resemblance to those of her mother. The humble, pious attitude that Jessie was demonstrating now, in radical contrast to her vampish ways the night before, also reminded Mary of her beloved, almost saintlike mother.

The fact that Mary had…dreamed?…of receiving such sensual pleasure from naked Jessie only cemented her feelings for her cellmate all the more.

Was she falling in love with Jessie?

Oh, nonsense!

That couldn’t be!

Mary was wedded to Christ!

Jessie took Mary to the dining hall, where they sat across from each other and ate breakfast together. As they talked about the daily routine of the convent, Mary couldn’t stop looking deep in Jessie’s eyes, sighing at the sound of her voice, and grinning at her beauty, knowing what anatomical delicacies were hiding underneath her habit.

She imagined the bread she was biting into was Jessie’s flesh.

“After breakfast, I’ll need to take a shower,” Mary said.

“Be quick about it,” Jessie said. “We have to go to deliver crates of food to an orphanage on the other side of town.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Mary said, then drank from a glass of milk while looking down at Jessie’s chest, and remembering the relevant part of her…dream?


She hurried over to the shower, went in, got naked, and ran the water over her body as she lathered the soap in her hands. As she rubbed the lather on her upper body, she looked at herself in a tall mirror on the other side of the room. She frowned at what she saw.

Small breasts, pale skin, a bit of flab on my belly, and an excess of pubic hair, she thought. I wish my body could be as attractive as Jessie’s is. I’m sure that would please her more.

After rinsing off her upper body, she rubbed some lather between her legs. She yelped in shock at what she felt down there…or rather, what she didn’t feel down there.

My hymen is gone! she thought with a gasp. My virtue! My virginity…is gone? That can’t be!

How could she have lost it? How could it have disappeared? Nothing happened the night before. She’d only had an erotic dream…didn’t she?

And even if Jessie had really seduced her, if she had punctured her hymen, why wasn’t Mary at all sore?


After her shower, she quickly rejoined Jessie to help with delivering the food to the orphanage, always trying to stop herself from staring at her beautiful cellmate…but rarely succeeding. The bright, hot sun reminded Mary of God looking down on her from heaven. At least the act of charity to the orphans had a somewhat mitigating effect on her guilt.

She was touched by the devotion she saw in Jessie as she gave to the orphans, working so hard to be of help to them in all ways possible. Jessie’s actions so reminded Mary of her mother’s charity. The love was swelling in Mary’s heart.

When they returned to the convent, Mary went into the church to pray at a pew.

When she bowed and did the Sign of the Cross before the altar, she looked over at an icon of the Virgin Mary. On the face of the Blessed Virgin, she imagined she saw the face of her mother, what seemed a disapproving face, and Mary felt a pang of shame.

She hurried over to a pew, knelt there, and put her hands together. She remembered St. Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans: “God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” She shuddered at the memory of that verse, one she’d always successfully used before to control herself.

God, help me, she prayed in her thoughts. Deliver me from the Evil One. Help me to love Jessie in an honourable, decent, Christian way. A tear ran down her cheek.

She looked up from hearing the sound of shoes tapping on the floor of the aisle to her immediate right. Father Funn was walking by. She got up and went over to him.

“Father?” she said from just behind his left shoulder.

He looked behind himself. “Yes, Sister Mary?”

“I know this is abrupt, but do you have time to receive my confession?”

“Why, yes, I have a few minutes,” he said. “Come this way.” He gestured to an exit leading to the confessional booths.

They went over and got in.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Mary said with a trembling voice.

“Be at peace, Mary,” he said soothingly. “The Lord is always willing to take back any lost sheep who have strayed from the flock.”

“I have had…,” she began, “…impure thoughts.”

“What kind of impure thoughts?” he asked with…a smirk on his face?

“Lewd ones. Lustful ones. Unnatural ones. Shameful ones.” She began sobbing. “And I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself from thinking them again.”

“With God, all things are possible,” he reassured her. “Remember that the Lord helps those who help themselves.”

“Yes, Father! Thank you!”

“I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he said, doing the Sign of the Cross with her.

She left the confessional so determined not to have sexual feelings about Jessie, that she would prove it every time she was around her, as a test of that determination. She went back to the pews to pray.


That evening, after hours of prayer at the pew, she returned to her cell.

I will not have romantic thoughts about Jessie, she insisted in her thoughts as she approached Jessie, who was outside, tending a garden just beside the cell. Among the flowers and herbs she grew there to make her tea were a number of rather large mushrooms. The sun was sinking low, leaving darkness all over the convent.

Mary came up beside her cellmate. “Good evening, Sister Jessie.”

Jessie looked over at her and gave her such a disarming smile that Mary, shivering with pleasure, already lost half of her resolve not to think of Jessie in a sexual way. “Good evening, Sister Mary. I’m about to make us some tea. Would you like to watch how I make it?”

“Oh, yes, very much!” Mary sighed, then thought, Now, I can see if she is drugging the tea…which, surely, she isn’t! “You said last night that you mix mushrooms in the tea. What kind of mushrooms are they? I had such a wild dream last night, not the kind of thing I would ever describe, for modestly’s sake!” She tittered a little. “Those aren’t those ‘magic mushrooms,’ are they?”

Jessie let out a loud laugh. “Oh, no! Of course not! That must have been a wild dream that you had! No, these mushrooms only have a medicinal effect on the consumer. Whatever ‘wildness’ you experienced in your dream was something already inside you, I assure you.”

Though Mary felt reassured that there was nothing psychedelic about those mushrooms (and, surely, Jessie was telling her the truth about that!), she found it disturbing to think that that whole dream’s contents were just ‘something already inside her.’ Mary had always hated the unbridled sin of her unconscious mind, something she could never control.

Jessie finished collecting the ingredients for the tea, and she took them into the cell, Mary following closely behind her.

“Oh, I’m so glad it isn’t as hot today as it was yesterday,” Jessie said as she stood in front of the kettle, getting the tea ready. “These summer days have been killer. But I can tolerate keeping this habit on, at least for the moment.”

Mary let out a sigh of relief…yet of disappointment, too.

“I must say, Sister Jessie, that I admire how loving and caring you were to the orphans today,” she said. “The smiles you put on all the kids’ faces as you talked to them. Your charity is truly an inspiration.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Jessie said. “I’m just doing the Lord’s work. It isn’t me; it’s the Holy Spirit working through me.”

“Your humility and charity remind me of those of my mother, as I saw in her when I was a child,” Mary said, looking over at Jessie with such yearning.

“Your mother must be a remarkable woman. I’m flattered to be thought so similar to her.”

“You are, Sister Jessie, in so many ways,” Mary sighed.

“That’s very sweet of you to say–thank you.” Jessie, having finished making the tea, brought two small cups over. “Here you are, honey.” She handed Mary a pink china cup, while keeping a yellow one for herself.

“Thank you.” Mary was relieved to see that yellow cup this time, to see Jessie sipping from it. Mary thus felt encouraged to drink from hers.

(What she didn’t realize was that Jessie had made mushrooms for Mary’s tea, and no mushrooms–and different herbs–for her own.)

“OK, I’m getting little too hot now,” Jessie said, and she undid her guimpe and tunic, which for her, unusually, had front zippers. When unzipping and pulling them wide apart, she revealed a black, lace brassiere holding those creamy breasts in shape, the sight of which made Mary salivate and pant audibly. Jessie looked over at Mary, whose eyes immediately looked away. Jessie smirked.

Mary drank a gulp of tea. She looked out the window to see the growing darkness and the sun almost fully set. She yawned. “I don’t know why I feel so sleepy. Apart from moving the crates of food, I didn’t do much–just a lot of praying.”

“That’s fine,” Jessie said, continuing to undress and now just in her bra and panties. “Let’s just go to bed.”

Mary took no more than split-second, furtive looks at Jessie, who was now removing her bra. “Yes,” she yawned, “I suppose I should…take this…hot thing…off, too.”

Smiling Jessie removed her panties, turned off the light, and got into bed. Mary, too tired to reach for her nightgown, just stripped down to her underwear and got into bed. She lay on her back, closed her eyes, and let out a long sigh.

“Good night, Sister Jessie.”

“Good night, honey.”

Mama used to call me ‘honey,’ Mary thought.

That soothing, undulating feeling was beginning to flow all through Mary’s body again. She could hear Jessie whispering something in Latin again, though again, she felt too drowsy to make out the meaning of the words; she could only distinguish the pronunciation as distinctly Latin.

She felt Jessie’s hand on her right thigh.

A shiver of pleasure…and fear…rode up and down all those waves she felt permeating her body.

Still, Mary felt too much in a stupor to resist.

Jessie’s hand was playing with the elastic on Mary’s panties.

“Jessie,” Mary said in a slurred voice. “When I…showered today, I noticed…that my hymen…was missing.”

“Really?” Jessie whispered, then kissed Mary on her right cheek.

“Did you have…anything to do…with that?”

Jessie’s finger slid under the panties and began playing with Mary’s pubic hair. “I’m liberating you…from your theological prison cell.” She gave Mary a peck on the lips.

“Are you?” Mary sighed. “Ooh!”

“Purity and innocence…are lies…Not even Adam and Eve…were innocent…in the beginning.” Jessie was giving Mary kisses on her lips, cheeks, and neck as she continued whispering.

“That can’t…be true. Ah!

“Oh, it must have been. If they were truly, utterly good, neither would have…given in…to temptation…and eaten…the forbidden fruit…There was never…a Fall, so Christ’s death…as redemption…was meaningless. There was never…primordial grace, and so there’s no grace…for us to return to…through Christ’s death. Let’s sin bravely.”

Mary opened her eyes and, her eyes adjusted to the dark and with plenty of moonlight and starlight shining through the open window, she could make out the silhouette of Jessie standing up on the bed, with her back and ass to her, her legs spread apart on either side of Mary. She wasn’t nude, though: Mary looked up and saw Jessie wearing a white coif and black veil on her head, but a tight-fitting, shiny black leather outfit was covering her from her neck to her feet, which were in black high heels. The outfit showed off Jessie’s curvy figure and round buttocks most flatteringly.

Jessie looked down at Mary over her left shoulder and asked, “Do you like it, Mary?”

“Sister Jessie,” Mary said in sighs, trying to regain at least some self-control, in spite of how stoned and turned on she was, “dressing like that…is so disrespectful…to your vows…as a nun. Remove the coif…and veil…at least.”

“Mary, what coif? What veil? I’m naked, head to toe.”

“But,…that skin-tight…black outfit…you have on.”

“I’m not wearing any outfit, Mary. I’m displaying my body, for your viewing pleasure. I know your secret desires, Mary. Don’t be afraid to express them.”

“How do you know them?”

“I have my ways. Let me help you liberate yourself, Mary.” Jessie bent down, bending her knees and lowering her back, so Mary could see what she had hiding between her legs and buttocks. Now Mary no longer saw the black clothing or the nun’s headdress. She saw naked Jessie’s delectable secrets, which were coming closer and closer to her face.

Jessie, on all fours now and facing Mary’s feet, pulled off her panties and spread her legs out wide. Both of them began tasting each other. Though Jessie was pure of any urinary or fecal smell–in fact, her vulva and anus smelled fragrant from a fresh shower–Mary was worried, after having used the toilet just before returning to their cell, that her own body odour would be most unflattering.

Yet Jessie was licking, kissing, and sucking without complaint.

(Actually, her magical, Latin incantations, herbs, and mushrooms all served to obliterate any and all unpleasant smells. Mary would learn the next day that Jessie’s magic would make even more, shocking changes to her body.)

In any case, Mary soon forgot her worries about her body odour, for she was too busy enjoying giving and receiving physical love. She no longer regretted the loss of her hymen, for Jessie’s long tongue was now free to probe deep, deep inside, tickling Mary’s vaginal walls with its tireless flickering.

It felt so good, so physically good, that she realized something.

This is no dream! she thought. This is really happening!

Both women’s sighs were rising in pitch and volume as they approached climax. Mary had a vision of two dams bursting, with rushing water coursing out between two pairs of legs. Mary’s was a river; Jessie’s, a waterfall.

…and Father Funn just happened to be passing by their cell window at that very moment.


The next morning, Mary woke up with her panties back on, as if never taken off. There were no vaginal secretions as she had felt the night before, which she found inexplicable. With the sun peeking through the window, Jessie was fully dressed in her habit.

Mary saw her smiling face…O, that lovely face!

The two exchanged good morning wishes.

“Sister Jessie,” Mary asked. “What…did we…do last night?”

“We’ll discuss it tonight, Sister Mary,” Jessie said, moving about the cell in a hurry to get ready to go. “Get dressed. We have a busy morning. There’s a soup kitchen downtown where we volunteer every week on this day, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the homeless. We’ll be leaving about a half hour after breakfast. You’ll want to hurry if you hope to squeeze in a shower before we go.”


Though they ate facing each other in the dining hall, they said little to each other, Mary fearing that the other nuns would overhear their conversation and pick up hints as to what they were doing every night. She saw Father Funn walk by their table with a smirk that made her even more paranoid.


After breakfast, she hurried over to the shower with a change of underwear. She had put on her habit so quickly after getting out of bed that she didn’t take a minute to notice anything different about her body. But now that she was naked and in the shower, she saw herself in that mirror; the changes couldn’t be ignored.

Larger, firmer breasts.

No flab.

No pubic hair.

No paleness of her skin.

Perfect curves.

There was no other way to explain these changes.

Jessie was a witch.

Her tea and incantations were part of her spells.

Any pleasure Mary took in the changes in her body were overridden by the horror she felt in knowing what Jessie really was.

She’d bewitched Mary.

She’d defiled her.

She’d debauched her.

She’d led her astray.

She’d made her break her vows of chastity.

Mary remembered, with a shudder, Exodus 22:18.


After her shower, she joined Jessie and the other nuns to go to the soup kitchen to serve meals to the homeless there. Again, these acts of charity helped to soothe and ease her guilt…to an extent. That blazing, blindingly bright, hot sun outside reminded her of God’s judgement.

As she served the homeless with a smile, she saw the same loving smile on Jessie’s mesmerizingly pretty face. Mary saw no trace of phoniness in the sorceress’s smile: it looked perfectly sincere, like that of a genuine servant of Christ.

She recalled Paul’s words: “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

Still, Mary couldn’t understand how Jessie could fake being a Christian so skillfully. Her charity looked so authentic, and it made Mary feel all the more in love with her.

It was also challenging her faith in God; for how could He allow this to happen?

Inwardly, she shook with shame at her sinful love. She remembered Paul’s words: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

Speaking of doing what she hated, she slipped a knife under the sleeve of her habit just before the nuns all finished and left the soup kitchen to return to the convent.


That evening, as the sun was setting and darkness was about the envelope the convent, as soon as they’d returned, she went to Father Funn to give her confession again. In the booth, she was weeping; he had that enigmatic smirk on his face again.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” she sobbed.

“Be at peace, Mary,” he said calmly. “The Lord is always willing to take back any sheep who have strayed from the flock.”

Mary remembered that these had been his exact words from last time: they sounded like a meaningless formula now!

“I have had…more impure thoughts,” she sobbed.

She couldn’t bring herself to complete her confession and admit to the sexual contact with Jessie…not only out of her personal shame, but also because she didn’t want to expose the shame of the woman she loved.

“Have you any more confessions to make?” he asked after noting her awkward several seconds of silence.

“N-no,” she said, bowing her head in shame over her cowardice in not fully confessing.

“Very well,” he said in a voice that sounded almost bored. “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Both of them did the Sign of the Cross–so formulaic.

She stepped out of the booth and slowly walked back to her cell, frowning. I feel no peace from that at all, she thought. Surely Father Funn suspected that my confession wasn’t complete. God wouldn’t have…couldn’t have allowed such absolution…if He truly existed.

It was getting darker and darker outside.

She fondled that knife in her sleeve.


She walked into her cell and saw Jessie standing naked by the window, outside of which was the black of night. Jessie was facing Mary, with her usual insouciant display.

Mary began shaking, and clasped the knife, keeping it hidden in her sleeve. “Are you making more tea?” she asked with a frown.

“I don’t think I need to,” Jessie said with a smile. “Not the kind I was making for you before, to free your mind.”

“Those mushrooms really are magic mushrooms, aren’t they? You literally do magic with them, don’t you?”

“They, as well as my other herbs and my incantations, don’t do anything more than bring out what’s already inside you, Mary.”

“You’re a witch masquerading as a nun.” Her eyes tearing up, Mary let the knife slip down so Jessie could see the blade pointing at her chest.

“You aren’t going to stab me, Mary.” Jessie took a step toward Mary.

“‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,’ from Exodus.”

“‘Thou shalt not kill,’ also from Exodus.”

“‘The devil can cite scripture for his purpose,’ from The Merchant of Venice,” Mary said with a shaky voice, the hand holding the knife shaking even more.

“I’m not a witch, Mary,” Jessie said, taking another step closer to Mary. “I’m a sorceress.”

“What’s the difference? the Bible makes no distinction.”

“A witch uses her magic to harm. A sorceress uses it for good.” Jessie came closer to Mary. “My spells are liberating you.”

“Liberating me from what? I love my religion.”

“You didn’t become a nun out of love for Christ or the Virgin Mary. You became one to please your mother.”

“Your witchcraft makes you read people’s minds,” Mary said, weeping.

“So, you admit it’s true?” Jessie asked, stepping forward and now with Mary’s knife mere millimetres from her breast.

“You read my mind…when I saw myself…in the bathroom mirror yesterday,…and you know…that I didn’t like…how my body looked,…and you used your magic…to change my appearance,” Mary said in sobs.

“Don’t you like how it looks now? You wanted your body to please me more. It didn’t have to be changed. I liked your body as it was, with all of its supposed imperfections. I can change it back, if you wish.”

“N-no.” Mary kept sobbing. “But you seduced me…made me fornicate with you. You robbed me…of my faith in God.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

Her face contorting with rage, Mary brought up the knife, ready to stab Jessie in the chest.

“You won’t kill me, Mary. You’re in love with me.”

Mary stood dazed for several seconds.

“Y-yes, I am.” Mary lowered her head, brought her arm down, and let the knife fall to the floor. Now she was sobbing loudly. Jessie put her arms around her.

“No!” Mary said. “Let me take this off first. If I’m going to sin with you, at least let me not dishonour the habit.”

Jessie helped her remove the tunic and guimpe, revealing–to Mary’s shock–a black corset with red lacing, and knee-high black boots with high heels, with red crosses on the knees.

“How did these get here?” Mary asked with a gasp, then she looked at Jessie, realizing how foolish her question was.

Jessie smirked lewdly as she looked at Mary. “I like it.”

“Well, I don’t. It’s tasteless. Help me take it all off. I’d rather be as nude as you; it would feel less indecent.”

“Very well; as you wish,” Jessie said, still smiling at the sight.

Mary, now nude, turned off the light, and they got into bed.

Jessie lay on her back, and Mary got on top of her. They exchanged kisses on each other’s lips, cheeks, and necks. Mary cupped Jessie’s breasts in her hands, giving them slight, gentle squeezes. Jessie fondled Mary’s bottom, giving the cheeks stronger squeezes.

They were rubbing their crotches against each other, then they put their legs in a scissor-position, rubbing their vulvas against each other and feeling their clits getting harder, and their labia swelling, moistening all over.

They were so focused on their pleasure that they paid no attention to how voices can carry. Their sighs, moans, and squeals were getting higher and higher-pitched, and louder and louder. The squeaking of the bed was getting louder and faster in rhythm, too. The wide-open window was no help in keeping the crescendo of their sin a secret.

A few members of the convent passed by their cell and heard the approaching climax. One nun peeked in the window, but saw only grinding silhouettes in the dark. The other passers-by were on the other side, listening at the door.

Finally, Father Funn rammed into the door, breaking it open. The other nuns came in after, one of them turning on the light and exposing the nakedness of the lovers, who never bothered pulling the blankets on themselves, it being such a hot summer night.

Their viewers were in bathrobes and slippers. Mary tried to pull the blanket over her body, but Funn stopped her.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said. “Both of you will come with us as you are. There will be no hiding of the truth.”

Mary walked out of the cell in tears, her hands covering her breasts and crotch. Jessie, walking beside her with her arms at her sides, made no attempt to cover her nakedness; she kept a lewd smirk on her face that Mary couldn’t understand. Funn walked behind both of them, his eyes never straying away from the sight of their tasty buttocks.

Mary and Jessie were taken to the open-air court area in the middle of the convent. All the other nuns were assembled there, in their bathrobes and slippers. All were looking at the naked duo with expressionless faces that weeping Mary could barely make out in the dark, with only moonlight and starlight to keep the black from being absolute. Not knowing what they were thinking, while imagining they could only be judging and condemning her sin with Jessie, was torturing Mary. Jessie, on the other hand, just kept smirking.

A bench was in the middle of the large courtyard, with two paddles lying at its sides. Mary and Jessie were taken there.

“Kneel before the bench,” Funn said. “Put your heads on the seat. Don’t move.” He picked up the paddles and gave one to one of the nuns. “Cooperate, you two, and this will be over with in a few minutes.”

He and the nun called out numbers with every whack they gave Mary’s and Jessie’s buttocks. Both girls screamed with each strike: Mary, bawling; Jessie, grinning.

“Jesus, help me!” Mary wept between screams. “Beat the sin…Oww!…out of me!…Oww!

Oww!” Jessie screamed. “You’re making my…Oww!…bum all red!…Oww!

Out of the corner of Mary’s teary eye, she saw something odd.

The nuns all removed their bathrobes and kicked off their slippers. They were now as naked as she and Jessie were.

“Twenty!” Funn and the other paddler called out.

“We’re finished,” he said. He and the nun put down their paddles, then removed their bathrobes and slippers, too.

Mary and Jessie looked behind them, and all around the courtyard. Mary’s eyes and mouth were agape. Jessie was still grinning lewdly.

Everyone there was naked.

Funn was fully erect. Mary looked away with a blush, and back at Jessie.

“They’re all the same as you, Jessie?” Mary asked.

“…and you, now, Mary,” Jessie answered.

“Nuns by day, nudists by night?” Mary asked.

“Think of it as a dialectic of asceticism and eroticism,” Jessie explained. “We worship the Lord by day, and the Lady by night.”

Lady? This indecency is worshipping the Blessed Virgin?”

“Look up in the night sky and see the Lady in her half-moon phase,” Jessie explained. “Half lit up, half dark. There is the Goddess, known by many names: Luna, Selena, Mary, Nut, Ishtar, Inanna, and so on. And in the daytime, there is the Lord, also known by many names: Sol Invictus, Helios, Jesus, Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, etc.”

“You’re all pagans? This is blasphemy!”

“Is the largely unpunished sexual abuse of children by priests, of nuns, any less blasphemous to the Church?” Jessie challenged. “At least we’re honest with our sexuality here.”

“As for your question of paganism, I think I can explain, Mary,” Father Funn said. “We here are a dialectical mix of pagan and Christian, to be exact. When we do our daily charity, we are sincerely Christian, but also because the world–being as prejudiced as it is against paganism–would only accept charity from the Church. But enough of this! Let’s get on with tonight’s ritual! Our weekly orgy must be done, to raise power and spread the energy of real love, grounded in the body, throughout the world, to save it from war, greed, and hate!”

“But people outside will hear, and suspect us,” Mary said.

“Not with our magic, which has, if you will, soundproofed the area,” said the nun next to the priest (Mary noticed a genuine tattoo on her upper leg; it said…Motorhead? She must have been the nun Mary saw on her first day here!). “Nobody outside will hear a thing; don’t worry.”

“But an orgy?” Mary said. “I don’t want to be involved in an orgy.” She looked over at Jessie. “I love you, and you alone. I don’t want to make love with anyone else. What I’m doing with you is fornication enough!”

“Very well,” Jessie said with a smile as she got on top of Mary. “You and I will have only each other.”

They resumed their tribadism there on the grass. Funn entered the tattooed nun. Though Mary and Jessie looked only in each other’s eyes, they heard a surrounding sea of moans and sighs. All the other nuns paired up, engaging in the licking, kissing, and fingering of vulvas, or with lips wrapped around nipples.

The group sex had a ritualized rhythm, with synchronized grinding and groaning. Everyone’s sighs and squeals rose together in pitch and volume, getting faster and faster, and resulting in a collective orgasmic scream.

As everyone lay back on the grass, panting with satisfaction, Mary looked up at the stars with a grin.

Whether the Queen of Heaven was Mary or the moon-goddess no longer mattered to her.

Jessie was right.

Mary was now free.


The next morning, the nuns arrived in a van at a homeless shelter near downtown, delivering used clothes there. As they all cheerfully took the boxes of clothes off the van and gave them to the volunteer workers at the shelter, Mary found herself looking at Jessie’s pretty face as often as she could.

That mix of the sensual and the saintly that she saw in Jessie, knowing what delights her habit was hiding, made Mary all the more in love with her. She looked up at the shining, hot sun–the Lord, the Son, Helios, Tammuz, whichever–and smiled, waiting for the glowing Lady to peek out of the darkness that night.

She licked her lips, wanting more of that tea.

Analysis of ‘Stalker’

Stalker (Russian: Сталкер) is a 1979 Soviet science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, based loosely on their 1972 novel, Roadside Picnic. The film stars Alexander Kaidanovsky (in the title role), Anatoly Solonitsyn, and Nikolai Grinko, with Alisa Freindlich and Natasha Abramova.

The premise of the novel is that after an alien “Visitation,” various items of the aliens were left behind in “Zones” in six places around the world. These alien artifacts have properties not understood by humanity, as are all the strange and dangerous phenomena experienced in the Zones. Still, some people, known as “stalkers,” illegally sneak into the Zones, risking apprehension by the police who guard the dangerous areas, and hoping to take some of the items out and sell them.

In the novel, Dr. Valentine Pilman compares this leaving-behind of alien artifacts to garbage left behind after a picnic on the side of the road, hence the name of the novel. According to Pilman’s analogy, the aliens are the picnickers, we humans are like the animals living where the picnic took place, exploring all the items left behind, not understanding what they are, things that may even be dangerous to the animals.

The novel is divided into four sections (preceded by an introduction involving an interview with Pilman) of which the last is the basis of Tarkovsky’s film, and even this section of the novel is radically reworked. An alien “Visitation” is considered a possible reason for the existence of the “Zone” in the film, though it may have been caused by a meteorite hitting the Earth. Redrick “Red” Schuhart of the novel is simply known as the “Stalker.” Instead of going into the Zone with young Arthur Burbridge, who dies in the “meatgrinder” of the novel, the Stalker goes in with two middle-aged men, known as the “Writer” (Solonitsyn) and the “Professor” (Grinko), neither of whom dies in the meatgrinder. In the novel, they seek the wish-granting “Golden Sphere” (or Golden Ball, depending on the translation); in the film, the three men seek a room that grants one’s deepest desires.

The making of the film was fraught with difficulties. It was originally filmed with film stock that was unusable, so Tarkovsky had to reshoot it almost entirely with the help of new cinematographer Alexander Knyazhinsky. Stalker initially got mixed reviews, but it has since been regarded as a classic of world cinema. The British Film Institute ranked it #29 on its list of the “100 Greatest Films of All Time.”

Here is a link to quotes from the film in English translation. Here’s a link to the full movie with English subtitles. And here is a link to Antonina W. Bouis‘s English translation of Roadside Picnic.

During the credits of the film, we see a black-and-white shot of a bar (which, in the novel, is called “the Borscht”). Next, we get a shot, still in bleak black and white, of the Stalker’s home, through half-way open doors leading into his bedroom. He, his wife (Freindlich–Guta in the novel), and their daughter, “Monkey” (deformed because of the Stalker’s exposure to the Zone, and played by Abramova in the film) are all lying in the same bed.

As they’re sleeping, we hear a train going by outside, shaking up the room. The Stalker is already awake, ready to get up and sneak out, to meet with the Writer and Professor, to take them into the Zone and find the desire-granting Room. His wife wakes up soon after, noticing he’s taken her watch; she begs him not to go and risk being put in jail again.

She fears his going back to jail, this time for ten years instead of five, as he did last time (in the novel, Redrick is incarcerated for a time for having been in the Zone); but the Stalker insists that he’s “imprisoned everywhere.” This ‘imprisonment’ is what the black-and-white filming is supposed to represent: the bleakness of their everyday existence, from which the Room in the Zone is supposed to be an escape.

He won’t be dissuaded from going, and he leaves her. She falls to the floor, weeping after having cursed at him for ruining her life. What we notice here is the close relationship between the nirvana of the Room and the suffering caused by desire for that Room, the heaven of the Room and the hell that surrounds it.

As we’ll learn soon enough, heaven and hell, nirvana and samsara, are even closer together than that.

He meets with the Writer near some train tracks (indeed, as his wife was weeping, we heard another train going by their home). The Writer has been drinking and chatting with a pretty young woman about how “boring” life is (i.e., black and white), and therefore there are no flying saucers, ghosts, or God to make it interesting. There isn’t even a Bermuda Triangle, according to the Writer…yet, there’s a wish-granting Room in the Zone that he’s risking going in to find?

The two men meet with the Professor in the bar. It’s fitting that they’d all meet here, with the Writer drinking in particular; for alcohol is as much an escape from pain for him as the Zone, and the Room, are an escape from pain for the Stalker, as we’ll see.

The Professor is in the sciences, physics in particular, though he alludes enigmatically to an interest in chemistry as part of his reason for seeking the Room, a reason he’d not have the other two know about until they find the place. The Writer claims he’s going there to regain his lost inspiration.

The Stalker tells them that their train has arrived, so they must go. He tells Luger, the bartender (named Ernest in the novel), to call on his wife if he doesn’t come back. Those trains we keep hearing and seeing represent that wish to go out there to find happiness…as opposed to being content with the happiness we have here, but don’t appreciate; and this is precisely what Stalker is all about.

(Though “stalker” in the novel and film has no relation to our notion of a disturbed fan or rejected lover following around a celebrity or other object of desire, one can in a way see a connection between the two uses of the word…someone obsessively chasing a desire or form of happiness that isn’t his to have.)

They drive to the entry to the Zone, dodging and hiding from the police who patrol the area on their motorbikes. Since the Zone is, for the Stalker in particular, a kind of Eden away from his miserable world, those police are like the cherubim and the flaming sword that forbid re-entry into paradise, to get at the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

Now, how should one think of the ‘happiness’ as promised by the Room in the Zone? Since Stalker is a Soviet film (i.e., one approved by the Soviet government), one might think that one’s deepest desire is for the establishment of full communism: a classless society with such an abundance of commodities as pure use-values that one can obtain without need of money, and therefore no state is needed, either, to protect the interests of one class against those of the other. Police preventing entry into the Zone can thus represent capitalist encirclement–imperialism.

Now, while Tarkovsky, as his son would later insist, was no political dissident with regards to the ideology of the USSR (i.e., he didn’t leave the USSR during his last years for political reasons; and it should be noted in this regard how George Lucas once said that one had greater artistic freedom as a filmmaker there than in Hollywood, as long as one didn’t criticize the government), it would be too simplistic to reduce the meaning of wish-fulfillment and ultimate happiness to the socialist goals of the Soviet Union. No: Tarkovsky was far too spiritual for dialectical materialism.

The point is that happiness, having what one wants most deeply in one’s soul, in the true, spiritual sense, is elusive, and there is much pain that one must go through to find that deeper happiness, not just having one’s wishes granted.

And in the end, one often finds that what one truly wants is not what one thought one wanted. The Writer admits, early on, that he isn’t really seeking inspiration from the Room, and that one often doesn’t know what one does or doesn’t want. He acknowledges this unknowing before even entering the Zone.

Still, the three men risk apprehension by the police at the entry to the Zone, then risk all the booby traps in the Zone that surround the Room…all to attain a most enigmatic happiness. Such is the seductive allure of nirvana, the desire to end the desire that causes suffering.

The Stalker drives their car on a train track among the patrol guards, who shoot at them. When one has seen the filthy urban sprawl that they live in, blanketed in pollution, one can begin to understand the lengths they’ll go to in their quest for a better life.

Having gotten past the cops, the three find a railcar to go on to get into the Zone. We see in this transport the connection between the trains and the going out there to find happiness. We hear the clanking of the railcar against the tracks as the three men go forward into the Zone, thus reinforcing the thematic connection between the sound of trains and the search for happiness…out there.

The police won’t follow the three into the Zone because they’re scared to death of what’s inside, as the Stalker explains to the Writer, who asks him what it is that’s inside. The Stalker says nothing to answer the Writer’s question, because nothing is precisely the answer to the question–a nothingness of nirvana, Wilfred Bion‘s O, Lacan‘s Real Order, a paradox of heaven and hell, Rudolph Otto‘s notion of the numinous, a mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

As the three men are going along the track, we hear the clanking of the railcar and other twanging noises as a fitting soundtrack to the sights of industrial clutter all over the land, a reminder of the bleakness of their world. And finally, the black and white of that bleakness changes to colour, and the railcar stops.

We see mostly the green beauty of nature, with trees, bushes, and grass…but still some urban clutter to remind us that the world isn’t as perfect as it may seem. The Stalker nonetheless joyfully says that they’re “home at last,” for in spite of the dangers of the Zone, the three have arrived at his conception of happiness, hence, the change to colour. He loves how still and quiet the place is, a stillness and quiet of peace, without the hell of other people…apart from the three of them, though, of course.

To navigate the Zone and avoid its booby-traps, the Stalker will use a kind of slingshot, throwing metal nuts here and there, rather like David’s way of defeating the danger of the Philistines (this flinging of nuts from a slingshot is also done by Redrick in the novel).

They have to proceed through the Zone in a very roundabout way, to avoid the dangers therein. In the novel, there’s even a reference to minesweepers that were used by stalkers in the Zone, and how two stalkers were “killed by underground explosions.” This is the sort of thing that I mean when I refer to booby-traps in the Zone. Indeed, in keeping with the socialist interpretation of the heavenly aspect of the Zone and the Room, one might associate these mines and other booby-traps with the mines and other bombs that the imperialists left in places like Laos during the Vietnam War.

On a deeper level, we can see in the heaven/hell paradox of the Zone a symbolic association between the meteorite/aliens and humans, on the one hand, and the sons of God mating with the daughters of men, on the other (Genesis 6:1-4). The offspring from the Biblical mating were the Nephilim; in the case of the Zone, the offspring of stalkers, who have been exposed to the alien presence, are children like the deformed “Monkey”–unable to walk, but possessing telekinetic powers, as we discover at the end of the film.

The point is that, in the Zone, there is, symbolically speaking, a taboo mixture of the human and divine worlds, giving rise to the heaven/hell paradox of the place. Wishes may come true, it’s divinely beautiful in its greenery, but people die here. I discussed, in my analysis of the primeval history in Genesis, how any mixture of the human and divine worlds resulted in evil (i.e., man trying to be like God in having knowledge–expulsion from Eden; man trying to be like God in deciding when another will die–Cain’s punishment; and the mating of the sons of God with the daughters of men–the sinful world leading to the Flood).

The Stalker describes the Zone as a complex maze of death traps where “everything begins to move” when people are there. The Zone is an alien land, altered by divine, celestial beings, as it were, and when man enters it, we have that mix of divine and human that brings with it the danger of a deluge of evil.

This is why, though the three men have quickly found the building where the Room is, they cannot risk death by directly walking into it. They must follow the deliberately circuitous path directed by the Stalker. “Former traps disappear; new ones appear,” he says. Safe paths become dangerous, and vice versa: a dialectical shift between the opposites of good and evil, shifting up and down like the waves of an ocean…or a flood.

The Stalker speaks of the Zone in almost religious language, as though it’s a God-like presence that will punish you with death if you don’t behave properly. Still, he thinks that it isn’t the good or evil who either make it to the Room or perish. It’s the wretched, those who’ve lost all hope, who go thus from the lowest low up to the highest heaven. Yet even the wretched may perish if they misbehave here.

So, instead of going into the building, they will get there indirectly by first going into a dark wood where the Stalker has tossed one of his slingshot nuts. Thus we come to Part Two of the film. “Long is the way/And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.” (Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Two, lines 432-433)

The Stalker hopes, again in that quasi-religious attitude of his, that the other two men will believe (i.e., in the truth of the Zone), believe in themselves, and “become as helpless as children.” (Mark 10:14-15)

Another paradox in the film is the Stalker’s belief that it is in softness that there is life, and in death we find hardness. Strength and hardness kill, in his view; in softness and flexibility are life, rather like the notion that the meek are blessed, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

The Professor, not realizing that the Stalker has been continuously guiding him and the Writer to the Room, however circuitously, but incorrectly thinking he has just been showing them something, has left his backpack and wants to go back to retrieve it. The Stalker insists that he mustn’t, for fear of the death traps, but the Professor won’t be dissuaded, because he has something in that backpack that he needs when reaching the Room.

The Stalker and Writer come to a place of rushing water that the former calls “the dry tunnel,” as a joke. Since the Professor is no longer with them, they assume correctly that he’s gone back for his backpack, and that they must go on without him. They go through the soaking wet of the “dry tunnel,” and after we see a close-up shot of rippling, shallow water with such various forms of leftover trash as used needles and pieces of paper, the two men are surprised to find the Professor on the other side, with his backpack and calmly eating and drinking from his thermos.

They’ve managed to get through an area the Stalker deemed dangerous, a watery area the Professor has navigated with no help (and the Writer has alluded to Peter almost drowning, a reference to Matthew 14:22-32); here, we see the Stalker, the most ‘religious’ of the three, being the one “of little faith,” while the Professor hasn’t needed any faith.

The three men lie down and have a rest.

Since this place is, on the one hand, a wish-fulfilling paradise, and paradoxically on the other hand, a place of death, a heavenly Hades, if you will, the appearance of a dog–whose howling we heard when the three men arrived on the railcar–is fitting. This dog is symbolic of Cerberus, guarding, as it were, the underworld of ultimate fulfillment.

We see a brief black-and-white shot of the water, close up, leading to the Stalker, who is lying prone on the ground by that water, his head on his hand in an attitude of exasperation. Meanwhile, the other two have been chatting about whatever wishes they may hope will be granted them. Inspiration for the Writer? A Nobel Prize for the Professor? The latter taunts the former about his talentless, vain writing, but the Writer, spitting on humanity, is interested only in himself. The Stalker’s exasperation must come from his secret knowledge that the granting of one’s wishes is a truly empty pursuit.

Still, taking people into the Zone is extremely important to him, as a kind of act of religious faith, as we’ll see towards the end of the film.

“Truth is born in arguments,” we hear. Indeed: dialectical thinking is the basis of all the paradoxes of Stalker.

We return to colour, with the Stalker now lying supine on the grass. He seems more at ease now. He brings as many people as he can into the Zone, wishing to bring in more…to find happiness. He agrees that one has never found a single happy person in the world, a reminder of the first of the Buddha‘s Four Noble Truths…yet the Stalker still wants to bring people here.

One seeks happiness like a dog chasing its tail, never catching it. Still, one chases after it.

When asked if he’s ever used the Room, the Stalker says that he’s happy as he is…with no smile on his face.

…and we briefly return to black and white, with the dog running up to him. His whole world is just as bleak in the Zone as it is outside. Deep down, the Stalker knows that the Room’s promises of happiness are empty, so he only brings other people here to give them that hope. He is, in essence, a kind of religious charlatan, selling bliss, and he knows it.

He’s lying on a tiny island, as it were, of land, just big enough to include his body, and he’s surrounded by shallow water. Sometimes Brahman is compared to an ocean (as I have done), with Atman compared to a drop in this ocean. But here, this water is shallow, like the shallow hope of happiness the Stalker is selling. Sometimes, nirvana is compared to an island, but his ‘island’ is so small as to be insignificant.

The Writer acknowledges the emptiness of his desire to gain inspiration from the Room. After all, the whole point of being a writer, for him at least, is to prove his worth, as such to himself and to others. This need to prove himself is fueled by his own self-doubt. If the Room grants him his wish of genius, he has no more need to prove himself; then, what need has he anymore to write?

What we can see here, therefore, is a kind of ouroboros of wish-fulfillment. I’ve discussed, in many other articles, my use of the serpent biting its tail as a symbol of the dialectical relationship between opposites. The ouroboros, coiled in a circle. represents for me a circular continuum; extreme opposites meet and phase into each other where the head bites the tail, and every point in between has its correspondence on every intermediate point on the serpent’s coiled body.

So, for the Writer to achieve his wish of inspiration is to lose his whole motivation and meaning for writing. The talent of writing kills the writer. The Stalker knows, deep down, that the granting of wishes, the giving of happiness, kills it; therefore, he’ll never use the Room. The Professor knows of the potential danger of misuse of the wish-granting of the heaven-hell Room, so he has special plans for it, which necessitate his bringing along of his backpack.

One can conceive of an ouroboros of the Zone, too. When the three men arrive, having come from the black-and-white bleakness of their ordinary world and the danger of being shot by the patrol guards, we come upon a colourful world of beautiful trees, grass, and bushes. What’s more, the Room has been discovered to be quite close.

They can’t go in directly, so they’ve had to travel from the heavenly biting head, as it were, of the ouroboros of the Zone, down the coiled length of its body in the direction of its bitten tail, where the deadly meatgrinder is, just before the Room. As can be expected, this move along the coiled length of the serpent’s body, so to speak, has meant an experience of less and less bliss, more and more pain. The Stalker has to guide them through the increasing intensity of danger. Hence, these black-and-white moments, indicating a decrease in heavenly bliss; hence also the increasing lack of civility in the men’s discussions.

We see a shot of what looks like a stretch of muddy land, yet it moves in waves…at once like that Brahman-ocean metaphor I discussed above, yet also like a field of diarrhea. Such is the heaven/hell paradox of the Zone.

We hear a voiceover recitation of Revelation 6:12-17 begin as the Stalker, still lying on his little island, stares in front of himself in a wide-eyed daze. The film switches to black and white again, with a slowly moving close-up shot of the shallow water with random pieces of trash in it: a needle, coins, a picture of a saint, a gun, etc., and muddy tiles on the bottom. The shot ends with the Stalker’s hand.

With what is heard and seen, we again have juxtapositions of the holy and the horrifying: a description of the terror of Armageddon from the Bible, and the oceanic Brahman of water, but shallow water with things that hurt (the needle and gun); a holy man’s picture, but that which, if we love it too much, is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

We return to colour, with a shot of the dog. The Stalker rises from his resting place, and he contemplates the two disciples going to Emmaus and seeing the risen Christ (Luke 24:13-18). This narrative, of course, brings us from the despair of the disciples, over Christ‘s crucifixion, to the joyful realization of His resurrection…only the Stalker stops his recitation just before that moment of realization. Instead, as the Stalker discusses music, we see a shot of a beautiful lake, surrounded by trees. Renewed hope and joy can come in surprising forms.

Recall the presence of the dog…for the next scene shows the entrance to a tunnel leading ultimately to the Room. This is the place of death, a kind of Hades, that one has to go through before reaching the heaven of the Zone. This is the bitten tail of the ouroboros that I mentioned above. It’s a harrowing of hell, the meatgrinder one must risk death going through if one is to reach the nirvana known as the Room, the serpent’s biting head.

In the novel, Redrick simply plans, from the beginning, to sacrifice Arthur to the meatgrinder, so the former can gain access to the Golden Ball. In the film, the Stalker has all three men draw straws to see who will go first into the meatgrinder and risk death. The Writer is the unlucky one.

Like Arthur, the Writer is the Christ figure who must suffer so the others get the benefits of the Room. Unlike Arthur, though, the Writer won’t die; he’ll just have to endure the stress of thinking he could die. He’ll have to go through this dark, filthy, polluted tunnel that curves like the inside of the coiled ouroboros. The Writer, before drawing straws, says he doesn’t think he should go in first, rather like Jesus, praying in Gethsemane, hoping God would let this cup pass from him (Matthew 26:39).

The Writer goes through the tunnel, the Stalker and Professor following from far behind. The Writer reaches a door, through which he must go. Before opening the door, though, he takes a pistol out of his coat pocket; the Stalker forbids him to use it, for it would seal their doom. Christ, during His Passion, of which the Writer’s current ordeal is the representation, never used a weapon–neither must the Writer.

He opens the door, goes into a passageway flooded with water, and must descend stairs to get chest deep in it to reach the other side. Of course, the other two must follow. The gun must be left in the water.

The Writer has gone ahead into an area with wavy hills of sand on the floor, reminding us of that stretch of muddy land outside that undulated. The Stalker warns the Writer to go no further. Those waves of sand again remind us of the oceanic nature of the Absolute, which is both heaven and hell. The Writer is lying on his side in a puddle, in exasperation, as the Stalker was before.

The Writer gets up, then speaks of this place as someone’s “idiotic invention.” The Zone, like religion, is just an invention to him. He’s furious with the Stalker, believing he cheated him into taking the wrong straw.

The Stalker is amazed at the Writer’s good luck in having survived, since so many have died in the meatgrinder. The Writer’s survival, allowing the other two to get through alive, is thus symbolic of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and resurrection. Later, we will even see the Writer put on his head a wreath of branches like the crown of thorns.

Finally, they’re in the Room. What’s fascinating about the shot Tarkovsky takes of the Room is that we see it from outside, from the entranceway, just like his opening shot of the Stalker’s home, with the doorway leading into the bedroom. A similar shot has been given of the way in the bar. The implication is that these similarities show that the way to true happiness is not somewhere out there, a place we have to find, but right here at home, if only we had the eyes to see it. The problems is that we are, so to speak, colourblind–hence, the black-and-white shots.

A telephone rings in the Room. The call is from a clinic, the Professor’s place of work, and he phones back to talk to the caller, a colleague he has contempt for. The Professor proudly admits to what the caller knows that he intends to do to the Room. In a sense, the Professor is having his deepest, secret wish come true right here, for he has found the courage to tell the caller that he is defying the wishes of the institution of his employment, from which he expects to be fired.

…and what does the Professor want to do, and why does he need that backpack so badly? In it, he’s been carrying a bomb he’s meant to use to destroy the Room, so no one can misuse it to grant wishes of power, or to do other forms of evil.

The Stalker struggles with the Professor to take the bomb away and to prevent him from destroying the Room, but the Writer stops the Stalker, still mad at him for cheating him into making him go first into the meatgrinder. In any case, the Professor will change his mind, take his bomb apart, and toss the pieces into a large puddle. What we truly want is often a surprise to us, for we don’t really know what it is.

The three men look out at a large opening where a wall would have been, as if this were the entrance to the Room. We never see what’s on the other side, as if to preserve the mystery of the Room; but I don’t think that this opening leads there, however much it is implied that it does. The light coming out from it suggests that it’s the way back outside, rather than the way into the Room. (When we saw the building earlier from the outside, when the three men had just arrived and the Writer was approaching it, we saw a huge hole in it, a wall removed, and a door to a small room to the right; what we see now corresponds perfectly to this earlier sight.)

I believe the little room with the telephone and a glowing ball of a ceiling light (corresponding to the novel’s Golden Sphere?) is the actual Room, though Tarkovsky may have been teasing us with ambiguity as to which area was the real Room (i.e., which way is the real way to heaven?). The men have just stepped out of the Room for a moment, having not yet decided on what their wishes will be; then they’ll go back in.

The little room has a telephone, electricity, even sleeping pills…all odd things to find in one of so many abandoned buildings of junk and filth, if this isn’t the wish-granting Room. Still, what we want is so often not what we really want, hence the ambiguity as to which place is the real Room.

And in spite of how ambiguous this Room is in terms of its wish-fulfilling properties, and its paradoxical heaven/hell status, the Stalker still wants his Room to continue existing, not just so he can continue making money taking people here, but because he sees in it the importance of maintaining a sense of hope in life, a faith in some kind of religious feeling. He is, as the Writer observes, “one of God’s fools.”

When the Stalker talks about making one’s wish, now that the time has finally come, he is nervous and dripping with sweat, as though getting one’s wish is a terrifying thing. Heaven is hell.

So what the men end up doing is sitting outside between the Room and the open space, in quiet contemplation, instead of making wishes. All this effort…for nothing.

Yet, the Stalker mentions again, as he did when they’d first arrived in the Zone, how still the place is.

They return to the bar, and we return to black and white. The Stalker’s wife is there, with Monkey. We see the two of them outside, through the window of a door, in a shot reminding us of those of the Room, of the way in the bar, and of the way into the Stalker’s home’s bedroom. The place of our wishes is here with us, with family and friends, all in its dull black and white, with all of its troubles and miseries.

The dog has come with them, further demonstrating the unity of the Zone and what’s outside it. When the Stalker goes home with his family and the dog, we return to colour, with the Stalker carrying Monkey on his shoulders.

Back in his home, the Stalker, not feeling well, is complaining of the lack of respect and appreciation the Writer and Professor have for the Zone and Room, like a religious person complaining of atheists. Fittingly, we see black and white again, to reflect his own lack of appreciation for all that he has, in his own home. He ends up back in bed, as he was at the beginning of the film, which has thus come full circle.

His wife, in a monologue that breaks the fourth wall, speaks of never once regretting marrying him, in contrast to her cursing of him at the film’s beginning. She, too, calls him “one of God’s fools.”

She concludes that, in spite of all the sorrows she’s had with the Stalker, she has no regrets because, as the film has pointed out so many times with all of its symbolism, without pain, there’s no happiness or hope, either.

…and who is her hope, and his hope? Monkey, of course!

And this is how the film ends, in colour, with Monkey seen reading a book. A golden shawl is wrapped around her head and draped on her shoulders, presumably to hide her deformities. She is mute throughout the film. We hear the Stalker’s wife, in voiceover, reciting a poem as the child, having put the book down, sits there staring into space.

The film ends with her using telekinesis to move two glasses across a table, making one of them fall off of it. Here we see the true meaning of wish-fulfillment: using one’s mind to make happen what one wishes to happen. As a deformed child of the Stalker, and therefore of the Zone, Monkey is clearly his wish-fulfillment personified, even if he doesn’t realize it. As the offspring resulting from the symbolic mating of one of the sons of God and the daughters of men, she isn’t literally one of the Nephilim, but she is a giant hope for her parents.

The fulfillment of wishes, the finding of happiness, isn’t supposed to be selfish–it’s to be shared with others. This is why we see colour now in the Stalker’s home: his happiness is here because his wife and daughter are here. They are his happiness. Happiness is a collective one, not an individual one…which is actually the goal of socialism, incidentally.

A similar conclusion is made in the novel when Redrick shouts out, in imitation of Arthur, who has first shouted it before being killed by the meatgrinder: “HAPPINESS FOR EVERYBODY, FREE, AND NO ONE WILL GO AWAY UNSATISFIED!”

Nonetheless, we hear the rattling of that train again, the wish to find happiness out there. The temptation to go astray is ever present. As the camera does a closeup on Monkey, though, with her head lying on its side on the table, her like a reclining Buddha, we hear a chorus singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

How fitting.

‘Mad Dogs and Islington,’ a Horror Short Story

Iona held her copy of the Islington Post in one hand and her cup of coffee in the other. Her eyes almost popped out of her head after reading the headline on the front page.

“SECOND MAD DOG ATTACK IN ISLINGTON,” it said. She looked over at her English Springer Spaniel, Jenny, who was eating her Iams in her bowl on the kitchen floor just to the right of Iona’s right foot.

She put the paper and coffee down on the table and stroked her dog’s back and head. “Oh, my poor baby,” she said, in near sobs. “What if one of those dogs attacks you?

She went back to reading the article. It said, “This dog, Maggie, her owners being the Grissom family on Trenton St. near downtown, had not been bitten by any of the five rabid dogs bitten by Elroy, the dog of the Feldmans on Mayberry Rd. on the east side of town. Still, the symptoms of both Maggie and Elroy are exactly the same–blood-red eyes, foaming at the mouth, a hoarse growl, and a shaking rage–prompting questions as to a possible common cause of their infections.”

Iona picked up her coffee with a shaking hand, spilling a bit on the table before bringing it to her mouth for a sip, which she did as she looked down at Jenny. She read more of the article.

“As we reported last time, Elroy had bitten not only five other dogs, infecting them and bringing out the same violence in them before he was finally caught and put to sleep, but he bit and infected all of the members of the Feldman family–the mother and father, as well as their pre-teen son and daughter–also bringing out the same violent tendencies. The five bitten dogs have also bitten their owners, as well as the other pets of those owners. All human victims have been hospitalized and sedated to curb their violent rage; all animal victims have been put to sleep.”

Iona was trembling as she looked down again at Jenny, who had just finished eating her Iams and was lying contentedly on the floor by her bowl.

What if my Jenny gets bitten? was all Iona could think about.

She went back to the article: “The transmission of this violence-inducing infection has been too fast for the authorities to contain it. As of this printing, Maggie has bitten at least eight dogs, all the members of the Grissom family (the mother, father, and three teenage kids, all now hospitalized), and she still hasn’t been caught. All residents of Islington are being warned to stay indoors and to keep all their pets indoors until further notice.”

She put the newspaper down, got off the chair, and walked out of the kitchen. Jenny looked up at her as she found a chair in her living room. She looked back at her dog.

“Come here, baby,” she said in sobs, snapping her fingers. Jenny went out of the kitchen and over to Iona, who put her arms around her dog. “What am I going to do if you get bitten?” she sobbed as she continued hugging Jenny.

Iona looked around her living room: no TV, for she hated the garbage shown on it every day. She preferred to read her news in the paper. No cell phones or tablets: she hated even the idea of internet addictions.

Afraid of people all her life, Iona lived a solitary existence in this small house she’d inherited from her mother when she died, along with a lot of money so she could live without needing a job. Jenny was Iona’s only friend in the whole wide world. The loss of her dog to this infection would be nothing short of devastating for her.

Jenny was Iona’s only friend because, as her mother told her when she was nine years old, Iona had no talent at all at making friends with anybody. Only her mother could ever show her kindness, and now her mother was gone. And what her mom said came true, for all through her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, Iona’s every attempt at making friends was at best short-lived, and at worst doomed to failure before she’d even tried.

This was the wisdom of her loving mother, to have been able to predict such difficulties for Iona!

So she was a lonely girl all of her life, bullied as a kid at school, and ignored by men as a ‘plain,’ introverted woman. The good thing about pets, dogs especially, is that they love you unconditionally, not caring if you’re chunky or pimple-faced, as Iona was. The best thing about pets is that they don’t talk, so you don’t have to fear them ever saying hurtful words to you.

She’d already had Jenny as a cute puppy, with those adorable, big, sad eyes, when her mother died (her father, whom she never knew, had abandoned her mother on finding out she was pregnant), so Iona at least had Jenny for company since the loss of her mother, her only human friend.

Jenny was Iona’s entire world now, her only love.

Putting an infected Jenny to sleep would destroy that world utterly, would shatter it, smash it to pieces.

Her dog could never get infected…NEVER!!!

In the middle of summer, Islington was an unbearably hot and humid town. Being terrified of people, Iona rarely went outside anyway, beyond taking Jenny for walks or buying what they needed from the nearby grocery stores. During these dog days of summer, she went out even less, preferring to let Jenny roam about and relieve herself in the backyard.

It amazed her to look out her window in the summer afternoons and see so many people outside, kids especially, baking in that oppressive sun. Surely not even running through sprinklers was enough to compensate!

And now, mad dogs were running loose in the heat.

Only mad dogs and Islington went out in the midday sun, as Iona observed. But these mad dogs were making her fear ever going outside at all!

Did she have enough food, drink, and Iams stocked up to ensure that she and Jenny could get through this mad dog crisis? Did she dare even let her dog out in her backyard for a quick pee and poop?

So far, the mad dog sightings had been in the east end and downtown areas, whereas she lived in the west end. So far, Iona and Jenny were reasonably safe.

So far.


The next morning, Iona received her newspaper on her front porch as usual. She picked it up and took it inside.

As she walked with it through the living room and towards the kitchen, she read the headlines on the front page. As soon as she saw the headline that she was anticipating, she dropped the paper on the floor and began trembling.


Jenny went up to her, and she sank to her knees. Sobbing, she held Jenny close, looking in her dog’s beautiful, black, loving eyes. Jenny whimpered a bit, not as if hungry or complaining, but as if in compassionate concern for Iona. Then, with enormous dread and reluctance, she picked up the paper to read the story.

“Furry, the Saint Bernard owned by the Vaughan family on Becker St. ten blocks west from downtown Islington, has been infected not from a bite by Maggie or Elroy. Furry has bitten and infected the entire Vaughan family, all hospitalized and sedated: the parents, their nine-year-old son, and the wife’s parents. Furry has the same symptoms as the other infected dogs: red eyes, foaming at the mouth, etc.

“An investigation has been made to discover the source of the infection. What Furry, Maggie, and Elroy have in common is the receiving of a ‘vaccine’ from a veterinarian and former resident of Islington named Max Rooney, who has since left town without any way to contact him, raising suspicions that what he injected the dogs with was what has caused the infection.

“Each dog received the shot on successive, consecutive days, just as each dog, in the same order, first showed signs of the infection on consecutive days. There must have been an incubation period of three days between receiving the shot and manifesting the violent symptoms.

“Dr. Rooney’s so-called vaccine was supposed to be against rabies, yet the infection that seems the result of the shot shows symptoms much worse than those of rabies. Though there seems to be a three-day incubation period between the dogs’ receiving their shots and the emergence of the symptoms, there is no incubation period at all between one being bitten or scratched by the infected and showing symptoms oneself.

“Instead of the usual rabies symptoms of hydrophobia, brain and meninges inflammation, paralysis, and insomnia, the infected are wildly violent and aggressive, attacking people and animals on sight, making rabies aggression seem tame in comparison. An examination of the hospitalized victims has shown some of the symptoms of rabies, such as anxiety, confusion, agitation, abnormal behaviour, paranoia, terror, and hallucinations.

“If suspicion of Dr. Rooney, for whom police have begun a manhunt, is proven true, the shot he gave the dogs seems to have contents resulting from some form of gain of function research. A possible motive for Rooney to have deliberately released a pathogen into the Islington community is revenge against them for a malpractice lawsuit filed against him (which he lost) nine years ago.”

Dr. Rooney, Iona thought when finishing the article. That bastard, I remember him. Our old cat, Dotty, died under his ‘care’ ten years ago. Mama wasn’t among the litigators back then, but she should have been. I hope the cops find him and make him pay for all he’s done.

Hoping to find something else in the paper, something that might cheer her up and take her mind off her worries about Jenny, Iona flipped through the pages. The only articles that caught her eye were ones on the Russia/Ukraine war, the danger of China invading Taiwan (and the Western military buildup to protect the island), a small article on the American military occupying a third of Syria, stealing their oil and wheat, and an op-ed arguing that George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes by the ICC.

Pretty depressing reading.

Another article in the Weather section discussed a soon-to-come heat wave in Islington.

“All the more reason to stay indoors,” she whispered.

She went over to the living room window–with the curtains closed to keep the obnoxious sunlight from blindingly brightening up, and heating up, her home–and pushed a curtain to the side to look out. She was grateful to see no nosy neighbours trying to peer inside her home and pry on her personal business. She was also grateful to see no mad dogs anywhere.

Well, I guess it’s safe to go out there and get some food for myself and Jenny, she thought. I’ll have to stock up while I can. The mad dogs are getting closer and closer to home. They’re like all the wars that infect more and more of the globe. It’s terrifying, all that death and destruction disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

She got her purse and took a few tentative steps outside.

“Still, no dogs anywhere,” she whispered, then closed and locked the door behind her.

As she walked off of her porch and towards the sidewalk, she looked around the neighbourhood with a frown. Still, there are a lot of people out here today, she thought, noting all the kids in bathing suits running around and playing. How can they like it out in this horrible heat? I’ll bet at least one of these brats is gonna make fun of my appearance, calling me ‘fat’ and ‘ugly,’ the way they did when I was little. Kids are so cruel.

She kept walking along the sidewalk on the way to the nearest grocery store, always keeping an eye out for shaking dogs with red eyes and foaming mouths. So far, she saw none…so far.

She saw a few kids walking in her direction. She shuddered, fearing they’d say something mean to her. Her lonely, sensitive heart just didn’t cope with such things.

They were getting closer and closer, just chatting with each other.

One of them, a boy of about ten, looked at her for a moment.

Her heart started pounding. She was shaking all over.

The kids passed by her, saying nothing.

Sweating, she let out a huge sigh of relief.

As she continued towards the grocery store, she saw a few stray dogs barking at each other, just by the store’s entrance.

She froze.

Eyeing the dogs with tense care, she saw…no red eyes, no abnormal shaking, no foaming mouths, no aggression beyond the barking and growling.

They were okay.

She walked around them and reached the front door of the grocery store. She went in.

She went straight over to the pet food section, where the big bags of Iams were. Ensuring that Jenny had enough food to ride out this mad dog crisis was the top priority. Iona’s getting food for herself could wait.

She picked up two big bags of Jenny’s favourite flavour, then went over to where the food she liked was: first, she’d get some cheese, then she’d go over to get some meat, then some bread, and finally, some Folger’s coffee. As she looked at the cheese, she heard a sudden, loud, almost growling noise from a man.

She yelped, then looked behind her.

It was just some middle-aged man sneezing. No red eyes, no foaming mouth. She was safe.

Still, why do some people need to sneeze so loudly? She was already tense enough as it was, and that sneeze scared her so much, she almost wet herself.

As she waited in line to pay for her groceries, she noticed, among the newspapers, a small, local newsmagazine written by a dissident reporter on world affairs. The headline read: “China Doesn’t Want War with Taiwan, but the US Wants to Provoke China, as with Russia over Ukraine.”

“Pfft!” Iona said with a sneer. “Sure.”

After paying for and bagging her groceries, she went to the door and looked outside before opening it.

The dogs were gone, and she didn’t see any others anywhere, near or farther away, mad or normal. Still, standing at the doorway, she kept looking for another ten seconds or so, just to be sure.

“Miss, are you gonna block the doorway all day, or are you gonna move?” a woman behind her said with a scowl.

Iona went outside and out of the woman’s way, her heart pounding. Why do people have to be so hurtful?

As she walked back to her house, her eyes always on the lookout for mad dogs and Islington meanies, her body always dripping with sweat from that oppressive sun overhead, she remembered another reason she so rarely went outside: every time she did, it seemed, someone would bite off a piece of her, as that woman just did.

She was passing the houses of her neighbourhood, the few before reaching her own, when behind her, she suddenly heard sharp, loud, rapid-fire barking.

She felt as if she’d jumped ten feet into the air.

She looked around and behind her, with wide-eyed dread.

It was her neighbour’s pit bull, chained by his house, yapping at her. Its eyes and mouth were normal.

“Goddammit, do I have to be startled every five minutes or so?” Iona growled, baring her own teeth at the dog.

She continued back to her house.

As soon as she unlocked the front door and went inside, she saw her sweet little Jenny wagging her tail and shaking–not the shakes of the infected, of course, but shakes of love to see her owner back home. Iona put the bags down by the door, closed it, and went over to her dog.

Weeping, she held Jenny. “Oh, my baby!” she sobbed, stroking Jenny’s head. “Only you love me! You’re my one true friend. What’s gonna happen if you get bitten or scratched by one of those mad dogs? If that ever happens, I won’t be able to bear it! I’ll go mad! I’ll wanna kill myself if I ever lose my baby!”

Jenny licked her face and looked at her with those big, sweet, loving eyes as Iona kept hugging her and slowly rocking her from side to side.


The next morning, Iona went out to get her newspaper. As she held the door open with her left foot while bending down to reach for the Islington Post, which lay on the porch beside the welcome mat, Jenny was by the door, noticing a cat sniffing around on the lawn.

The dog raced outside, chasing the cat.

“Jenny, no!” Iona screamed.

But her dog was already past four of five houses down the neighbourhood running after that cat. Iona, already not a fast runner, found it all the more awkward running after Jenny in her bathrobe, nightgown, and slippers.

She’d only had time to read the headline before dropping the newspaper: “THREE MAD DOGS SPOTTED IN WEST END OF ISLINGTON”.

As she ran, dripping sweat from the summer heat, she was startled again by the machine-gun bark of that pit bull. She could see Jenny far off ahead of her; her dog was still running so fast in pursuit of that cat–how could Iona catch up to her, let alone get her back safely into the house?

By the time she’d reached the grocery store, Iona collapsed from exhaustion. Sobbing and panting for breath, she felt that regaining her strength to resume the chase was taking an eternity. She saw Jenny, tiny and far off in the distance, but at least still not out of sight. Her dog didn’t seem to be chasing the cat anymore.

Because of her heavy panting, Iona didn’t hear an approaching, growling dog.

After a few more seconds, though, she felt a bite on her arm.

“Oww!” she yelled, then looked behind her.

The last thing she noticed, while her world still looked normal, was the dog’s red eyes, its foaming mouth, and its shaking body.

Now, her eyes had gotten red, excesses of saliva were dripping from her lips, and she began shaking wildly. Everything she saw around her was as red as her eyes.

…and at just that moment, Jenny, recognizing her from far off, was running back to her.

As her dog was coming nearer and nearer, Iona was seeing an alternating vision, all in red, of sweet Jenny with her big, loving eyes, eagerly running up to be loved…and a flying torso…of…delicious…dog…meat…coming up to be eaten.

Shaking, salivating Iona was utterly confused.

Over and over, the thought flashed in her mind: TASTY DOG MEAT.

Affection was fading out…appetite was fading in.

The part of Iona that still saw her one true friend was mentally screaming No! to the part of her that was taking over and licking her lips.

Finally, Jenny reached her. Iona put her arms around her dog and received licks on her cheeks.

Then she sank her saliva-soaked teeth into Jenny’s neck.

The dog let out a loud yelp as blood sprayed all over Iona’s face. Within seconds, Jenny’s eyes turned red. She was salivating and shaking, and she saw a world as red as the one Iona saw.

Police in body armour showed up just after Jenny’s transformation. They got out of their cars and pointed their rifles at Jenny, Iona, and the other mad dog.

“Get the tranquilizer gun ready for the woman!” one of the cops shouted as he was aiming at Jenny.

“Don’t…hurt…my…dog!” Iona grunted in a near-zombie voice as she got up, ready to attack the cops.

Just when she and the dogs jumped forward to pounce on the police, all of them fired on their would-be attackers, killing the dogs and hitting Iona with a tranquilizer dart.

It took several minutes for the dart to knock her unconscious, but the force of it hitting her in the chest made her fall back onto the ground, knocking the wind out of her. As her vision slowly faded to black, she hallucinated seeing Jenny’s body being shattered to pieces, over and over again.

“N-n-noooo!” she stammered.


The line between dream and consciousness was blurred for Iona, because of the hallucinatory world brought on by the infection and the semiconscious, hypnotic state brought on by the sedative she was given in the hospital.

All she saw, over and over again, was a squad of soldiers firing machine guns at her in a world of red, in the middle of a besieged city. The buildings all around her were crumbling. Bombs were dropping from the sky like hail.

…and Jenny, in what looked like a red tape loop, ran up to her with those big, sweet eyes…then the gunfire tore her body into fragments right before Iona’s horrified eyes. She saw her dog’s gory fate again, and again, and again…

The worst part was that Iona, overwhelmed with grief over the violent killing of her one true friend, was starving for revenge, craving to attack anyone randomly in a desperate effort to rid herself of her pain…but the sedative and bed straps kept her unable to move beyond mere fidgeting.

All she could do was weep.

Analysis of the Christ Myth

I: Introduction

Before I go into this analysis, I need to clarify a few things for my readers. If you wish to read a characterization of Christ that reaffirms all the orthodox notions of him, I recommend going back to your Bible, or to your local church and listen to your preacher. There’s no point in my simply restating what’s already been said so many times before.

I’m attempting here to argue something different: a combination of ideas from modern Biblical scholarship with some literary interpretations of my own. So if you, Dear Reader, happen to be a Bible-believing Christian who doesn’t like to have his or her cherished beliefs challenged, I’m afraid that this analysis isn’t for you; stop reading, and do as I suggested in the above paragraph. I respect your right to have your faith, but I don’t share it.

Also, if your beliefs are as I’ve said above, don’t assume that you’ll read this through, then ‘prove me wrong’ in the comments section with a reading list of links and books. Don’t assume you’re going ‘to win my soul for Christ’: almost twenty years ago, I went through a Christian phase, for about six or seven years, then I lost my faith by the end of the 2000s. I’d say bringing me back into the flock, through a little online arguing, is most unlikely.

Finally, if my analysis offends your sense of orthodoxy, I’d advise against making abusive comments, as such an attitude is decidedly un-Christian, and therefore will have the opposite effect of changing my mind. Recall Jesus’ words in this connection: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5: 43-47)

Then, there’s what Bill Hicks said in response to offended Christians (<<<at about 1:20).

Furthermore, if my interpretations seem to be ‘manipulative’ of Scripture, keep in mind how manipulative the Church and others in power have always been in their interpretation of the same Scriptures, typically for political ends. For those manipulations, the accepted ones, are ones that have been made by the owners of the most real estate!

Now, as for those of you who are open-minded enough to consider a different point of view, I welcome you.

II: Jesus, the Anti-imperialist Revolutionary

Jesus was not a “Christian.” He had no intention of starting a new religion, nor did his immediate followers, including James and Peter. It was Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, who introduced the idea of Jesus dying for our sins to save us from eternal damnation (see The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, by Hyam Maccoby, for a full argument), faith in this salvific death replacing the Torah, something neither Jesus nor his immediate followers ever intended to abrogate, an idea they would have been horrified even to contemplate.

Jesus saw himself as the Messiah in the traditional Jewish sense of the concept: descended from David (even Paul acknowledged this in Romans 1:3), a king “who would restore the Jewish monarchy, drive out the Roman invaders, set up an independent Jewish state, and inaugurate an era of peace, justice and prosperity (known as ‘the kingdom of God’) for the whole world.” (Maccoby, page 15) He did not consider himself divine; such an idea was added decades later by the Pauline Church. For him, ‘Son of God‘ was not meant to be taken literally, but was rather expressive of how he was a righteous follower of God, as used in the Hebrew Bible.

Now, I don’t subscribe to Caleb Maupin’s notion that Jesus was a socialist, but this notion of Christ as a revolutionary, who didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34), is an inspiring concept for us anti-imperialists today. For as Mao taught us, “Revolution is not a dinner party,” and “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” As I will argue below, there are revolutionary things Jesus and his followers said and did that can inspire us socialists today, if in a symbolic, allegorical form.

Of course one wouldn’t know that Christ was a revolutionary to read the New Testament, since the followers of the Pauline Church, including the four evangelists, edited out and minimized all discussion of militant action. Only a few such remarks, such as the quote given in the link from Matthew in the previous paragraph, remain in the Gospels as, so to speak, Freudian slips that go against the tendenz of the general message, and therefore hint at the hidden truth.

Other examples of the truth slipping out include how Jesus’ disciples included one called “Simon the Zealot,” as well as the “Sons of Thunder” (or does Boanerges mean “Sons of Tumult,” or “Sons of Anger”?). Why would a mild-mannered preacher of peace and love, so willing to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” include a Zealot, as well as such aggressive types, among his disciples?

A more important question is why this militant, revolutionary message was edited out (with the exception of such oversights as those mentioned above). Though some scholars have claimed that Roman rule over Palestine in the first century CE wasn’t all that oppressive, others say it was. Romans crucified men for the crime of sedition, as I discussed in my analysis of Spartacus. Thousands of Jews claiming to be the Messiah were put to death in this cruel, excruciating way. Why kill them this way if the revolutionary threat wasn’t so great, and why risk such a painful death if one’s oppression wasn’t all that severe?

The earliest of the Gospels to be written was that of Mark, written around 66-74 CE, either just before or just after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The other three Gospels were written years, if not a decade or two, after this event, when the brutally defeated Jews were too demoralized to take up the revolutionary struggle so soon again.

For the early Christian Church, having just been persecuted under Nero, any antagonism of Rome would have been inadvisable, to say the least; whereas gaining as many Roman converts as possible would have been in the Church’s best interests. Hence, as appeasing an attitude to Rome as could be achieved, while also contradicting the known history as minimally as possible, was desirable to these early Christian missionaries.

Added to this issue was the growing antipathy between the original Jewish Jesus movement and the Gentile Pauline Church (In this connection, consider how defensive Paul gets in 2 Corinthians 11 against those “super-apostles” who doubt his authority as an apostle; consider also the controversy between Paul and the Jewish Christians as expressed in Acts 15.). It would work to the Church’s advantage to reinforce the bad Roman feeling against the Jews while as the same time ingratiating Rome. Hence, the Gospels’ shifting of the blame of Christ’s crucifixion onto the Jews and away from Rome.

Small wonder Jesus is understood to have said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) This statement is a clever de-politicizing of the notion of the Kingdom of God as wiping out Roman rule and reinstating the Jewish monarchy. Small wonder, when the Jews insisted that Pontius Pilate release insurrectionist Barabbas and crucify Jesus (“His blood be on us, and on our children!” [Matthew 27:25]), the Judaean governor washes his hands of the decision, carrying out the Jews’ apparent wishes while absolving himself, and all of Rome, of responsibility.

It is also easy to see how all of this whitewashing of Roman responsibility, and placing it instead on the Jews, brought about almost two millennia of Christian, particularly European, antisemitism, culminating in the Holocaust.

III: The Son of God, Figuratively to Literally

As I said above, the traditionally Jewish use of ‘son of God’ only meant someone with a special, close relationship with God, not one literally begotten of God, the way Zeus impregnated maidens to give birth to Greek heroes. Such a use originally applied to Jesus, too, though that would change over the decades and later New Testament writings.

Let’s start with Paul’s letters, the earliest New Testament writings, generally dated around 48-57 CE (i.e., Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, and Romans; all others attributed to Paul are either of doubtful authenticity or not considered authentically his writing).

One striking thing to note about this early Christology is that Paul doesn’t seem to know anything about the Virgin Birth. As I pointed out above with the quote from Romans 1:3, he said that Jesus was descended from King David, but that he was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

In other words, according to Paul, Christ wasn’t the pre-existing Word from the beginning (John 1:1); he was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), that is, born fully human. He became the Son of God when God rose him from the dead–no earlier.

Let’s move ahead a decade or two to the Gospel of Mark, which establishes Jesus’ Sonship, well, earlier, specifically, at his baptism, after which the Holy Spirit was said to have descended on him like a dove, and God declared that Jesus was “[His] beloved Son, in whom [He is] well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Still no mention of a Virgin Birth.

We get the Virgin Birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke/Acts, respectively believed to have been written around about 70-85 and 80-90 CE. There’s one little problem with this notion of a Virgin Birth, though: it’s based on a mistranslation.

Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as follows: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” The problem with this is that the author of Matthew was quoting the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, which used parthenos, “virgin,” for the Isaiah verse; the original Hebrew Bible, however, uses almah, “young woman.” If the prophesy had intended to refer to a miraculous birth, why not use betulah, “virgin,” instead?

Another curious thing should be noted, one that will doubtless infuriate the fundamentalists, who insist that the Bible is ‘the inerrant Word of God.’ If one were to compare the genealogies of Jesus as given in Matthew and Luke, not only do the names differ so much as to be surely the genealogies of completely different men, but if one were to reckon only those names from King David to Joseph, one would find that in Luke, there are about fifteen more generations (Luke 3:23-31) than there are in Matthew 1:6-16.

In any case, we can see that Jesus was getting more and more divine by the decades. With Paul’s notion of Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected, we sense the, at least unconscious, influence on Paul of the dying and resurrecting gods of pagan mystery traditions (i.e., Attis, Osiris, Tammuz, etc.–see Maccoby, pages 195-198). As the notion of Christ’s divinity grows through the Virgin Birth, Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and Earth, also slowly begins to acquire quasi-pagan/divine attributes.

We can see this Marian development already in Luke 1:28-55, from the angel Gabriel calling her kecharitomene up to the Magnificat. Mary has been full of grace right from the beginning of her life, as kecharitomene implies, according to the Catholic interpretation, which is used as proof of the Immaculate Conception. One doesn’t have to go far from this to the Cult of Mary (in spite of the Church’s condemnation of it), and thence to her role as Co-Redemptrix. Since Paul was, as I mentioned above, Apostle to the Gentiles, and Luke was written for a Gentile audience, notions of a dying-and-resurrecting son of God, born of an immaculate mother, must have inflamed their pagan imaginations.

Finally, it’s in the Johannine writings (the Gospel of John, in its final form, having been written probably some time between 90-110 CE) that we find Christ as the pre-existing Logos who was made flesh. He’s truly coming closer to God, though the Trinitarian doctrine isn’t yet quite fully established. An argument can be made that the Gospel of John is presenting the Arian position that Christ is homoiousios, not homoousios–similar to, but not the same, as God. After all, Christ seems to be denying his identity with God (John 10:30) to his accusers of blasphemy when he says, “Is it not written in your law, I said, ‘ye are gods?” (John 10:34-38).

The hypostatic union, that is, Jesus understood in the Trinitarian sense of being God and man, all in one indivisible whole, suggests that goddess-like status of Mary, the Theotokos, who couldn’t be merely the mother of a physical, but not spiritual, nature, as in the Nestorian heresy. The pagan influence on Christianity goes back pretty early, doesn’t it? Small wonder the Church was able to accommodate so many pagan traditions (i.e., transforming pagan gods into Christian saints, turning pagan holidays into Christian ones, etc.) so easily.

IV: The Ouroboros of Christ

So as we go towards the later New Testament writings, we go further away from the Jesus of history and more and more towards the Jesus of faith, or of myth, however you prefer to see it. As much as I see these later developments as ahistorical, though, I don’t see them as completely without merit or worth. I will, nonetheless, interpret their meaning in an unorthodox, metaphorical way.

In the last section, we saw Jesus rising from a man favoured of God to being man and God at the same time, since the Church insisted he must be both, for soteriological reasons. Now, however, we’re going to see Christ descend, though in a very different way. Here, I give you a new, metaphorical interpretation of the Christ myth, one that paradoxically uses the orthodox concepts to symbolize how we can think about the original, revolutionary message.

In the beginning was the already existing Word, the idealized, spiritual version of Christ, who dwelt with God. I like the New English Bible translation the best: “…and what God was, the Word was.” (John 1:1) It suggests the Arian notion of homoiousios, similarity between God and Christ, an emphasis of Jesus’ virtues and closeness to God, good qualities to have in a revolutionary figure.

When the Word was made flesh (John 1:14), though, a transformation of Christ occurred that requires us to take note of the influence of Gnosticism on Pauline Christianity. In particular, I’m referring to the dualism of the spirit vs. the flesh. Naturally, the spirit is idealized, Godlike, and the flesh is corrupt, evil, of the Devil.

Now, since Pauline Christianity is, as Maccoby conceived of it, a combination of Judaism, Gnosticism, and pagan mystery tradition, Paul was only a moderate Gnostic (Maccoby, pages 185-189). For Paul, the physical world and the Torah weren’t created by the evil Demiurge, but by God; instead, Satan took over this world from the time of the Fall, perceived as a radical plunge from God’s grace to the depths of sin (a notion whose logic I questioned here–scroll way down to find the relevant passage), and the Torah for Paul was only a temporary guide to be superseded by belief in Christ’s sacrificial death (Romans 8:3), the pagan element of Paul’s conception of Christianity.

So the physical world and the Torah aren’t evil in an absolute sense for Paul; they’re just inferior…bad enough. Indulgence in physical pleasure, and insistence on adhering to the Law, though, are evil for Paul; hence, his celibacy and recommendation of it to those who can resist sex (1 Corinthians 7:1-2), and “the power of sin is the Law” (1 Corinthians 15:56); also, there’s Romans 3:20.

My point in discussing this Gnostic influence on Paul, that the spirit is good and the physical is evil, is that it has a bearing on the Incarnation. As perfect as Christ is understood to be as both God and man, his very physicality is a descent from the absoluteness of that perfection. Small wonder the heretical Gnostic Christians couldn’t accept a Christ that came in the flesh (2 John 1:7); for them, he, not having a body, couldn’t be crucified, but someone else had to have been crucified instead (Simon of Cyrene), an idea that managed to appear in the Koran (surah An Nisa, 157).

Christ’s Incarnation is thus the beginning of his mythical descent, one that will end with his crucifixion, death, and harrowing of hell. His resurrection, in a spiritual body that’s incorruptible, is thus his return to that absolute state of perfection from the beginning, a coming full circle for him, which leads to a point I’ve made many times before.

I use the ouroboros as a symbol of the dialectical, unified relationship between opposites. I feel that that relationship is best expressed in the form of a circular continuum, with the extreme opposites meeting and paradoxically phasing into each other. For me, the ouroboros shows us that meeting of opposites with the serpent’s head biting its tail. Of course, every intermediate point on the circular continuum is corresponded to on the serpent’s coiled body.

Now, as I see it, the biting head of the ouroboros of Christ represents the pre-existing Word from the beginning of Creation up until just before he is made flesh. With the Incarnation, we shift from the serpent’s biting head to just after it, at the neck. The newborn baby is surrounded by the love of Joseph, Mary, the gift-bearing Magi, the shepherds, and the angels, but he is in the humblest of mangers.

Later, as a young man, Jesus is tempted by the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). As we all know, he of course resists this temptation completely, but none of this is to say he doesn’t at all feel the itch of temptation: after all, without at least the urge to give in, it’s hardly temptation, is it? Thus, this is a further move down towards the tail.

After that, he begins his ministry, with the assembling of his twelve disciples. As we know, he performs many miracles–turning water into wine, feeding five thousand, walking on water, healing the disabled, etc.–so even though he’s gone further down the body of the ouroboros, he’s still in the upper half of it. At one point, however, he’s hungry and goes to a fig tree, one that is out of season; angry that it has no figs for him to eat, he curses it, causing it to wither away (Mark 11:12-14). This is hardly saintly behaviour, no matter how Christians try to rationalize or allegorize it. His enjoining us to forgive others so God will forgive our sins doesn’t seem to dovetail well with his cursing of the fig tree (Mark 11:20-25). Why couldn’t he forgive it? He has thus slipped another inch or two down the serpent’s body.

In his exorcising of evil spirits in a madman, Jesus sends them into a herd of about two thousand pigs, which immediately run into a sea and drown themselves (Mark 5:1-13). Why kill them? Couldn’t Christ have simply sent the demons back to hell? That large herd of pigs was surely part of a farmer’s livelihood. Couldn’t Christ have taken that into consideration? Again, he seems to have slipped a bit further down the serpent’s body in the direction of the tail.

One striking thing about his teachings, often in the form of parables, is that they’re part of the Pharisee style of teaching. Indeed, in spite of the hostility Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels as having showed the Pharisees (whose way of doing things would evolve into rabbinic Judaism), he seems to have been a Pharisee himself (see also Maccoby, chapter 4). Though the Pauline New Testament tries to vilify all Jews not converting to Christ, his real condemnation is towards only those particular Pharisees and Sadducees who were collaborators with Rome, outwardly appearing to be righteous, but inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matthew 23:28).

Indeed, as the controversies between him and the Jewish religious establishment grow, we find that, because of his popularity with the regular Jewish people, those authorities are afraid of showing antagonism to him. Recall that Jesus was thoroughly a Jew, not at all intending to destroy the Law or the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Those Jews who opposed him weren’t ordinary Jews, as John would have you believe (John 8:44-49)–those Jews in particular were collaborators with Rome.

Now, with these controversies come the nearing danger of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, which therefore brings him further down the serpent’s body and closer to the tail. Since he is opposed to these collaborators with Rome, they at one point try to test him on his position on taxation, to which he gives a cleverly ambiguous answer (Mark 12:13-17).

I referred to the “render to Caesar” quote above, giving the interpretation that favours acquiescence to taxation, and therefore to Roman rule. The opposing interpretation, though, I’d say is the far likelier one, given Jesus’ revolutionary bent, and that is that what is Caesar’s is nothing, while what is to be rendered to God is everything.

As for the nature of Christ’s revolutionary leanings, as I said above, he was no ‘socialist,’ or even whatever the ancient equivalent of that would have been. Nor was he, much to the chagrin of your typical Christian fundamentalist today, the ancient equivalent of a right-winger, in spite of his Jewish traditionalism, and in spite of the later Pauline Church’s acceptance of the master-slave relation (1 Peter 2:18).

Jesus spoke of a kind of egalitarianism that many right-wingers today would balk at as being ‘socialist,’ even though it was nothing of the sort; and as I said in my analysis of It’s a Wonderful Life, such talk of Christian charity as socialism tells us more about the mean-spiritedness of those right-wingers, who often consider themselves Christian, than it does of whether or not such charity is at all socialist.

Jesus told a wealthy man to sell what he owns and give the money to the poor, in order to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17-22). A little later, he says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:25); this goes hard against the Protestants’ notion of the “Prosperity Gospel,” in which the material success of certain Christians is supposed proof of God’s favouring of them, rewarding their faith with wealth. On the contrary: as Jesus himself said, “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mark 10:31)

In this connection, we must also allow for some nuance regarding this idea that one is saved only by faith in Christ’s death for our sins. The Gospel of Matthew, understood to have been written for a Jewish audience, seems to be an attempt to reconcile Pauline Christianity with the original Nazarene message, which insists on sticking with the Torah and even expanding on its morality (Matthew 5). After all, Jesus’ original teachings seem to have survived through an oral passing-on of them, as well as through the collection of Q sayings, so the Pauline Church would have had to address and reinterpret these words of his that wouldn’t go away.

The insistence on doing good works (Matthew 25:31-46) isn’t limited to Matthew: it’s seen also in the Epistle of James (e.g., James 2:17), which, as I see it, is another attempt to reconcile Pauline and Nazarene Christianity.

As I’ve been saying, Jesus has been slipping further towards the tail of the ouroboros, and he knows it. He predicts his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion (Matthew 20:18). Along with his lowering of fortunes comes more temptation not to have to endure the Passion, hence his grievous praying in Gethsemane, hoping that God will “let this cup pass from [him]” (Matthew 26:36-39). In his temptation, his fear of the terrible pain he is about to endure, Jesus is showing us more and more of his human, rather than divine, side.

Of course, he is then betrayed by Judas Iscariot, fortuitously named from the point of view of the increasingly anti-Jewish Pauline Church, and arrested. Jesus is now definitely down in the rear half of the ouroboros’ body, and getting closer and closer to the bitten tail. His suffering is vividly and graphically shown in Mel Gibson’s movie on the topic, the film that unfortunately affirms the antisemitic passages of the Gospels.

Jesus is beaten, mocked, and crowned with a wreath of thorns…he’s inching closer to that tail. This is quite a descent from the high position of the pre-existing Logos, from the loftiest honour to an abyss of degradation, culminating in what’s been represented in the pitiful images of those Ecce Homo paintings.

Nailed to the Cross, Jesus retains some of his nobility by saying of his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), indicating that he’s still some way from the serpent’s bitten tail. Shortly before he dies, though, he quotes Psalm 22:1, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46). One would expect someone of moral perfection to suffer without complaint, knowing that God’s abandoning him is for the salvation of all of us.

With his death, understood to be confirmed by the spear in his side (John 19:34), and his descent into hell, we see Jesus reaching the bitten tail of the ouroboros. This is the lowest point of the low: his revolution has failed, it seems. His followers are all despondent.

A similar feeling has been felt in all the failed revolutions of history, including the short-lived Paris Commune, the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Spartacist Uprising, the Spanish Revolution of 1936, etc. After all the deaths and repressions, one can imagine the despair the insurgents felt.

Still, the early Nazarenes believed, apparently, that God rose Jesus from the dead (note that Paul also wrote of the passivity of his resurrection, as opposed to him raising himself from the dead). Now, we’ve gone past the bitten tail to the biting head of Christ’s return to glory. We also can see here the dialectical unity of his suffering, degradation, and death, on the one hand, and his resurrection in an incorruptible, spiritual body, in all his glory, on the other. The disciples’ hope has also been revived. To save one’s life, one must be willing to lose it (Luke 9:24).

V: The Resurrection and the Second Coming

We all know the traditional, literal meaning of Christ’s resurrection and Second Coming at the end of the world, so I have nothing new to say about that. Instead, given what we know of the original, revolutionary intent of the Nazarenes, I think it would be illuminating, and inspiring, to reinterpret the meaning of these two crucial Christian ideas in symbolic terms.

A revolution may fail; it may die…but it can be revived–it can come back to life, as it were…it can come a second time, or many times, until it finally succeeds. The Paris Commune failed, as did the 1905 Russian Revolution, but the revolution of 1917 succeeded (furthermore, the Soviet Union may have been dissolved, but that doesn’t extinguish the hopes of its return). The Cultural Revolution suffered many difficulties and setbacks…but look at China today.

The Messiah is supposed to come at the end of the world (or, for our purposes, the end of the world as we know it), establishing Zion and the Kingdom of God (hence Orthodox Jews are especially opposed to the man-made creation of Israel, along with a generally Jewish opposition to the oppression of the Palestinians, a situation that’s in ironic contradistinction to the plight of the Jews in first-century, Roman-occupied Palestine), a new era of peace and justice. For those of us who aren’t Bible-believing Christians, the resurrection and Second Coming can be seen to symbolize revived hopes of anti-imperialist revolution.

Of course, we have to believe, to have faith, hope, and love, those three things that last forever (1 Corinthians 13:13); recall Che’s words on revolution and love (the greatest of these), in this connection. Our love of the world drives us to try to make it better, to feed, clothe, house, educate, and give medical aid to the poor, as Christ would have wanted us to do (Matthew 25:40).

Now, the early Christians were no socialists, of course, but they did have some interesting practices worth discussing: they “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:45). Also, “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32) These practices influenced Thomas More in his writing of Utopia, a book about a fictional Christian island with a form of welfare and without private property, ideas which in turn influenced socialism.

The Nazarenes may have failed to kick their Roman oppressors out of Palestine, but Paul’s Gentile Church, over time, accommodated itself with Rome, a kind of changing of the system from within. The problem with this takeover is that one authoritarian, oppressive system got replaced with another.

Indeed, the Church authorities, in replacing the pagan Roman ones, were rather like Orwell’s pigs in a manner that the Bolsheviks never were, in spite of the intended narrative of Orwell’s polemical allegory. Such examples as the Church’s stamping out of heresies (including the many thousands of lives lost over the iota that marked the difference between the orthodox homousios and the Arian homoiousios, as noted above–Hegel, page 339), including, for example, the horrors of the Inquisition, should be enough to illustrate my meaning.

This difference between the Nazarene and the Pauline Church’s way of dealing with the Roman Empire can be seen to symbolize the difference between the virtues of revolutionary change and the vices of accommodation with the imperialist system. There is no room for opportunism or compromise.

We wipe out imperialism and replace it with a “kingdom of heaven,” so to speak–‘heavenly’ in the sense that, ideally, it will provide for all human needs, and a ‘kingdom’ in the sense that all authority will be used to ensure that providing for those needs. We must believe in such a possible future world; have faith in, and hope for, it. In such a world, we’ll love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

It was believed that the ancient Hebrews fell under the Babylonian captivity as punishment for their sins, which sounds suspiciously to me like blaming the victim (similarly, many who suffer under capitalism today blame themselves unjustly for their suffering [i.e., they ‘lack ambition and talent’], instead of blaming the system that is causing their suffering). Nonetheless, those ancient Hebrews saw their prophesied Messiah as saving them from their sins, as Christians see Jesus has having done.

We secular-minded people, on the other hand, can see Jesus’ death and resurrection as symbolic of how revolutions at first fail, then hope in them is revived, then a ‘second coming’ ultimately leads to the success of the revolutions. Belief in his salvific death can thus symbolize our faith in persevering in a painful struggle that, after so many failures (and an unjustified blaming of oneself for those failures, our ‘sins’), ultimately leads to success, a kind of ‘eternal life’ in a much-improved world.

VI: Conclusion

So, this is my secular, allegorical interpretation of the Christ myth, which I hope will inspire my comrades. Of course, many won’t be happy with what I’ve written.

Indeed, many will want to point out to me how my sources are at best controversial, and at worst, the validity of those sources has been eviscerated with criticism. The fact is, objectively, we don’t really know for sure what happened in first-century Palestine. One camp of scholars says this, another camp says that, using whatever arguments they have to back up their agendas; we all pick which story we prefer. As far as I’m concerned, criticism of the interpretation that my sources have given has less to do with their technical, historical inaccuracies than with hurting Christians’ feelings. It’s more about politics than logic.

So as I said above in the Introduction, if my reinterpretation of ‘sacred history’ is offensive to certain Christian readers who chose not to heed my warning not to read something they surely wouldn’t like, being abusive to me in the comments will neither change my mind nor do you much credit. So please, don’t waste your time with that.

Still, if what I’ve said here bothers you that much, perhaps there’s one thing you can do that will make you feel better.

Pray for me (Matthew 5:44).

Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1987

Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001

Samuel Sandmel, general ed., The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1961

Georg W.F. Hegel (translated by J. Sibree), The Philosophy of History, Buffalo, New York, Prometheus Books, 1991

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Twenty-One (Final Chapter)

Wow, that stinging I’ve been feeling on my left arm, under the elbow, on my right leg, just under my ass, and those two spots on my back, as well as all my other cuts and grazings on my neck and arm…it’s all hurting more and more…they’re sharper pains now.

My ketamine high must be finally wearing off.

Though I’m hurting more, and I don’t feel quite so stoned, I don’t feel more awake. As I lie here, prone on the road and soaked…in my blood?…I seem to be hovering between wakefulness and sleep.

Wait a minute…those weren’t large insects that smacked into me. I’m hearing more and more intense gunfire all around me. That pain I feel…those are bullets inside me!

Oh, my God. I’m going to die.

Estranged from my family, I’ve no way of contacting them. All of my foreigner friends have left the island, so I’ve no one to help me. Those Chinese men who were leading me to safety, I see them lying dead in pools of blood no different from my own growing pool of blood.

I’m dying, and no one is here to help me.

I’m getting light-headed. My K high is wearing off, but it hasn’t gone completely. My semi-conscious state, almost like hypnosis, is replacing my high, in keeping my mind in a dreamlike state…

BOOM! A huge explosion just rocked the area I’m lying in. It must have been close, for I just felt a shower of pebbles and dirt fall all over me. The flash of light from the explosion blinded me for the moment.

My whole body feels like it’s vibrating…I’m drifting off…

Wait!…No, that isn’t my blood all around me…it’s just my melted form again, merging with my surroundings…My surroundings are merging with me, too, all those pebbles, and that dirt…

Everything within me, and outside of me…we’re becoming ONE.

That pain I feel…it’s just the last remains of my suffering ego…as I merge with the Absolute…

I don’t want to lie like this, on my chest and stomach anymore…I’ll shift and lie on my left side…There’s that’s better.

I can barely keep my eyes open…Everything’s a blur in front of me…Sometimes flashes of light break up the darkness of the night…Some of the light is glowing…it seems like flames…Am I in Hell?

No, it can’t be Hell…I, Sid Arthur Gordimer, may be about to die, but as a saint and spreader of peace, love, and social justice, I’m leaving this world of pain and entering nirvana…Yes, that’s it!

I can hear the faint mumble of voices…people running by…Maybe some of them are staying here, by my side, wishing to help me and keep me company…how kind of them…They must be my surviving followers!

I should say something to them before I die…I have so little energy left…Can I think of the right way…to say it in Mandarin?…Let me see…

“All things,” I begin mumbling, in my surely broken, if not totally inarticulate, Chinese, “come to be…then they are no more…You must strive…to end the wars…help everyone…find peace of mind…feed, clothe, and house the poor…with all diligence.”

Was what I just said…at all intelligible?…I doubt it.

Whoa! Another blinding flash of light…with a deafening boom!…That was the closest explosion yet…More pebbles and dirt…are dropping on my body.

Everything’s black and silent…for the moment, at least.

Wait: a faint, but growing glow…and an indistinct hum…moaning, unintelligible sound…Getting clearer now…

Hey! Is that my father, the king?…I’m having a vision…

“Son,” he begins to say. “You are about to enter the realm of the Absolute. I must warn you, though: it won’t be pleasant at first. Recall the Unity of.Action, how all opposites are united and flow, each from one extreme to the other. These include Heaven and Hell, pleasure and pain, good and evil, love and hate, peace and war. To experience true nirvana, you must first endure the most excruciating of pain. To know the mastery of the biting head of the ouroboros, you must first know the pain of its bitten tail. Prepare yourself.”

“Yes, Father, I’m ready,” I say in a hoarse, weak voice that I can barely hear. He is showing me a father’s true love, for the first time in my life! This is so cathartic! Am I healing my wounds with my family? Is this the end of my estrangement from them?

“Also, remember the Unity of Space,” he continues. “In your union with the Absolute, you will also feel your ego merging with everything around you. It will be painful, but only insomuch as you are still attached to your separate state of existence. Allow your body to be scattered into an infinite amount of infinitesimal pieces, and you will feel minimal pain.”

“Yes, Father,” I say. “I’ll remember.”

“Sidney,” a familiar female voice rings in my ears.

“Is that my stepmother, reconciling herself with me?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “This is your mother, who never died. There is no stepmother. You imagined that. Stop splitting your living mother into good and bad halves. Accept me as one, with all my imperfections.”

“Yes, Mother,” I say. “Sorry.”

“Your life is done,” she says. “You wanted nirvana, so we as a family didn’t stand in your way. Before you enter it, we wanted to say goodbye to you. We all love you.”

“Thank you,” I say, teary-eyed. “I love you, too.”

“Goodbye, my husband,” Jessie says. “Raoul wants to say goodbye, too. See him waving to you?”

“Yes, I do,” I say, waving back to him. “Goodbye, my son.”

“Goodbye, Sid,” David says. “I’m sorry for all the fighting. I was in the wrong. I shouldn’t have been so envious.”

“Goodbye, David,” I say in sobs. “I’m sorry, too, that things ended so badly for you. I never meant you any harm.”

“It’s my fault,” he says. “I brought it all on myself.”

“The time has come, Son,” my father says. “Go in peace.”

Suddenly, a huge explosion blasts right in front of me, like a giant, fiery mushroom, burning my skin and blowing pieces of rock all over me. It stings with powerful blows on me, jerking me back a bit; but amazingly, I’m still lying in my reclining position, as if it had been only a gust of wind.

Still…I really feel…as though…the end…is near.

The end…not only for me,…but also…for all of the world.

I knew it all along…We’re all going to die.

My eyes…are barely open…I’m lying…limp…on the ground, but still…reclining…on my left side.

I’m looking up…into the night sky. Is that…a bomber plane…right above me? It’s so dark…Is something…dropping from it?…A black angel…coming down from…Heaven…to take me up…and carry me away…to paradise?

I’ve experienced…the flames of Hell…so now,…I should be going…from the one extreme…to the other…to Heaven.

Yes, that’s it!…Before the extreme light…of bliss,…I must be enveloped…in extreme black…like that black void…I swam into before…

The dropping black object…is getting closer…and closer…

Everything is…infinite black now…it’s just about here.

The black angel…is just upon me…almost touching…

Wow! Bright light everywhere, burning, scattering me all over the–


brass bluster of horns that accompanies pomp is foul,
obnoxious noise one should not have to endure in our

better than all others, by birth, colour, or sex. Why,
why must we hear fanfares that damage our fragile

one’s own horns is a blow to our eardrums, a
rupture, a goring, a piercing of a bull’s horns.

Analysis of ‘Simon of the Desert’

Simon of the Desert (Simón del desierto) is a 1965 Mexican short surrealist film written and directed by Luis Buñuel, the screenplay cowritten by Julio Alejandro. It stars Claudio Brook and Silvia Pinal, both of whom were also in The Exterminating Angel, and the latter also in Viridiana.

The film is loosely based on the life of Simeon Stylites, a fifth-century Syrian saint and ascetic who lived for thirty-nine years on top of a pillar, hence, the stylites who emulated him. My poem, “Towers,” alludes to him.

Two contradictory reasons are given as to why the film is only forty-five minutes. Buñuel said he ran out of money, while Pinal claimed that his was supposed to be one of three stories, all done by different directors. The other directors originally meant to be part of the production backed out later, leaving only Buñuel’s third filmed.

Simon of the Desert was highly acclaimed from its original release. It has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on reviews from seventeen critics.

Here is a link to quotes from the film, and here is a link to a YouTube video of it, with English subtitles.

The film begins with a crowd of monks and peasants walking in the desert toward the ten-foot-tall pillar on which Simon (Brook) is standing. As they approach him, they’re singing holy music…this will contrast sharply with the ‘music of the Devil’ that we’ll hear at the end of the film.

After standing on top of this pillar for six years, six weeks, and six days (O, portentous number!), Simon is being offered a new, much taller pillar to stand on, a gift from a wealthy man (played by Ángel Merino) for having cured him “of an unspeakable disease.” What an odd gift of thanks! To be set much higher off the ground, tempting greater acrophobia, to practice an even more intense asceticism, rather than giving him comfort!

Such a gift from a wealthy man to a saint represents how the ruling class has always used religion and its grueling disciplines for the sake of social control, ostensibly ‘to edify’ the masses, when the rich could use their wealth to improve the material conditions of the poor instead.

Simon gets down from the first pillar, and as he is led to the new one, peasants are crowding around him, hoping for blessings and miraculous forms of aid from the holy man. One peasant even rips off a small piece of the material from Simon’s filthy old robe, in the superstitious belief that it holds divine properties. Such is the desperation of the poor, who have only the opium of religion to give them comfort.

As they all continue towards the taller pillar, Simon is presented with his aging mother (played by Hortensia Santoveña), who wishes to be with him, by the foot of the pillar, to contemplate him in his asceticism, and to be near him until her death. This devotion is comparable to that of Mary, the mater dolorosa who was at the foot of Christ’s Cross. When Simon meets her there, he calls her “woman,” as Christ called Mary at the Wedding at Cana.

If she can be compared to Mary, then Simon, of course, can be compared to Jesus. Indeed, as Simon is standing on the new pillar, (his “Calvary,” as a priest calls it), his arms are typically stretched out, as in a “Jesus Christ pose.” As a saint, Simon is certainly an imitator of Christ. We wonder, though: is this ascetic acting out of genuine piety, or is he motivated by pride? His eventual succumbing to the temptations of the Devil (Pinal) suggest the latter motivation.

When a priest (the same who refers to Simon’s new pillar as his ‘Calvary,’ played by Antonio Bravo) wishes to bestow holy orders on the ascetic just before his ascent up the ladder to the new pillar, he refuses them, insisting that he, a lowly sinner, is unworthy of them. Buñuel’s atheistic disdain for religion, however, suggests that this show of humility is just that–a show. The only thing worse than immodesty is false modesty

At the top of his new pillar, Simon leads the group in a prayer of Pater Noster, just as Jesus taught his followers (Matthew 6:9). A poor peasant family interrupts the prayer, complaining of the father’s having lost his hands; they were chopped off as punishment for stealing. He insists he is repentant, though, and the family begs Simon to work a miracle and give him back his hands.

Everyone prays in silence for a moment, led by Simon, and the peasant gets his hands back. Instead of thanking Simon or praising God, though, the peasant family leaves immediately, knowing they have urgent work to do at home. When one of the man’s daughters asks if his hands are the same as his old ones, he shoves her and tells her to be quiet. Some repentance! Some newly-found religious piety!

We see in this moment the real motive most people have for religiosity: not a genuine wish to be close to God for its own sake, but as a crutch to be used to improve one’s material conditions whenever the need arises; when the need is no longer there, one’s religiosity quickly becomes scanted.

Of course, it is never even contemplated in the film that cutting off a man’s hands might be too cruel a punishment for theft. Wouldn’t imprisonment for several years suffice? Neither is it considered that a redistribution of wealth, lifting the peasants out of their poverty, just might reduce the need for theft to a small minimum.

Everyone leaves Simon alone, except for his mother and four of the monks, who wish to accompany him in prayer. As they are kneeling in prayer, a beautiful young woman passes them by carrying a jug. (Actually, she’s the Devil.) Testing the monks, Simon asks them who she is, deliberately claiming she has only one eye, when of course she is normal.

When one of the monks corrects Simon about the woman’s eyes, and says he knows because he looked at her face, Simon knows the monk has sinned by allowing himself to be distracted by her, and thus tempted by the Devil when he was supposed to be concentrating on his prayer. Simon admonishes him for his sin, reminding him of the kind of warning Jesus gave his male followers in Matthew 5:28. The monks leave Simon and his mother.

In the next scene, a young, short-haired, and clean-shaven monk named Matias (played by Enrique Álvarez Félix) comes to the desert to give Simon some food; but first he briefly chats with a dwarf goat-herder (played by Jesús Fernández). The dwarf praises the udders of one of his she-goats, in a way that strongly suggests he has lewd feelings for the animal. Matias softly chides him for having such thoughts, then leaves to see Simon.

It’s significant that Matias warns the dwarf of the Devil’s presence in the desert, just after Simon has warned the monk against letting his praying be distracted by a beautiful woman passing by, and when Simon himself is soon to be tempted, not only with thoughts of coming down from his pillar to enjoy closeness to his mother, but also with the Devil in the seductive form of a pretty, yet naughty girl.

Simon’s temptation thus is not only like that of Jesus in the wilderness, but also–since Simon’s pillar can be seen as symbolic of Christ’s Cross–like the Jesus of Nikos Kazantzakisnovel. In mid-prayer, Simon finds himself distracted, forgetting the end of the prayer. Without even a beautiful woman at the time to tempt him, he is showing himself clearly to be not much more spiritually elevated than that monk.

After receiving the food and water from Matias, who then skips away like a merry child, Simon bad-mouths him as “an idiot, the conceited ass,” and a “wretch”–an odd attitude for a holy man to have. In his continued fasting, he wants to be worthy of God…yet isn’t the whole point of the Christian faith that one can never be worthy of God by one’s own good works, hence the need for Christ’s crucifixion?

Next comes Simon’s temptation to go down to the ground and be with his mother, a temptation curiously juxtaposed with one of the Devil in the form of a beautiful young girl. Normally, Satan is male. As a surrealist, Buñuel used disturbingly incongruous images to give expression to the urges of the unconscious mind, urges that include–according to psychoanalysis–the Oedipus complex.

Seeing a fantasy of Simon playing on the ground with his mother, as if he were a child, then immediately after that, the female Devil is showing off her legs and breasts, strongly implies a link between both urges, a sexual link. Properly understood, the Oedipus complex is a universal, narcissistic trauma, a wish to hog Mommy all to oneself, to be the sole object of her love, a desire that, of course, can never be fulfilled–hence, the trauma. Such narcissism is also linked, by displacement, to the grandiose wish to be honoured as a great holy man, Simon’s secret motive as he stands up high on that pillar.

Buñuel’s point is that all religious aspiration is ultimately as narcissistic as Oedipal urges. One wants God the Father all to oneself just as one wants Mother all to oneself…and for the same reason.

The Devil appears to him as a girl in modern clothes (a school uniform), anticipating the end of the film, when she has Simon in the modern world, having succumbed to his temptation. Though she has Pinal’s curvaceous, womanly figure, she behaves like a little girl, all sweet and innocent (prior to her exhibitionism, of course).

This juxtaposition of Simon being tempted to “feel Mother Earth under [his] feet,” then to put his head on his mother’s lap (like Hamlet‘s “country matters” with Ophelia), and finally to see the Devil-girl’s garters and breasts (like the mother’s breasts he once sucked on as a baby), all suggests that his pedophile temptation to have the Devil-girl is a reaction formation against his unconscious Oedipal feelings. (I made a similar speculation about Humbert Humbert’s unconscious motives for wanting nymphets in my Lolita analysis, i.e., replacing a son-to-mother desire with a father-to-daughter one). Recall also, in this connection, all that largely unpunished sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

So the Devil, as a female, is the doppelgänger of Simon’s mother. Both are at the foot of his pillar, tempting him with worldly pleasures, though in different ways. These two females are dialectical opposites: different, yet identical. And since Simon, a double of Jesus, has a mother who is a double of Mary, Buñuel here is having another moment of atheistic irreverence in equating Mary with the Devil. Woman as angel and whore are one in his film.

There are other dialectical opposites played around with here. The she-devil would have Simon “cease from [his] folly” in her childlike song, as if giving him edifying spiritual advice; indeed, one must be as a child to enter the Kingdom of God [!]. He would brush his teeth clean “with Syria’s urine,” more paradoxes of filth and cleanliness juxtaposed (also, those ancient Romans who crucified Christ used urine to clean their teeth with).

Simon asks where she’s come from, and where she’s going. Her answers, “over there,” while pointing in opposing directions, suggest Satan’s answer to God in Job 2:2.

He resists all of her sensual temptations, from the showing off of her legs and breasts, and her tongue tickling his beard, even to her pricking him in the back. The Devil leaves angrily, nude, but in an aged, ugly, and almost androgynous form. “Neither is everyone what they seem,” as she has sung while showing off her “innocent” legs and garters. This observation is most true, as we’ll soon see.

Immediately after the Devil leaves, we see Simon’s mother again, reinforcing the dialectical link between the two. What seems saintly can be evil, and vice versa.

In my analysis of The Exterminating Angel (link above), one of the three Buñuel films that Pinal appears in, I compared the morality of her role in that film with her roles in this one and in Viridiana. I described her as good in Viridiana, evil in Simon of the Desert, and a mix of good and evil in The Exterminating Angel. My observation there was essentially true, but I need to qualify it here.

The nun Viridiana is essentially good, but narcissistic in her drive to be as pure as the Virgin Mary (as Simon is narcissistic in his drive to be as pure as Jesus). As I argued in my analysis of the film (link above), her moments of unconsciousness, leaving her vulnerable to being taken advantage of by lustful men, symbolically suggest a repressed, unconscious wish to be sexual. This wish to be sexual is implied even more at the end of the film, when she joins a man and a woman in a card game, implying the beginning of a three-way sexual relationship between them. Thus, these moral imperfections of hers are the black yin dot in her yang.

Similarly, Pinal’s Devil is largely evil in her tempting of Simon away from his asceticism; but this tempting of him is also his potential liberation from a religiosity Buñuel deems useless, and therefore foolish. As she sings to him in that girly voice, “Cease from thy folly.” These words are sound advice, the white yang dot in her yin.

Simon continues his praying and devotion through the night, as observed by his mother (a double of Satan?). We see hm eating some lettuce from the bag of food provided by Matias; we also hear military drumming, as has been heard earlier, suggesting the onward marching of Christian soldiers as they continue fighting against temptation. For him, eating the food and drinking the water, as necessary as they are, are also concessions to the flesh that feel dangerously close to sinning. We see his mother have a drink of water, too. What evil indulgence!

The next day, Simon leads the visiting monks in prayer and a discussion of how properly to practice austerities. He speaks in a manner reminiscent of Christ (Luke 14:26). Brother Trifon (played by Luis Aceves Castañeda), however, accuses Simon of accepting delicious cheese, bread, and wine–foods not to be indulged in by a saint! His mother hands some of the food to a monk.

We learn soon enough, though, that Trifon is the one who put the food in Simon’s bag to slander him, and harm and undermine the faith of his followers. Trifon has done this because, as we find out, he, cursing the hypostatic union, is possessed of the Devil! He will be taken away to be exorcised. In the monk’s act of wickedness, we see Buñuel once again placing piety side by side with impiety, thus blurring the distinction that the Church tries so hard to put between them.

As the monks pray for guidance to determine if Simon is guilty of indulgence in tasty food, or if Trifon is guilty of slandering Simon, we see his mother observing ants crawling in the sand; she brushes her hand over them. One might be reminded of the ants crawling out of the wound of a man’s hand in Un chien andalou. As I observed in my analysis of that film, these ants are symbolic of the death drive, Freud‘s “myrmidons of death” (page 312), like the drive the Devil uses to destroy Trifon’s piety, and later, Simon’s.

Before the monks leave Simon, he tells them that Matias, being clean-shaven, must be kept apart from the other monks until he has grown a beard; only then may he rejoin them, as beardless youths “live near the temptations of the Devil.” One is reminded of how strict Muslim fundamentalists require all men to be bearded. Apparently, clean-shaven youths may remind us of the pretty cheeks of women, and may thus provoke homosexual feelings in other men. [!]

It is the excess of this kind of religious strictness that Buñuel is satirizing in this film. Ascetic self-denial, the refusal of tasty food, chastity and celibacy (even when Paul himself said that one may have a wife if one couldn’t help oneself), refusal of cleanliness in body or clothing, no dancing to rock ‘n’ roll (at the end of the film), and the insistence on bearded monks! These are all such absurdly high standards of moral perfection, so needless and offering so little, if any, good to the world, that they are deserving of critique. If one truly wants to be good, why not just work towards feeding, clothing, and housing the poor? Besides, excesses of repression can lead to an explosion of indulgence one day.

Another day goes by, and we hear those marching drums again. Onward, Christian soldiers, it would seem. Simon’s mother walks by with some wood, looking up at him with his arms out in that “Jesus Christ pose.” He is praying, but he acknowledges that his thoughts are straying from Christ. Fittingly, the Devil appears…with a group of lambs.

Recall that Jesus is the Lamb of God. The otherwise feminine Devil also has a beard now, as Simon has required of Matias. This Christ-like appearance of Satan is thus confusing to Simon. Just as a beardless man apparently looks like a woman, and thus there’s the fear of him arousing lust, so is a bearded woman, holding the animal symbolic of Christ, one to be confused with a holy man, and thus there’s the fear of her leading Simon astray with false religiosity.

And so, this bearded Belial tries to tempt Simon to come down from his pillar and enjoy the pleasures of the world. We’re reminded of those who abused Christ on the Cross, who said if He’s the Son of God, He should come down from the Cross (Matthew 27:40). But here, it would seem that God is telling Simon to come down, that his asceticism is excessive and unnecessary. Could it be?

Her dropping and kicking of the lamb she held has made it clear to Simon that her bearded appearance is yet another of Satan’s tricks. In his frowning at the Devil, Simon reminds her of how she was once Lucifer, one of the greatest of all angels. When she asks if, through repentance, she could ever return to her former glory, Simon denies the possibility. (Now, this may be the Devil, but I thought that God’s love and mercy were boundless.)

What’s interesting here is how it was Lucifer’s very pride that brought about his downfall. Simon is showing a similar pride, and he is soon to fall, too.

Still, Simon tries to cloak his pride in a show of humble penitence for having allowed himself to be fooled by a “wolf” in the guise of a “lamb.” So he imagines that even more rigorous austerities, now in the form of standing on one foot (his legs are already covered in scars and scratches), will make him worthy of God. Again, salvations is sought by good works, instead of passive, humble faith; man isn’t supposed to be glorified through his efforts, yet Simon is still using this proud method.

A false show of modesty is still replacing real modesty.

That monk who was distracted from his prayers, by beautiful Satan carrying her jug, has returned to the pillar to talk to Simon, who has been praying for the poor (when the wealthy giving to them would be far more effective).

In his pondering out loud of a wish to give blessings, Simon finds himself not understanding what he’s been saying. Next, the dwarf appears and after Simon has spoken loquaciously about such things as his being sufficiently supplied with food, and that he’s “so withered up,” the dwarf replies that, of all of Simon’s long speech, he’s understood only the last two words.

Indeed, the dwarf imagines that Simon is “not quite right in the head,” a result of “stuffing [him]self with air.” This inability to understand one’s words, from someone so high up in the air, suggests yet another association to be made with Simon’s pillar: the Tower of Babel, whose attempt to reach heaven angered God, prompting Him to confuse the speech of its builders, creating all the languages of the world. Again, Buñuel, through symbol, uses religion to undermine itself.

The monk ascends the ladder to speak with Simon face to face, apologizing for having gazed upon that woman. He also wants to warn Simon about “the hordes of the Antichrist…advancing on Rome.” Man will be in a perpetual state of “fratricidal conflict,” based on a jealous competition over what’s “‘yours’ and ‘mine’.” I am reminded of what I said in my analysis of The Omen: material contradictions of the rich vs. the poor as symbolized in that movie.

Simon, in his abiding self-denial, can’t seem to grasp the idea of selfish hoarding that plagues the world; and as the monk observes, Simon’s penitence and self-denial are “of little use to man.” It is the wealthy who must deny themselves their wealth; the poor aren’t the ones who should be denying themselves anything. What can poor men like Simon give to the poor? On his Tower of Babel, Simon tells the monk that they “speak in different languages.”

He is in a desert, a symbol of want and lack. He stands on a phallic pillar in that desert of want, proudly elevating himself above the earth and engaging in false modesty. I’ve described his unconsciously Oedipal relationship to his mother, a double for the seductive female Satan. The manque à avoir of the desert, and the manque à être of the phallic pillar by which his mother stands, these represent Lacan‘s lack, which give rise to desire, not to spiritual edification. Again, Buñuel turns religion on its head.

The narcissistic trauma of the Oedipus complex is thus transformed into a narcissistic aspiration to piety. The female Devil, for whom he has temptations to lust, is thus a transference of Simon’s feelings for his mother, and she can take advantage of his narcissism, and thus succeed in making him give in to his temptation.

After the monk descends the ladder and leaves, she reappears…in a coffin sliding on the dirt and approaching the pillar. As we recall, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), so her coming in a coffin is apt. The ants in the sand that his mother caressed, those “myrmidons of death” that are the death drive as well as the “guardians of life” (Freud, p. 312–i.e., the life instinct that includes libido, the sex drive, and therefore desire and sin), these are linked to the Devil in the coffin.

Unlike last time, Simon knows this is Satan, who comes out with frizzled, wavy hair sticking up like hellish flames, and with her right breast exposed, how like a mother’s breast about to be used to feed a baby. He seems to be showing his most determined resistance to her, but it’s just a show. She’ll succeed this time, taking him into the future of that Antichrist the monk spoke of.

We learn that, just as good works (austerities, etc.) won’t save Simon, neither will faith. The Devil, too, believes in the one living God: one is reminded here of that passage in the Epistle of James, which says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19). If Simon and the Devil–of whom Simon himself has said will never return to his/her former angelic glory–are very much alike, then Simon is as doomed as Satan is.

An airplane is seen in the sky, and Simon is taken into the modern world, that of the mid-1960s, in a dance club in the city, where youth are seen dancing to the music of a rock ‘n’ roll band–Satan’s music, as many preachers have called it, right from its beginnings.

The first of the dancers that we see, significantly, is a young man with a beard; so much for bearded saintliness, I suppose. Pinal’s daughter, incidentally, is among all these young dancers. After seeing all of them living it up so wickedly, we see Simon and the Devil at a table, with drinks and cigarettes. He has his hair cut short and his beard trimmed…like Samson, he’s lost his strength in God from a haircut; devilish Delilah, naturally, is loving the music. Recall, in connection with her enjoyment of the music, the end of Viridiana, with the rhythm and blues song heard when Pinal’s character, the nun, gives into temptation and joins the man and woman in the beginning of an implied menage à trois.

The closest Simon can come to a pious resistance to all this sinful fun is to be bored with it. The closest he can come to being interested in it is to ask what the dance is that all the dancers are doing, them shaking so frantically. The Devil calls it “Radioactive Flesh,” and it’s the latest dance…and the last dance, eerily suggesting how close we all have been to a nuclear end of the world, as real a danger of that Cold War as it is in our current one.

Yet so many today, like these kids on the dance floor, would rather party than heed and avert the danger.

A young man asks the Devil to dance, which she accepts. Simon would rather go home, but she tells him he can’t. “Another tenant’s moved in,” she says. It seems that modern-day capitalism’s accumulation of private property has taken away Simon’s real estate, his pillar, and has rented it to a new pretender of piety.

What was given to him by a wealthy man of the ancient world has been taken from him by one of today’s bourgeoisie. The landlord giveth, the landlord taketh away.

Still, Simon shouldn’t complain. The Devil just did him a big favour in liberating him from his pointless austerity and planting him in an infernal party where he must abandon all hope of its ever ending. As I said above, Pinal’s Viridiana isn’t all good, and her Devil isn’t all bad.

Buñuel knew it as well as AC/DC did.

Hell ain’t a bad place to be.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Twenty

Hey, a whole bunch of shots were just fired!

Did I get hit by any of them? I don’t feel anything: my ketamine high is still keeping me desensitized to any pain. What about my comrades?

I’d better take a look around me; in my stoned stupor, I’m still pretty slow in my perception of anything. I’ll need a moment to process all of what’s just happened.

My friends aren’t standing beside me anymore…wait! Behind me…oh, shit! they’re lying behind me on the road, in a pool of blood. I guess I’ll never know where they were going to take me.

So, who were the shooters? David is gone, so his followers might as well join mine. If they’re joining me, whoever shot at us must be those fighting for the island’s ruling class.

I’ll look ahead to where the shots came from. In the distance, far down the road from here, I see a number of armed men in uniforms coming towards me. They must be from the ruling class’s army; I’ll bet some of them are private mercenaries, since such is the way the capitalism my comrades and I are fighting against does things these days–minimal government involvement and maximum privatization. I’ll bet they’ve already killed a thousand or so of my followers.

I may not have to fear David anymore, but these men coming at me are obviously trying to kill me and my followers. They’re trying to stop my movement of peace, love, and social transformation. If I wasn’t so high right now, I’d be terrified, frantically running away.

Speaking of running, one of those armed men is running at me now. He’s shot at me a few times, missing. I’d better turn around and go the other way.

I’m still so stoned, with so little feeling in my body, that I have no sense of my legs moving fast in running. Rather, I feel like I’m slowly floating; if anything, I’m just casually walking away from my pursuers.

Behind me, I hear them shouting something. Is it in Chinese, or English? “Ying gai shi ta!” (“It should be him!”), or, in English, “Engage the man!”? I’m not sure: there’s so much other noise–gunshots, explosions, and people screaming–that it’s hard to hear clearly. My being stoned out of my mind isn’t exactly helping, either, of course.

They shouted the same words again. Was it a man’s name? It sounded like “Angus LeMall.” That must be the name of the man chasing me. Yes, Angus LeMall, whoever that’s supposed to be, is coming after me, trying to kill me!

I’ll look behind again. Wow, the ferocity in his eyes! He looks like someone possessed of a demon, someone who’s killed nearly a thousand people, at least! And I’m to be his thousandth kill, it seems. I’d better keep my distance from him, though I don’t feel capable of going any faster that this slow walking…or floating…whatever my body is doing.

“Stop!” I hear him shout from not too far behind me.

“Why don’t you stop?” I say, then look behind. He seems much farther away from me than he should be; after all, he’s the one running, and I’m just walking. How can he still be so far away from me? Now, he’s stopping.

Is he going to repent of his murderous ways and join my peaceful cause? I hope so. A few more gunshots were just fired. I’m looking ahead, so I didn’t see who fired. I hope it wasn’t him. I just felt two light tapping sensations on my left arm, under the elbow, and on my right leg, just under my ass. It hurts a little, but only a little. I’m still so high from the K that I hardly feel much of anything.

To be safe and sure, I’ll send out my watery vibes of peace and love, to pacify my pursuers. That should ensure that Angus LeMall converts to my cause.

I seem to be lying on my chest on the road now. I’m melting into my watery form again. Indeed, I can see a dark liquid pouring out from my body to my left and right; it’s a dark liquid…is it red? No, it can’t be–it’s just my melted, watery form. The night, with a scarcity of street lamps at this part of the road, is what’s making my watery form only seem bloody. That’s it!

Yes, my watery vibes of peace and love are emanating from me and touching Angus and my other pursuers. They’re repenting and joining my cause now! Wonderful! Now that he is on my side, he’ll have to be patient and endure the bad karma he’s earned from having killed so many up until now. He’ll have to deal with the anger and curses of the grieving family and friends of all of those he’s killed over the years. It’s going to be hard for him; I hope he can handle it!

Anyway, I feel quite at rest here, lying prone on the road. I can see my dark liquid form flowing out in a lake…a red lake?…no, that can’t be!…all around me. This feels so peaceful.

Ketamine gives you such a powerful high!

What was that? A few more of those tapping sensations, this time, on my back. It stings a little. It must have been more flying insects crashing into me.

I hope the bugs aren’t too badly hurt.