Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Church of the Green Jesus

            Maybe you saw it on the way here? It’s easy to miss. It used to be notorious in these parts and lots of people came to see it. Now it’s just a small dilapidated building in an overgrown patch of woodland.

            How did it start? Who started it? What was it about? There's lots of stories about it, and it’s hard to know how much truth there may be in any of them. I've lived around here and been interested in the local stories for a long time, and this is the best sense I can make of it.

            Way back in the old times, long ago when this was still America, things became real crazy, even before the Collapse and the War. Maybe the craziness was a cause rather than an effect. I don't know. Any ways, it seems that before the end of the old times, some people were scared that the sea was about to rise and swallow them, or the sun was about to burn them up, or the weather was about to go mad and torment them and destroy their crops by unseasonable floods and droughts. They came here, well above sea level, in a temperate climatic zone to live what they considered to be a more holy life. It’s a bit like the story of Noah, but without an ark. Some say that these folk were atheists, some say that they were nature worshipers who hoped to propitiate their angry deities by self-chastisement, ritualized farming and gardening and blaming their neighbors. Why angry gods would be mollified by this behavior is not explained. Perhaps there was some echo of the Exodus story, with the 'good guys' expecting to be 'passed over'   when their neighbors got whacked. Maybe there had to be a sacrifice, probably blood. Other People's Blood, usually better than Other People's Money for making things happen in such stories. It's difficult to imagine angry gods being satisfied with an offering of fresh vegetables, now isn't it? There is that Cain and Abel precedent.

            When the bad times came, everyone got whacked. Some of the 'Greenies', as they were known, survived; probably helped by having become proficient kitchen gardeners- and by ceasing to blame their neighbors. This is all background. The real story begins a bit later, after the War, in the Templar Era.

            At that point the Greenies were gaining adherents as well as a reputation for being 'holier than thou', which other people disliked; especially those other people who considered that they were the more holy ones. Who did these people think they were? Vicarious Atonement for the sins of others? That was Somebody Else’s job description! The American Inquisition became active, and anything obviously unchristian came under scrutiny. Part of the craziness hanging over from the old times was that some of these 'Greenies' had been known to boast of being wizards, apparently without having the expected skills of being able to turn opponents into green frogs, and so forth. This was remembered against them. At that time one of the most popular Biblical quotes became, 'thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' Some have claimed to discern different shades or colors of witchcraft, but to the popular mind, and to religious orthodoxy, it’s all black. Some of them became air pollution and cinders, a particularly sad fate for those reputed to have abhorred carbon for some obscure reason. The fate of our community of 'Greenies' was different.

            This is where the Templars enter the story. There are many tales about the Templars. There were also whispers that some at least were heretics. Well, green eyed envy ever besmirches the successful as well as the useful, and there's no doubt that the Templars were both successful and useful. Many were evidently pious and humble, even mystical, qualities often denigrated by the worldly.

         It seems that the Templar Preceptor for this district took an interest in the fate of our local 'Greenies' for some reason. Perhaps he may have liked their leader, who seems to have been a colorful character, noted in the stories under various pseudonyms such as 'Arch-priest Jeremiah'.  In any case, as the local story goes, one afternoon the Preceptor paid a visit to the 'Arch-priest'. The arrival of a group of well-armed and well mounted men in Templar uniform caused much perturbation in those who saw them pass, and who answered their polite request for directions to the dwelling of the Arch-priest, who lived in a big farmhouse with a group of his followers.  The Petrine mutterings of these followers were quickly quelled by more thoughtful assessment of the Preceptor's escort of hard faced war veterans. When it became clear that the Preceptor was there to visit the Arch-priest, but not to arrest him, the followers, although not the escort, relaxed.

            The two men got on well. Both were well educated and well informed with broad interests.  After the usual social preliminaries such as discussion of the weather and the crop prospects, talk turned to religion, particularly the early history of Christianity. Was it chance or Providence which had decided which of the numerous schools of opinion were to flourish and be accepted as Orthodox, and which would be condemned as heretical? How strange it was that views at one time completely acceptable and spread by missionaries were later deemed unacceptable. What immense trouble the Christological disputes of Byzantine theologians had caused their state. How one of the Fathers of the Church had been condemned and excommunicated – two centuries after his death. How one of these holy men had written that whatever fables he had to tell the people, privately he would remain a philosopher. How St. Paul had said that he would be all things to all men to bring them to Christ. How some of the martyrs had been so in love with death that they had forced their prosecution upon reluctant officials. How some of the missionaries had adopted the local culture to facilitate the spreading of their gospel. How Pope Gregory had sent Augustine to England with instructions to take over pagan holy places and festivals and adapt them to Christianity. How the Bible famously allowed that 'in my Father's House are many mansions', without defining them more closely. The Preceptor mentioned that although the attention of the Inquisition had been drawn to this area, they and his own organization were very busy. He and his superiors were hopeful that the Holy Spirit would soon lead an upsurge of faith in this district, whether through seeing the condign severity with which the pertinaciously contumacious were dispatched, or through the mercy with which God touched the hearts of sinners enabling their repentance, remained to be seen; although he personally prayed for the latter.  The agents of the Inquisition were expected to arrive in no more than two weeks’ time, then the answer might be revealed. The message having been obliquely but clearly delivered, the two men turned their attention to sampling and appraising the Arch-priest's supply of locally brewed beer. Pronouncing it good, the Preceptor and his men departed, leaving a thoughtful Arch-priest surrounded by inquisitive followers.

            Next Sunday the Church of the Green Jesus opened for worship. When the Inquisition opened their inquiries in the district a week later, it sheltered many who might not have passed rigorous inspection otherwise. It was controversial from the start. Few believed in the sincerity of this sudden Damascene conversion, although all accepted that a visit from a Templar Preceptor just ahead of the arrival of the Inquisition could have induced a profound change of consciousness comparable to such an event. Seeing the light was obviously preferable to seeing the flames. Those few who felt otherwise had left to meet their fiery destiny elsewhere. Some of the Righteous were outraged; the self-righteous often are. Complaints to officialdom were met by references to motes and beams, the parable wherein the late recruited laborers received as much pay as those who had worked throughout the whole day, the return of the Prodigal Son, rejoicing over the salvation of lost lambs, injunctions to Christian charity, and much blandness. Naturally the members of this new church were closely observed, but no one found sufficient evidence against them to justify treating them as relapsed heretics, so the barking diminished as the caravan moved on.

            For most of the Greenies it was a surprisingly easy change, once they were careful to adjust their rhetoric and nomenclature. 'Global Warming' easily translated as 'Hell'. Strenuous personal efforts to avoid it, and widespread preaching to that effect were standard and expected Christian practices. Satan and his minions easily substituted for big corporations. 'Sin' replaced carbon in their diatribes. 'Salvation' became of much greater relevance than technology. Personal austerity and not-too-pointed references to greed, corruption and hypocrisy were likewise accepted as normal. 'Waste not, want not’ and 'You can't have your cake and eat it' were old saws. Proficiency in natural gardening and skill in handicrafts were useful and now necessarily becoming commonplace. Oil, or indeed 'gas' in any form, and their products were no longer available to the general public, so tirades against them ceased as they became irrelevant. The historically inclined could discuss the history of Indulgences and of carbon trading. As usual, beards remained fashionable for reputed holy men, and now also for many others.  Wild eyes and long robes remained optional. The translation and transition from a secular materialist frame of reference to a Christian religious one was not so difficult. As they ceased to stick out so egregiously, fewer of their neighbors felt that they were nails which needed to be hammered down. Indeed, as the Templar probably expected, after a couple of generations the members of the church would have been horrified had they been able to know and understand the true beliefs of their founders.

            They quickly developed a distinctive brand, market niche or theological emphasis. A special devotion to St. Francis was part of it. Preaching to birds and beasts still seemed 'far out', but the notion if not the practice, provided an acceptably Christian frame of reference for a religiously oriented concern with nature. The previous sentimentality about lambs had diminished as hunger and poverty made them again a profitable food source not often available to much of the population, rather than infantile woolly images of cloying sweetness. The Agnus Dei remained a highly acceptable religious symbol. Woolen textiles silently replaced synthetic materials that were no longer available. Shepherds were authentically Biblical characters and had a renewed economic significance. Speculation about the relation between their woolen clothing, the web of nature and the Seamless Robe of Christ which was divided by his persecutors, although it may have had the potential for heresy, was within acceptable bounds. Eucharistic symbolism easily extended from bread and wine to embrace mutton or lamb as the body of Christ, for those who could afford it, although officially only the former were Biblically endorsed for use in Holy Communion.

            The pious legend of St. Hubert who beheld a crucifix between the horns of a stag provided inspiration for a local style of flowing art depicting not only the very Biblical vines, figs and olive trees, but also deer nibbling the leaves of the Tree of Life, Noah's Ark, Elijah's ravens, lions and lambs, fishes, the Evangelical emblems of lion, man, eagle and bull, and any other reference to flora and fauna that could attest a more or less authentically Biblical provenance.  No one caviled at the occasional mushroom in discreet corners of designs. Corn (all edible grain, not specifically maize) and wine were acceptable, and no one took it amiss if a special devotion to St. John Barleycorn was sometimes exuberantly expressed. Indeed, and not for the first time, other and sometimes older faiths were subsumed under the rubric of Christianity without much difficulty.

            The state of innocence in this Edenic garden persisted for some years, or even decades. Eventually a smart young man named Jonas Caraway became prominent in this loose knit community. A throwback to an earlier era, he was definitely what had been known as a 'go-getter'. Jonas became a leader determined to craft an organization and a business-model which would have substantial impact and outreach beyond the locality and its community or congregation. He forged the Church of the Green Jesus into a vehicle to serve his special devotion to money and self-publicity.  His business talent soon created, if not an empire, then certainly a prosperous province in the world of recreational drug growing and distribution. The Church had become locally and discreetly known as a supplier of   marijuana and 'entheogenic' mushrooms, but Jonas turned it into a business, and combined the notions of business and cult. His early profits were ploughed back into the business, sprinkled liberally with pious references to the Parable of the Talents, and brought forth strange fruits.  The acreage under cultivation was increased, the staff or congregation was 'upgraded' and motivated to increase productivity, branch offices or Churches were opened across more and more of the country. 'Bishop Jonas' as he rapidly became, and his supervisors or Canons, were soon known to be heavy handed and easily offended, but there was little adverse publicity, and 'My God, how the money rolls in, rolls in!' was the overriding theme. 

            So far, so good. Or, so bad. A matter for the perhaps negligent or somnolent or corrupt local authorities and their perhaps incompetent or over-stretched police forces, but not something to gain widespread notoriety, you might think. So far you would be right. Jonas however had another gift, not exactly Eucharistic, a flair for self-publicity unfortunately combined with a sneering sense of his own cleverness. Not satisfied with success, Jonas had to improve upon it.

            The original Church had a sign outside it, a literally green painted image of Jesus. Certainly distinctive, but not offensive. It is said that at first this image had been outlined by a sort of flashing green light which glowed in the dark, much used by the people in olden times. Believe that story if you will. In any case, as success went to his head, ‘Bishop' Jonas demonstrated his wit by revising the liturgy of his church, and then advertising it. Smoking a marijuana cigarette became the new sacrament, and he would place a burning 'joint' in the mouth of the green image of Jesus, often standing outside the church building, laughing with passers-by and alternating the cigarette between his lips and those of Jesus, whilst garbed in his self-designed ecclesiastical cope which featured a huge green marijuana leaf on a golden background. Certainly distinctive, and very offensive. So far, so local. 

            A lamb not being enough, Jonas went for the sheep. As his cult expanded, he became more concerned with branding and advertising his products and himself. He packaged his products in green paper bearing a depiction of Jesus and himself standing together wearing Biblical robes and smoking marijuana cigarettes with the letters 'J' and 'C' over their respective heads and leering smiles on their faces. This Unique Selling Point certainly began to draw attention to him. His end was now inevitable, but just what the event was which lit the faggots he had so carefully placed around his own feet, remains obscure. One version is that a well-known minister of a more orthodox denomination pulled out a handkerchief at a church gathering and one of these lurid covers fluttered out of his pocket with it, to the scandal of the assembled dignitaries once one of them had retrieved it. Others suggest that business rivals who had their own discreet contacts, began to whisper more and more urgently into official ears as Jonas became more successful and as more evidence against him could be presented to the public. Out of sight, wheels began to turn, joints and bones began to crack, names began to be screamed, and the Hounds of God ran silently upon his trail.

            They say he did not die well. He was not the only one to die of course. Most of his followers were caught, although a few probably escaped, and many of his customers and business contacts shared their fate.  That's what made the name famous, or infamous, of course. Jonas wasn't the only person with a sense of drama and the ability to ensure that a message was heard loudly and clearly. His screams and babbling certainly were heard for hours. The executions were spread over the country and widely publicised. Special attention was devoted to the execution of 'Bishop' Jonas. All local officials and prominent persons were required to attend. National dignitaries attended. The local populace, including the children, were also mostly assembled there, few exemptions were permitted. Deterrence is more effective if you see the pain, hear the screams and howls, smell the smoke and the roasting flesh, watch it basted in its own blood, track the melting and bubbling fat, smell the appetizing smell of roasting meat, see someone you once knew become an unrecognizable distorted blackened lump, still screaming, whilst his blood and sizzling fat and soot and ashes smears your own face. It helps if you puke your own guts out over your own and your neighbor's shoes, and hear their moans and sobs as well as your own all overlain by the howling of the object that had been a man. People remember that, and pass on the story to their grandchildren. The officials and dignitaries, although many blanched and gulped, did not lose their dignity by moaning or puking or turning their gazes away like women or children. No mercy was shown. The event  lasted all morning.  When it seemed he might die too soon, the fire was slaked, or raked back. Others who had not been adjudged so guilty had been allowed bags of gunpowder around their necks to end their misery much sooner, but this was denied to Jonas. He was no martyr. He had no cause but his own vanity.  He lacked the dignity to die without whining and pleading and cursing uselessly. He deserved what happened to him. Some of the more hardened and stony-faced officials were able to sit smoking marijuana cigarettes as they watched. Another brand obviously. Marijuana is not illegal. Blasphemy is.

            The little church fell upon hard times after that. It was abandoned for years and neglected as nobody was left to look after it and no group wished to be associated with its name, for fear of being regarded as surviving followers of Jonas.  The name and the memory survived locally of course, and people knew the stories associated with the little building and its strange image of Jesus. After various tramps and misfits who had drifted by and squatted in and around the building had become nuisances and been moved on feeling sore, another group crystallized there. They were known as Diggers, perhaps partly in reference to the 17th century sect and partly because they cultivated and searched for mushrooms and spent a lot of time grubbing around. Something of the ideas and stories surrounding the place filtered through to them and in local thought they assumed or resumed the group identity of the Church. This group however had somewhat different interests. This time it was mushrooms and symbiotic forms of life. Many of the stories associated with these people are extremely strange and disturbing. Some may be derived from what they themselves said. Others may have come from what was later gleaned by the inquiries of the Inquisition. It is widely accepted that mushrooms are the fruit of fungi which attach themselves to the roots of trees. They said that the trees and the fungi exchanged food, much like, they also said, people and plants exchange different types of air. Maybe they did know more than ordinary people; I can’t say.

     The stories began to get a bit scary when they said such things as that trees could make their leaves poisonous to dissuade or kill animals which over-grazed them, and warn each other when the animals started to munch on one of them, and transfer food or water to each other via their roots and networks of fungi.  There were creepy echoes of ancient stories of people being lost in a forest where the trees slowly closed in on them, or of Triffids and Venus fly traps. From the olden days came a legend that the great trees of the Pacific Northwest coast had been fed on salmon by the bears which guarded them. There were whispers of bugs which got into mice, and caused them to act counter to their natural instincts and to seek out cats rather than flee from them, and hints that something similar could happen to people, maybe spread by parasitic fungi. Perhaps there was a natural mutation or some form of ghoulish experiment went wrong – or right. Concern definitely became Inquisitorial when rumors spread that they worshiped and had communion with the spirits of trees and desert cacti and vines from distant forests; but that must have come a lot later.  Obviously the only Biblical spin on anything which smacked of Sacred Groves or High Places or relations with unclean spirits led straight through the fire to Hell. At the time of course, their neighbors would not have seen anything very strange about these people. Tending to one’s trees and to one’s garden and to one’s own business was absolutely normal. Only later could people wonder whether these folk had somehow become taken over by their trees, mentally controlled by them and used as ambulant servitors. That after all would not have been so different from how plants used animals and insects to spread their pollen and their seeds. Maybe, as with fungi, they became more tightly and physically linked. Very nice for the trees if they could get people to bring them food and water, spread and plant their seeds and generally act as their gardeners. Fungi, trees, humans, each making use of the others. Was any one of them in charge? If plants could create scents and colors to attract insects, and some could give humans intense emotional and mystical experiences, perhaps they would provide some kind of feelings of happiness or even bliss to keep their human labor force content and productive. It’s only a couple of steps further to have them lay down their lives and those of others for their owners.

            A new artistic motif began to be noticed in association with the Church of the Green Jesus and its followers and hangers-on.That was the Green Man, a revival of a much older image, a man’s head peeking through foliage. No satisfactory explanation was ever offered, although later there was speculation as to whether it might have meant something. A wild natural consciousness perhaps, or human intelligence expressed through vegetable life, or a man assimilated to a tree maybe. If the Inquisition couldn’t settle the question, neither can I.  

            What was later settled was that The Men of the Green Lord as some of them called themselves (O shades of Osiris!) had formed a cult somewhat along the lines of the Thugs. They became great travelers, working as artists, carvers, tinkers, conjurors, entertainers, gardeners and plant distributors and so forth. They spread the image along with the cult, and used it as a recognition sign, rather as the early Christians had used the fish. They did not use the name of the Church of the Green Jesus, nor create local ‘branches’ -hmm. At first they tended to return there each year as a kind of general meeting place, and some of their gains, well or ill-gotten, were used to maintain it and its surroundings. It was probably rather beautiful, and their influence created a modest prosperity in several local businesses. They even established their own passenger and freight haulage businesses. ‘Tree Line’ or ‘Green Way’ or something twee like that I think they may have been called.  They are said to have acquired property in the district and to have created gardens open to the public, and their devotion to composting and mulching became well known.

            All good things come to an end, they say. I suppose the same may be said of bad or indifferent things, although they are less wistfully missed.  In this case the end began far away in a town where the Green Men had established several of their organizations. There are always a certain number of missing people. Sometimes they are found, in good or in bad condition. Sometimes they do not want to be found. Sometimes there is a hue and cry, particularly if the missing person is either a person of consequence, or a child or someone else about whose imagined fate a great deal of popular sentiment may easily and profitably be stirred up.

            ‘Ah, you just can’t get the staff these days, can you?’ Excessively rapid expansion of an organization, unrestrained ambition, lack of supervision and training, low quality of staff, lack of due diligence and risk assessment, all these and other familiar terms of business ‘cant’ may have played a part in their downfall. Along with bad luck, fate, the wrath of God, or probability, perhaps.

            It was of course a huge scandal. Several entangled scandals in fact. As the rigorous investigations of the judicial and Inquisitorial authorities established, (and we may be fully confident that there was nothing slipshod in their work,) a couple of low level Green Men had decided to improve their prospects by developing an unofficial line in kidnapping. Their victim, the son of a successful businessman, (and indeed, why would anyone kidnap the son of an unsuccessful one?) had escaped from the inadequately secured shed in which they had left him inadequately secured whilst they went on an alcoholic spree to discuss their future plans, none of which were to come to fruition in their actual future, short as it was to be. This shed was located in the ‘staff only’ yard at the back of one of the public gardens which they maintained. When the police arrived, in force need we say, their curiosity extended to the rest of the area. One of its facilities was a small bone crushing plant which produced the bone meal used for horticultural purposes. Some of the as yet uncrushed bones aroused suspicion, which forensic examination of the bones and of the meal justified, by confirming that they were human remains. Remains of whom, and where were the remaining remains, so to speak? 

            The opportunity to close many missing person cases stimulated police investigation in other districts, once news spread, and as the reluctance of detained persons associated with Green Men organizations to assist these inquiries was overcome, it spread fast. All the faster because of another interrelated scandal. In the course of investigating the gardening businesses in adjacent districts for more human bones, the murdered and abused corpse of a missing infant was discovered in a compost heap of one of their businesses. This child had been missing for some weeks and already there had been considerable public agitation about her fate. That nailed them. NO! NO! Not literally! That would have been blasphemous. We certainly don’t want to give a wrong impression about anything which the Inquisition might find objectionable. Do you?   I mean there was so much public outcry that investigation focused on them even more intensely. Although it was the corpse of that sadly mistreated infant which made them monsters in the public mind, the Green Men steadfastly denied any involvement in or knowledge about her death. Some went to their deaths denying it after they had admitted other killings, and protesting that it would not have been a good way to prepare compost. It may be that it was just a coincidence and some other murderer escaped justice when they were blamed.

            The investigators found that not only did the Green Men murder people for no better motive than to use their bodies to nourish trees and other plants, they had done so for many years, and made a profit from their sales of plant food. This news make many people look a bit askance at their crops and gardens, wondering just whose remains might be helping them to thrive, and resulting in a drop in the popularity of such products. A bit strange really, as people have no objection to eating plants and know that their own bodies will go back to the soil, ‘dust to dust; ashes to ashes’ potentially to nourish plants in their turn, but people are not altogether rational. It was soon seen that there was a strong correlation between the growth of Green Man activity in an area and reports of missing persons. Indeed, increases in such reports were able to indicate areas where they were operating without as yet establishing organizations associated with them. Initially investigators thought they were dealing with a criminal organization following a bizarre business model. It had few links to the recognized criminal underworld however. It was puzzling that many of the corpses were not turned into profit, but chopped up and buried near trees, often in the gardens and parks which the Green Men maintained. Sometimes portions of the bodies had been transported long distances to be buried under special trees rather than disposed of more conveniently. Indeed, at first the authorities had not realized that the connections went beyond the particular businesses and that the Green Man image was actually associated with them and involved people who had no connection with these businesses, and that the image, when it came to their attention, was the key to understanding events.  It was when the authorities discovered that such burials were not just a convenient way to conceal a murder, but were the motive for the murder; and furthermore, that it was the preferred method of the leading lights for their own interment, and that these leading lights had a special fondness or devotion for individual trees, that things became really serious. The hints of an organized religious cult underlying these strange and repulsive happenings, and their hysterical magnification by the popular press, immediately elevated the matter from the criminal, past the political, to the religious plane.

            It was an immense embarrassment. The country had been infiltrated by a well organized, extensive and criminal organization, and much worse - an evil pagan cult, without the authorities having been aware of its existence and of the dangers it posed. They first found out about it by reading the popular press! How was this possible? Why had the Inquisition, the organization tasked with protecting the morals and religious purity of the population and the state, not detected and eliminated this danger? This last question was certainly raised in high places, although the press had the prudence not to do more than hint at it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? was a question in many minds, but sensibly it was never publicly asked.

            With so much egg dripping from important and humorless faces, someone was going to fry. Or roast. Many did. How then did the little church survive? Perhaps it had some luck, but by then it was no longer central, or even of interest to the Green Men. Their operations had spread far afield, and the businesses which were to prove fatal had not been operated here. Any connection with local disappearances long ago was not queried. The discreet graves of the founders under their favorite trees, or their successors, were not remembered and not disturbed. Its name was not used so no connection was identified. It may be that there were a few convenient deaths or disappearances which broke any living links between the Green Men and the Green Jesus before the authorities reached them. Now the tangle of tales is only of interest to a few antiquarians such as ourselves, although the Church remains part of local lore and its green image, somewhat restored, may still be seen. The Green Man is no longer a popular artistic motif around here, but you may still find a few such heads near old graves under the trees. Sometimes it’s even possible to imagine such likenesses in knotty branches or roots.

            Yes, we can visit it. It’s not far to walk, although there’s not a great deal to see. I like to stroll or sit under the trees about the area, and help to keep the place tidy. It’s very peaceful there, although sometimes strange thoughts come to me. What might happen, for instance, if we took the notion of a Green Jesus seriously? What if the Second Coming has already occurred, and we missed it? ‘When Jesus came to Birmingham they merely passed him by’, a poet wrote. What if He was here and we didn’t notice? What if he’s still waiting for us? What if this time he came, not as a human, but as a tree? What if we considered the Holy Cross seriously? ‘He came to his own and his own received him not’. Has the plant kingdom received him in our stead? Has he been there all along, but we have been too thick to notice? What about the Real Presence of divinity in bread and wine? What about the myth of the Tree of Life? After the Norse Ragnarok they expected a new humanity to emerge from the Tree to repopulate the earth. What about that? The early depictions of Jesus on the Cross showed him in majesty, with arms outstretched, outlined by but not bound to the ‘Tree’ as it was often called. Only later was there a change to depictions of a literal crucifixion. Enough questions before we attract the attention of a literal Inquisition.

            Here we are. That’s the famous wooden image of the Green Jesus. I’ll just wait and sit under the trees there while you look around. Sometimes it seems so beautiful that one’s spirit is uplifted and one seems to share with nature in some great rite or hymn of praise.There’s a sense of joining in a noble dance with every other aspect of Nature, of participating in a joyous harmony as if each species, in living, expressed some special aspect of divinity and their lives combined in repetitious but ever-changing ways, as a melody or tapestry to display the action of divinity in life to Itself. There He is, the Lord of the Dance, at the centre, and acting within all of them, inviting us to join, assuming or resuming the place that was always ours. Alas for us, since our pride excluded Him from our hearts, we no longer know our place, nor can we deftly tread the measure, nor subtly improvise without disruption. How clumsy are our attempts at conscious integration! What a ripple of confusion spreads from our determination to do good and to be right; requiring extended efforts from the more skilful dancers to absorb and mitigate our efforts. The vision fades, leaving a feeling of regret, and the image of a mighty river, whose movements have left an ox-bow lake, almost stagnant and cut off from the flow. This is where our egotism and narrowness has left us, almost self-severed from the spiritual source of our physical situation. At the last, arises His sadly smiling image, not crucified, not haloed, but crowned with oak leaves, and beckoning us to leave the illusory security of our egos and allow him to re-join us to the flow of love and life.

       Hearing the leaves rustle one may fancy one almost hears what the Lord God said to Adam when they walked together in that Garden, or what Lord Zeus spoke through Dodona’s oak. Perhaps if you are deemed worthy you may hear the answer. Ah yes, there it is. When the light is right it shimmers on the Green Jesus as if it was gold, and He may smile or even wink.            

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