Theology of Leonard Cohen

This section is dedicated to the new studio album and the Dublin concert video
Steven
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Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:50 pm

Hi,

Has Leonard Cohen become a Christian? "Born In Chains," if taken to be a
reflection of Leonard Cohen's own theological beliefs, suggests that he may
have. A "wounded" God is most typical of the kind of anthropomorphising
found in the Gospels.
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blonde madonna
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby blonde madonna » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:47 am

Not sure where you get that idea from.

I knew the Old Testament well as a child, the first book I was ever given was the children's bible and the old testament had the best stories. This song references the book of Exodus, that tells the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. That story is very much a part of the Jewish Torah as well.

When I first heard Hallelujah and the lines "he saw her bathing on the roof" I had a clear memory of an illustration of Bathsheba bathing on a flat roofed Egyptian style house from my children's bible and wondered if Cohen had a similar book as a child.
Last edited by blonde madonna on Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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peter danielsen
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby peter danielsen » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:41 am

When I first heard Suzanne and the lines "he saw her bathing on the roof" I had a clear memory of an illustration of Bathsheba bathing on a flat roofed Egyptian style house from my children's bible and wondered if Cohen had a similar book as a child.
There is no such lines in Suzanne you must be thinking of Hallelujah "you faith was strong but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof.
However in Suzanne LC speaks about Jesus in all verse 2

On the new album we have lines such as
"So gather up the killer
Get everyone in town
Standing by those pillars
That may take this temple down
The king so kind and solemn
He wears a bloody crown
So stand me by that column
That may take this temple down"

Surely this is a reference to Jesus who spoke about tearing the temple down and who wore a bloody crown.

There is lots and lots of references to Jesus in Cohens work. Does this make him a christian, maybe not but he did say was that he considered himself to be a jew who loved Jesus.
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Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:55 am

Hi,

I heard "Born In Chains" only once, yesterday, on a YouTube audio clip that purported to be the Popular Problems
CD. (The clip has been removed.) I believe I heard a line that included the word "wound" or "wounds" or "wounded."
In the context of the song, a reference to Jesus. If I'm mistaken, mea culpa. Will await posting of the lyrics by Jarkko.
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blonde madonna
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby blonde madonna » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:05 am

You're right Peter, got the song wrong. Thanks for correcting that.

'Samson and New Orleans' is a dark song that makes reference to another old testament/Hebrew bible story of Samson bringing down the temple and killing more Philistines in his death than he ever did in his life. I'm not sure who the king is, maybe God, maybe Obama? Saying this because Jesus wasn't in the old testament, but the way Cohen mixes things up you never know.
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:49 am

Hi,

Went to the NPR site and accessed their stream of Popular Problems. These words
can be heard on "Born In Chains": "you showed me where you had been wounded."
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blonde madonna
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby blonde madonna » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:04 pm

Having now read the lyrics posted by Jarkko I stand corrected again! There is mention of 'the Son' in 'Solomon etc ' so you may be right Peter.
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:37 pm

I like your lapsus blonde madonna. Suzanne of the Bible was another bathing beauty.

Two old powerful men turned crazy of desire over her and wanted her to "willingly" have sex with them or otherwise they will do it by force and after that they will tell her husband and fellow citizen that they saw her with a young man.

Now, how the story is ending? Be there next week, at same hour. 8)
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Tchocolatl
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:42 pm

What I put in italic are addition or correction. I was too much in a hurray...

I reacted to the supposition of the conversion into another religion. Not to the song itself

I read the official lyrics. (of all the songs) They seem as jewish as they can be, always been. Plus wisdom from a lot of experiences due to old age, plus all his other cultural backgrounds, plus zested with zen experiments, the whole being deeper than ever.

Samson in New Orlean seems, among other images that came to my mind, like a song about his feeling about Israel to me. Correction : about what he caught on his wavelenght. Dans l'air du temps. For me, Leonard Cohen is so much and only the artist, not a person that I know, and even less, a person that I can tell the opinions. It is so clear to me, sometimes I forgot that it may not be crystal clear for someone else.

In the religious war the Son is part of the Muslim religion. The Jews arrived in Israel from the bottom of a pit, but the muslims did not care very much. Nor the Catho, for instance. Tinsel Town is the nick name of Hollywood. Samson was fighting ennemies of Jews. You all know how he was defeated.

Now, I like that, I keep it.

And I read it to quickly to be firm about all this and the rest.

And I must go on with my schedule, now, really. (bis)
Last edited by Tchocolatl on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Tchocolatl
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:53 pm

Now this from The Gardian :
Nothing here feels laboured: he can deliver songs as beautifully wrought as Samson in New Orleans – a depiction of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina – with a gorgeous understatement that only magnifies its impact: “And we who cried for mercy from the bottom of the pit/ Was our prayer so damn unworthy that the sun rejected it?”
Does Leonard Cohen became a worshiper of Râ, the Egyptian sun-god?

Image

("Take a kayak")

No-no, it is not a sarcasm. It's great to hear "sun" if the lyric is "Son", and also to hear "Son" if the lyric would be"sun".

The important and interesting fact is of course the hurricane back-ground on which all the rest is projected. This song is a multidimentioned hologram.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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blonde madonna
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby blonde madonna » Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:07 pm

Yes T, I heard "sun" initially and I think the song can accommodate either (Son or sun).

It's been said before that analysis (in this case officially sanctioned lyrics) can detract from, rather than add to the experience of the art.

But your use of the word hologram is confusing me ...
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:14 pm

How I like being called Thea. Especially in autumn. :D
But your use of the word hologram is confusing me ...
It means that I think the world of it :

http://www.iflscience.com/physics/universe-hologram


8)

Seriously, I meant that without being a solid art piece it is nontheless something you can walk around and perceive it differently from different positions.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
AMF
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby AMF » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:09 am

Huh, these are certainly "popular problems", aren't they? I don't see any point in trying to make a sharp distinction between these different "creeds" or "interpretations". Cohen is quoting Sefer Yetzirah (chapter 1, verse 9) on Born in Chains ("Blessed is the Name [of the life of worlds]"), so there is no question about a little bit of good old fashioned Jewish mysticism being a part of it all. But, I do think all of this (and so many other lines and verses on so many other records, beginning with that Suzanne....) imagery about wounds and love etc point to a direction that is both a very "popular problem" and a "mystical reflection" bringing together all these three lonesome and quarrelsome religions...?

Many people have been lately wishing that Cohen has converted more to this or that direction, and it is easy to make various interpretations. I can see both Jewish and Christian influences, not to mention those obvious Zen paradoxes and Muslim spices. But what about it?

In Old Ideas there is this Show Me The Place which could easily be seen as "one of the most Christian songs one could think of".....in a way. Then again, if it is truly "Christian", then it is that in a mystical (or let's say it again, "popular problem" kind of) way. Just like this Born in Chains.....well, I think there is a good deal of pop mystics (uniting or bringing closer these three religions, and we don't need to know what is the individual's own point of view here, because it is a personal matter, isn't it) in many of these songs, and I mean in a very good way. It is very difficult to get it sound like something you could hold on to, these days. And as we all know, Cohen has made it sound like that, always.
Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:04 pm

Hi,

Leonard Cohen has been quoted as saying about "Born In Chains": "I've rewritten the lyric many times to accommodate the changes in my theological position, which is very insecure." Assuming this is what he said, the lyrics take on additional possible biographical significance. Recently heard of a study that indicates that people buy into songs more when they believe that what is being sung is based on actual life experience of the singer. (Can't cite the study.) Makes sense, intuitively, as people are more apt to suspend disbelief when the first-person narrator in songs (or literature) is thought to be conveying a "true" story of the singer (writer). So, the quote, for those who read it, may serve to potentiate "Born In Chains." It did for me.

Parsing the lyrics of "Born In Chains" results in a possible conversion narrative. It's easier to make a case that it does than that it doesn't. Whatever the case, a definite linkage to Leonard Cohen's own theological viewpoint, without further elaboration by him, can't be made and attempts to do so would venture into the areas of intrusiveness and gossip. Belief is his own business, foremostly.
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby HelenOE » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:38 pm

Steven wrote:Hi,

Has Leonard Cohen become a Christian? "Born In Chains," if taken to be a
reflection of Leonard Cohen's own theological beliefs, suggests that he may
have. A "wounded" God is most typical of the kind of anthropomorphising
found in the Gospels.
I don't know what Leonard Cohen's theological convictions are, but the idea of a suffering God is certainly not limited to the New Testament: "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. " (Isaiah 63:9, from www.mechon-mamre.org) And from "suffering" to "wounded" is, IMHO, within the scope of poetic license.

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