Theology of Leonard Cohen

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daka
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby daka » Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:33 am

Diane wrote:
Steven wrote: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."
LC's theological position has always been wonderfully all-encompassing hasn't it?

"Take this temple down." I may be reading too much into it, but in addition to the biblical references it could be an allusion to the Buddha's words at his enlightenment when he compares his ego to a housebuilder(fro bym the Dhammapada):

"Oh housebuilder! You have now been seen. You shall build the house no longer. All your rafters are broken, your ridgepole shattered. My mind has attained unconditional freedom. Achieved is the end of craving."
Hi Diane

You are not " reading too much into it" at all.....I too think that LC is referring to the 'ego' here...your personal pursuits have led you to a very clear view of 'things'....nice to see. I keep thinking of Leonard's saying..."If you don't become the ocean you'll be sea sick every day". If one wave is preoccupied with itself, thinking that it is somehow special...different, then it's psychosis will be smashed and it will become one with the sea which is it's true non-psychotic nature..
If you become the ocean you will not become seasick....Jikan (aka Leonard Cohen)

It's comin' from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there! . Jikan
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Diane
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Diane » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:38 am

Evidence for an (intended) zen reference seems entirely circumstantial in such a biblically inspired song as Samson in New Orleans. But OK, let's take it as we read it!
I keep thinking of Leonard's saying..."If you don't become the ocean you'll be sea sick every day". If one wave is preoccupied with itself, thinking that it is somehow special...different, then it's psychosis will be smashed and it will become one with the sea which is it's true non-psychotic nature..
I like to contemplate that the waves in the ocean seem to move horizontally, but they really only move vertically...

Good to see you here, Sean. What other things do you see in Popular Problems?
Tamaraz
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tamaraz » Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:38 pm

quoting from another poster -

"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?"

I think its clear that Cohen is steeped in all traditions - and makes use of them in his song writing. And its natural our own perspectives will shape how we hear him. As a roman catholic, I see and hear Jesus and the suffering servant theme all over his songs - but thats just one way to see them. Im sure I miss some of the mysticism from other traditions because Im not as familiar with them.

anyway - Im a bit Cohen obsessed these days! (once again, or still...) :)
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Jean Fournell » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:50 pm

Diane wrote:I like to contemplate that the waves in the ocean seem to move horizontally, but they really only move vertically...
The waves move horizontally, too when they are breaking.

Eihei Dôgen wrote a poem called "Zazen", which says something like this:

Steady moonlight,
calm and clear,
pervading the floods of the mind:
the waves, even as they are breaking,
turn into light.


In "Samson in New Orleans", as on all of "Popular Problems", I see Leonard Cohen on the side of the oppressed, the ones "On the bridge of misery".

The City of Gretna on the West Bank of the Mississippi River received considerable press coverage when, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (late August 2005), displaced and dehydrated survivors who attempted to escape from New Orleans by walking over the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River were turned back at gunpoint by City of Gretna Police, along with Crescent City Connection Police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies, who set up a roadblock on the bridge in the days following the hurricane.
(From Wikipedia)


And decidedly so. That does not exclude zen references, but I can't see the "housebuilder unmasked" here. Zen is zazen and samu, or, as the Roman Catholics have it, "ora et labora" (seated meditation and work or pray and work). Here I rather see Leonard Cohen at work.

"There's other ways to answer
That certainly is true
Me, I'm blind with death and anger
And that's no place for you"

Samson knows he's blind to the "other ways", his samu/labora is to "take this temple down".

(He is blind, physically blinded by the Philistines and mentally blinded by the situation in New Orleans, but he is not blind with ideology. He only seems to be a kamikaze or a suicide-attacker in reality he says "I'll write you when it's over". And postal services from inside the grave tend to be frankly inefficient, even Samson knows that.)

Which other ways? My guess is that we'll learn that on "Impopular Solutions", as Leonard Cohen nicknames his next album for the time being.

My guess is that he is finishing a trilogy (Old Ideas Popular Problems "Impopular Solutions") answering his first three albums (which, in retrospective, seem like some kind of very loosely knit trilogy). Old Ideas, the spiritual album, opening the eyes "and then it's back to the marketplace"; Popular Problems taking place inside the marketplace and looking at the world as it is; and then "Impopular Solutions"? Possibly giving references to the law (not Law). Samu, labora, human law. At a universal scale. That's the only "other ways" I can see for now.

And returning to the topic: there indeed are quite some changes in Leonard Cohen's theological position. I'm not talking about his private convictions, of course, which I have no business to meddle with. I'm talking about positions he describes in his work, allowing clearly for a difference between the artist and his art.

In "I asked my father / I said father change my name", he is most certainly far away from the current prayer of the "Give me money, and give me health, and bust my neighbour's lawnmower" type. But there is no hint in there, either, of the tiny little word "please" (short for "if it please you"). And a personal godhead answers "I locked you in this body / I meant it as a kind of trial".

Alterity in duality, even: by means of duality. On eye-level more or less, one of the two with a bit more power. A polytheist pantheon reduced to only one god, but for the rest it seems pretty much the same mechanism.

Later, in "If it be Your Will", there is this "please". In a prominent position, too: it is the title of the prayer, not only some appendix. And it is not directed to a personal God. And basically, it claims neither answer nor action. It is accessible for one like me, an atheist, with no effort at all (strange as that may seem).

Pretty close to alterity in oneness. Somewhat hampered by despair as yet, but never mind.

In "He wants to write a love song (...) / But that isn't what I need him to complete", Buddha's "housebuilder", the "ox" running wild, breaking its path through the shrub with no direction, is seen at his senseless activity but already under remote control. "Give your cow a vast field, and it will be well herded", said Kodo Sawaki. Well-intentioned observation.
A child building sandcastles is not necessarily drowned in illusion.

In "O longing of the branches / To lift the little bud / O longing of the arteries / To purify the blood", are we really that far away from Gibran Khalil Gibran's "When you love you should not say, 'God is in my heart', but rather, 'I am in the heart of God'." ?

To my understanding, this Old Ideas kind of "longing" is not fully integrated into "Born in Chains" yet: "But all the ladders / Of the Night have fallen / Only darkness now / To lift the longing up".

And in "You got me singing", there is nothing left of "If it be your will / To let me sing" (except memory, and gratefulness). It is not the ego who is singing, with God's permission.
It is God ringing a bell that still can ring.
Or, as I said in the "First Impressions" thread: this is humankind singing.

Alterity beyond duality and oneness.

That makes me agree with the perception that "Born in Chains" is unfinished. Old Ideas and Popular Problems have gone on, "Born in Chains" has yet to catch up with them, with these changes in theological position.

And I trust that we are the ones who will get the benefit once again...
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
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Diane
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Diane » Sun Oct 05, 2014 11:54 pm

A fascinating post, Jean.

Another of Eihei Dogen's poems:

The unspoiled colors of a late summer night,
The wind howling through the lofty pines –
The feel of autumn approaching;
The swaying bamboos keep resonating,
And shedding tears of dew at dawn;
Only those who exert themselves fully
Will attain the Way,
But even if you abandon all for the ancient path
of meditation,
You can never forget the meaning of sadness.


Dogen wrote: But even if you abandon all for the ancient path
of meditation,
You can never forget the meaning of sadness.
Leonard Cohen wrote:You got me singing, even though...(it all went wrong, and there's all that going on in 'the marketplace').
Jean Fournell wrote: It is God ringing a bell that still can ring.

Something from another man of indeterminate theology:

The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning form the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
Clangs
The bell.

- T.S. Eliot
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Jean Fournell » Tue Oct 07, 2014 3:14 pm

___/\___

(in every atom
vibrant is the Name)
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
Steven
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Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:46 am

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Last edited by Steven on Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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