Silpa – “Half God, Half Man: Kazantzakis, Scorsese and The Last Temptation”

“Half God, Half Man”: Kazantzakis, Scorsese, and “The Last Temptation”. Graham Holderness. The Harvard Theological Review. Vol. 100. No. 1. January 2007. Pp. 65-80

Arguments

The article points out the theme “The dual substance of Christ” which is mentioned in the prologue to Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ and also in the film version of the novel directed by Martin Scorsese.

Both Kazantzakis and Scorsese located their work at the heart of Christianity’s most complex internal controversy, the relation between divinity and humanity in the person of Christ.

The paper explores the theological underpinnings of both versions of The Last Temptation and attempts to demonstrate the value of their contributions to theological discussion and debate.

In this paper, the author argues that though apparently denying divine omniscience, Kazantzakis fleshes out a persuasive model for understanding the purpose of incarnation. Kazantzakis affirms that God is incomplete without man and the author further claims that the contrary is also true.

The main objective of Kazantzakis was to liberate Jesus from the church and to bypass both the Christian doctrine devised by Paul and the “falsifications” of the gospel writers in order to get at the historical truth about Jesus of Nazareth.

Kazantzakis saw his work not as a repudiation of Christian truth nut rather as a revaluation of Christian spirituality for a modern age. Kazantzakis was clearly attempting a theological as well as an imaginative reworking of the life of Jesus. He was undertaking a theological revision of key doctrinal matters such as the incarnation and the atonement.

Sub Arguments

The dual nature, or dual substance, of Christ has always been, and still remains, an intellectually challenging, doctrinally controversial but nonetheless unavoidable cornerstone of Christian belief and worship.

Man without God is a mere animal, haunted by his anthropoid ancestry, and struggling to extricate himself from the coils of evolution. But conversely God without man could have no direct physical knowledge of the human existence that he himself had created.

Kazantzakis’ view of the “dual substance” of Christ assumed then that the two natures were utterly distinct, absolutely different, and violently inimical one to another.

More than any other foundational doctrine of Christianity, the supposedly symmetrical and stable relationship between the persons of the Trinity has proved in practice a site of controversy.

When the novel began to approach the person of Jesus, it was in the form of an anticlerical, secular and humanizing project. This Jesus, man rather than God, appears in both liberal theology and secular fiction of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. Scepticism about the Christological possibilities of imaginative prose encouraged scholars to assume that the Christ of the novel is invariably the human Jesus and that Christ as incarnate God is therefore not representable in modern fiction.

The structure of Jesus’ journey, which corresponds loosely to the four phases mapped out in Kazantzakis’ sketchbook (son of the carpenter, son of man, son of David, son of God), shows a Jesus growing through successive stages of evolution into consciousness of his mission.

Backings

Kazantzakis links the dual substance of Christ with the dual nature of man as the product of both nature and God.

Creationism and evolution are juxtaposed as respectively theocentric and anthropocentric explanations of the universe.

Kazantzakis’ Jesus is predominantly human, full of weakness, self-doubt and ambivalence. He is not at first consciously aware of his own divine status, his mission of salvation or his destiny of crucifixion. He encounters his divinity as something hostile and alien. Throughout the novel Jesus retains a love of life and of the earth, which seems to conflict with his divine destiny.

Kazantzakis’ Jesus may not be conscious of his identity and destiny but is certainly subconsciously aware of them at the level of dream and vision, where much of the novel’s narrative operates.

The three temptations of the snake, the lion and the burning archangel discussed in the novel are the core temptations of humanity. The snake is desire, love of the earth, the yearning to have a wife and children, and the hunger for Mary Magdalene. The lion is the fierce and violent passions of animal instinct: the visionary beast proclaims that he is “the deepest voice of your deepest self.” The archangel tempts Jesus to think of himself as God.

 

 

 

 

Silpa -The Dual Masks of Nikos Kazantzakis

‘The Dual Masks of Nikos Kazantzakis’. Adele Bloch. Journal of Modern Literature. Vol. 2. No. 2. Pp. 189-198.

Arguments

Masks are omnipresent in the works of Nikos Kazantzakis. In real life, Kazantzakis was under the mask of Nietzsche. His fascination with masks can be traced to his visit to Berlin in post-World War 1, when a display of African masks at an ethnic museum made a lasting impression on his mind.

Kazantzakis sees the shadow side of everything. He perceives a deep unity despite the flow of appearances and contradictions. Kazantzakis’ world is devoid of an external God. His divine being, who is neither the Biblical nor the Christian God, bears the innumerable masks of nature and is a pure projection of the human mind who conceives it.

Kazantzakis create his own reality or express it by selected symbols. Kazantzakis’ masks can be equated with myths.

He felt most aware of the split of the powers of darkness pitted against the superior powers of light, although he realized that his case was not unique and that a similar battle prevails to some extend in every human being. He considers his writing to be the catharsis which would deliver him from his own inner darkness.

Kazantzakis’ personal struggle was also conceived on a higher plane as the perennial split between masculine and feminine spirits battling in an erotic fashion within him. He acutely felt the division within his own self: man, he felt, wants to conquer death, necessity and the treadmill of time, whereas woman adjusted to nature’s ancient rhythms longs to descend, to merge with archaic patterns rooted in animal, vegetal and even mineral past. This he tells poses a threat of enslavement and regression for the male spirit.

Only after the ancient myths had been unearthed, understood and superseded could a new myth be created with lucidity.

Kazantzakis, who was often described as a nihilist, disagree with the pessimistic mask that many have assigned him.

Sub Arguments

In all of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novels, plays, philosophical writings and also in his romanticized autobiography Report to Greco, masks occupy a noticeable place.

In Kazantzakis’ works, illusion reigns supreme, death is the only certainty and even death may be a dream. Yet his nature is permeated with extreme religiosity and a thirst for sainthood.

Kazantzakis freely chose his myths to express his own concerns and emotions without ever becoming their dupe.

According to Kazantzakis, conflict and dualism are the only erotic and creative forces in nature.

Kazantzakis viewed the world as resting on the twin tendencies of asceticism and sensualism inherited from his Cretan ancestry rooted on an island at the crossroads between orient and Occident, Africa and Europe.

Kazantzakis’ draconian discipline bears masochistic overtones, as he dismisses happiness as disgusting and subhuman.

Good and evil, Christ and Anti-Christ mystically combine and complete each other. In the clash between conscience and subconscious, a threefold unity is attained on personal, panhuman and prehumen basis.

True maturity had to be attained, after a thorny progress which included strife, indulgence, remorse, suffering and denial.

Backings

Kazantzakis plays a part akin to God’s, as he peoples and unfashions a world that is void and unreal. This is why the he, like the divine creator, wears so many masks: male or female, bestial or spiritual, daemonic or saintly.

Kazantzakis’ myths represent poeticized commonplace occurrences or figures transformed by archetypal associations and unconscious resonances. He projects the mythicized portraits of his ancestors, friends, mistresses and mentors from both real life and vicarious experience. Often Kazantzakis adorns the social face of a protagonist with a timeless mythical mask, while on other innumerable occasions he views it from the opposite angle and paints over it the features of his repressed shadow side.

Kazantzakis, primarily is dealing with his own personal battle which he transmutes into a work of art, while using his private experience as perennial raw material and though he may confuse the casual reader by the multiplicity of masks, myths and ideas expressed in his poetical creation, he displays one constant factor: he consistently shows us the struggle as its own end. To him, freedom was the ultimate goal, freedom from inertia and primeval sloth.

 

Silpa Joy: I am a writer

Writing, for me was an escape from my feelings, emotions and thoughts which I never wanted to share infront of others and I found paper to be my best listener. I cherish the childhood memory of having a secret diary in which I wrote my small secrets, anxieties, happy and sad moments etc. It was a great relief then and it became a kind of my ‘mini heart’. Writing letters to God was one of my favourite hobbies. Also, I remember my teacher appreciating me for a poem which he found in my book. Now when I look back, I am so happy that many of my poems got published in the school magazines, but at the same I regret for being too lazy to sharpen my skills in writing after my school. My childhood memories of writing are very much linked to the small glass bowls which I used to get as prize for the various writing competitions conducted in our parish.

The best memory of being a writer ever is, when I was elected as the student editor of my college magazine. It was then I felt writing to be a gift and a privilege. Even today when I go through my editorial note, I feel proud of myself. Being an editor was a life changing experience for me. That was a time when many realizations struck me. To be a writer you ought to surrender your life to quite a good amount of reading and also thinking. Writing two research papers was also an unforgettable memory. Writing something which you really wants to write is always pleasurable whether it is a research paper or a story. And there are times when writing becomes the most difficult job for me. I will have everything in my head but nothing will come out as words.

 

 

Silpa Joy – ‘Book Reviews’

‘Book Reviews’. Kostas Myrsiades. College Literature. Vol.8. No.2 (Spring 1981). Pp. 189-192

Arguments

Nikos Kazantzakis, the 20th century Greek writer is known to have so many of his works translated into English since the Golden Age. He was a figure of controversy since his works are centered on the integration of Marxism and oriental philosophy. It was in 1952, with the publication of Zorba the Greek that Kazantzakis was first introduced to his country.

The paper argues that the works reviewed in this particular article hold the distinction of being the first full-length critical studies of Kazantzakis’s literary output.

Morton P. Levitt deals with each major work (Freedom of Death, The Greek Passion, The Last Temptation of Christ, Zorba the Greek, The Odyssey; A Modern Sequel, Saint Francis and The Fratricides), treating style, social overtones, philosophy, and mythic structure.

The paper also argues that B. T. McDonough’s Nietzsche and Kazantzakis, a comparative study, is less ambitious than Levitt’s work but remains a solidly written and clearly expressed comparison between Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, On the Genealogy of Mortals, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek.

James F. Lea’s Kazantzakis; The Politics of Salvation is a wide ranging study of Kazantzakis’ political and religious thought.

Sub Arguments

The shortest of these studies, The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis, is the most succinct introduction to Kazantzakis’ most important and most difficult work. Morton P. Levitt’s The Cretan Glance; The World and Art of Nikos Kazantzakis is one of the best study of the novels.

Levitt provides historical background to establish a context for the work being considered, summarizes the novel, interspersing biographical and critical observations, examines the main figure of the novel in terms of Christian metaphor, and discusses the novel’s mythic and metaphysical aspects as well as its contribution to Kazantzakis’ world view.

Backings

The acceptance of Zorba the Greek was reflected in the Whole Earth Catalogue (January 1971), a student periodical dedicated to brotherhood and peace, which reviewed the book as “the spiritual hand book of the future. In fact, our future may be within its pages.”

Levitt sees Kazantzakis’ Cretan Glance as the role played in his writing by the history and the events of Kazantzakis’ birthplace, the Mediterranean island of Crete.

Silpa Joy – Greek Literature (The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis)

‘At the Movies’. Ilene Serlin. The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal. Vol. 8. No. 3. 1989. pp. 67-76

The essay is about ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, a film by Martin Scorsese, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The author works as a psychologist in a treatment center for Catholic nuns and priests.

Arguments / Thesis statements

The essay begins with the argument that, accepting one’s fundamental humanity is the only way to attain healing from all sorts of psychological problems faced by people especially the spiritual leaders such as unresolved early family traumas, including abuse and terrible loneliness, co-dependency issues or depression, work holism, excessive need to help and please others, inability to feel o r express themselves, sexual splitting etc.

The further arguments in the essay includes, the confusions raised between the psychological and spiritual issues such as co-dependency being masked as altruism, inability to form relationships as celibacy and excessive idealization as piety creating unreachable images of Christ, self or others.

The essay is an attempt to discover parallels between Christ’s spiritual journey in the film and the stages of the therapeutic process with developing religious individuals.

Sub arguments

The context of the film reminds us of a spiritual search expressed not calmly through study of text and logic, but bodily through action, emotion and movement.

Christianity during the transcendent confusions of the age of modernity and post-modernity, lost its earth, passion, and body to a great extent. It became more masculine and spiritual and lost the feminine and the soul.

One of the main purpose of Christ in this film is overcoming any duality between spiritual heaven and bodily earth.

The essay differentiates the behaviour of Western man, in contrast to the Eastern recognition, for example the notion ‘life is suffering’. Much of Western progress is geared towards trying to protect man from suffering, whereas Eastern traditions recognize suffering as the path of wisdom.

Emotions can be contained and transmuted and the cycle of action­ reaction, acting-out, can be broken if we shift from external to internal reality. The essay further points out the benefits of Confession, pointing out from St. Augustine to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The eternal struggle between body and soul is a major split faced by Christ throughout the film and the novel. A thin line between sexuality as sacred and sexual as sinful is also suggested.

Mary Magdalene, as a figure, remains a necessary catalyst at each moment that Jesus is given an opportunity to sharpen his spiritual power. From the psychological point of view, Christ teaches about internalization. From a therapeutic move, to internalize means to withdraw one’s projections, blame, envy and power from others, and instead to confront these within one’s own soul. A literal separation from concrete body, personal history, and attachments is necessary for the spiritual development.