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Tree root pattern near the grave of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Authors' Ridge, Sleepy Hollow Cemetary, Concord, MA, September 5, 2010.
The Flagellant (Discipline)
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by Carl Johann Schroeder

Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.


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At one point in college while studying computers I started thinking about flagellants; I don't know why or where I came across them, it was very disturbing. Flagellation is a medieval Catholic practice by people who whip themselves. The self-punishment, or mortification, is meant to cleanse and purge the sins of the flesh before God. It probably leads to altered states, but frees the spirit at the expense of the body, thereby disuniting Heaven and Earth. I'm not a believer in sacrifice or animal abuse, nor in the underlying gnostic attitudes that the world of natural pleasures must be denied and escaped because it is ruled by evil (I would think that evil is as evil does, and a good life in the body pleases the Creator inherently). But I couldn't get the images out of my head, so I planned to make an experimental song about it. Art is my catharsis with harm to none, thank you very much.

The phrase "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense" then came to my attention for the piece. I researched and found this means "Shame to him who thinks ill of it." It is the motto of the 14 century Order of the Garter, England's highest knighthood of chivalry. The words appear on many English documents, including passports. It is said to have originated when King Edward III saved his daughter-in-law from embarassment when her garter (an old-fashioned stocking holder) slipped down her leg. The King put it on his own leg and declared "Honi soit qui mal y pense." The phrase is now variously understood to mean that one should be pure in how one thinks of others. I worried to not condone or relate to the flagellants, but somehow by voicing the tortured souls in this creepy song I cleared my reactions to the awful practice. So I put the experiment on my 1987 album, which was an obsessive honest mix of light and dark psychology.

It would take me more than another decade for me to understand that having been Hildegard, who opposed the rise of flagellation in her medieval day and saw friends die from their religious mortifications, I had exhibited the intuitive processing of an unconscious conflict which continues to this day, as I must watch human beings fight themselves to reach the God of love and light. Lazaris teaches that the problem is both pain and pleasure produce some self-knowing which is required to grow, but only one choice is the way to the universe that's rich with life, while the other dead ends in isolated self-disintegration. But because each consciousness creates its own reality, we have no choice but to find a respect for those who self-abuse in their eagerness to be more than just a body; we can only make it known by our example that there is another way of joy and health in these forms divine, the way which brings Heaven to the Earth rather than separating to distinguish them as they both lay dying. Christ died for our sins, and therefore we ought to not disrespect his sacrifice by repeating it, as if he had not already done enough to show us the way to forgiveness and eternal life.

"The Flagellant (Discipline)" music and lyrics by Carl Johann Schroeder, copyright 1987, all rights reserved, downloadable version for personal use only, no resale or commercial rights implied. Text and photo copyright Carl Johann Schroeder.
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