Friday, June 21, 2013

Riverside mud

From time to time in my blog, I've mentioned Noah and his celebrated ark: for example, in posts entitled Childhood myths [display] and Beware of flooding [display]. As we all know, God used the great deluge as a weapon of destruction to wipe out millions of undesirable creatures... whom he himself had created.


Now, if that's not downright schizophrenia, it's certainly sick behavior, even coming from a divinity. Besides, in the countless colorful depictions of the landscape after the flood, why don't we see piles of drowned sinners, their bodies bloated by days spent swirling around in the salty floodwaters?


In 1858, many centuries after the fortunate encounter between Noah and his homicidal god, young Bernadette Soubirous met up with the Virgin Mary in the south-western French town of Lourdes. Talking of corpses, the mummified form of Bernadette, her face hidden behind a wax imprint, has become a kitsch tourist attraction in a convent in the town of Nevers, in central France, where Bernadette spent the final years of her short life.


Click here for morbid details about the series of exhumations that culminated in the decision to display the corpse in a gold and crystal coffin. Meanwhile, a disastrous deluge has just hit the town of Lourdes.

                           — photo Sud Ouest, Thierry Suire

The swollen river Gave inundated the celebrated grotto where the peasant girl had once talked to the vision of a visitor, giving rise to an incredible bubble of heavenly hot air.


An observer might well wonder if God is really on Bernadette's side. More precisely: On whose side is the river? In the case of Noah, we were left with an implausible but attractive legend, which still obsesses countless individuals throughout the world. In the case of the sickly child Bernadette (afflicted with psychiatric disorders), alas, all we seem to left with is mud. We are reminded of the mud that the crazy child rubbed over her face and attempted to eat at the height of her trance.

In my blog post of 20 August 2012 entitled A little knowledge [display], I applied the famous criterion of David Hume (for the analysis of strange happenings) to the case of Bernadette. Today, in any case, it's frightening to see what the Church was capable of doing—and is still capable of doing—with the phantasies of a poor simple-minded 14-year-old child. To call a spade a spade, it's clear that certain ecclesiastical authorities have always been infatuated—in one way or another, but often with far-reaching consequences—by the enticing mysteries of children.

FRENCH MEDIA REACTIONS: The front page of the Charlie Hebdo weekly evoked a fabulously "foamy evening" for horny ecclesiastics at Lourdes.

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