Friday, January 18, 2013

Columns, Pillars and the origins of the Jesus story

These columns mark a circumference around St Peter's Square and probably many of you are familiar with walking underneath them. I took the picture with this blog in mind - but also because I liked the crushing of perspective. I used the small camera with as low an aperture as I could get - hence a high shutter speed. Columns are a big time symbol. They provide support,  but they are also a bit like trees with roots. So like the trees, they support life. Columns frame gateways and mark boundaries yet mostly they represent a passage from one state to another. Now while Hercules was a great raiser of columns (the Pillars of Hercules), they can be shaken. Samson was one of these shakers and although he died in the process, his temple-demolishing skills defeated his Philistine enemies. Jung tries to make things clear. The column or pillar is about the cross. Jung* quotes Robertson  on "Evangelical Myths," (p 130) observing that he contributes interestingly to the symbol of the carrying of the cross. Samson carries the pillars of the gates from Gaza and dies between the columns of the temple of the Philistines. But in ancient art, he is depicted carrying the pillars in such a way as they resembled the cross. If we accept Jung's proposition, then this is in all likelihood the origin of the story of Jesus, who carries his cross to his execution. No surprise then, that these columns surround St Peter's.

*Jung, CG (1916) Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations  and Symbolisms of the Libido (A Contribution to the History of the Evolution of Thought ) Moffat, Yard and co. New York