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Forbidden Fruit

The Psalter of Saint Louis

Continuing to investiagate the Paris Eadwine Psalter, and preparing more articles (one, in particular, comparing the imagery of the psalter to the ayahuasca paintings of Peruvian shaman Pablo Amaringo), I received a message from Dominique Guillet, French translator of metahistory.org, with this image from another illuminated manuscript of the same period, the Psalter of Saint Louis:

So far, I had not come across any references to this psalter. Like the Paris Eadwine psalter, it is a treasure kept in the National Library in Paris. All I can find on it so far is a brief catalogue description:

This manuscript originated between 1253 and 1270 and was written at the climax of gothic illumination in France. The Psalter was commissioned by St Louis IX, the Holy, a man as famous for his sense of justice, as for his statesmanly qualities. The Psalter has 260 pages with 78 full page illuminations nine of which have been reproduced in this series. The Psalter of St Louis is one of the most prized possessions of the Bibliothèque Nationale since it was the personal property of this holy king.

Well, Louis IX may have been a holy man (whatever that means today, or ever meant), but I wonder if he understood the natural state of holiness, or wholeness, symbolized by the Garden of Eden? What role did he play, if any, in the design and execution of the psalter? He commissioned it, but did he oversee it? Was he in any way complicit in the mycological imagery of the psalter, so close in some ways to the Paris Eadwine MS?

From what little I know of his life, it seems unlikely that King Louis IX would have been sympathetic to an entheogenic mushroom cult surviving from the Mysteries. In 1229 he signed a contract with Raymond VII of Toulouse to end the Albigensian Crusade. (The Albigensians may be regarded as heretics with some Gnostical views, hence a kind of diaspora of the Mysteries.) But Louis was a mere boy of 15 at the time, the peace treaty was a formality, and the purpose of the deal was to make the French throne look good after having perpetrated decades of brutal genocide, extortion of noble wealth, and outrageous land theft in the Languedoc.

Louis was a renowned patron of the arts and architecture, but also a zealous Catholic who took seriously his role as "lieutenant of God" on Earth. He pushed strong legislation against Jews and expanded the scope of the Inquisition in France, especially in the Languedoc where the Cathar heresy had flourished. Clearly, he was a man of little tolerance for any variance from the One True Faith, not to mention opposition to it. He must have commissioned a great many works of art. Perhaps the contents of this one just escaped his notice.

I have not examined the Psalter of St Louis, but intend to do so on my next trip to Paris. But the image Dominique Guille has provided speaks for itself. By contrast to the Eadwine psalter, the illustration could be interpreted as condemnatory: the angel is banishing Adam and Eve from Eden, because they have eaten the Forbidden Fruit, blue-staining mushrooms. Nothing I find in the Eadwine psalter suggests the use of mycological imagery to condemn mushroom religion.

The lower cameo shows the First Parents practicing agriculture—perhaps not such a good idea, as we now realize. However, laboring in the earth fits the scheme of Judeo-Christian apologism: it makes the human species "caretakers" of the Lord's creation, thus setting us up in a role of enslavement to the Creator, not co-creators with the natural world. Hard labor in the earth was part Yahweh's curse on Adam and Eve for the supreme act of disobediance: eating the forbidden fruit. To earn bread by the sweat of one's brow, it is necessary to grow grain, grind it, and mill it. Farming is backbreaking work. The psalter of St Louis may be illustrating, and approving the curse that went along with exile from Eden.

Mushrooms and other psychoactive plants need not be cultivated like leeks and lettuce. They can be grown under human supervision, as it were, but they occur all by themselves in nature. Like so many other fruits, vegetables, and herbs that grow prolifically on the planet, without humans lifting a finger, mushrooms are a gift from the Goddess. Agriculture is a curse from the creator god, and may currently being put to use as a weapon against humanity: consider the control of the food chain and systematic poisoning of nature by Monsanto and other global organizations. Consider Codex Alimentarius.

In an amusing detail, a smiling monkey watches Adam digging into the soil. This is truly an odd detail to find in a Christian illuminated manuscript of the 12th Century. It would appear to suggest a comment of some kind. Satirical, perhaps?

I will look more closely at the Psalter of St Louis when I have the chance to get back to Paris. For now I will comment briefly on the remarkable geometrical embellishment. These two cameos come with superposed geometry straight of the sacred canon of measures. The module in use, please note, is 8 and not 12. I pointed out in Not in His Image, concerning the eight-pointed rosette:

The rosette was the symbol of the organization of the Mystery cells consisting of sixteen adepts, eight men and eight women as depicted in the Orphic bowl of the winged serpent and the Pietroasa bowl, two rare surviving artifacts of Mystery rituals. In the Orphic bowl carved from greenish white alabaster, sixteen naked initiates, men and women alternating, lie on their backs with their feet touching. At the center of the bowl is the winged serpent of Kundalini, the occult source of supervitality, regeneration, and paranormal faculties.

Eight and eight doubled are universal signatures of Mystery cells.

The Winged Serpent Kundalini is also the serpent in the Garden. Gnostic texts equate Eve herself with the serpent, using a play on the Aramaic word "instructor."

Epiphanius (376 - 403 CE), a heresy-hunter who infiltrated a Gnostic circle of “Snake-worshippers,” reported that the heretics, who called themselves Ophites

venerate the Serpent because God has made it the cause of Gnosis for mankind. Ialdabaoth [Gnostic name for Jehovah, the false creator god] did not wish humankind to have any recollection of the Generators (Aeons), the Cosmic Mothers and Cosmic Fathers on high. It was the serpent who, by tempting them, brought Gnosis to our parents; who taught the first people of our kind the complete knowledge of the Mysteries from on high.
(Cited in Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics. See Kundalini and the Alien Force)

jll: 21 April 2008 Andalucia


Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.