Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sistine Secrets of Michelangelo, Part 2 of 5

Michelangelo asked the pope if he would like to be shown holding a book. “What, a book?” sneered Il Papa Terrible. “A sword. Me, I am no scholar.” 
To distinguish the wise seers of yore from the anti-intellectual pope, the artist showed all the sibyls and prophets (save Jonah) with books and writings—a subtle and barely concealed put-down that must have given Michelangelo pleasure during his long labors up on the ceiling...
four fan-shaped panels in the chapel’s corners represent the four exiles that the Jews are fated to endure, according to predictions in the book of Daniel: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. is for these four exiles and subsequent redemptions that, according to many interpretations, Jews drink the four ceremonial cups of wine during the Passover seder... 
Cumaea. She is a symbol of everything that Michelangelo detested about the abuses of power, the intolerance, and the hypocrisy of the Vatican. As he described it in his poem, the Vatican of his day had distorted and betrayed both Christ and Christianity. This is why he had to be so cunning and careful about hiding his messages in the Sistine. Michelangelo had promised the pope and his advisers that his theme for the ceiling would be the redemption of the world through the Church. Instead, he masterfully inserted his personal longing for the future redemption of the world from the dominance of the Church’s corrupt leadership of his day...
Michelangelo’s familiarity with Hebrew letters and Kabbalistic concepts have no difficulty in perceiving how the artist took the Judaic teachings he had learned from his private tutors in the de’ Medici palace and brilliantly incorporated them into the very heart of Christendom’s most sacred chapel. 
This is also called the lightning path, since it such a direct “express lane” to enlightenment. What did Michelangelo choose to illustrate this surest and most direct path to God? What, according to him, is the real center of power in the world? For Michelangelo it was the original Torah, otherwise known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. 
He is not only Adam here, but according to both Neoplatonic and Kabbalistic thought, he is Adam Kadmon, the primordial human, the prototype for all human life and the microcosmic model for the universe. 
The cerebrum, the cerebellum, the occipital lobe, the cortex, the brain stem…of course. They were all there. What Michelangelo had hidden in the painting was a perfect cross-section of the human brain. 
Michelangelo concealed this forbidden evidence of anatomical studies to convey the concept of creation rooted in wisdom; the “brain” of God, so to speak, is the source of humankind’s appearance on earth. It is yet another illustration of an idea stressed in the Kabbalah—the brain is the organ mystically linked to the s’firah of Chochmah/Wisdom. Incredibly, Michelangelo was aware of an even deeper truth, noted long ago in Kabbalistic thought: it is not the entire brain that is linked to Chochmah/Wisdom but only its right hemisphere, exactly the part that Michelangelo painted in this panel. The artist found a way to echo visually the ancient Jewish prayer proclaiming that God created Adam with Chochmah, the right side of the divine brain. 
Seen in this light, hidden inside this world-famous scene is nothing less than a forbidden anatomy lesson, a journey into the depths of Kabbalah, and a secret self-portrait of Michelangelo as Adam—not by way of the artist’s physical appearance but rather of his very soul. 
[Adam and Eve] However, the biblical Hebrew does not say that [she was taken from his rib]; the word used there is ha-tzelah, the side of Adam. 
God never presents us with a difficulty unless he has already created its solution within the very problem itself. Therefore, they propose that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree.  Michelangelo chose a rabbinical interpretation of the biblical story over the one accepted by his Christian contemporaries. 
Michelangelo decided to show Adam sharing equally in the guilt—something not seen in any other Western representation of the Original Sin. 

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