Monday, June 15, 2015

Schliemann’s Dream

Heinrich slept ill that night. He had overeaten and drunk a bit too much. And perhaps he had something on his conscience.

Christ appeared to him – very unusual – and asked : “Why didst thou lie about me? Thou didst not believe I had appeared to Priam, and yet thou saidst I had.”*

“Wait, Lord … you don’t mean you really exist, hrrm, I mean as someone capable of taking offense at such things? As a real person and even really still watching over all we do and all that? Didn’t you forget about earthly matters when being assumed into Heaven? I thought the Gospels and the historic (if such) Jesus in them was just the most developed idea of the Absolute … you really not just exist as a person, you also look down on what happens on earth?”

Christ’s face was firey as the Sun and His garment was white. It was clear even to this German modernist Protestant – at least during this dream – that Christ existed as a real person and was personally aware of what went on on Earth.

“OK, Lord,“ Heinrich said when lowering his gaze “but can’t you see it from my point of view a bit? These Greeks would plunder for the gold, my archaeological science would be ruined, all my expenses would be in vain …”

He stopped, hoping for understanding and “sat sapienti“ and all that.

“Thou thinkst a lot about thy investments, doest thou not? So thy money is more worth to thee than my truth?”

“But, look here, Lord … these Greeks are so superstitious about you …“

Something in the shining figure told him Our Lord was not impressed.

“… so, er … you see, well, in a way … taking advantage of their superstition for the higher purpose of my science, you see …”

“So, between their piety for me and thy nostalgia for Priam and for people worse than he even, thy curiosity is the ‘higher purpose‘, is that it?”

Schliemann saw his habitual excuses would not do with this … dialogue partner.

“If you know everything, you must know any Prussian would agree?”

“If thou knowest the Bible as well as thy Prussian teachers brag, thou must know that I said something against conforming to the world.“

Even Heinrich Scliemann, from a very Protestant and Modern part of Prussia knew Our Lord meant, by “the world”, Prussia, not Austria or even Bavaria.

“So, I am going to Hell for this? Is that what you have decided?”

Our Lord didn’t answer.

“What about the priest who blessed the icon? He should have known better, and yet he went along with me. He did it for the money … like Judas.”

“He knows he acted like Judas, but thou doest not. Look at him!”

And here Schliemann saw the Greek Orthodox priest bowing down before an icon of Our Lord – and Our Lord, as already having appeared in the dream, taking the place of the icon.

It was not – had not been – the icon he had set up and blessed. He did the sign of the cross, from right to left as the Orthodox do. He said “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I have sold you for money, like Judas.”

And he bowed down again.

And he repeated the sign of the cross and he repeated the prayer. And he bowed down again. And it went on and on, until Heinrich said something about “did he feel that bad about it? I thought he was just greedy and superstitious!”

And the priest went on. Heinrich cried out:

”Lord, if you cannot forgive me, forgive that poor priest! I didn’t mean to hurt him that much. Honestly, I didn’t!”

”I know thou didst not mean it. That is why I am showing thee what thou didst for him. Now look at what he did for thee.”

And the priest cried out:

”Lord, I am by Thy grace Orthodox, and most damnable because I stood not up for the truth, when I knew it. But what about Sleemun**, who, being a heretic, knows no better? Will he be damned for this lie? If it be Thy Holy Will, so be it. And yet, he paid for the widow whom the Turk was evicting …”

(Hullo, thought Schliemann! He didn’t keep the money for himself!)

”God, damn me, if Thou wilt, for trapping his soul in sin, but free him from it. Make his lie to be no lie. Have thou appeared to Priam, on the spot where he said so!”

Have thou appeared – imperative of the perfect past: πεφηνε. The priest was asking God to have already done a thing before the asking.

And Heinrich – who knew Greek better than theology and understood the form – had a wild hope if both being saved himself and seeing King Priam in Heaven due to this prayer. He looked up to Our Lord, and instead of seeing Him face to face as when the dream began, he saw King Priam in the invaded Troy kneeling before Him.

“Lord, is that you?” said Priam. “I have looked for you in all the stories about Zeus … and only found you where you saved Deucalion and Pyrrha … it is as if all the rest was some … some lying gods from the Netherworld …”

“Indeed, I saved a couple from a Flood and another couple from infertility. Thou hast called both of them Deucalion and Pyrrha. But Zeus is not my name, and as thou knowest, neither is Teshub.”

“But alas! I broke your holy law : Helen should have been given to Menelaos, even if he had punished her. I am faulty.”

”Not as thy son. He kept her for lust, thou for pity.”

“Are you not angry at my transgression?“

“The pity of not punishing is not always a transgression. Indeed, thou hast pleased me.”

And Priam, white hair, white beard, suddenly looked as a boy, happy to have pleased his father, though he had feared the opposite.

“Thou knowest I will be man later?“

“If you say so, Lord, I know it.“

“And I will also spare an adulteress, and remember thee.“

If you have ever felt a joy so deep it almost slapped you and it pushed tears into your eyes, you know what Priam felt.

”That is too much … no, if You say You will, it is for You to see about it. I am happy beyond expectation.”

“I will also give a king to a country where Trojans are at least reputed to have come after now. He will be victim of adultery as Menelaos. And he will spare the adulteress, like thou didst.”

“Lord, this is beyond all I deserved!“

“Someone shall have prayed for thee.“

“Is there more?“

“Yes, thou recallest thy son Hector?“

“How could I forget him! One man here who sought you, while others went with Alexander Parid to worship the Wolfgod Apollon.”

“The father of that King will give him tot he care of a stepfather – who shall be a Hector.“

“My Lord, are you mad? Why are you wasting this generosity on me? How can I ever thank you, even if I had all eternity?”

“If I did what I did fort he thanks you men give me on earth, I would indeed be mad. Eternity thou shalt have to thank me, after we meet again, when I shall descend to the Netherworld to make you free, you mortals captive as yet by my enemy. One thing more. I will send to the Troad my men, yes, when I shall become man, it is to this coast that my most beloved disciple will send some letters from me. To Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamus, to Thyatira, to Philadelphia and to Sardis. Yes, I know thy love amidst the synagogue of Satan, that is my enemy.”

Schliemann started waking up, the dialogue between Christ and Priam started becoming smudgy, like things seen through rainstained windows on very rainy days.

Priam asked one thing more, His name. Schliemann was not sure if he heard something about Yehoshua, or sth about Jesus (Yaysooss as the Germans pronounce it) or sth about “thou shalt know when we meet again” or perhaps … yes, this was the final version of this part of dialogue before he finally woke up:

“They will call me the Lion of Judah. Το λεονταρι του Ιουδα. Yahuda Aslan. …”

And Heinrich woke up with the words echoing in his head … Yahuda Aslan … Aslan … Aslan … and because these things were beyond his normal thoughts, he said to himself, “whoa, it was just a dream …”

Years later there was a war. A Lieutenant Schliemann went out to the trenches of France, not Heinrich, but a younger relative of his. He was blonde. He loved reciting Homer, among other Greek poetry, in the evenings. Especially Homer.

One evening he was reciting, somewhat louder than usual, the passage where Glaucos – it means blonde – and Diomede met in battle and decided not to kill each other.

Ως φατο, γηθησεν δε βοην αγαθος Διομηδης·
εγχος μεν καλεπηξεν επι χθονι πουλυβοτειρηι
αυταρ ο μειλιχιοισι προσηυδα ποιμενα λαων

And he heard a deep booming voice answer from the English camp:

Η ρα νυ μοι ξεινος πατρωιος εσσι παλαιος· (…)

The next morning in the fog, he surrendered with his men to an English Lieutenant (or Anglo-Irish from Belfast, actually) named Clive Staples Lewis.

* Throughought the dream, “thou” has the stylistic quality of German “du” and French “tu” – of assuming familiarity. Germans and Greeks also use the “thou” when addressing God, but French do not. Schliemann is not doing it here since God is here appearing to him as a real person – the God he had “thoued” was the “God” of progressive Protestant philosophy, a non-person. Polite address is “you” corresponding to German “Sie” and French “vous”. The Greek priest is thouing the Christ of the dream, since when thouing Him otherwise he was considering Him a real person.

** Greek doesn’t really have an SH, nor exactly a pure S, but an S that is between the two.