Everything Is Broken (Part II): Christ And The Phoenix

This article continues from “Everything is broken although God has a plan”

by Larry Fyffe

The alchemic symbol of the ‘phoenix’, the mythical fire bird that represented the rising and setting sun, goes back to time out of mind, back farther than the Hebrew Bible and the Judeo-Christain Bible in which the symbol also appears. The death-defying bird is interpreted by some followers of the Judaic faith as a symbol of the Jewish people who rise from the ashes of near destruction; by other followers of the Christian faith as a symbol of the resurrected Christ after His death on the cross:

The Hebrew vision – Things ‘will’ go awry at times for the people chosen by Yahweh to be delivered into the Promised Land; that is, when their behavior shows they’ve abandoned His laws:

I said, "I will die with my nest
And I will live as long as the phoenix"
(Tanakh, Job 29:l8):

The Christian vision – His crucified Son ‘shall’ return from heaven to the desert below to settle accounts once and for all, God having abandoned His wayward creations to fend for themselves, kicking them out of the green pastures of Eden:

Then I said, "I shall die in my nest
And shall multiply my days as the sand"
(King James Bible, Job 29:18)

As previously mentioned, in song Bob Dylan references the alchemic symbols of the raven, the swan, the peacock, the albatross (pelican), and, below, the phoenix.

Though no names are mentioned, it’s apparent that the phoenix in the lyrics below be Christ. And Jesus shall return to earth, there’s no doubt it. He has to change things around:

Don't you cry, and don't you die, and don't you burn
Like a thief in the night, He'll replace wrong with right
When He returns
(Bob Dylan: When He Returns)

On the other hand in the next song, it’s the wayward that the phoenix symbolizes. The narrator in the song stays too long in the state bordered by the ‘American ‘Nile’. But he does move on. Akin to Moses, it could be said that he almost makes it back to the Promised Land of Israel:

Well the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can come back all the way
Only thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long
(Mississippi: Bob Dylan)

In the following double-edged lyrics, Jesus can be thought of as the fire bird that must return to earth. That is, if most of mankind, unlike the Hebrews under the stern hand of Yahweh, are incapable of saving themselves from total destruction:

I'm gonna walk across the desert, 'til I'm in my right mind
I won't think about what I left behind
Nothin' back there anyway that I can call my own
Go back home, and leave me alone
It's a long road, it's a long and narrow way
If I can't work up to you, 
you'll surely have to work down to me someday
(Bob Dylan: Narrow Way)

Apparently, there’s something to be said for a God that has a Son that’s not so strict as His Father:

Treat me kindly dear blue angel
Deepest colour of the night
Be merciful, be gentle
For I have no strength to fight
(The Strawbs: Blue Angel ~ Cousins)

Bob Dylan echoes the sentiment expressed above in the song sung by the Strawbs:

I heard a voice at the dusk of day
Sayin', "Be gentle, brother, be gentle and pray"
It's a long road, it's a long  and narrow way
If I can't work up to you, 
you'll surely have to work down to me someday
(Bob Dylan: Narrow Way)

Dylan also has a bit of fun at the expense of the dogmatic twisters of the Christian religion:

Shake the dust off of your feet, don't look back
Nothin' can hold you down, nothin' that you lack
Temptation's not an easy thing, Adam given the Devil reign
Because he sinned, I got no choice, it run in my vein
(Bob Dylan: Pressing On)

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2 Responses to Everything Is Broken (Part II): Christ And The Phoenix

  1. Peter Higginson says:

    I find your insights to be a bit awry. Methodologically random. Dylan’s spirituality is actually psychotic. x

  2. Larry fyffe says:

    With no accompanying explanations given, such generalizations regarding myself or Dylan remain in your own mind….anyone can opine anything when it comes down to it, but reasons are required if others are to perhaps ‘get’ what you’re getting at.

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