If you’ve not seen them before you might like to look at
- Bob Dylan And The Cowboy Jesus
- Bob Dylan and Cowboy Jesus Part II (The Riddler)
- Bob Dylan And Cowboy Jesus Part III
- Bob Dylan And Cowboy Jesus (Part IV)
By Larry Fyffe
According to the thinkings of Gnostics, the physical world be a dark place that’s quite isolated from the many-levelled, and variously-lit planes of spirituality – at least for most of the inhabitants on Earth these levels are out-of-bounds.
In the mythological universe created in the imaginative mind of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, time-travel through space is one way out of the material world for those who have the unique gift.
But even then there is a terrible price to pay if a mistake is made. The Masked Rabbi in Dylan’s mythology sings an allegorical song to illustrate the problem. Witnesses the Rabbi a dreadful event when time-travelling with Cowboy Jesus (emanates Jesus has from a spiritual plateau into the physical body of outlaw Charles Bolton, aka ‘Black Bart’) who holdups stagecoaches.
It seems that while robbing a Wells Fargo stagecoach, Bart accidentally shoots and kills Zane Grey, the guy who’s riding shotgun, and then, lo and behold, a woman passenger runs off with the thief, herself a bright emanation sent forth to Earth from the mysterious, but basically good Monad. That young woman is no other than Mary, the would-be Mother of Jesus!
The Masked Rabbi sings about the incident from Mary’s point of view:
Well, I'll forsake my house and home And I'll forsake my baby I'll forsake my husband too For the love of Black Jack Davey Ride off with Black Jack Davey (Bob Dylan: Black Jack Davey ~ Dylan/traditional)
Needless to say Cowboy Jesus gets a little upset. God’s Divine Plan for redeeming the whole human race gets derailed, so to speak. For how now can Mary give birth to the Christ child in a manger if she’s run off with Black Bart (or “Black Jack Davey”) in Dylan’s coded mythology?
Therein, Cowboy Jesus tells the Masked Rabbi to take a message to Mary Magdalene, who’s up there in one of the lowest spiritual planes, but not to tell her the truth about the real mess he’s in; Jesus is trapped in the physical sphere, and no one is willing to help him out because he’s shot a man named Grey:
Take a message to Mary, but don't tell her what I've done Please don't mention the stagecoach, and the shot from a careless gun You can tell her I had to change my plans, and cancel out the wedding day But please don't mention my lonely cell where I'm gonna pine away (Bob Dylan: Take A Message To Mary ~ B&F Bryant)
In his gnostic Kabbalah-like visions, Bob Dylan begins his mythology with a Masked Rabbi emanating from the clouds:
Upon four-legged legged forest clouds The cowboy angel rides With his candle lit into the sun Though it's glow is waxed in black All except when 'neath the trees of Eden (Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)
Left up to the reader or listener of these song lyrics is the interpretation of the meaning hidden in these Dylanesque visions; it’s there for uncovering in the manner of the Hebrew ‘Old Testament’ filled with symbolism that’s left there to be unravelled as to what it all means:
Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel Whom I'd seen in a vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly ... And he informed me, and talked with me, and said "O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding" (Daniel 9; 21, 22)
One interpretation is that the mythology concludes with ‘organized’ Christian evangelism receiving a blast from the angel Gabriel’s horn:
How I made it back home, nobody knows Or how I survived so many blows I've been through Hell, what good did it do My conscience is clear, what about you? (Bob Dylan: Pay In Blood)
Apparently, the Masked Rabbi makes it back to the ranch on his faithful horse ‘Sylva’.
That’s just one holistic interpretation of Bob Dylan’s songs that contain such biblical visions.
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But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page. I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information. Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.