Bob Dylan And Cowboy Jesus (Part V)

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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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One comment

  1. Or as Dylan sings ‘Black Davey’:

    Would you forsake your husband dear
    Would you forsake your baby
    Will you forsake your house and home
    To go with Black Jack Davey
    Oh, with Black Jack Davey?

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