Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Dreaming the Virgin Mary

Dreams and Miracles

Two miracles: a dead man comes back to life and his mother remains a virgin... Add to that the astonishing idea that God had a child...

Is this Egypt? It has been said that Horus was born posthumously and in a virgin birth to his mother Isis. Of course, it is really his father Osiris who is resurrected and Isis seems to have been as much a virgin as Jesus' mother.

Still, the real issue is not whether Egyptian theology influenced Christianity. It did. The real issue is the way in which dreams and miracles have shaped our beliefs: Jacob's Ladder, The Magi, Constantine and the Battle of Milvian Bridge, the dream of Blessed Reginald... The Roman poet Ovid wrote that Morpheus, the god of dreams, sends images of humans into our dreams and he often pops up in them himself. Centuries later, Descartes was fascinated by this possibility. Then there's the film The Matrix...


The gorgeous fresco shown above is The Barque of Charon, Sleep, Night and Morpheus (1682-86), by Luca Giordano. Charon is in the center and presumably that's Night arriving up top with no clothes on. This fresco is on a large ceiling in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence so it's impossible to capture in one photograph.

Dreams have been regarded as revelations for centuries. Even today many consider them a legitimate way to receive divine wisdom. But can dreams be trusted? The most famous ones have tended to be apocalyptic nightmares. Freud and Jung produced oceans of words attempting to prove that they could be revealing, but their lasting legacies were literary rather than scientific. Einstein's Theory of Relativity began life as a dream...

Miracles usually begin life as dreams, which is why "visions" are common among religious families and potential saints. Later still they are called "revelations" in order to justify them.

In their defense, dreams and miracles and revelations excite the imagination, they shake things up. Christianity's miracles defied Roman imperialism and Greek scepticism, proferring a secret wisdom that transformed the status quo by whispering "Anything is possible." Whenever religions get started there is no better way to astonish the unbelievers and win over believers than to announce a miracle and then ensure it cannot be challenged.

Are we at the end of the time of miracles?

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