by Revilo P. Oliver
(Liberty Bell, September 1985)
I DO NOT know how many millions of pious Christians make pilgrimage to the Vatican, where God’s Vicar presides over the world’s largest chain of salvation-shops. When I was there some years ago, I was told that when one deducted from the total number of annual visitors tourists, who come to look, scholars, who are intent on research, artists, who admire masterpieces, and clergy, who have business with their home office, the remainder of about ten million must represent the number of Faithful who come to refresh their souls in the holiness of the site.
If that estimate was correct, the Vatican is rivaled in popularity by the shrine of The Most Holy Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas, which is located in Guadalupe Hidalgo, just north of Mexico City in the Federal District. To that shrine an estimated ten million make pilgrimage every year, so that, if one measures by numbers rather than quality, Guadalupe equals the Vatican in its magnetic attraction for pious souls. And Guadalupe is highly charged with a numinous energy that the Vatican does not have. The Pope does not perform miracles, and, so far as I have heard, no one has been cured of even a toothache by kissing his toe, whereas at Guadalupe the Virgin is busy healing the afflicted (if they are pious enough) of all the ills flesh is heir to. The walls of part of the basilica are covered with ex-votos which, like the numerous figurines and sculptured reliefs, attest the gratitude of pilgrims who have been healed of every malady known to medical science or preserved from perils at sea. I suspect that Mary works as hard at Guadalupe as she does at Lourdes.
The basilica of Empress Mary is a large and impressive structure, built on the summit of a hill at a place that was named Guadalupe after Guadalupe in the Spanish Estremadura, where Mary has a similar shrine, although it does little business these days. It may be that when Mary made her miraculous appearance at the Spanish Guadalupe she was only rehearsing for her performance in Mexico.
In Mexico, Mary showed a great deal of energy in 1810, when she inspired a hot-headed priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, to utter his famous “Grito de dolores” and start a revolution against Spain in the interests of the Indians, using the picture of Mary as his revolutionary banner, doubtless with her permission, since he was a pious man, although his brain had been overheated by reading the vapid rhetoric of the scoundrels who carried out the French Revolution. Mary, for some reason (who can tell what women will do?), didn’t save her champion from being defeated in battle and shot, but the revolution her votary started was a fire that could not be extinguished by the Spanish government of Mexico, which had been cut off from the mother country by Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The revolution, started by Hidalgo on behalf of the aborigines, was joined by creoles who didn’t know what was good for them, and after a jolly free-for-all in which revolutionists revolted against victorious revolutionists, the bully boy who came out on top for a while was a man named Miguel Fernandez, who became the first President of Mexico and changed his name to Guadalupe Victoria, which he intended to mean “Triumph of the Virgin of Guadalupe.” And the name of the site of Mary’s shrine was augmented by addition of the revolutionary priest’s name, so the place is now called Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Mary, who so miraculously retained her virginity after giving birth to a series of sons, including a detached part of old Yahweh himself, is virtually a goddess, but she evidently retains, together with her hymenal membrane, her maidenly shyness, for she appears on earth only to solitary peasants, male or female, when she comes upon them in lonely places and can be sure no educated person is watching. That, at least, is what the stories say, and the tale told at her shrine in Mexico is that she appeared to a poor Indian, trudging homeward, and charged him with a message for the Bishop of Mexico, whom she was evidently too modest to meet in person.
All this is guaranteed by a portrait of herself which she miraculously, and even without using her divine hands, imprinted with celestial pigments on a white cloth in which the Indian was carrying flowers. This miraculous product of Mary’s quite mediocre artistic talent is preserved under glass in a conspicuous place in her basilica, and at any hour of the day you may see women by the dozen, most of them mestizas, with a few Indians and occasionally a White woman, flopping on their knees in adoration of an icon so sacred they scarcely dare look at it for more than an instant.
In her self-portrait, as in most of the Madonnas painted by European artists, Mary has distinctly European features, which certainly are not Semitic, so that raises some very interesting racial questions that I shall not try to explore. She may be a pretty Italian woman, although I must add that when I saw her self-portrait, it seemed that her hood had not protected her from sunburn in Mexico, for I am sure that heavenly pigments do not change color with age, as do some prepared on earth.
I mention all this because some men who have received training as technicians and call themselves “scientists,” having made asses of themselves while proving “scientifically” the “authenticity” of the famous Shroud of Turin, lusted for further exercise of their pseudo-scientific imaginations, and undertook to prove that the painting at Guadalupe could not have been made by human hands and must therefore represent the Virgin’s venture into the mimetic arts.
It is an ominous and dismaying sign of our times that their shenanigans did not merely evoke laughter or contemptuous shrugs. The editors of the “Skeptical Inquirer” thought it necessary to send Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer to investigate the preposterous claim. Their report occupies pp. 243-255 in the issue for Spring 1985.
The two gentlemen begin with a brief summary of the facts concerning the foundation of the shrine at Guadalupe. That should have been sufficient in itself and made the rest of their work as frivolous as bringing in a five-ton derrick to pick up a pencil.
The shrine of the Virgin Mary replaced a temple of the Virgin Tonantzin, an Aztec goddess,(1) on the same site. That fact alone gives away the whole fraud.
(footnote 1. I cannot state offhand the precise position of Tonantzin in the Aztec pantheon, except that obviously she was one of the Centeotl, the group of gods who presided over maize, the only corn that was cultivated by the Indians of Mexico. The Aztec religion was as confused as the Christian, and while the Indians never imagined anything as absurd as the Christians’ three-in-one god, their gods, like Hindu deities, had ‘aspects,’ many of which were probably the result of theocracy as one tribe fused with or subjugated another. For example, the best known Aztec deity (with the possible exception of Quetzalcoatl, who was an alien god and never really naturalized among the Aztecs) was Tezcatlipoca, who was also worshipped as Nezahualpilli, Yaotzin, Telpochtli, Yoalli Ehecatl, Moneneque, et al., and it is difficult to determine whether the worshippers thought they were paying tribute to an ‘aspect’ of Tezcatlipoca under another name or thought of the ‘aspect’ as a separate supernatural personality. The corn-gods are a particularly confusing part of the pantheon, for Centeotl is simultaneously (a) a goddess, identified with Teteoinnan, the “Mother of the Gods,” (b) her son, the male maize-spirit, and (c) the whole group of gods concerned with agriculture, of whom the chief was said to be Chicomeconhuatl, the serpent goddess who fertilizes cultivated plants. The Virgin, Tonantzin, was probably identified with Xilonen, the goddess who produces the xilote of growing maize, but I did not think it necessary to investigate her cult for the purpose of this note. She may have shared with Mary more attributes than virginity.)
In the ancient world, when the Roman Empire became so decadent that mobs of Christians could come out of the slums, incited by their howling dervishes, and begin looting and pillaging to appease their righteous lust for destruction, they invariably attacked and destroyed the temples of the “pagan” gods, most of which were architectural masterpieces and housed the finest sculpture in the world. The Christians had, of course, assimilated much of the Jews’ innate hatred of visual beauty and their lust to defile and abolish it, but the sleazy Fathers of the Church, who directed the rioters, were carrying out a clever plan. By violating the temple, they impaired the prestige of the deity to whom it was sacred, but they also expropriated the magic sanctity of the site for their own cult, and so, as soon as the temple had been leveled to the ground, they installed over its ruins a church dedicated to their god or his mamma or one of the commonly mythical spirits they called saints and equipped with legends, often making the new numen as similar to the old one as they plausibly could.
Aztec “art” is grotesque and barbarous, so hatred of beauty was not a factor in Mexico, but the Christian conquerors destroyed all the teocalli to prove that their god packed a stronger punch, and, in keeping with Christian methods, put up churches in their place and, where possible, tried to assimilate their deity to the one he or she replaced and thus appropriate the sanctity of the place. Poor Tonantzin was an easy victim of this Christian trick, and, as a matter of fact, when Mary had been installed at Guadalupe, many of the Indians continued to call her Tonantzin, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
This standard Christian diddle is in itself sufficient to show that the whole myth about the apparition of Mary on the hill was a consciously contrived fraud, but the circumstantial evidence cited in the article makes it certain that, in all probability, the contriver of the hoax was the Bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, who, in the tale he used to “authenticate” the miracle, cleverly described himself as having been sceptical of the fictitious Indian’s story until Mary surreptitiously put her portrait on cloth in which the Indian had wrapped some flowers.
Zumarraga’s hoax, although perpetrated by a standard Christian technique, was a brilliant success, for it is reported that in the seven years after he manufactured the miracle, eight million ignorant Indians were sprinkled with holy water and enrolled as permanent customers for such magic as christenings, weddings, funerals, periodic cancellations of their sins, and the other impalpable and invisible wares of his salvation-shops. And, no doubt, Mary Tonantzin soon began to grind out miraculous cures to increase the emoluments of her new establishment in Mexico, where she helped Zumarraga “champion” the natives to gain influence over them and extort concessions from the Spanish government of the province.
As for the painting, which, if Mary’s work, would prove that she has no artistic talent, the authors of the article found two contemporary sources, both of them Franciscan holy men, who, testifying in 1556, identified the painter whom Zumarraga persuaded or hired to make the crude painting, probably by copying as best he could a copy of a painting of Mary by Bonanat Zaortiza, a mediocre Spanish painter, who died some thirty years before the Spanish reached an Aztec who had been taught to paint in the European manner. (Incidentally, natives who were trained to supply the local market for religious “art” were trained by being taught to copy pious pictures by Spanish painters.)
(footnote 2. The authors report (p. 248) that one of the savants who argue that painting at Guadalupe is ‘acheiropoietos,’ i.e., could not have been made by human hands, actually implies that Zaortiza, whose painting is now in an art gallery in Barcelona, IMITATED the picture that the Virgin was going to imprint miraculously on the Indian’s cloth in Mexico about eighty or eighty-five years later! That’s what piety does to the brain.)
The authors proceed to a detailed study of the painting at Guadalupe, just as though there could be the slightest doubt that it is a typical Christian hoax and not worth another five minutes of their time.
I am certain that our botanists have thus far failed to embark on a systematic study of cowslips (Primula veris) with infra-red cameras to see whether they can obtain a photograph of Ariel, who is on record as having declared “Where the bee sucks, there suck I, / In a cowslip’s bell I lie,” e.q.s. That is because the Christian hokum-peddlers do not read Shakespeare, preferring more vulgar fictions.
* * *
The article on Guadalupe caught my attention because it reminded me of an incident that I have always remembered as a perfect illustration of Christian thinking.
When I was in Mexico about thirty years ago, I took a friend to see the basilica of Empress Mary at Guadalupe. At the foot of the hill there is an area in which one parks his automobile and hires a Mexican youth to protect it from sabotage by his fellows. A minor incident made us acquainted with a well-bred and elegantly dressed Hispanic lady (i.e., one of pure Spanish descent, not to be confused with the mongrels now pouring in from Mexico, who are called ‘Hispanic’ by the professional liars of the Jewspapers). She had come from Guadalajara, the most civilized city in Mexico, to solicit a favor from the Virgin Mary on behalf of a near relation, her brother-in-law, as I recall, who was ill.
The lady was well-educated, intelligent, and gracious to Spanish-speaking foreigners who had rendered her a very slight service. She told us that the Virgin Mary, whose basilica was on the hilltop, was indeed the very same Virgin Mary who was worshipped in Guadalajara and to whom there were dedicated chapels in several churches of that city as well as in the cathedral, in which there is a well-known painting of Mary by the famous Spanish artist, Murillo, to which many votaries pay a special devotion. Why, then, we asked, had she come almost four hundred miles to ask of Mary at Guadalupe a favor she could more conveniently have asked of the Virgin back home?
No, said the lady in all sincerity, she had to come, because the Virgin of Guadalupe could do things that the Virgin in Guadalajara couldn’t or wouldn’t do. It was the same Mary, she admitted again, but in Guadalupe she miraculously differed from what she was elsewhere, and that was why one had to come to Guadalupe Hidalgo to persuade her to fix up an ailing brother-in-law.
Now the lady was, as I have said, intelligent and well-educated. She had read widely in Spanish literature and had read some French writers, and she had a general acquaintance with Western culture. Obviously, however, she had to believe there was only one Mary, Mother of God, because that was what the priest told her, but in her heart she retained, perhaps without quite knowing she did, the more ancient and, in some ways, more reasonable belief that a god resided in a specific place.
In Gaul, in pre-Roman and Roman times, there was a goddess, Sequana, who was, as the great number of ex-votos found in the excavation of her shrine proved, every bit as efficient in producing miraculous cures as Mary has been either at Lourdes or Guadalupe. Now that great goddess obviously resided in her shrine on the banks of the river over which she presided and to which she gave her name (the modern Seine), and if one wanted to consult her, it was obviously necessary to call on her in her home. You couldn’t expect her to come to see you. The principle is recognized in Christian belief. If, for example, you want the sainted Thomas a Becket to do something for you, you’ve got to go to Canterbury, where his ghost hovers over his bones. That’s what Chaucer’s pilgrims did, and that is only reasonable. We have to localize phenomena to understand them. As a sensible child was heard to tell her parent, “But, Mother, God can’t be everywhere: he’s got to be SOMEWHERE.”
The lady obviously believed, at one and the same time, that there was only one Virgin and also that there were at least two. That is characteristic of Christian thinking.
I am sure that some Christians must read their Bible–I mean the whole thing, not just snippets recommended as particularly good pap. There is an anonymous compilation of 133 points on which what is said in one or several parts of the story book is flatly contradicted by what is said in other passages.(3) It is simply impossible for both statements on a given point to be true. A given number is either more than zero or less than zero: it CAN’T be both. And no amount of gabble by theologians can make antithetical statements agree. Since we must assume that some Christians read their corpus of tales while awake, and are able to remember what they have read, we must conclude that the Christians are able to believe BOTH of two contradictory statements. When minds become addled with superstitious awe, they can do strange things.
(footnote 3. The compilation deals with statements of fact in the holy book and is probably incomplete. It does not even mention such silliness as the habit of Christians to become maudlin about a “Prince of Peace,” who is the Jesus who demanded that persons who did not obey him be slain before his eyes so that he could enjoy watching them suffer. And they gabble about that Jesus’s “love of all mankind,” although he specifically equated them and all members of other races to dogs, whose greatest privilege is to eat the table scraps thrown them by members of the Master Race. And there are wealthy men, such as the late H. L. Hunt, who subsidize dervishes and their churches, although they have been explicitly and authoritatively assured that all rich men will be fried forever and forever after they die. Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield limited his book, “Those Incredible Christians” to the early agitators, but he could have applied the adjective to the entire history of the Jewish cult for “goyim.” Edgar Rice Burroughs peoples Mars with all sorts of bizarre variations of humanity, but had he described beings with the Christians’ capacity for ‘double-think,’ his readers would have thought he had let his imagination carry him to absurdity.)
Orwell described ‘double-think’ as one of the devices that will be used in the society that the “Liberals” and Jews are determined to impose on us in the near future, even though they didn’t quite get it in operation by 1984. But he was mistaken in thinking that there would be something novel about ‘double-think’: it’s simply an old and inveterate Christian habit.