Living With The Gods

If you get the opportunity check out this great ongoing series of radio shows by Neil MacGregor.

MacGregor was Anthony Blunt's protegee at The Courtauld Institute. He went on to resurrect the National Gallery where he was referred to as Saint Neil in part owing to his Christianity. Whilst Director there he turned down a Knighthood. I don't imagine he would be drawn on the reasons for doing this though I have read him discussing the collapse of faith in the UK against the backdrop of an examination of Elizabeth II's coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Reading between the lines the suggestion is that the monarch (head of the church) has presided over this collapse on her watch. MacGregor doesn't seem aggressively Christian, he shares with Jung a belief in the value of religion qua religion; as an essential tool for mankind whatever its flavour. Jung himself favored Christianity and Buddhism as our highest achievements of this order.

What I particularly like about these Podcasts, and I've only heard two thus far, is the ongoing emphasis of the importance of "the material", of objects, bodies, buildings and landscapes. I suppose one should expect this from a museum director and art historian, but equally this chimes with my own experience of the value of objects (quite different from a Marxist dialectical approach) as keys to ritual. It's chilling to reflect that the recent, horrific attack on Sufis in Egypt by radical Islamicists was, as I understand it, partly motivated by that order's use of ritualised objects out of step with orthodoxy.

If you can just catch one - try this episode. But this is brilliant on Rastafarianism. Don't miss the Object Gallery.