In Caravaggio’s 1601 painting “Conversion on the Way to Damascus,” we see “the moment recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, except Caravaggio has Saul falling off a horse (which is not mentioned in the story) on the road to Damascus, seeing a blinding light and hearing the voice of Jesus. For Saul this is a moment of intense religious ecstasy: he is lying on the ground, supine, eyes shut, with his legs spread and his arms raised upward as if embracing his vision. The saint is a muscular young man, and his garment looks like a Renaissance version of a Roman soldier's attire: orange and green muscle cuirass [armor made to fit the wearer's torso and designed to mimic an idealized male human physique], pteruges [strip-like defenses for the upper parts of limbs attached to armor], tunic and boots. His plumed helmet fell off his head and his sword is lying by his side. The red cape almost looks like a blanket under his body. The horse is passing over him led by an old groom, who points his finger at the ground. He had calmed down the animal, and now prevents it treading upon Saul. The huge steed has a mottled brown and cream fur; it is still foaming at the mouth, and its hoof is hanging in the air. “The scene is lit by a strong light but the three figures are engulfed by an almost impenetrable darkness. A few faint rays on the right evoke Jesus' epiphany but these are not the real source of the lighting, and the groom remains seemingly oblivious to the presence of the divine. Because the skewbald horse is unsaddled, it is suggested that the scene takes place in a stable instead of an open landscape.” -- Image and description from Wikipedia

Chapter 3: “I Once Was Blind, but Now I See” (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

In  Chapter 3, Godin explores the Greek-inflected Christian origins of the saintly blind and blindness as corrective  tropes that expand and subtly change ideas of compensation and punishment as discussed in Chapters 1 and 2. Beginning with Socrates’s mistrust of what we see with our physical eyes, moving through the Christian Bible’s obsession with blindness—the healing of blindmen, Paul on the road to Damascus) and the numerous blind saints, to blindness as moral corrective (Jane Eyre, Game of Thrones), to experiences of contemporary blind Christians, this chapter attempts to dismantle the entrenched trope of the saintly blind.

 

I Once Was Blind, but Now I See – Endnotes

  1. Plato, Phaedo,
  2. Plato, Phaedo,
  3. Nelson, The Art of Cruelty,
  4. Nelson, The Art of Cruelty,
  5. Nelson, The Art of Cruelty,
  6. Nelson, The Art of Cruelty, 7. John 9:1–25.
  7. John 9:32–33.
  8. John 9:34–39.
  9. CBC Radio, Tapestry, “Punk Rock and Passion Plays.”
  10. Hull, Touching the Rock, 12. Acts 9:3–4.
  11. Acts 9:5–10.
  12. Acts 9:17.
  13. Brontë, Jane Eyre, 403–4.
  14. Brontë, Jane Eyre,
  15. Brontë, Jane Eyre,
  16. Hull, Touching the Rock,
  17. Hull, Touching the Rock,

“After several nights, I discovered the main altar. I had been told about this, and I easily recognized it from the description. It was a single block of marble. Finding one corner, I ran my fingers along the edge, only to find that I could not reach the other end. I worked my way along the front and was amazed at its size. The front was carved with hard, cold letters. They stood out boldly, but I could not be bothered reading them. The top was as smooth as silk, but how far back did it go? I stretched my arms out over it but could not reach the back. This was incredible. It must have a back somewhere. Pushing myself up on to it, my feet hanging out over the front, I could reach the back. I did this again and again, measuring it with my body, till at last I began to have some idea of its proportions. It was bigger than me and much older. There were several places on the polished surface which were marked with long, rather irregular indentations, not cracks, but imperfections of some kind. Could it have been dropped? These marks felt like the result of impact. The contrast between the rough depressions and the huge polished areas was extraordinary. Here was the work of people, grinding this thing, smoothing it to an almost greasy, slightly dusty finish which went slippery when I licked it. Here were these abrasions, something more primitive, the naked heart of the rock.” –John Hull, Touching the Rock

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