Detail from The Temptation of St. Anthony — Hieronymus Bosch

12 thoughts on “Detail from The Temptation of St. Anthony — Hieronymus Bosch”

  1. This has all the hall marks of an LSD trip, and I don’t say that to demean the artwork it just has little lucid driftings that remind me of what is like to be on LSD.

    I read somewhere that Hieronymus could of possibly had ergotamine poisoning from the rye. Or were his visions just that vivid?


  2. St. Anthony practiced the many millennia aged tradition of ascetic monasticism and most likely came by his illusions naturally. Wikipedia has a good recounting of his spiritual life. This practice is alive today in the American native tradition of a boy entering the wilderness, enduring hardships and delusions, meeting his doppelganger and guardian spirit, and returning to the tribe as a man. The monastic tradition is a lifelong process for successful practitioners. Milarepa the Tibetan saint lived in a cave throughout the Himalayan winter while consuming less than a bowlful of grains. One time, when he was returning to his cave, he encountered a giant nine-headed scorpion. Realizing that this was a component of his self, he conquered it by paying obeisance to it and welcoming it in the name of the Buddha, which demon responded by becoming a Buddhist. Only fragmentary records of the experiences of the two saints survive. In the same way that iconic paintings can be considered as windows looking into paradise, LSD experiences can be regarded as gateways out of Babel and markers on the path towards reality. The purpose of this self-seeking is not to pursue a bigger and better mirror, but to become a vessel of the divine spirit of love, and by doing so becoming of use to humanity. From ‘Praying With the Desert Mothers’, and account of nuns living in the wilderness, “O God of hiddenness and of the anawim, it is not easy for us to be unobtrusive and unassuming, as manifestations of your inner glory within us. This day teach us the meaning of living that draws attention to your goodness and grace, rather than our own pursuit of a reputation built solely on what others think of us. In whatever ways we need to grow in a self-love that is a reflection of your own loving of us, send us your grace to be fully the images and likenesses of your presence.” …


    1. As the discussion is taking in a little diversion, perhaps in Gnostic directions? Would you consider, O Learned RK that the Nag Hammadi scrolls is to Razzle what The Holy Bible is to Men Only. Both marvelous publications from the Eighties hey-day of Paul Raymond Publications.

      And dear old St Anthony hands in supplication whilst sailing toward a proffered backside. Heaven for some, indeed.


        1. Thank you for responding intelligently to my perusing. I am not sure what you mean by Gnostic directions? Are the Nag Hammadi scrolls also called the Gnostic Scriptures? Whatever they may be I am not familiar with them. Read the Gnostics (?) many years ago. I do not remember any of it. What is ‘to Razzle what the Holy Bible is to Men Only’? My curiosity is further piqued. I didn’t mean to diverge from the blog page, but felt that art criticism was best left to people who are interested in such exercises. I am also not informed of the specific symbolism of the demons depicted. I also wanted to, as the Buddha would say, ‘stir up the dust and trample the insects’ by commenting on the similarities of Saints who see the light, so to speak, such as St. Anthony and Milarepa. And read any responses. Trying to guide the conversation into what the visions mean rather than the ‘special effects’ of the hallucinations, as Ram Das’ guru said about LSD after he dropped a few hits of acid. St. Anthony’s life inspired many works of art, including a play by Flaubert. Much the same fascination as inspired in our pre-Apocalytptic world by tragic Van Gogh or sadly, Marilyn M. I would like to know what you are saying. Meanwhile, I’ll google and search YouTube for Nag Hammadi, Razzle, Men Only, Paul Raymond. I found some interesting takes on St. Anthony on YouTube besides the usual religious ones.


          1. Ref ” Meanwhile, I’ll google and search YouTube for Nag Hammadi, Razzle, Men Only, Paul Raymond. I found some interesting takes on St. Anthony on YouTube besides the usual religious ones.”

            I guess you don’t know how funny the above section is. Please forgive my schoolboy humour.

            My interest was piqued by your mention of ascetic monasticism, and it got me thinking about the Essenes and their sacred ecstasies or passion, a result of a lifestyle of deprivation and mortification in search of a holy knowledge or transfiguration.

            The Nag Hammadi scrolls are the apocryphal and discarded books of the Bible. Eye-opening stuff.


  3. To go on with this. I try to amuse, but often can only pop the punchline by distortion. I googled the Essenes wiki and then recalled having read about the tradition and some of the scripts 30 (?) years ago. I think that they were repressed and excluded from the ‘official’ biblical literature because having a personal savior does not require the experience to go through a central editing authority. Much the same way that Muslim officialdom represses the ecstatic traditions of their religion. Yes, the Dag Hammadi information was eye opening in the same manner that reading ‘The 10,000 Songs of Milarepa’ or ‘Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism’ was when I came across them. What I was referring to was the lifestyles of St. Anthony (and Milarepa) that created the devils throwing stones in their paths on the journey to realization, and the subsequent stories inspiring the art originally under discussion. St. Anthony was the inspiration of the Medieval mind in very direct ways. It seems that things manifest and things of the spirit could easily cross the boundaries between reality and fantasy in the Dark and Middle Ages minds. St. Anthony’s fire was the name given to ergotamine poisoning. Praying to him could subdue it. I do not think that considering Brueghel stoned detracts from his art. Where would music be without high musicians? Even the church organist must take a few nips now and then to succumb to the keys. It is possible that Brueghel was influenced by ergotamine poisoning, but his work was so prolific that he probably would have died from it over an extended period of time. There are also Amanitas depicted in some of his paintings. Much of his work seems to be an opium dream to me. More than taffeta came along the Silk Road. His art strikes many as being remarkably modern. And what I have heard expressed often is how could some one from way back then have the mind he had. Brueghel’s life and circumstances were not well recorded so that there is not much known about him. So very much knowledge of the past is lost because of the continual filtering by the propriety and religious correctness mindsets. The great cultural and metaphysical civilizations of the Americas were simply burned and the knowledgeable exterminated. This is a planet of war and of death, which is why I try to party as much and as often as possible. Taking it all too seriously is pointless because when you die this life’s relevance becomes immaterial if one knows how to free the mind when liberated from the physical plane. Which is why most religions conceive of God as love. The Grateful Dead to me are Brueghelian musicians….’there is a fountain not made by man…’


  4. Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:
    prior probability is reblogging this detail from “The Temptation of St. Anthony” to remind ourselves about the importance of imagination and that literature and the arts have more to say about the human condition than science does


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