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A Qabalistic Exegesis of the Monty Python Parrot Sketch

From: Cavalorn 
Subject: A Qabalistic Exegesis of the Monty Python Parrot Sketch
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 1999 14:26:08 +0000


(In keeping with the tone of the list at the moment....)

The relationship between humour and religion has always been both an
explosive and a fruitful one. Where they fuse, they mutually accentuate
one another; witness the Nasrudin tales of the Sufi tradition, or the
satyr-plays of ancient Greece. When they clash, as they so frequently do
in the west, religion becomes increasingly solemn and comedy
increasingly iconoclastic. If there is no laughter _in_ religion, then
there will assuredly be laughter _at_ religion. Can comedy and religion
draw from the same well? Let us see.

The famous Parrot Sketch is not only an enduring classic of comedy, it
is a goldmine of Qabalistic lore, as may easily be demonstrated to
anyone with a basic comprehension of western Qabalah as studied and
practiced by the likes of Crowley. 

What is the core element of the sketch? A dead parrot. What then does
this parrot represent? Why is it so important that it is dead?

The parrot, (possibly a blind for PaRAKeeT), clearly symbolises the veil
of PAROKETH upon the Tree of Life. This veil, which is as it were a
lower harmonic of the veil of the Abyss, acts as a scintillant barrier
between the ordinary functions of the mind, and the resplendent centre
of consciousness that is Tiphereth. The constant motion of this veil is
said to equate to the constant mental activity that keeps us from direct
apperception of our own internal radiance. 

The loquacity of the parrot reminds us of Castandeda's 'internal
dialogue', the flow of _chittam_. Its bright plumage is associated with
the splendour of the veil, and with the temptations and distractions it
urges upon the aspirant in meditation. Moreover, it is not capable or
original speech, but merely mimics what is said to it. This mimickry or
reflection reminds us that the thousand thousand antics of the mind are
not the Self, but merely the reflection of Self in the troubled waters
of the lower Ruach.

The principals in the sketch are the Customer (John Cleese) and the
Shopkeeper (Michael Palin, I think). The Customer is clearly the
Aspirant, the Everyman, the Fool on the passage to enlightenment;
whereas the Shopkeeper is the stolid inertia of matter, the force of
gravity, the obstinacy of the material universe against which the
aspirant must strive. The Demiurge, in short.

The lesson of the sketch is that the sub-Paroketh mind is by nature
illusory, and an inadequate tool wherewith to explore the inner planes.
The Parrot, despite what the Shopkeeper may say, is Dead. We may read
this as: the everyday world, with its frequent and varied demands on our
time and attention, is constantly dragging our minds away from
concentration on the One Goal and into unproductive complexity. We must
recognise that a mind in this state of plurality and activity may not
attain to Tiphereth. We must recognise that the Parrot is Dead, even if
the world of the mundane insists otherwise.

Further confirmation of the identity of the Parrot is found in the
Customer's perception that it was only sitting upright upon its perch
because it had been nailed there. A nail is Vau, 6, the number of
Tiphereth; which demonstrates that the existence of the Paroketh Parrot
is totally dependent upon Tiphereth, of which it is in a sense an
emanation, in the same way that the Ape of Thoth is an aspect of Tahuti.
And herein lieth a mystery.

Paroketh, like the Abyss and its associated sphere of Da'ath, is
relative and illusory. It does not partake of the firm reality of the
Sephiroth. It is not energized or empowered by the Lightning Flash, as
we are clearly instructed in the phrase 'That parrot wouldn't 'voom' if
you put four million volts through it!' 

The Shopkeeper-demiurge is determined to maintain the illusion. (We may
note that he is not malefic. He is simply doing his job.) Rather than
address the fact of the parrot's lifelessness, he draws our attention to
its 'beautiful plumage'. The allure of material or intellectual reward
is, traditionally, one of the prime hazards of the Path. 

The polychromatic plumage recalls the path of Samekh, the Rainbow, and
'Hodos Chamaeleonis' which must be faced before the balanced harmony of
Tiphereth is attainable. (Yeats once expressed the opinion that he had
become lost on this Path). The parrot, and the veil, are infinitely
mutable; the prefix 'poly', as in Polly Parrot, affirms multiplicity as
opposed to the Unity which is characteristic of God. But our Customer is
at least partially illuminated. He has become aware that the Parrot is
in fact dead, and nothing can convince him otherwise. Once a profound
truth has been seen, it cannot be unseen.

One final codicil is present in the Hollywood Bowl verison of the
sketch. The Shopkeeper has finally acknowledged that the Parrot is dead.
The ordeal is over; the initiation is passed. Instead of the Parrot, he
offers a slug, which can, allegedly, talk. What is this slug but the
Dweller in the Abyss, the next great Initiation which confronts the
Aspirant? Is not the alchemical Salt of the Empress, whose path is above
the Abyss, proof against slugs? And indeed it can talk, as Neuburg
discovered to his cost.

93 93/93

Give me a woman who's taken her knocks,
Who's tasted both gutter and stars.
Give me a lady with holes in her socks.
Give me a princess with scars.
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