Referring back again to my posts about Leonard Cohen and his relationship to spirituality:
One interesting thing I’ve heard and read consistently in reference to Leonard Cohen as a novelist and a songwriter, is that it is difficult to locate him within those respective traditions, and even more difficult to locate anyone fashioning themselves through his legacy. On Beautiful Losers (1966), I remember reading that it changed Canadian literature and yet there has never been anything like it produced since. When Cohen passed away, I found an interview he did for MTV in 1993. The interviewer sounds quite young and inexperienced but obviously very interested in Cohen. His questions are rather amateur, but Cohen has shown up with a lot to say and uses the questions to veer toward some nice quips. For instance, when asked why he moved from Greece to Nashville he replies:
“I’ve never had an overall strategy or a plan I’ve just always wanted to show off, and try to get ahead just like anyone else. I did have some consuming vision, I do have certain secret chambers of thought, which involved reestablishing a theocracy and being a high priest of a new invisible temple and dominate the world with a compassionate vision–but outside of that I just try to make a living.”
I quote Cohen, although he is clearly making a joke (but one that he had obviously crafted and thought through ahead of time), to suggest it may be hard to locate him in artistic traditions because he fits more within traditions of spiritual leadership. I mention this mainly as a thought experiment, to extend religion as a contemporary idea that did not die or remain unchanged since the 19th century, but that has evolved in ways that are just more difficult to identify. Between aetheism, agnosticism, and devotion, his work and its faith in higher powers and its ambivalence towards what that power may be, does fit within a spectrum of our modern and accepted belief systems and may explain why he appears to be an artistic anomaly. I am certain there are theological scholars who have already thread these waters and may come back to this if I find some interesting arguments for his practice as priesthood.
Image caption: Leonard Cohen, Seal of The Blessing To End Disunity (date unknown – c. 2012). An update to the symbol he designed for Book of Mercy (1984), the sign of the order of the unified heart.