Unterhaltungsmedien und die Botschaft aus dem Licht: „There is no such thing as spirit. We are made of matter and nothing more. We’re just a tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent universe.” – Der schwere Weg zu geistiger Größe in Doctor Strange

English translation in the comments section.

Kümmert euch nicht um Spötter, die dem Geistesleben noch entfremdet sind. Wie Trunkene, wie Kranke stehn sie vor dem großen Schöpfungswerke, das uns so viel bietet. Wie Blinde, die sich tastend durch das Erdendasein schieben und all die Herrlichkeit um sich nicht sehen!
Sie sind verwirrt, sie schlafen; denn wie kann ein Mensch zum Beispiel noch behaupten, daß nur das ist, was er sieht? Daß dort, wo er mit seinen Augen nichts bemerken kann, kein Leben ist? […] Weiß er nicht schon von vielen Dingen jetzt, wie eng begrenzt die Fähigkeit des Auges ist? Weiß er noch nicht, daß sie mit der an Raum und Zeit gebundenen Fähigkeit seines Gehirns zusammenhängt? Daß er aus diesem Grunde alles, was sich
über Raum und Zeit erhebt, mit seinem Auge nicht erkennen kann? Wurde noch keinem dieser Spötter solche logische Verstandesbegründung klar? Das Geistesleben, nennen wir es auch das Jenseits, ist doch nur etwas, das völlig über der irdischen Raum- und Zeiteinteilung steht, das also einen gleichartigen Weg benötigt, erkannt zu werden. […]
Man könnte also sagen: das Jenseits ist, was jenseits der Erkennungsfähigkeit unserer körperlichen Augen ist.
Eine Trennung aber zwischen Dies- und Jenseits gibt es nicht! Auch keine Kluft! Es ist alles einheitlich, wie die gesamte Schöpfung. Eine Kraft durchströmt das Diesseits wie das Jenseits, alles lebt und wirkt von diesem einen Lebensstrom und ist dadurch ganz untrennbar verbunden. […]
Den Begriff der Trennung hat allein der Mensch erfunden, weil er nicht alles sehen kann und sich als Mittelpunkt und Hauptpunkt der ihm sichtbaren Umgebung dünkt. Doch sein Wirkungskreis ist größer.

(Abd-ru-shin: Im Lichte der Wahrheit – Gralsbotschaft, Vortrag „Erwachet!“)

Hauptsächlich von seiner an Inception erinnernden Bilderwucht lebend (leider mitunter auf Kosten der Handlung und Charakterzeichnung), bietet Doctor Strange aus dem Marvel-Comicuniversum doch so einiges, das ihn für diese Artikelserie interessant macht. Es finden sich sogar manche Parallelen zu Erdenbann, dem 1925 uraufgeführten Theaterstücks Oskar Ernst Bernhardts (Abd-ru-shins), das bereits viele grundlegende Themen der späteren Gralsbotschaft anreißt.
Dr. Stephen Strange ist ein Star der Neurochirurgie, doch der Erfolg seiner „magischen“ Hände hat seinem Charakter nicht gutgetan. Hochmütig, egozentrisch und von sich und seinen unbestreitbar vorhandenen Fähigkeiten eingenommen, zählt für ihn nicht das Wohl seiner Patienten, sondern nur der Ruhm, der mit ihrer Heilung einhergeht. „Gewöhnliche“ oder unheilbare Fälle interessieren den ehrgeizigen Arzt entsprechend nicht, sondern lediglich solche, an die sich niemand anderes herantraut, die jedoch Erfolg versprechen. Bis er einen schweren Autounfall erleidet, in dem seine Hände schwer verletzt werden – unheilbar für die Zwecke seiner millimetergenauen chirurgischen Arbeit. Strange greift nach jedem Strohhalm, der sich ihm bietet, verpulvert sein gesamtes Vermögen für experimentelle Verfahren, doch alles ohne Ergebnis. In seinem Selbstmitleid stößt er selbst die wenigen Personen zurück, die ihm freundlich gegenüberstehen. Seine letzte verbliebene Hoffnung ist ein Fall, der allem medizinischen Verständnis widerspricht: Ein Patient, der von einer vollständigen Querschnittslähmung genesen ist. Ein Patient, dessen Behandlung Strange ablehnte – unheilbar, kein Ruhm, der zu ernten war, wie ihm der Betroffene mit klarem Blick vorhält. Dennoch verweist er Strange auf seinen Ort der Heilung im fernen Katmandu.

Ruhm, Status, Geld als Lebenszweck…

… und die Suche nach Heilung und Wahrheit inmitten falscher Versprechungen. Ich liebe die Montage der Katmandu-Szenen für ihre reichen Andeutungen. Der Weg zur Heilung führt für Strange nur durch die Wahrheit, aber sie ist eine schmerzhafte Erfahrung. Denn zu allererst muß er sich der Wahrheit über sich selbst stellen. Ohne Selbsterkenntnis und Selbstaufgabe wird er seiner Heilung immer im Wege stehen.

Alles an dem mysteriösen Kloster und dessen mysteriöser Lehrerin stößt Strange in seinem materialistischen, orthodox-wissenschaftlichen Weltbild ab. Geist, Astralkörper, Heilung durch Glauben sind für ihn keine Konzepte, die überhaupt in Betracht gezogen werden können. Bis die ebenso humorvolle wie handfeste Weise ihn eines Besseren belehrt.

Der Astralkörper besteht aus mittlerer Grobstofflichkeit. Er muß von den kleinen Wesenhaften dem schweren, grobstofflichen Erdenkörper unmittelbar vorangehend geformt werden, so daß es fast erscheint, als wenn er gleichzeitig geformt würde. Dem ist aber nicht so; denn der Astralkörper – ich will der Einfachheit halber noch bei dieser bisher bekannten Bezeichnung bleiben – muß allem vorangehen, was in der schweren Grobstofflichkeit sich formen soll! […]
Der Astralkörper hängt mit dem Erdenkörper
zusammen, ist aber nicht abhängig von ihm, wie man bisher angenommen hat.
(„In der grobstofflichen Werkstatt der Wesenhaften“)

Strange stürzt sich in seine Studien und sein Training, jeden Mißerfolg immer wieder auf seine Verletzung oder auf die Umstände schiebend. Doch während die erhoffte Heilung seiner Hände sich nicht einstellen will, entdeckt er sein ungeahntes Talent für „paranormale“ Fähigkeiten. Unvermutet und ungewollt wird er zu einem dringend benötigten Streiter des Guten… und langsam beginnt sich auch seine Sicht auf seine Mitmenschen zu verändern.

Der Mensch ist in seiner geistigen Entwickelung so weit zurückgeblieben, daß er nicht einmal die ihm zu Gebote stehenden geistigen Kräfte zu voller Entfaltung bringen kann, sonst würde auch er für heutige Begriffe an das Wunderbare grenzende Leistungen vollbringen. […]
Stets stellten sie ihren eigenen Willen dabei voran. Und damit lähmten sie sich selbst, konnten sich nie höher aufschwingen, als ihr eigener Verstandeswille es zugab, welcher erdgebunden ist.
Die Menschen kennen also nicht einmal die Gesetze in der Schöpfung, die ihre geistige Macht auslöst oder freimacht, in denen sie ihre geistige Macht zu entfalten vermögen.

(„Steige herab vom Kreuze!“)

Überzeugender als in jedem Film, den ich je gesehen habe, gestaltet sich die Wandlung des Helden vom Egoisten zum Beschützer der Menschheit. Es gibt kein Schlüsselerlebnis, keinen Moment der Klarheit, sondern Strange geht viele kleine Einzelschritte, den gesamten Film hindurch. Die vermeintliche Katastrophe seines (selbstverschuldeten) Unfalls und seiner unheilbaren Verletzung erweist sich dabei als versteckter Segen, der Strange aus seiner selbstbezogenen Isolation, aber auch aus seinem Materialismus reißt. Die Entscheidung, was er mit seinem neuen erweiterten, ganzheitlichen Weltbild anfangen will, bleibt ihm dabei sehr deutlich selbst überlassen: Heilung und Rückkehr zu seinem altem Leben oder die Akzeptanz seiner neuen, unendlich härteren Bestimmung, dem Dienen eines höheren Zieles, das einhergeht mit Selbstlosigkeit. Die Erkenntnis, daß sich sein Weltbild gar nicht so sehr von dem seines Antagonisten unterscheidet, aber auch das komplexe Verhältnis zu seiner Lehrerin helfen ihm, seine Sicht der Dinge zu hinterfragen. Seine Selbstgerechtigkeit wird mit zunehmendem Verständnis seiner Nächsten ausgeschaltet.

“You cannot beat a river into submission. You have to surrender to its currents and use its power as your own.”

Inmitten des Ganzen aber steht der Mensch mit der ihm anvertrauten unermeßlichen Macht, durch sein Wollen diesem gewaltigen Räderwerk die Richtung anzugeben. […]
Das ganze wundersame Weben dient aber lediglich dazu, dem Menschen zu helfen, solange er die ihm gegebene Macht nicht in kindischem Vergeuden und falscher Anwendung hemmend dazwischen wirft. Er muß sich endlich anders einfügen, um das zu werden, was er sein soll. Gehorchen heißt in Wirklichkeit weiter nichts als verstehen! Dienen ist helfen. Helfen aber bedeutet herrschen. In kurzer Zeit kann jeder seinen Willen frei machen, wie er sein soll. Und damit wendet sich für ihn alles, da er sich innerlich zuerst gewendet hat.

(„Der Mensch und sein freier Wille“)

Die Ausdrücke: „Nur wer sich selbst erniedrigt, wird erhöht werden“, der Mensch muß sich „demütig vor seinem Gotte beugen“, um in dessen Reich eingehen zu können, er soll „gehorchen“, „dienen“, und was der biblischen Ratschläge noch mehr sind, sie stoßen den modernen Menschen in dieser einfachen, kindlichen und doch so treffenden Ausdrucksart von vornherein etwas ab, weil sie seinen Stolz verletzen, der in dem Bewußtsein des Verstandeswissens liegt. Er will nicht mehr so blind geführt sein, sondern selbst erkennend bewußt in allem mitwirken, um den zu allem Großen notwendigen inneren Aufschwung aus Überzeugung zu erhalten. Und das ist kein Unrecht!
Der Mensch
soll mit seiner Fortentwicklung in der Schöpfung bewußter dastehen, als es früher war. […] Ob nun gesagt wird: „In Demut sich dem Willen Gottes beugen“, oder „nach richtigem Erkennen der gewaltigen Naturgesetze sich deren Art und Wirken nutzbar machen“, ist ein und dasselbe.
Nutzbar machen kann sich der Mensch die Kräfte, die den Willen Gottes tragen, nur dann, wenn er sie genau studiert, also erkennt, und sich dann darnach richtet. Das Mit-ihnen-Rechnen oder Sich-darnach-Richten ist in Wirklichkeit aber weiter nichts als ein Sicheinfügen, also ein Sichbeugen! Sich nicht
gegen diese Kräfte stellen, sondern mit ihnen gehen. Nur indem der Mensch seinen Willen der Eigenart der Kräfte anpaßt, also die gleiche Richtung geht, vermag er die Gewalt der Kräfte auszunützen.
Das ist kein Bezwingen der Kräfte, sondern ein Sich-demutsvoll-Beugen vor dem göttlichen Willen! Wenn der Mensch so manches auch eigene Klugheit nennt oder eine Errungenschaft des Wissens, so ändert dies nichts an der Tatsache, daß alles nur ein sogenanntes „Finden“ von Auswirkungen bestehender Naturgesetze bedeutet, also des göttlichen Willens, den man damit „erkannt“ hat, und mit der Auswertung oder Verwendung sich diesem Willen „fügt“.

(„Symbolik im Menschenschicksal“)

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The Woman is Present in Bielefeld und andere Gedanken über alltäglichen Sexismus

English translation in the comments section.

He wouldn’t know what it felt like to have his no ignored.

Das intereuropäische Krise – Trauma – Hoffnung -Theaterfestival 2017 wurde eröffnet von Smashing Times´ The Woman is Present, ein Stück, das bereits ein Jahr auf dem Buckel hat, aber derzeit auf seiner ersten Europa-Tournee ist. Natürlich fuhr ich hin; es ist schließlich nicht oft, daß sich solche Gelegenheiten ohne lange Reisen ergeben.

Bielefelds gastgebendes Theaterlabor liegt nun nicht gerade in einer guten Gegend, oder vielleicht treiben sich generell bei abendlicher Dunkelheit die gruseligen Gestalten unserer Gesellschaft herum. Lange ist es her, und ich habe es nicht vermißt; dachte auch, daß ich endlich aus dem Alter heraus wäre. Vielleicht ist es eine kulturelle Sache, ohne hier rassistisch werden zu wollen, aber patriarchalische Kulturen spielen bei so etwas nun einmal eine Rolle, daran kann keine political correctness etwas ändern. Tatsache ist, daß ich gleich zweimal an diesem Abend angemacht wurde, von jungen Männern „mit Migrationshintergrund“, die ungefähr halb so alt waren wie ich. Frau allein unterwegs scheint das einzige Kriterium sein, das da zählt.

Existierender Sexismus war auch Teil der Rede, die Organisatorin Yuri Anderson zur Eröffnung des Festivals hielt. „Darüber brauchen wir gar nicht viel zu reden“, erklärte sie vielsagend zum wissenden Nicken der anwesenden Frauen. Alltäglicher Sexismus ist entsprechend das Grundthema von The Woman is Present, das Stumm-machen von Frauen, das Ignorieren ihrer Identität als Mensch, das Ignorieren ihres Willens, das Auslöschen ihrer Leistungen, wenn nicht gar ihrer Existenz. Präsentiert wurde es als Zwei-Frauen-Stück; ich weiß nicht, ob es so entworfen oder reduziertem Personal während einer Tournee geschuldet ist. Die beiden Darstellerinnen schlüpften in die Rolle von sieben bzw. sechs Frauen, ein Querschnitt der Biographien von Women, War & Peace (und das Publikum hatte sichtlich Probleme mit dem heimischen irischen Dialekt): Margaret Skinnider, Mary Elmes, Dolores Ibárruri („La Pasionaria“ – Filmclip während Kostümwechsels), Neus Català Pallejà, Maria Eugenia Jasińska, Marta Hillers und Ettie Steinberg. So interessant die angerissenen Biographien sind – und man bekommt definitiv Lust, ihre Lebensgeschichten in Gänze kennenzulernen –, so unbefriedigend ist die Darstellung letztlich. „The Woman is Present“ ist ein erstaunlich treffender Titel, denn im Grunde genommen handelt es sich hier nur um eine Frau. Es gibt keine individuellen Stimmen in diesem Stück. Martas Ton jedenfalls fand ich trotz der Zitate aus ihrem Buch nicht, ebensowenig die nüchterne Mary Elmes, deren spannende Biographie ich kürzlich las. Das ist wohl die größte Ironie: Daß diesen Frauen ihre Stimme genommen wurde, indem man sie wieder an die Öffentlichkeit brachte. Andererseits natürlich kein Einzelfall in der künstlerischen Aufarbeitung von Biographien. Marta fand ich bisher noch in keinem Film und keiner Bühnenadaption wieder. Der Wunsch nach Drama ist wohl größer als alles andere. Die letzte Sektion, Ettie Steinberg, ist erheblich zu lang, aber weil sie posthum, von Etties Reise durch den Himmel aus erzählt wird, faßt sie abschließend auch die Fragen nach dem großen Warum all der vorhergehenden Sequenzen zusammen.

Eine Liebeserklärung an Heimatmuseen / A declaration of love to local museums

Heimatmuseen werden gern belächelt, gelten als altmodisch oder uninteressant. Mit Landes- oder Kunstmuseen können sie weder an Größe noch an Ausstellungsfläche konkurrieren. Andererseits müssen sie das auch nicht. Sie füllen die Lücken, die ihre großen Kollegen lassen, nämlich das kleine, tägliche Leben und die Menschen, die es führten – also die Basis, auf der die „großen Dinge“ überhaupt erst entstehen. Ich habe Heimatmuseen sehr zu schätzen gelernt, im Zuge meiner Ahnenforschung wie auch meiner Buchrecherchen. Gerade auf dieser Ebene sind sie unverzichtbare Quellen, denn sie kennen und dokumentieren die Örtlichkeiten und Gebräuche einer Region. Sie sind auch erheblich persönlicher: Man kommt fast zwangsläufig ins Gespräch mit den Menschen, die sie betreuen.

Einige der Heimatmuseen, die ich besucht und genossen habe:

Museum Edenkoben: Für meine Ahnenforschung eine Goldgrube. Ich war unter der Woche da und vermutlich die einzige Besucherin des Tages, was einen langen Austausch mit dem Leitenden ermöglichte.
Museum Uslar: Das Museum meiner Heimatstadt, hat oft Themenausstellungen.
West Highland Museum: In Fort William, wo ich die Wahrheit über das Glenfinnan-Monument erfuhr…
Iona Heritage Centre: Besteht aus genau einem Raum (plus Kasse/Shop), aber vollgestopft mit Infos über das Leben auf der Insel.
Rischbach-Stollen: St. Ingbert. Kein Museum in dem Sinne, sondern ein Museumsbergwerk.
Stadt- und Festungsmuseum Germersheim: Bemerkenswert groß und mir besonders wegen zweier sehr engagierter und enthusiastischer Mitarbeiter in guter Erinnerung geblieben.


Local museums are often smiled at, they are considered quaint or uninteresting. They can’t compete with state or art museums, neither in terms of square footage nor exhibits. On the other hand, they don’t have to. They fill in the gaps left by their big colleagues, the small, everyday life and the people who led it – the basis on which “big things” are created. I have come to appreciate local museums very much, in the course of both my genealogical and book research. Especially on that level they are an indispensible source, because they know and document the locales and customs of a region. They are also much more intimate: Almost invariably one finds oneself in conversation with the people who run them.

Some of the local museums I’ve visited and enjoyed:

Museum Edenkoben: A goldmine for my genealogical research. I visited during the week and was probably the only visitor that day which allowed for a long conversation with the manager.
Museum Uslar: The local museum of my home town, often features thematic exhibitions.
West Highland Museum: Where I learnt the truth about the Glenfinnan Monument…
Iona Heritage Centre: Consists of exactly one room (plus front desk/shop) but bursting with information on the life on the isle.
Rischbach-Stollen: Not a museum per se but a historical mine.
Stadt- und Festungsmuseum Germersheim: Remarkably large. I mostly remember it fondly because of two very engaged and enthusiastic employees.

Rumours, exaggerations, and misunderstandings

An episode on BBC Radio 4 that I discovered only recently dealt, among other things, with A Woman in Berlin.
It was broadcast in 2013, so I will grant that the attendants couldn’t know any better since neither my German biography of Marta Hillers nor its abridged English version existed back then. So they simply repeated the usual rumours (which, however, are very hard to kill even now). But things took a bizarre turn when they actually stated that the German government banned the book in 1959/1960.
In that spirit, I want to address a few of the most persistent falsehoods attached to A Woman in Berlin. No, the book was never banned, neither by the government nor anyone else. It was never taken off the market; it simply never saw a second print run. There was no widespread outrage about the book. There were hardly even any reviews, and most of the few that I did manage to find were positive.

Some reviewers today, mainly from the US, are claiming that Marta Hillers lived in East Berlin in the spring of 1945. That’s simply a case of not knowing the facts about the fall of Berlin. During the time covered by Marta’s narrative there was no East and West Berlin yet, no Soviet zone. The Red Army conquered Berlin as a whole, plain and simple. US and other Allied troops didn’t move in until a while afterwards – in fact, Marta wrote about it in her book! And she never lived in East Berlin. It was Tempelhof at first, later Zehlendorf, both in the American sector or zone.

Outlander: A Story in Pictures. Part 2

“John Sheridan was a good and honorable man.” – “You have come all this way just to say that?” – “Why not? You have come all this way to say less.”

In terms of characters, I became fond of Frank very quickly. It would have been so easy to write him out of the story (as I understand it happens in the books) or in the tradition of the early 1990s (from where the books come) make him a stuffy or unlikeable character. Instead, he takes his rightful place as one of the four central characters. He is strong in a quiet, understated way, spontaneous, with a fine sense of humour.
A lovely detail right at the end of Season 2 is when Roger reveals that Frank actually asked the Reverend to find out what happened to Jamie, despite his condition to Claire that she „leave the past behind“. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.



Perfect mirror: “Both Sides Now”

In the final episode of Season 1’s first half the producers showed on a grand scale what Outlander was all about: Mirrors and parallels and juxtapositions. The story switches continually between Claire’s 18th century and Frank’s 20th century lives, seamlessly, contrasting Claire’s carefree adventures and her newfound love with Frank’s growing despair before setting the both of them on the same course with mirroring assault scenes.

„My wife is not with another man!“


Claire’s hand merging into Frank’s.

Drinks on both sides.

Frank contemplates his and Claire’s wedding photo…

… while Claire enjoys her new marriage.

While Claire kills her attacker in self-defence and goes into shock afterwards, Frank vents weeks of bottled up desperation and doubt on his would-be muggers, nearly killing two of them. It is Reverend Wakefield’s warning of the „cup of evil“ afterwards that brings him back from the brink of darkness.






Both end up at Craigh na Dun. The scene is wonderful to watch, both emotionally and technically.

Parted by time, Claire and Frank move in the same space. The camera swings from Frank crying out his despair across the invisible axis to Claire running up the hill towards Frank, almost reaching him. The dramatic scene ends still in the same space, Claire being dragged away by British soldiers to the right and Frank walking away to the left.

It is the last we see of him for a long time, but the play with mirrors doesn’t end here. Claire is reunited not with Frank but with his 18th century doppelganger Jack where – irony of ironies – Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies reenact a classic: The good old-fashioned 1950s‘ „wife helps husband with the binding of his tie“ scene. Whoopi Goldberg did a parody of it in Corrina, Corrina.

(“Now you listen to me, Jonathan Randall…” – “Yes, dear.”)
cravat2


The Power of the Old Ones: The pagan and female

I personally don’t put much stock in it, but since it’s there for all to see: The neo-paganism/mother goddess/mystical female earth connection made so popular by the likes of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Wiccans and a certain branch of feminists is also very much present in Outlander. Yes, I’m being acidic about it. I positively loathe the made-up worldview of neo-paganism. I am willing to believe its practitioners mean well, but since basically no traditions from „back then“ survive, everyone feels free to put their own fantasies into it. The old ones, I sincerely believe, knew better. And, by the way, those who think paganism (the true one) and monotheism are in competition don’t have the first clue.

But anyway: The standing stones of Craigh na Dun with their (cough, young and beautiful female, cough) druids tie directly into the earthmother belief, along with Geillis‘ neo-paganism, the idea of witches, female healers etc., which might be part of the explanation why both Claire and Gillian/Geillis – being female – are able to travel through the stones and not Jamie or Frank.

Also tied to it but based far more solidly in realism is:

Male and female spheres

Now here we have some lovely examples of both traditional and mythical spheres associated with men and women. My absolute favourites:

Frank and Reverend Wakefield (=a servant of the „male god“) in the study, a male sphere, associated with the intellect.

Claire and Mrs Graham (=a servant of the pagan gods) in the kitchen, a female sphere, the „heart“ of a house…

… and in the garden, another female sphere, with its ties to the earth and pagan earthmother traditions.

Males in the female sphere: In the kitchen, Mrs Graham reveals the powers of Craigh na Dun to Frank.

Male and female spheres in “Rent”…


… and “The Watch”.

Women on men and babies.

Rather unusual for a period drama (it’s more common in the fantasy genre): Two women in traditional male roles, on the road, as scouts, outlaws, aggressors, wielding weapons and even torturing someone.


Beware of people without friends

While it might be argued that Jack Randall and the Duke of Sandringham have something of a friendship going on, it doesn’t really come through. Good people have friends in Outlander, plain and simple.






Murtagh, the loyal samurai; friend, protector and father-figure to Jamie.

The dyad, a special kind of friendship. Angus and Rupert, Ross and Kincaid always come in pairs. The underlying theme of death in Season 2’s second half becomes more pronounced when both dyads are broken and the remaining halves form a tentative new pair.


In a way, the dyad also applies to the two sets of brothers in the series, Colum and Dougal as well as Jack and Alex. Both dyads, too, are broken by death in “The Hail Mary”, with the death of the two remaining halves only hours away. Mirrors, again; the twin/doppelganger symbolism, again.



One last thing: While I find it absolutely fascinating to discover all these intricate details, I would be remiss in not pointing out that Outlander can be enjoyed simply as a very good story, full of drama and love and epic stuff and beautiful pictures! I did that, too.

Outlander: A Story in Pictures. Part 1

It’s actually Ellen Moody’s fault. Without her insightful articles, I would never have watched the series and so would have missed something very profound. Outlander is far more than a love story or a history piece. I was struck by how interconnected everything in the story was, time, events, the characters’ actions. There are parallels throughout, and you can both watch them as a very, very well done piece of storytelling and as something more, something spiritual, a story about fate and karma.

I have debated for quite some time how to do this article. I find it somewhat difficult to put into words how many of the things in the series work. It goes far beyond the story; its real fascination lies in the way it is written and presented, full of symbolism, parallels, closing circles, mirrors. I find myself lingering over how glances and gestures convey the depth of a scene without words; over inflexions or pauses in a speech; over how scenes are composed, how music points out connections to other scenes. So I am going to try it with the help of pictures. Any series or film is, naturally, first and foremost a visual medium. It cannot give us the same insight into a character’s thoughts and feelings that a book is able to do. And yet, Outlander has managed to move away from relying purely on speech to bridge that gap. In so many little things we actually see what a character is thinking without them having to vocalise it.
For this article, I’ve gathered stuff I’d already written on the subject from various places: My private blog, my comments on Ellen Moody’s blog, my article in this blog’s series “Unterhaltungsmedien und die Botschaft aus dem Licht”, notes on the TV series.
It might be worth noting that I watched the feature A Triangle in Time in the DVD specials only after concluding all the things about Jack and about Claire’s reaction in “The Garrison Commander” myself. I was very happy to see that I’d been spot-on. 🙂 My thanks to Ellen for pointing out the existence of a far more complex triangle than I’d first realised, and I really, really commend Tobias Menzies for his astute characterisation of Jack in The Making of Outlander. He absolutely gets the guy (which might be scary).

What struck me – especially with the role „Time“ as such plays in the story – is how all four central characters at some point in their lives get stuck in time. A part of them is caught at some moment in time while life goes on for the people around them. And them being out of sync, they react in a way that hurts people, whether they want to or not. Frank naturally can’t move on from losing his wife without knowing what happened to her. So when she returns more than two years later, his idea of their relationship is very different from hers, because for her so much has changed in the meantime, not the least her feelings for Frank. Basically the same happens with Claire who can’t get over the loss of Jamie, even twenty years later. Jack is fixed in the moment of Jamie’s second flogging. He has to learn that this experience which has been so important to him doesn’t mean nearly the same for Jamie like he has assumed all this time. Jack is only able to move on by reliving that moment, by acting out his fantasy of breaking and possessing Jamie. (We find his demeanour very changed, very relaxed, when he meets Claire and Jamie in France.)
Jamie’s case is interesting because I actually find two instances of him being „stuck“. The obvious one is his PTSD after Wentworth.* Then there is his capture at Lallybroch. He is tortured by his recollection of Jack going after Jenny, even believes Dougal’s story of Jenny giving birth to Jack’s child. I really like this example, as horrible as it comes across, because there is a great deal of humour in it, too. Jamie beats himself up, imagining some high drama; and Jenny, wonderful character that she is, simply goes: „Oh, you mean that guy all those years ago?“

This feeling of time is both enhanced by and mirrored in the colouring technique throughout the series. Looking back from some point in the future, Claire relays her time travel adventure, the events of 1945 and 1948 are represented in pale, cool colours, faded in Claire’s eyes and contrasted by the vibrant colours of the 1743 to 1745 storyline. Only at the very end, in Season 2’s final episode “Dragonfly in Amber”, is the reverse true: The present of 1968 really is very present in strong colours as contrasted with the grey Culloden storyline 1746.

One of the more obvious mirror scenes: Castle Leoch, switching from 1743 to 1945 and back.








And a bit more subtle: „How can you have me like this?“ – „I will have you any way I can. Always.“ Loves that are too great to give up. Claire and Frank both fight for their relationships.

With a deeply traumatised Jamie after Wentworth…

… and a grieving Claire after her return.

Tentative progress and new beginnings.


„I’ve always been drawn to hands. I think it’s because it’s the way that we touch people.“

Starting with the promotional material for Outlander’s first Season, hands have become one of the series‘ symbols in their own right.

Mirrors, again.

Hand lines and patterns.






Switching time: From the USA, 1948, to France, 1744.



Through a Glass, Darkly: The Doppelgänger Frank/Jack

For fans, Outlander is a love story between Claire and Jamie. In truth, there is much more to it. If we move beyond the obvious, we find something very old and archetypical in the story that transcends even the not-so-subtle love triangle between Claire, Jamie and Frank. But let’s stay with that for a moment. The triangle is always present, not only in Claire’s choice of returning to her own time and to Frank or staying in the past with Jamie. We are never allowed to forget this particular triangle through a story device that is older than Jungian psychoanalysis: The doppelgänger. Frank is very much present in Claire and Jamie’s story by way of his dark mirror image, Black Jack Randall, and thus we are confronted with a second triangle within the first one, that of Claire, Jamie and Jack.

In olden times, the doppelgänger was a sign of doom. To meet one’s doppelgänger meant certain death. It was an omen, a part of the „world beyond“, of the mystical. While Frank and Jack never meet in the story, the connection is there. Jack becomes the bane of Claire and Jamie’s love, the dark rival, something so evil and twisted as not quite of this world. The TV series develops a lot of symbolism here. Wentworth Prison becomes Hell, with Jamie as an aspect of Christ (the tortured back, the nailed hand, the wounded/branded side, the pieta image, Jack mocking Jamie’s Christ-like passivity in suffering, not least the resurrection from almost death, the empty tomb), and Jack of course as the ruler of this particular hell (in „Lallybroch“, Jamie remarks that there is a devil in Randall, and later on in Season 2 Murtagh calls him the devil’s spawn; Claire declares she’d be damned if Randall had Jamie’s soul as well as his body).

“To Ransom a Man’s Soul”: The title of the episode alone points out the religious subtext.

Iconography: The pieta.
pieta

But it goes even beyond that imagery.
Fantasy stories have dealt with the doppelgänger/twin in particular ways before; I recommend for example The Gemini Factor or Hellboy – The Golden Army. It is about a sort of split personality, of two halves or aspects of one personality. And as in the medieval imagery of the doppelgänger, there is a supernatural connection between the two parts. Outlander does not use this symbolism directly, it instead transfers it to the whole of the triangle. We see it time and again: A hurt to one of the parties instantly backlashes. Jack attempts to hurt and rape Claire twice and gets knocked out both times. He tortures, rapes and almost kills Jamie and is almost killed in return. Jamie seemingly kills Jack (and thereby Frank) in the duel, and Claire loses her child (and almost her life) as a result. None of it happens when the triangle is incomplete, as in the case of Jamie’s flogging or Jack’s death at Culloden.

Mirror scenes: “The Garrison Commander” / “The Hail Mary”. Two conversations about redemption

Both episodes have become favourites of mine. While „The Garrison Commander“ also packs a powerful punch in incorporating a flashback to Jamie’s second flogging and „The Hail Mary“ tells a story of two sets of brothers, the two episodes are bookends with corresponding scenes. Claire and Jack’s second meeting is mirrored by their second-to-last meeting.
„The Garrison Commander“ is a piece in the theatre tradition found usually once in every series: a one-on-one. Basically, two people sit around and talk and in so doing, they give the audience an insight into their personalities and motivations.

At this point, as seen in the previous episodes, Claire is missing Frank very much. Now suddenly she is confronted with the man who looks so similar to Frank in this timeline. Though she has not forgotten their first meeting, she is willing or at least hoping to see some part of Frank in Jack. Her entire behaviour towards Jack is influenced by that hope. Her two lives, so to speak, intertwine in this episode. The title card already gives it away by placing Frank’s watch next to Jack’s shaving kit. A symbol of the connection of the two men in Claire’s mind and of time that both connects and separates them?
garrisoncommander




Jack’s disclosure of the darkness inside him; Claire crying, not so much about Jamie here, I think, or about the horrible events at Fort William, but about the loss of all the good she imagines in Jack via his (perceived) connection to Frank. Her happiness when she believes she has succeeded in redeeming him. And when Jack effectively kills that belief, it also in a way marks the end of Claire’s love for Frank. It’s somewhat telling that what follows is her marriage to another man. While she does try to return to Frank in „Both Sides Now“, it already is more an escape *from* the changes she notices in herself than an escape *to* Frank.

Redemption again comes into play in „The Hail Mary“ when Claire attempts to convince Jack to go along with his brother’s wishes while Jack tries to enlist Claire’s help in convincing Alex otherwise. Again, we have a heart-to-heart, he reflecting, baring his soul, she trying to get him to do the right thing. In a twist, this time around Claire doesn’t try to save his soul while we get the feeling that’s more or less the very thing Jack asks of her. I like the prolonged pause after his anguished „Help me…“ before he continues with the sentence.

Both scenes are prime examples how in Outlander so much is said without words, and both are superbly enacted by Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies.

The Cup of Evil

The producers, of course, play with the audience’s expectations once in a while. Just as Claire’s point of view slowly changes from „Frank in Jack“ to „Jack in Frank“, the audience subconsciously start to do the same. The series runs with this in the grand finale of Season 1’s first half, „Both Sides Now“, and in the first episode of Season 2, „Through a Glass, Darkly“. Seeing Frank after quite a bit of exposure to Jack, the question undeniably hovers in the air: Will his inner Jack emerge or not? And so the writers go for it in „Both Sides Now“ when Frank unleashes what Brianna later calls his temper on the trio of muggers.

Mirrored again in “Wentworth Prison” when Jack strangles Claire.

„Through a Glass, Darkly“ is done even more cleverly: Our last (and lasting) impression of Jack/Frank in Season 1 has been the horrors of Wentworth Prison. Fast forward to 1948 and Claire and Frank’s reunion. Just as Claire first recoils from him, there is this lingering unease somewhere for the audience. And sure enough, what we get is Frank almost raising his hand to Claire. Almost. Because, as we realise, he is still a good and loving man.


Reverend Wakefield’s speech of the cup of evil – one of the most beautiful speeches in the entire series – and his subsequent conversation with Frank in “Both Sides Now” again mirrors Jack’s case. “[Evil] finds purchase in good men by giving sin the sweet taste of ecstasy,” the Reverend warns, asking Frank to turn away from the darkness that beckons him. “Darkness” is a word invariably associated with Jack; he mentions it several times himself, the darkness that has grown inside him, the darkness he inhabits, dwells in; the darkness he belongs in. We see Frank at basically the same crossroad as Jack two centuries before him, knowing where Jack’s choice led him and where Frank might end up. Jack chose the dark road, allowing evil to find purchase in him… and that he once was a good man we can still see in the remnants, the pitiful, twisted ruins of his former virtues. Alex who knew Jack long before his fall praises his tenderness and generosity, and while that might make the audience scoff, Jack’s honour, tenderness and generosity actually are still recognisable even in their horribly perverted form, as seen in the cases of Jenny and Jamie.

The doppelgänger connection doesn’t ever stop. I was delighted to find it even in Season 2’s final episode „Dragonfly in Amber“ that doesn’t star Tobias Menzies at all! But the 1968 storyline is full of recollections of Frank and so it becomes an echo of Jack as well. Three times is a charm when Roger remembers Frank’s habit of wearing „his hat down over one eye – very dashing.“ „Dashing“ has been used twice before in the series, both times to describe Jack. Frank likes Jack’s „dashing“ nickname; Annalise admires the „dashing“ gentleman in the gardens of Versailles unable to keep his eyes off Claire.
The connection continues as Roger remembers Frank as kind. „The kindest man in the world,“ agrees Brianna while the camera comes to rest on the platform where Jack once flogged Jamie almost to death.

For those interested in a more spiritual approach to the doppelgänger question, see my interpretation of Frank as Jack’s reincarnation. English translation in the comments section: https://clarissaschnabel.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/unterhaltungsmedien-und-die-botschaft-aus-dem-licht-outlander-aus-der-sicht-von-schicksal-und-reinkarnation/

Interestingly, the mirror image in the triangle is not only Frank/Jack. As we move into Season 1’s horrid finale, the line between Claire and Jack begins to blur in Jamie’s tortured mind. Delirious with pain, to him they become interchangeable, something Jack consciously plays upon and Claire later imitates, unknowingly at first but as a last resort in the end.

The extended dream sequence of „Not in Scotland Anymore“ underlines the connection much better than the broadcasted version. In his soon-to-become nightmare, Jamie interacts with Claire, yet her words, her mannerisms are clearly Jack’s.



Mirror scenes: “The Wedding” / “Wentworth Prison” / “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”

Since Anna Foerster directed all three episodes, she consciously established parallels. This is of course an acknowledgement of the triangle/connection already discussed in this article, a twisted dark mirror of love, lust, and desire.

Jamie and Jack both toasts the joyous occasion…

… both their objects of desire rather prefer to get drunk.

The creepy thing, as the events in Wentworth are presented, is not the violence. I absolutely commend writer and director for not making it that easy. For Jack, this actually is about lovemaking. Sure, his default setting is to hurt people at the smallest provocation, but in this instance we really get the feeling that he would have preferred not to. He is sincere in his wish to make this a „pleasant experience“ – it is only when Jamie refuses to go along with it that it becomes about submission by any means necessary.




There are several more parallels; but as they move more and more into the intimate, I won’t post pictures here. (I hope the audience notice that there’s actually a span of time where we can only imagine what happened? Jamie simply sums it up in that Randall made him crawl and beg.)

Just as “Wentworth Prison” and “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” are mirrors of “The Wedding”, so we actually find all points of the triangle “wedded” to one another in the course of the series. Jamie and Claire, Claire and Frank, even Jack (and Mary Hawkins) get proper weddings; as just discussed, Jack and Jamie have that twisted imitation of a wedding night; and as Part 2 of this article will show, Claire and Jack also get their chance of enacting a scene from wedded life – in a comedic way for a change.

Jack’s molestation and torture of, well, quite a lot of characters in the story is never mainly about sex. When one looks at all the scenes, it is always about submission, as corny as it sounds. There is a certain nasty, sick rationale about it that reminds me of characters from de Sade novels who also rationalise their abuse of others. If Claire had thrown herself upon Jack’s mercy during their first encounter, he might even have acted the gentleman. Instead she runs, insults him, spits at him. Jamie at Fort William is first given the chance of escaping his second flogging altogether by having sex with Jack, and later on, during the flogging, by being asked repeatedly if he is ready to give in, to beg for mercy. (Jack’s obsession with Jamie really starts with Jamie’s repeated refusal to submit to him.) Jenny is offered the choice between watching her brother die and submitting to Jack sexually. The list goes on and on. It is about exerting his will and his power over others, by any means he perceives as necessary. And yet it is very specifically about active submission, not simply subduing someone. His victims have to take an active part in the proceedings, even (particularly?) if it means to sacrifice their integrity.
Another creepy pattern is Jack’s tit-for-tat response: Jenny submits to him, he is gentle to her. Jenny hits him, he hits her back. Claire during their first meeting disrespects him, he disrespects her back. In “The Garrison Commander” Claire and Jack come to the “My honesty will match yours” agreement which Claire for obvious reasons cannot uphold, while he bares his inner darkness to her, and in return he feels he is owed the truth from her, by her free will or not. At Wentworth, it’s about Jamie’s word of honour against Jack’s. There really is a logic to his behaviour, even if it’s a horrible one.



* What I find has never been properly addressed, maybe because we’re so modern and open and politically correct?, is a huge part of Jamie’s trauma. The way it is presented in Season 1, his problem centres mainly on his feeling that he has betrayed Claire, that he has been unfaithful to her. Which in the real world would hardly be the point at all. It’s only in Season 2 that the real problem is suggested – we never find it spoken about, which is weird in a TV series that features a lot of very direct stuff! As a man of his time (and of any time, really), I think what really gets to Jamie is the destruction of his male self-image. Not only has he been raped, he has had sex with a man, his torturer in fact, and enjoyed it. Now, we know he doesn’t swing that way, and he knows it, but the idea of it all messes with his head. There is nothing macho about it when I say he feels emasculated. The closest the series comes to pointing this out is during Claire and Jamie’s (grandiose) 69 fight when Jamie confesses to feeling like a man again.

Die Kuckucks auf DVD

Da sich bei der DEFA-Stiftung *lange* Zeit nichts Neues in Sachen ihrer DVD-Serie „Brüche und Kontinuitäten“ tat, gab ich irgendwann auf, regelmäßig nach den Kuckucks Ausschau zu halten. Inzwischen aber ist der Film veröffentlicht: https://www.amazon.de/sagen-unseren-Kindern-Kuckucks-DVDs/dp/B01N6JNNIC/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1489580643&sr=1-1&keywords=B01N6JNNIC

Nirgendwo erwähnt findet man natürlich, daß Marta Hillers Co-Autorin des Drehbuchs war (unter ihrem Pseudonym Marta Moyland), gemeinsam mit Robert Stemmle. Ich schrieb bereits, daß sie eine idealisierte Version ihres Großcousins Hans Wolfgang Hillers in Gestalt von Heinz Krüger in der Handlung unterbrachte, komplett mit einem (fast) Originalzitat seiner selbst aus dem Theaterstück Die Töchter des Präsidenten, das die beiden Hillerse auch als Drehbuch der DEFA angeboten hatten.


Now available on DVD is DEFA film Die Kuckucks for which Marta Hillers co-wrote the script (under her pseudonym Marta Moyland), together with Robert Stemmle. I already mentioned that she put an idealised version of her cousin Hans Wolfgang Hillers into the story, in the character of Heinz Krüger, complete with an (almost) original quote of his from the play Die Töchter des Präsidenten which the two Hillers had also offered to DEFA as a movie script.