Shelter From The Storm

Introduction

The narrator is clearly Christ, and therefore God, or at least an aspect of him. But so too is the woman. At the same time each is human, with good points as well as imperfections.  The narrator suffers a desire to give in to temptation, and so not fulfil his divinely appointed role. The woman, on the other hand, represents the comfortable way of life the narrator is tempted to pursue. While she extols the virtue of generosity, this is tempered by her apparent commitment to a life of comparative luxury. Between them they represent to different extents two competing elements in Christ’s character, the desire for worldly comfort and a selfless acceptance of duty.

The narration seems to take place after the resurrection, but prior to the ascension since, while there are references to the crucifixion, at the end of the song the narrator is still living in what to him is a ‘foreign country’ – earth as opposed to heaven.

Arguably the song, in focusing on Christ’s human side, presents him as a more plausible redeemer than the Christ of the gospels, while simultaneously allowing for his divinity when viewed from an eternal perspective.

In support of this view I’ll give reasons for seeing both the narrator and the woman as a partially divine, partially human Christ.  While the woman is imperfect, the fallible human side will appear more dominant in the narrator and will remain so throughout the song. While he never consciously appreciates his own divine potential, he implicitly recognises it when he wants to return to a perfect past. What he fails to appreciate is that his sacrifice has already helped bring about this perfect state. Whereas he is unable to appreciate this from his earthly perspective, from an eternal one he, the woman and God already form a united whole.


The Narrator As God And Man

The narrator is God or, at least, God-like. That this is so is suggested in his language. When recounting his suffering in verse two, he says:

‘I was burned out from exhaustion …
Poisoned in the bushes …’

The use of  ‘burned’ and ‘bushes’ associates the narrator with God since it reminds us of God’s appearance to Moses in the form of a burning bush (Exodus 3). He also says he was ‘blown out’, thereby representing himself as a light – a traditional symbolic representation of God.

However, it’s as a man with a man’s fallibilities that the narrator is mostly presented in the song. His status as man is emphasised by his comment about:

‘… men who are fighting to be warm’.

This is because his initially positive reaction to the woman’s offer of shelter suggests that he too is fighting to be warm.

Another line which seems to allude to his human nature is the question:

‘Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?’

In the absence of any other male addressee, it would seem that the ‘man’ the narrator apostrophises is himself.


The Narrator As Christ

In addition to being both God and man, the narrator is Christ. The first indication that it’s Christ who is speaking is apparent from the declaration:

‘I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form’

The allusion is to Christ’s forty days in the desert where he’s tempted to abjure his divinely appointed role and give in to worldly ambition. It’s implied that he ‘came in’ from the wilderness in response to the woman’s offer of shelter, safety and warmth:

‘”Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”’.

Another indication that the narrator is Christ is his use of the phrase ‘I got my signals crossed’. In addition to its primary meaning it hints at the narrator’s coming death by crucifixion. And a further indication is in the observation:

‘… the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount’,

assuming that this is self-referential. The deputy is likely to be Christ, God’s deputy, and especially so if the nails are those driven through his feet to attach him to the cross. The preacher too could be Christ and is even more likely to be, given the ‘mount’ reference. The mount can be taken both as Calvary, the hill on which Christ died, and as the ass on which he entered Jerusalem just prior to his arrest and execution.1

Yet this isn’t quite the Christ of the gospels. The negativity implicit in the phrases ‘blackness was a virtue’ and ‘a creature void of form’ suggests he could equally be seen as the devil coming in from the wilderness. This, then, is an imperfect Christ – Christ the man – a thoroughly human Christ who is far from sure he wants to turn his back on worldly comfort.


Further Imperfection

That the narrator’s is imperfect again becomes apparent in the sixth verse after he decides to forgo the offer of hospitality:

‘Now there’s a wall between us, something there’s been lost …’

By the phrase ‘something there’ the narrator probably means the woman. This is indicated by a previous use of the word ‘there’ in:

‘… she was standing there’,

However, the expression ‘something there’ is vague, as if the narrator has only a dim idea about what it is he’s lost. What’s actually missing for him now is the positive aspect of Christ’s character, the generosity of spirit, which the woman represents.

***

Imperfection is present again in that he never seems fully to have embraced his divine role. This is particularly apparent in the penultimate verse where the ‘lethal dose’ seems to have taken him by surprise. At that point he was still hoping to live, announcing that he’d:

‘… bargained for salvation …’.

Since the salvation he has in mind seems to have been his own survival, rather than the saving of mankind, this too looks like human weakness.

***

That he’s imperfect the narrator as good as admits when he says that he got his ‘signals crossed’. While he seems to be acknowledging a mistake in having opted for ‘a place that’s always safe and warm’, the phrase could equally refer to his failure to anticipate his crucifixion as well as to his failure to see its importance:

‘But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts’.

This is the last thing one might expect Christ to say. In fact plenty should matter, not least the task of redeeming mankind.

***

The narrator’s human imperfection is also apparent in his concern to avoid danger. The woman’s invitation attracted him because:

‘… there was little risk involved’,

– and even though it meant his divine mission being left ‘unresolved’.

***

And imperfection is apparent again in that his reference to a ‘futile horn’ makes it seem he has no notion of his own ‘second coming’, his return at the end of the world which is to be announced by Gabriel’s horn:

‘And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn’.

He treats the horn blast as if it’s a mere proclamation of death. Furthermore, while he considers the possibility that he might return, he makes clear it’s no more than a possibility:

‘And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word’.

According to traditional Christianity Christ’s second coming is a certainty – not merely an ‘if’. It’s also when he’ll reward the virtuous with eternal life – not just ‘do his best’ for them.

All these imperfections make it clear that the Christ represented by the narrator is a fallible human.


The Woman As God And Christ

Like the narrator, the woman, too, can be seen as embodying aspects of both God and Christ.2

In the final verse the narrator implicitly identifies her with God:

‘If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born’.

If she were just a woman, it’s unlikely that her birth would have been contemporaneous with God’s.

And like the narrator she can be identified with Christ (which in itself would make her one with God). First, we’re constantly reminded of the woman’s generosity which makes her Christ-like:

‘”Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”’

Secondly, in taking the narrator’s burdens, represented by his crown of thorns, onto herself, she literally becomes Christ in that she’s taking on his role.

It’s significant that we’re told that she ‘took‘ his crown of thorns, thus making apparent a contrast between her and the imperfect  narrator who previously ‘took too much for granted’.  In that she acts selflessly, in contrast to the narrator who is more concerned about safety and warmth, and avoiding risk, she is Christ-like in a way that he isn’t


The Woman As Imperfect

Despite her generosity the woman, like the narrator, is not perfect. Just as he suffers from human imperfection, so does she. This is apparent from her wearing:

‘… silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair’.

While the flowers represent her natural side, that the bracelets are silver suggests she’s attracted by luxury. These are perhaps the equivalent of the expensive, seamless garment which Christ was stripped of immediately prior to the crucifixion, and which is alluded to in the penultimate verse:

‘… they gambled for my clothes’.

Also her assumption that it’s acceptable to pursue a quiet life becomes a temptation to the narrator. One set of temptations, by the devil in the wilderness, seems to have been replaced by another temptation from her.


Dualities

The ideal for both the narrator and the woman might be seen as to become wholly, instead of partially, Christ-like. At present they’re each a duality comprising virtue and imperfection, including virtues and imperfections which the other lacks. Only if they unite will they form a perfect being – the divine Christ – for only then will the narrator’s sacrifice be as consciously chosen as the woman’s, and her attitude be as unmaterialistic as his eventually becomes.

These dualities are reflected in a further duality – God and man.  And this duality is itself reflected in the picture of Christ we get from the narrator’s somewhat cryptic announcement:

‘… the deputy walks on hard nails, the preacher rides a mount’.

‘Hard nails’ represents the side of self-sacrifice associated with the narrator’s crucifixion and the woman’s generosity, whereas riding a mount represents a form of transport associated with the narrator’s desire for comfort and perhaps the woman’s for luxury.


The Wall And The Word

As the narrator looks back, unity between the two aspects of Christ represented by himself and the woman still seems yet to occur. Instead, according to the narrator, a wall separates the one from the other. That the unity is yet to come about may not be the whole truth, however.

Previously, in welcoming the offer of ‘shelter from the storm’, the narrator had been in danger of giving in to his own desire for an easy life. This is reflected in his comment:

‘Not a word was spoke between us …’

There had been, as it were, nothing between them – not even a need for speech – prior to the wall. They’d simply shared the same natural, human, materialistic outlook.

Once the narrator changes tack, however, something does separate their attitudes. The wall which replaces the absence of ‘a word between us’ turns out to be a word. So, where there had been no word, there is now a word:

‘I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word’.

On the surface this means that he commits himself to acting generously towards her. However he also seems, unconsciously, to be alluding to the biblical claim,

‘The word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us’ (John 1.14)

in which ‘word’ (Greek ‘logos’) can be taken to mean both God and, in flesh-form, Christ. Thus when ‘give my word’ replaces ‘not a word’, it’s an indication that the narrator- speaking as God – has ceased to be self-centred and – as Christ – has become something given by God to the world.

Although the narrator doesn’t realise it, once he has given himself there is no wall separating him from the woman. His act of generosity coupled with hers amounts to the beginnings of a new unity.2


The Foreign Country And Crossing The Line

The final verse enables us to see what’s been going on both from the narrator’s earthly perspective, and from a heavenly one.

The narrator, Christ, apparently speaking after his resurrection is still:

‘… livin’ in a foreign country’,3

that is, on earth. He’s still a man, and there’s even a hint of human acquisitiveness (reminiscent of his counterpart’s liking for silver bracelets) when he says about beauty (or Beauty):

‘… someday I’ll make it mine’.4

Even so, with the crucifixion over, he’s anticipating ‘crossing the line’ – which might be interpreted as returning to heaven. Meanwhile, he’s dissatisfied. Not only does he have a desire to make beauty his’ – perhaps to possess the woman – but he wants:

‘…to turn back the clock to when God and her were born’.

There are two interesting things about this desire. First, in wanting to return to an ideal past he seems unaware of the significance of his crucifixion. Secondly, his acknowledgement that God and the woman were born together implies that in the distant past they were identical.

The time ‘God and her were born’ would have been either the time of Christ’s birth – the ‘long forgotten morn’ of verse six – or the beginning of time, depending on whether the frame of reference is earth or heaven.  Either way he seems to be treating the woman as having been Christ and therefore as fully identical with God. By turning back the clock, he wants to recreate that identity. And in addition, his desire to make beauty his, can be seen as his wanting to share in that identity.

***

The narrator seems to acknowledge the desirability of this identity or unity when he says:

‘Beauty walks a razor’s edge …’

The idea seems to be that Beauty – the true, undivided Christ who exists timelessly in heaven – is being split down the middle to become the two aspects of Christ apparent throughout the song. His aim is to restore the unity of Christ, and the unity of Christ with God.

That it is indeed the complete Christ walking the razor’s edge is perhaps corroborated by the use of ‘walks’ in the ‘phrase ‘Beauty walks a razor’s edge. The word ‘walks’ had previously been used in conjunction with both the woman and (arguably) the narrator:

‘She walked up to me so gracefully …’

and

‘… the deputy walks on hard nails …’

***

Had he been aware of the significance of the crucifixion, he’d have known that his wish to restore the unity of Christ, and the unity of Christ with God, is unnecessary. There is no need to ‘turn back the clock’ and to make Beauty his. From an eternal perspective his crucifixion and the woman’s generosity have already put an end to their division, thus forming a unified Christ who is identical with God. The clock, as it were, has already been put back, and the line already crossed. The crucifixion has ensured that beauty (the woman), or Beauty (God), is already his.5


Conclusion

The song is doubtless open to other interpretations than the one given here. But even to the extent that this one is justified, it’s still a matter of opinion what it can be said to show. What follows, then, is only a suggestion.

The narrator and the woman are each presented as fallible human beings. To that extent they represent humanity generally – us. The song, I suggest, shows how human beings are to make moral progress or, in religious terms, to achieve redemption. This is achievable without any intervention from a divine Christ. The Christ here is manifestly not divine, at least from an earthly, temporal standpoint. Rather, redemption is achieved by an imperfect man and an imperfect woman who, as a result of the pooling of their moral strengths, and the consequent elimination of their moral weaknesses, become the divine Christ. This is made possible by the narrator and the woman each having strengths and weaknesses which the other lacks.

By the end of the song the narrator and the woman have achieved what their counterpart in the gospels has achieved. Eternally they constitute the divine Christ, while in earthly terms they remain man and woman.

Appendix

An excellent article by Jochen Markhorst on the Untold Dylan blog yesterday (1.11.18) includes this ‘extra verse’ which seems to have been excluded from the final song:

‘Now the bonds are broken, but they can be retied
By one more journey to the woods, the holes where spirits hide.
It’s a never-ending battle for a peace that’s always torn.
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm’.

My immediate thoughts are as follows. The first line:

‘Now the bonds are broken, but they can be retied’

immediately seems to fit the interpretation I’ve given. ‘Bonds’ is a word used in religious contexts for the covenant. In the song, then, the breaking of the covenant amounts to the need for Christ’s new covenant. And this new covenant is represented by the future bonds being retied.

A second meaning it might have  is that the bonds between the two aspects of Christ, represented by the narrator and the woman, or between Christ-as-man and God, will be retied after the second coming (‘one more journey’). That reunification is hinted at in the final verse, as I’ve discussed above. If the reunification doesn’t occur until the second coming, then it doesn’t occur until the end of time. That is it occurs from an eternal, but not a temporal perspective.

The ‘never-ending battle’ is presumably the battle between good and evil. It’s never ending in temporal terms, but from an eternal standpoint it’s been won. In a similar way the separation between the two aspects of Christ, and between Christ (as man) and God, is never ending in temporal terms, whereas from an eternal standpoint there’s unity. That unity results from the sacrificial action of the narrator (again, as discussed above).

That the ‘peace is always torn’ seems to imply there’ll never be peace, but again this will be just from a temporal perspective (‘never’ being a temporal word). Accordingly, just as the separation of Christ into partially imperfect parts cannot be ended in time, so neither can peace be restored in time. However it can be, and is, restored eternally by the narrator’s sacrifice.

A hint that even though the battle can’t be won, and peace restored, except outside of time, comes with the word ‘torn’. This is because it reminds us of the tearing of the veil in the temple at the time of the crucifixion. This was a symbol of the reunification of man with God achieved by the crucifixion. It was therefore a symbol of the eternal end to the unending battle between good and evil.

Appendix updated 3.11.19

Notes:

  1. There are numerous other biblical references. An example would be ‘newborn babies wailin’’ which brings to mind Herod’s massacre of the innocents.
  2. Something else which the narrator and the woman have in common is that they’re both presented as hippies – the woman with ‘flowers in her hair’ and the narrator in using ‘man’ to address someone.
  3. Compare ‘… a better country–a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11.16). Also, the phrase ‘foreign country’ might be a reference to the opening of The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley: ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’. What seems to be significant here is that earthly, temporal existence is a foreign country compared to eternal (i.e. non-temporal) heavenly existence. What still has to be done in the former is eternal in the latter. Hartley uses the present tense (‘do things’) to suggest that the past is still going on, eternally, despite having gone from a temporal perspective.
  4. Similarly the phrase ‘I’m bound to cross the line’ reminds us of the narrator’s fallibility by implying that he’ll be going too far – giving in to temptation.
  5. That there is no need to turn the clock back is made clear in another way. The ambiguity about whether the phrase ‘when God and her were born’ refers to the beginning of time or merely to the incarnation suggests that there’s no distinction to be made between these apparently distantly separate times. If there’s no distinction between the times, there’s no point in turning the clock back.

15 thoughts on “Shelter From The Storm

  1. The easy answer that most of Dylan’s song are about Jesus Christ as conventionally represented
    -” the narrator is clearly Jesus and therefore God” – misses that the Biblical story is being used here by the songwriter as an anology for man’s suffering on earth.

    The long-standing Gnostic anology that the formless void of the Absolute Monad appears to get split apart when its female part Sophia (mis)adventures out on her own, without her spiritual male counterpart Jesus at her side. Consequently all hell breaks loose – the Demiurge and suffering in the physical world that is created is the result.

    This analogy works just as well, if not better, than the more orthodox -inclined interpretation given above of ‘Shelter From The Storm.’

    As said before -if Mr.Weir introduced his interpretation as a plausible Christian one thereof, who among us would disagree other than having some possible quibble over some minor detail?

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  2. Did you read the post, Larry? One could be forgiven for thinking you didn’t get beyond the first line! I’m amazed you think I’m suggesting the song is about ‘Jesus Christ as conventionally represented’. Surely he’s not normally represented as having a plethora of imperfections, or as not having a clue about his divinity, or as having split in two!

    I agree that the Christ here represents man, and I say as much. I disagree that the story is being used as an analogy for man’s suffering on earth, though – at least to any great extent. The narrator clearly doesn’t like suffering, and alleviating his suffering is obviously something he’s tempted to do. But then I say that; it’s hardly something I’ve missed.

    Although it plays a part, man’s suffering, in itself, doesn’t seem to be what the song is about. I suggested (no more than that!) that the song shows how human beings are to make moral progress or, in religious terms, to achieve redemption – and that this is achievable without any intervention from a divine Christ. That’s because on earth the narrator and the woman are just human beings – representing us. But due to their selfless behaviour (or suffering, if you like) they achieve divine status (when viewed as eternal). It follows, then, that through similar selfless behaviour (or suffering) we can achieve divine status.

    It might be possible to see what’s going on in the gnostic terms you mention. It’s certainly worth pointing out. There are a couple of similarities between the gnostic account you’ve given and the song – Christ having a female counterpart, and the woman splitting away from God. But these are part of my interpretation anyway. At least what you’re suggesting would put the song to an extent into a different religious tradition. On the other hand, the song makes no reference to the absolute monad or the demiurge or suffering being created. Instead it mentions God, but God is hardly special to gnosticism.

    It’s difficult to see, then, that gnosticism is more than of slight interest. Yet you say ‘This analogy works just as well, if not better, than the more orthodox -inclined interpretation given above.’ Does it? As far as I can see it adds hardly anything to the interpretation I’ve given, and fails to account for all the other things going on. At best it just places the song in a slightly different religious context. Anyway, it’s no use just saying it works as well or better. If you really think it does, you need to show how it does!

    I’ll look forward with eager anticipation to your doing so!

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  3. Thank you for an interesting read, David. I do admire your clear style and the pleasant, strong structuring of your argument.
    I actually react, though, to correct a misunderstanding: I most certainly do not think that Dylan writes a song about his wife, nor do I think, therefore, that the omitted verse would prove such a claim. Quite on the contrary. Apparently I have expressed myself unclearly. I tried to express my suspicion that Dylan is trying to avoid that we interpret biographically. My guess is that the poet just for that reason omitted the contested verse – I trust Dylan’s repeated incantations, that he does not write ‘confessional songs’.

    Incidentally, the omitted verse was originally the seventh verse.

    In terms of content, I respectfully disagree with your interpretation. Not so much because of your argumentations, but mainly because of your premise: that the song is a narration. You share that conviction with most interpretors, but I think it’s very unlikely that “Shelter From The Storm” is epical. I think the song is a lyrical masterpiece, that the poet knows how to touch us through the beauty of the evoked images of despair, consolation, redemption and hope.
    Frankly, I think you are wronging the poet and this masterpiece by trying to squeeze it into one mold. This work really is too rich, wide-ranging, colourful to be reduced to a one-track, heavily encrypted narration.

    Anyway, it is, obviously, not my intention to repeat my article on Untold here. I merely wanted to correct a misunderstanding – and got carried away.

    Please do keep up your interesting work. I certainly do not always agree with you, but I do enjoy your surprises and your thought-provoking ideas.

    Groeten uit Utrecht,
    Jochen

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  4. My apologies, Jochen! I don’t know how I could have been guilty of quite such a gross misreading. I’ll save face by pretending it was because I’d only just seen your article and was rushed. Anyway, I’ve erased the slander now. I really enjoyed your article, particularly for the insights into the origins of expressions. I won’t risk replying fully here and now in case I say something silly again!

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  5. Oh dear. Thank you for your kind words, David. But you really do not have to reach for the sledgehammer and reshape your article. It is absolutely not a sensitive matter to me. You graciously provide here all the space to correct misunderstandings, which is highly appreciated.
    Groeten uit Utrecht,
    Jochen

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  6. I have no intention of repeating my Untold articles here, and I read your post at least three times and my thoughts about it remained quite the same ….the article is fine, but it’s too assertive that a Christian theme …be it conventional or otherwise….is the most obvious one intended on the part of the the narrator and/ or writer when Dylan’s works taken as whole reveal the influence of Blake and Poe, for example – gnostic-like writers if not indeed Gnostics themselves.

    And there are indeed Gnostic-like references – a creature void of form, when God and I were born, a wall between us – there are many differing types of Gnosticism and so I choose to use the term in rather a general sense, never asserting that Dylan himself is a Gnostic …. he may have read some books on the subject, that’s all.

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    • Thanks for your replies Larry. I’ve edited them slightly, and combined them for convenience.

      You say my ‘article is fine, but it’s too assertive that a Christian theme …be it conventional or otherwise….is the most obvious one intended on the part of the narrator and/ or writer’. Well, I’ll make some comments and hopefully alleviate your concerns.

      First, I’ve never intentionally been ‘assertive’ regarding what a song is about. My aim is always just to make suggestions. Sometimes I’ll explicitly say it’s a suggestion but even if I don’t, it’s still to be understood. It would be appalling hubris on my part to lay down the law about how a song is to be interpreted. Also, since I make a point of giving a textual grounding for each suggestion I make, at the very least it should appear that I’m not intending to be assertive. There would be no point in the post if asserting was all I could do. Of course ultimately it’s going to be a matter of opinion whether what I put forward as a justification is an adequate one, but that’s another matter.

      Neither did I say, or even suggest, that a Christian theme is the most ‘obvious’ one intended. I fully accept that what might seem most obvious to me might not seem most obvious to others. As I said in the Welcome post ‘I’m sure there will be other, often better, interpretations’. That still holds. And in the present post I said ‘The song is doubtless open to other interpretations than the one given here’. I hope that puts to rest any worry that I’m intolerant of other interpretations.

      Furthermore, I fully accept that it might be possible to provide an interpretation based on the gnostic ideas which seem to be in the song. What I don’t accept, of course, is that even if such an interpretation can be given, it automatically eclipses the one I’ve given. Whether it does or not will require close, detailed argument about which has better support from the text. What might be shown is that there’s more ground for accepting one interpretation than the other. Alternatively the conclusion might be that both can be accepted as equals.

      By the way, as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t dream of saying what Dylan ‘intended’. I actually think authors’ intentions are quite irrelevant. I’m only interested in ‘the words on the page’ – the meanings that might be thought to emerge independently of whether the writer intended them or not. So I certainly don’t say that a Christian theme is intended by Dylan, if ‘intended’ is the operative word. Neither would I say that the narrator intends a Christian theme. I’m not even sure it’s appropriate to speak of a narrator intending a theme. Either way, I’m just interested in themes which might be found in a song whether or not anyone intended them.

      You say ‘And there are indeed Gnostic-like references’. I don’t deny it. As I said previously, I find the suggestion of a gnostic interpretation interesting. What I’m far from sure about is that an interpretation based on such ideas would have consequences for the one I’ve given. It might, but that would need arguing for.

      I hope this clarifies things a bit. It goes without saying that if you want to present an interpretation of the song based on the gnostic ideas you’ve found, or even go on to argue that such an interpretation is better than mine, I shall be very happy to engage in a discussion with you. I accept, though, that you might not be interested in doing that.

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  7. What is oh so clear is that the narrator, or Dylan himself, is a Mormon Christian since Christ being’ ravished in the corn’ obviously refers to His noted appearance in America , corn being unknown overseas until Columbus’ “discovery” …. the verse also without doubt explains the later reference to Christ’s travelling to a ‘foreign country’ – labelled the ‘unknown’ country’ in ‘Hamlet’ which some analysts mistake for the ‘afterlife’.

    Though this important visit by Jesus is omitted in the Holy Bible for no apparent reason, the Mormon interpretation ties the meaning of ‘Shelter From The Storm’ up in a neat little bundle …does it not?

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  8. As far as I can tell, God, the Absolute One(not the Demiurge) is of utmost importance in all forms of Gnosticism ….. However, William Blake contends this is a cop-out if the Monad is thought to be ‘unknowable’.

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  9. I think this is a great website that I will really enjoy reading. I think you might missed something with the line “when she and god were born”. Carl Jung explored the femininity aspect of god in Answer to Job. It is my favorite Jung work and basically argues the bible god lacks femininity, and that in order for God to reconnect to humans, he had to become human. A short webpage of the discussion is found here: http://www.christosophia.org/reflectjungsanswertojob.html that describes the relationship of Jesus and Sophia. Sophia is said to be the first creation by god, and she was there to witness Genesis, which ties into the line of when she and god were born.

    As the article notes:

    Jung says, “Although the birth of Christ is an event that occurred but once in history, it has always existed in eternity…As God he has always been God, and as the son of Mary, who is plainly a copy of Sophia, he is the Logos who, like Sophia, is a master workman, as stated by the gospel according to St. John. This identity of mother and son is borne out over and over again in the myths.” The eternal process in the spiritual realms of the Pleroma – the sacred marriage that gives birth to the divine child – is repeated over and over in the realm of time and space. We find this archetypal motif in the myths of many cultures, which may be seen as various acts in the timeless “divine drama.” In Christianity this archetype expresses itself in the union of God and the Virgin Mary (as Sophia) giving birth to the Christ. As Jung points out, he is one with his “mother” in accordance with the mythological pattern of son/mother identity (i.e. Christ-Sophia.) The Incarnation of Christ-Sophia reveals God’s “answer to Job.”

    I think this narrows down who this woman giving shelter is. For me the woman giving the shelter is his mother figure- Sophia.

    I look forward to reading more. Thanks for this great website.

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  10. Thanks for this, Matthew. It does seem that some of the ideas in the song might well have had their origin in Jung. A number Dylan songs treat God or Christ as feminine, and in a 1965 press conference he said – presumably only half jokingly – that ‘God is a woman’. The point you make about the identity of Christ and the Virgin Mary is interesting. The identity seems to be present in Visions of Johanna where ‘Madonna’ seems to refer to Christ as much as to Mary.

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  11. What about Israel being the “she” and Jews being the “I” as Dylan is a Jew?

    I do also think that the song really works well as a love song, at least i have been relating to it on an emotional level. I do think that it can be a dynamic between between men and women, that the man might find him tangled up in the battle of the world and can be met by a caring woman. That the answer to all this stride we feel is not necessarily to win this or that battle, but will be resolved with the simple invitation to receive shelter in a feminine form.

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    • Thanks for commenting Kasper. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree that the song works as a love song. There may well be a (relatively superficial) level on which a great number of Dylan’s songs can be seen as love songs, and yet turn out not to be love songs, or not just love songs, on a closer perusal. A fine example would perhaps be ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’.

      I’m not sure about the song being about Israel and the Jews. I can’t immediately see how that interpretation could be sustained for the whole song. Do say, though, if you think I’m missing something.

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      • David, I was thinking that the woman may represent the Holy Spirit, because of the offer of shelter and being born at the same time as God. In addition, some people see the Holy Spirit as the feminine aspect of God. The “preacher rides a mount” could relate to the Sermon on the Mount.

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  12. If you have read the Bible, the woman is clearly wisdom. Too many references to the book of Proverbs to be anything else. In other words, if you heed Gods word, aquire wisdom, you will be sheltered from the storm.

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