“Christ’s image is just the perfect symbol for our civilization. It’s a perfect event for us – you have to die to survive.” Leonard Cohen

For someone who’s Jewish, your music often seems obsessed with Catholicism. Why?

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I grew up in a Catholic city, and all through Quebec the church is very strong. And I had an Irish-Catholic nanny; because my father was sick and my mother was usually at the hospital taking care of him, I was brought up part Catholic in a certain way. The figure of Christ touched me very early in my life. My radical Catholic friends were very angry at me for this Christological infatuation. Because they had really been oppressed by the church. To me it was romance. And there were many georeligious ideas I could speculate on. For one thing, I could see Christianity as the great missionary arm of Judaism. So I felt a certain patronizing interest in this version of the thing. I didn’t have to believe it. But I was talking today to a friend of mine, and it came to me that Christ’s image is just the perfect symbol for our civilization. It’s a perfect event for us – you have to die to survive. Because the personality is crucified in our society. That’s why so many people collapse, why the mental hospitals are full. Nobody can survive with the personality that they want, which is the hero of their own drama. That hero dies, it’s massacred, and the self that is reborn remembers that crucifixion. And we’re doing that every day. This Christian myth at the center of our society is very good. It’s workable.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. Photo of statue of Christ taken in Montreal by rik-shaw (look 4 light)

“Religion can be a purification system…that allows you to pass from the ‘not clean’ world to the ‘clean’ world [and back]” Leonard Cohen

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What is your idea of sin?

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There is a difference between what is ‘clean’ and what is not. The notion of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ today would be called vibrations. It is the feeling that tells you where you should be and where you should not be. But as we cannot always be in the ‘clean’ world, sometimes we touch the ‘not clean’ world. Religion can be a purification system, a technique, a method that allows you to pass from the ‘not clean’ world to the ‘clean’ world. A system to prepare you for the ‘clean’ world and once you are there, another system to give you enough strength to pass again to the ‘not clean’ world. Because man cannot always be in a ‘clean’ world nor in a ‘not clean’ world. For me, religion is that movement between the two worlds. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero. Vibrations 2 (November 1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

“There is only one reality, only one thing happening” Leonard Cohen

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I’ve inherited and happily understand what monotheism is: an understanding that there is only one reality, only one thing happening. You may choose to call it God, Christ, Grace, Creation … quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen: Thoughts Of A Ladies’ Man by Elizabeth M. Thomson. 1979 interview reposted to FolkTracks: Jan 12, 2017. Photo by Armando Fusco.

“The figure of Jesus is extremely attractive. It’s difficult not to fall in love with that person.” Leonard Cohen


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What I mean to say is that there are many things about Christianity that attract me. The figure of Jesus is extremely attractive. It’s difficult not to fall in love with that person. The notion of self-sacrifice, the notion that one has to be resurrected in oneself is a powerful idea that arises in most religions. There has to be an idea of rebirth, of being able to be born again. I think humanity needs that because you feel the sense of pain and moral destruction all the time. When we have this notion that there is no mechanism for resurrection, there is no redemption from sin, then we are forced to embrace evil and we get the kind of activity like genocide.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Songs and Thoughts of Leonard Cohen By Robert O’Brian (RockBill, September 1987).

“I would never claim that title [religious] for myself, I mean not remotely. But I do feel certain connections with certain entities or forces.” Leonard Cohen

How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988. Photo by Johann Agust Hansen. Originally posted Nov 29, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Theology or religious speculation bears the same relationship to real experience as pornography does to lovemaking. They’re not entirely unconnected.” Leonard Cohen


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Theology or religious speculation bears the same relationship to real experience as pornography does to lovemaking. They’re not entirely unconnected. I mean, you can get turned on. One of the reasons that they’re both powerful is that they ignore a lot of other material and they focus in on something very specific. In these days of overload, it’s very restful to know, at last, what you’re talking about.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From At Lunch With Leonard Cohen;Philosophical Songwriter On A Wire by Jon Pareles. New York Times: October 11, 1995. Originally posted Nov 24, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric