From Cult to Culture 

From Cult to Culture 

Yes, there are many to choose from

Few, though, have the answer
To the question (for one)

of those two things
In the center of the garden
Life and knowledge — or dogma
Indeed, which means the two trees
Are Physis and Nomos
Nature and convention, or law
Nature as growth and change
Or rigid rules
The letter of law, or the spirit
The physis, of course, takes the form
Of the physician
The other tree, the Nomos,
takes the form of
What comes from the Nomos:
The nomeus, the shepherd
Shepherd and healer

United in Jesus?
But look at that statue of Mary
Down the street. In front of the church
Of the transfiguration
Now that the leaves
On those trees have all dried and fallen
Like tongues you can see her bare ankles

Her feet, crushing a serpent! But why
Mary, o! That serpent is Jesus himself

Don’tcha know?
At least say those Gnostics,

The Ophites —
The fact of the matter’s that Mary
Should be Ariadne, concerning the snake
Or Hygieia, better yet,

Letting it drink from her cup

Pourquoi? Well, first of all:

The nomeus

Just, look at those shepherds!

The pharaohs

And Zeus, Agamemnon
And David, Muhammad, and Moses

(Though he’s a special  case)

The pharaoh’s a shepherd — the flail!

The crook
The church as well, the pastorate
Demands obedience
Exploits all those sheep
Providing security, yes — se cura,
The absence of care
But who cares?
Says the fascist — sfacim!
Tying all those shepherds’ crooks
Into bundles, your fasces
No, nomeus stands at the root
Of the four-fold mega-crisis
(Ecocide, state violence, pandemic…)
And negation of the Nomos is Physis
The physician,
Son of a god, restorer of sight
To the blind, who raised the dead
(Hippolytus), and was killed
For shattering the order for
Zeus himself can’t alter the decisions

of the Fates
Until, my friend, Asclepius

Who raised the dead —

The true exception

to the Nomos
and recall: the Fates are three:
Clotho spins the thread of life,
The legislature, spinning measures
Which Lachesis measures
And Atropos, as the decider, the executive,


What an odd coincidence!
The three that are one, the law
But not, alas, the true law, the healer
Physis/Tree of life

For, as for that tree, all kabbalists agree,
That’s the true law
Moreover, Asclepius’ daughter, Hygieia,
A healer as well
Called Salus by the Romans
Arrives like a jinn in our books of law,

in our courts,

In that maxim

Salus populi…
The public health (should be supreme)
And this, in fact, does function
As a legal exception — nullifies law
Now isn’t that strange?
And where health is impeded
Not present

Not health, perhaps,

but health’s preconditions (food, housing

Water that’s clean)
Where air is polluted,

And homes aren’t safe
That true law’s in breach
A duty arises to fix the conditions
Of disease — these

Must be replaced
With conditions of health
Clean water, and rest
Provide all this. Forgive all debts.
Conditions of health, not prisons

Police violence — that term is redundant
Whoever impedes the conditions of ease
Is in breach of the duty
To stop the cataclysmic storm
The bulldozers of progress
Said Wild Bill Douglas, in his dissent

Ravaging the globe
The storm that won’t let

The angel of history’s wings close

And allow to land and heal, make whole
What’s been destroyed

The storm that blows from paradise
As Benjamin says,
From those two trees,
And what can stop its crushing wind?
The emergency brake
The maxim again
Can shut the engines
Allowing the angel to land
And build the conditions of health
Of ease, of peace,
Allowing the planet to heal itself
Yup, that’s the cult

Relax, do no harm
It’s free, no fee, to join
Just print this and recite it
From a loading dock some time
If you’re up to the task
And wear a mask
Whether or not you’re shy


Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at and on twitter @elliot_sperber