21 JUNE 1963, Page 30


By ALAN ittR1EN C HORT of muffling my hands with boxing °gloves, I can find no way of preventing my fingers thii week tapping out the names of those Mr. Harold Wilson, in an inspired phrase, has dubbed 'this dingy quadrilateral.' Repeated often enough, Ward, Ivanov, Profumo and Keeler begins to sound like the roll call of some shifty team of property speculators. One would not be surprised to learn that they were jointly represented by that famous but alas apocryphal, firm of solicitors, whose sequence is said to sum up the history of l'humme moven sensuel, Mann, Rogers & Grieves.

There is something bogus even in their pre- fixes. Dr. Ward, the healer and manipulator, who is not a Doctor of Medicine. Commander, or alternatively Captain Second Grade, Ivanov, who is more at home at the bridge table than on the bridge. Mr. Profumo, who is also the fifth Baron of a defunct Kingdom of Italy. And Miss Keeler, who is nobody s idea of an English Miss. They are not characters usually found in the pages of Trollope but seem to be refugees from some parody saga of Greene-land In the sexual geometry of the denti-monde (I have often thought Miss Keeler's publishers ought to change their paper's name to News of the Half-World) their figure may turn out to be nearer a pentagon than a rectangle. Time will show whether there is a further name or two to be impaled on the fifth point of the witch's sign.

Despite the attempts of those moral tutors to the new satire, Peter Simple and Michael Frayn, to make us feel ashamed of our fascin- ated interest in this grubby serial. I see no reason why we newspaper readers should apologise. The Prime Minister could not have arranged the sequence of rumour and denial, runaway and return, trial and error, letters and dossiers, resignation and revolt, for more sensational headlines if he had been a Hollywood script- writer. The instalment titles in the press (`Christine and the Atom Rockets') read like chapter headings of a soap opera. And even

the number of the Prime Minister's majority is a bad-taste joke.

Our Establishment is the victim of its own hypocritical double-standard. Their motto has always been—`Don't do as we do, do as we say.' They treat us to moral lectures on our disgraceful habits of gambling, promiscuity, laziness, materialism, drinking and paganism. They fence round our indulgences with licensing laws, censorship regulation:- and legal restric- tions. Yet the simplest way of identifying a member of the Establishment is to test him with two questions—does ne (a) make the rules, and (b) break them himself? The more he em- bodies traditional values and taboos in public and defies them in private. the more likely he is to be a top person This humbuggery (`the real vice anglais,' as Mr. Leslie Hale, MP, once pointed out) grows on the Establishmentarian like a second skin. He forgets that he is naked underneath and automatically assumes that the umbrella of privilege will always keep al the downpour of publicity which spots lesser men caught in un- dress. He can become. incapable of giving a straight answer to a straight question even in the course of an interview " designed to appeal for the utmost truthfulness in public life Lord Hailsham's assertion on television, for example, that a three-line whip is merely a summons to attend the House and not one to vote on party lines, is contradicted by all parliamentary practice. It would have served him right if the newspapers had announced next day—'Lord President of the Council Promises Free • Vote On Profumo Debate.

European Establishments are equally prone to intermittent scandals. There, however, no member of the public expects his rulers to set an example in sexual rectitude. so that revela- tions of 'La Dolce Vita' or 'Les Ballets Roses' do not shake their grip on power And their counter-attack upon their blackmailing play- mates is likely to be swift.:, and more ruthless. I suppose it should be counted to the credit of the British tradition that Miss Christine Keeler did not end up like Wilma Montesi.

The nearest equivalent to the British pretence that its current leaders are always above sus- picion is to be found in the Soviet Union. They too have had their Vassall trial with Penkovsky in the role of the weak government official corrupted by cunning foreign devils. There too the reputation of the government machine was protected by throwing expendable politicians to the wolves. At this moment Ivanov 'as probably lying to the State's legal officers just as Profumo did. I await with interest the publication of his personal statement to the Supreme Soviet, on his honour as an officer and a gentleman, that his relationship with Miss Keeler was also charac- terised by the utmost propriety.

Considering that the Christian religion was born in the shadow of the Cross, it seems extraordinary that factual information about the technique of crucifixion should be so. difficult to discover. Quite why a squeamish, agnostic opponent of capital punishment like me should find himself obsessed with this grisly ritual I have not so far had the self-analytical courage to investigate.. There has crossed my mind the explanation that the Deity may be enticing me into belief through historical curiosity. If so, it would be cowardly to deck the challenge. So far, however, the catalogue of the London Lib- rary has not yielded a single work in English devoted entirely to the subject.

In the course of reading books on other

aspects of religion, I have collected some in cidental evidence which still leaves me un. satisfied. Dr. R. W. Hynee* in his study of the Holy Shroud of Turin quotes widely from Father Holzmeister's 'Crux Domini atque Crucifixio.' The Father states that crucifixion was borrowed by the Romans from the Carthiginians to whom it had descended from the Scythians via the Medes Persians and Greeks. It was the punishment of deserters and rebels in wartime. and of slaves convicted of serious crimes in peace-tune. And as anyone who saw the film knows, Crassus had 6.000 of the followers of Spartacu$ crucified on a line of crosses which stretched Isom Capua to Rome According to Holzmeiste, the original cross was • forked and may, iedeed have been a branched tree. In later times, it was usually made from two beams with the cross bar either at the top or slightly lower down The victim's hands were either tied os nailed to the cross and thirst was the most cortirrion cause of death Dr. Hyneck's conclusions and arguments from Father Holzmeister's facts are not always with out partiality as his aim is to identify the figure reproduced in negative .1; the shroud with Christ Himself. Therefore any method which can be inferred from the shroud's pattern is preferred by him as the most likely method of crucifying Christ. On the evidence of the shroud he claims that Christ's arms were nailed rather than bound, and pierced through the wrist and not through the palm. He also argues that His feet were nailed one on top of the other and that the body was not supported in any other way What Dr. Hyneck does reveal. which was quite new to me, was that crosses very often included a projection either as a piece of wood below the feet (suppedarteum), or between the legs (sedile). There are as: signs of either of these being used during the crucifixion of the corpse in the shroud. But they do account for something which has puzzled me in the earliest known representations of Christ on . the cross. The first of these dates from AD 400 and is to be found on an ivory casket in the British Museum.

Here Christ's arms (pierced through he palm) are stretched at right-angles, a position im- possible for any body wh.a h was suspended by nails. If, in fact, the sediie was being used, in, visible behind the loin cloth, this representation would be realistic rather than emblematic. Mr Cyril Pocknee, in his Cross and Crucifix, accepts this explanation pointing out that, though crucifixion bad been abolished bY Constantine in 337, the tradition would still he alive. Later artists, however, who did not know of the sedile, would be likely to picture the more familiar Christ hanging with His hands far above His head.

Hyneck backs up his claim for the nailed Christ with some of the most terrifying experiments ever recorded. These were carried out by a pious surgeon, Dr. Barbet, in 1935. Determined to produce authentic evidence that crucifixion would 'result in the wounds and contortions found in the Turin shroud, he made use of corpses from his dissecting room. He began bY hanging weights to a freshly amputated arm nailed aloft and discovered that the flesh tore immediately. He then went on to try out two amputated arms at an angle of 65 degrees. Ele next discovered that the strongest part of the hand was at the junction with the wrist and tested this with weights and X-rays on dead limbs. 'Similar investigations were made with amputated feet. And the whole series ended with an unmutilated corpse nailed up to a cross on the wall.