Friday, June 15, 2007

THE MOURNING PATH




I've been reading the Gospels for references to mourning. I see so clearly how little space there is for mourning in our society. We are moved from one tragedy to the next with hardly space for a sobbing breath in between. Years ago, when I lived on Riceville Road and taught at the Juvee, I bought an enormous block of clay and molded chunks of it with my hands into these hollow standing figures, only two of which survive. An art historian friend told me they were examples of funerary art. I hadn't known such a thing existed and just continued making them, one after another.

There's a movement in Qi Gong called "Carry Tiger Up the Mountain." And every time I did Carry Tiger, which you repeat 17 times or something, I'd weep then feel sobbing approach. It was the strangest thing. None of the other moves had this effect. My instructor explained one day (he'd never comfort me during the practice, always left me to do the work myself) that the movement was begun by a Tao master who, when it died, carried his pet tiger all the way up a mountain because that was the only way he could grieve and honor it with his whole being. The move is ancient, and it amazes me that it still speaks its story to the body that does it.

Anyway, funerary art. Grieving. The more I think of it, I am quite sure that this is what depression is--grieving that didn't have a chance to get done so it turned into a horrible knot.

In the Book of Kells, this knot is everywhere. Sometimes it's outside people. Sometimes it's inside them. In one image two men are grappling with eachother (could just as a easily be a love grapple as a war grapple) and the knot is within and between them. It says so much to me. It helps me objectify the knot when I'm uncomfortable with what I'm feeling, so maybe I can feel my way into it on another level, the way my grandfather once spent two hours untying a knot in my Ocean Pacific swimsuit he'd pulled from the clothesline, worked on it 2 hours with his eyes closed. It was just his project for the night. The Psalmist says, "You will feel anger. Do not sin. Sit on your bed and commune with your heart." If our society honored sitting on beds and communing with hearts, we'd have way fewer tangles in us, fewer tabloids, more gardening magazines.

As much as I am aware that this is work of any spiritual path, I am convinced that this process is also what it means to be a follower of Jesus--who is always on the move, here, there, hopping in boats, climbing up mountains, traversing the terrible desert of the inner world. Like the ropes in the Book of Kells or following a thread of imagery in the Bible, we are given only glimpses of the whole and follow the glimpses toward a complete vision.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

RISE





RISE

I wake to rising, to the elevate sun and flight of birds.
I wake to the lift and life of daylight, the streaming of shine clouds illuminate in.
I wake to a rising child whose small arms reach up for holding.
I wake to her uplifting face, a helium kiss.
And I salute this day for the upward shift of heart it gives.
I wake to the uplift of bloom and branch and catch as much of the sun as I can.
I insist on joy and the living out of it like the infinite box of good things it holds for me.
I live for the lifting hands, and haul each beaten dreamer out of the dark,
one by one, the basement empties of starving child,
wounded student, yet another undreamed of horror.
I stand at the circle door of heaven sleeves rolled up for the work.
My muscles flex in delight and purpose. I lift so they may rise.
I do life like love and revisit the morning light of everything I do.
I imagine the arisen. I enact the rising.

This life invites the illuminating action.
I reach out to you, child, all who have witnessed the bullets, and I sing
out the low, the debasing, the unceasing image hat this is all we are.
I rise above the working and I turn it into lifting.
I lift myself up out of the world til I am floating on the muscular rain,
making my shape out of cloud and soprano sunlight, the voice
at the top of the dome of heaven
I bind to my voice and I sing out of the world its call for me to hey come down from there.
I lift up that voice, too.
I am the singing wingspread of my mind.
I eat the shadows up into me.
For they are mine, all these tragedies. They are mine so send them forth,
So I may infuse them with my breath and turn them into sorrows with wings
and bid them leave this world through the elevator of my witness.
I insist. I take them up like a banister. I am the staircase of the eschatology.
I rise in the morning and in the night when the moon comes up, as all the lights go down, I bind myself to the moon’s light and I rise.
I insightful, strong with God who also is always there lifting, singing as I lift.
I infinitely bound to air and earth, I rise with the color of fire.
And I am breathing in the weapons.
And I am breathing in the war.
And I am breathing in the harsh words.
And I am breathing in the same old story told to the same old music.
I am absorbing the history of mankind,
The history of violence, the history of the rise and fall of just about everybody at this point.

I am absorbing the atomic bomb, Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki, Baghdad, Kabul, Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, London, Paris, Darfur, I am absorbing Rwanda, absorbing East Timor and East Berlin, I am absorbing Congo, I am absorbing Watts and New Orleans. I am absorbing Wounded Knee, Tippecanoe, anything and everything that took place on this soil since 1492. I am taking in this moment on this earth surrounded by these amazing, loving good, hopeful, dreaming, wanting, determined, anxious, did I say loving people and I am breathing all of this in and I will not breathe it out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

DHARMA AND THE CHRIST



As we walk the paths of our lives, we are to exercise our love for all things spiritual. In a close relationship with the world, we develop a close relationship to God. By loving life, we love God. For the poets of the Bible, this love was deep to the point of being all consuming. Amazement and wonder accompanied their every step. They walked aware that every grain of sand that shifted beneath a sandal was luminous with the light of creation. And just as much as it is a commitment to live life for every minute drop of wonder it can contain, it is a choice to engage life on this level of ultimate intensity. Such is the choice to know God not only through creation but through the experiences that arise in our lives. For just as the flower blooming through the snow is a presentment, and a metaphor, of the divine every conversation and kiss is as well. Once we choose to visit the sacred level of life, we find that it extends through all things and events.
In the reclaiming of Christianity as Buddhism’s cousin, we can find the Buddhist principles of attention to the “good path,” “The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work.” This verse from Dhammapada's “The Way of Truth” finds its beautiful companion in Psalm 1 from the Holy Bible:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the way of the ungodly nor abides by the counsel of sinners, nor sits in the company of mockers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law does he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by a stream of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaves fall not off; and whatsoever he begins he accomplishes.
The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not be justified in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous. But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Righteousness and virtue are one and the same, and both involve a deep sense of attention to the world. In this state, one seeks the beauty and truth of all circumstances and conducts oneself in such as way as will multiply the beauty and truth in the world. Buddha teaches that Mara, the great tempter, can easily overthrow an individual who “lives looking for pleasures only, his senses uncontrolled.” Mara, he also teaches will not overthrow him “who lives without looking for pleasures, his senses well-controlled, moderate in his food, faithful, and strong.” The sinners and ungodly of the Biblical terminology meet a similar fate as those who look for pleasures only in the Buddhist.
When we view Christ as our dharma, an inner-voice that weighs in on our thoughts and motivations, we can begin to see how the teachings of both Buddha and Christ resonate with our own natural sense. While Mark Twain says, “There’s nothing common about common sense,” the vouchsafed Buddha seed and Christ seed in our primordial minds beg to differ. There is a path to achieving a flawless intuition and sensitivity to beauty. There is a fundamental part of us that longs to allow this part of our psyches to be all there is. For once we function from this place, we function in alliance with God. We are no longer “in the way.” We are “of the way.” And in this place, all our works will find completion.
The Messiah Dharma works like a tree breaking through bracken to receive the sunlight. In Psalm 2, we witness the activation of the dharma,
Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth and the rulers have conspired and have taken counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their hands asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us.
He that dwells in heaven shall laugh, and the Lord shall mock at them.
Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and terrify them in his wrath and say,
I have appointed my king over Zion, my holy mountain,
To declare my promise; the Lord has said to me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.
Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your dominion.
You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; you shall break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Be wise, therefore, O kings; be instructed, O judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverence, and uphold him with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from his way while his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they who put their trust in him.

Even in so-called Biblical Times, there were two kinds of people. There were those who did not see life as sacred, and those who did. The former radically outnumbered the latter. This psalm works quite well as a study of a wrathful God about to set aright a wrong people. However, when we read it as a description of how, once activated, Messiah Dharma functions as the communication instrument of a promise-keeping God, the psalm brims with a new spiritual and neurological life. This seed makes us God’s kings who reign over the Kings of the worldly world. It makes us all “my Son,” and we are “begotten” on the day we waken to our Messiah Dharma. God is not speaking to our ego-selves when He says, “You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; you shall break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Rather, he addresses the Messiah Dharma, granting it permission to do whatever it takes to get us on the right path.
In the Book of Jonah, Jonah denies God’s instructions as they are fed to him through his dharma. The dharma then works with God to bring about Jonah’s awakening to his true path. The sequence of events necessary to bring about this awakening are quite awesome and no more awesome than the journeys our Dharma will take us on to get us to see what we need to see, or, more aptly, see how we need to see. In this same way the dharma shepherd moves through our psyches with a rod of iron judging what can remain and what can be lost. Then we lose it. What we do not “get” right away is brought to us in lessons and experiences. The harder we fight our dharma lessons, we more depressed and ineffective we become as humans. The farther we retreat from life. We will all get broken like a potter’s vessel because we are made of clay. By destroying the clay, dharma empties us so we can be made new. We are not to strike out at the Messiah Dharma, the psalm teaches, but to Kiss the Son. For it is the Son, as in Buddhism it is the Dharma, that will show us how to live life completely.

Friday, April 13, 2007

WHY THE HOLY BOOK IS HOLY





In Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch "quotes" God as saying that the Bible was written by men and they got a lot of things wrong. I know that the Holy Bible has been the source of much horrendous action. Yet, our lack of understanding does not make the poets unskillful. The cipher of alchemy runs through these texts like water through soil, nourishing every word, image, and symbol with cool life. It has been hidden, and in its discovery and application the Holy Bible shifts into its own deliberate meaning. It flourishes under our eyes like a living forest rich with all life from root to loam to wolf to leaf to eagle and cloud. What is unfolding in me unfolds further each time I read, and I am awed always by the depths it finds in me to sound.

These are words we fall through into the mystical. Beautifully enough, the text with the cipher running through it does not in the least bit vary in meaning from the contemporary view of the Divine held by many, including Walsch who sees God as a stem cell of the universe. The text compounds what so far has been hinted at, and it takes us deeply into the mysteries of the universe. These are mysteries we can't afford to ignore now that they are opening. My wish would be that we can open them together.

THE WHISPERING GALLERY


At the top of the dome at St. Pauls Cathedral in London, in an area called the Whispering Gallery, aged benches curve the dome’s circumference. Lean forward and you can see the brilliance of the marble floor below, look up and see Sir Peter Thornhill’s glass mosaic scenes of Creation. Sit still, raise your eyes slightly and you can see, between the arches of the inner dome, mosaics of prophets and saints as they sit at their desks either engaging or trying to escape from the task of writing down the word of God. Each man takes a varying degree of dislike to the process. John is most disciplined, there with his lion, as angels hold open his book. Not so willing, Isaiah looks about to haul off, punch the angel holding the pen, and ditch the job altogether. Jeremiah must be held down while one angel forces the pen into his closed fist and implores him to take the divine dictation, which he does. It’s a scene of violence and trepidation, furor and resistance. The whispers of the Whispering Gallery, the mosaics suggest, might not be the kind of whispers we long to hear, despite our pleas to hear God’s voice.
There is that edge where the soul starves for its free expression in a material form, a desire to be made manifest. Yet in order to achieve expression in physical form it requires a language whose limits must by definition expand to hold such a wild and unformulated thing. Those prophets around the dome weren’t afraid of God; had they been, they would have seized the pen like good little prophets. It’s God’s voice that’s got them wanting to run. The thoughts of God are simply too big for our mere words. And the soul longs to always be talking back, communicating, communing. The soul longs to break free of its skin and soar in ecstasy, a state which defies the hard skin of language altogether. At this place, the state of trying to get the spirit world to listen, or At’woo, as the Tlingit call it, language changes shape. Metastasis. Metaphor steps in to help us do what Plato’s speaker’s soul, “poor thing,” can not. At the edge, the systems of language break open to reveal technical leverage for reaching beyond. But if we can achieve a new system of language to phrase such expression, wouldn’t it then follow we’d need new ears to hear the response? And this presents a whole new set of problems in the world of ears.
At some point, the prophets had let go of the language they normally listened to, thought in, lived through, the language within their own heads. They had to abandon the known to receive the unknown language of God. No wonder they look a little scared. Their faces convey a sense of living in a perpetual state of wonder, wondering if what they heard is what was said, if what was said could possibly be true, if they could possibly do anything to avert a dawning tragedy, change the path of man. And also their faces, in so many shards of glass, convey what weight it is to be able to hear in any sense of the word, what great responsibility it is to be the receiver of any kind of speech, what an honor it is to listen.
Throughout the texts of the Bible, countless references to hearing loss suggest we are all living on the edge of God’s language, and countless references to unheard prayers suggest that God lives on the edge of ours. Deafness is as much a spiritual condition as it is an aural one, and overcoming it seems to be the key to our salvation, as well as God’s only hope for satisfaction with His creation. In Hebrews 5:11, the language of hearing loss is used to suggest that communion with Yahweh is quite similar to being in an audiometer: “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” It would seem that the one “of whom we have many things to say” is having trouble getting through to us because our hearing stinks. And yet what’s so wonderful in this passage is that the words themselves can’t be formed with the knowledge that they won’t be heard. It’s an auditory stalemate. In Hebrews 4:2: “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, even as they also did, but the word they heard didn't profit them, because it wasn't mixed with faith by those who heard. “ The ability to hear is insufficient for knowledge of God. For it isn’t merely what we can hear that matters but how we hear it. If we do not listen “with faith” we may as well be deaf.
“Hold the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” In the audiometer, my audiologist says things which I must repeat. He gauges my hearing ability by how many words I repeat correctly. This passage from 2 Timothy 1:13 reminds me of being in glass dark booth. And more intriguing certainly, “sound words” here seem to hold special weight. Are there unsound words? Are these words that are not safe or are these words that make no sound? Is it suggested that God’s words are the only sound words, all else is phantom speech?
Isaiah writes in 49:1, “Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name.” Listening is the means to receiving gossip prophecy as it is passed from prophet to people, and the “islands” ought to listen to be connected. Through listening, we form union. Ephesians 4:21 begins “if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him.” Hearing is a means of receiving instruction, “if indeed" we can hear at all. Deafness or Hardness of Hearing is hinted at by “if indeed.” Perhaps you heard something but are you sure of what you heard?
Hearing is, again, not enough in Mark 4:24: “He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear.” Hearing, it seems, is here an act of willingness, something beyond chance sense, otherwise all would hear. Hearing loss is diagnosed for all humanity by audiologist Matthew in 13:15: “for this people's heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes.” This suggests to me that whereas I think that my sense of hearing has abandoned me, perhaps we have, to fall upon idiom, abandoned our senses. And perhaps it isn’t merely idiom, metaphorical. Perhaps what we perceive as our literal senses are our metaphorical ones, particularly given that what we hunger for most is a direct experience with the sacred. Matthew offers hope for our move into the metaphorical (a word that lovingly longs to be mistyped as metamorphical) senses: “or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.” The metaphorical senses are those that we use to perceive the Divine, or tragically fail to, as in Deutoronomy 30:17 they are cut off: “But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away. . . “ They allow us hunger: “My dove in the clefts of the rock, In the hiding places of the mountainside, Let me see your face. Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. (Song of Solomon 2:14)” They allow us joy, “Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation. (Luke 8:13) And unused, they render us downright evil as in Jeremiah 13:10, “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their heart. . . .” Yet, it seems that God, Himself, has selective hearing. He hears his servants in Exodus 22:27, “for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to me, that I will hear, for I am gracious.” And yet in Psalm 64:1, “For the Chief Musician” it would seem that God must be called to, does not automatically “hear” unless summoned. This is how it is for the hard-of-hearing. Touch us on the shoulder and we will give your attention, but just start muttering about something near us and we will ignore you. My friend David has promised me a t-shirt that read “I’m not a bitch. I just can’t hear you.” But that other poet David calls out, taps God’s metaphorical shoulder, “Hear my voice, God, in my complaint. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.” At times, it would seem God is altogether profoundly deaf, “And ye returned and wept before Jehovah, but Jehovah would not listen to your voice, nor give ear unto you (Deutoronomy 1:45).
Viewed this way, the Bible is a story of living with hearing loss, only both parties of the relationship suffer it, and the relationship is in dire need of some other language to carry it through on. At the very least, our metaphorical ears need our permission to open,
"Today if you will hear his voice, don't harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7).” Also, they require reminders to “hear this (Isaiah 48:1),” as though we forget at any time to listen intently. And ultimately, metaphorical listening must be a communal act as in Isaiah 48:1: “Come near, you nations, to hear! Listen, you peoples. Let the earth and all it contains hear; the world, and everything that comes from it.” And we must “come near. . . to hear,” just as the speech-deaf must approach the speaker, be close enough to make words of the sound.

Monday, April 09, 2007

THE ONION METAPHOR


The mystical journey is often compared to the peeling of an onion. Here's my take.

Go get an onion. Put it on the table in front of you. Take off one layer of the peel. Then another, and another. You get the point. You have tears coming from your eyes now. Keep peeling. Peel all the way to, well, peel all the way. The onion’s gone and you’re completely weeping and maybe the tears have now turned into real tears, drawing on feelings you did not know you had. But you can’t really tell. Wipe away your tears.

Now, get another onion. Put it on the table in front of you. Take of one layer of the peel. Now, using a very fine knife or burning apparatus, remove one layer of your own skin from your entire body. Then another from the onion, then another from yourself. Then another, and another. You get the point. You are a screaming weeping ruin by this time. And you have to keep going in order to find the truth. When the onion is gone, you are also gone. If you really exist, this is the moment you will know it. If the onion still exists, you will know that as well. Keep peeling.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

CARRY TIGER UP THE MOUNTAIN

I am posting this poem in honor of Good Friday and the closing of a very difficult Holy Week. I have found that the more focused I have become on spirit the more deeply I am affected by the liturgical calendar. At present, I feel as though my heart is being gripped by enormous hands that want to tear it out of me. At such times, I remember the Qi Gong move called "Carry Tiger Up the Mountain." Years ago when I was doing Qi Gong I would weep every time this motion came into my practice. By the tenth movement I'd be a wreck. Finally I asked my teacher why I wept every time I did this. He told me the movement follows the story of a Tao master who carried the dead body of his pet tiger up a mountain because he knew that was the only way to fully embrace his death.

CARRY TIGER UP THE MOUNTAIN

If you really want it out of
you, then we’re talking the
Himalayas, Sherpa-less, no
gear because who can carry
gear when they’re carrying
a tiger. You really have to
take it all the way. And after
you’ve climbed the whole
mountain, then begins the
journey, then you must name
the mountain. Call it: Tiger
Mountain, and after that, there’s
the mountain inside you you
have to climb that makes
Everest look easy. You long
for low oxygen, pulmonary
edema on this internal peak
that begins with your hair
and goes downward, tearing
through every cloud in your
mind. And you can’t climb
up the outside of it but must
go through the molten interior.
Through the stone sealed earth
and still with that tiger slung
across your back like a scarf,
this thing you loved, this thing
you spoke to as water pours
itself into a cup. You thought
you would drink of this life
forever. One foot and then
another is how you walk,
each drives claws, luxurious,
gold in the dark, to scratch
initials of longing into your
skin. Death is the only ink for
the calligraphy of pain, and
every stroke must be confident.
Carry your love up that wild
mountain. Only then can you
rip that mountain out. Set into
ice and sky you and tiger free.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PEACE AND PATIENCE


In Mandarin, Patience means "to wait with certainty; to allow life to carry you."

The Ten Commandments are lessons in dealing "with our own stuff" and not putting it out into the world. I've been thinking about how in Hebrews Paul writes that Christ becomes "an author of life" and how this reflects the Buddhist and Taoist notions of "ministering." The Taoists and Buddhists maintain that how we walk and talk and think creates the world. The Judeo-Christian Commandments are our version of this. Along with the command not to commit blasphemy, harsh speech, we, too, are instructed to only put peace in the world. I struggle with this when I want an answer NOW for a question. Our tendency is to "talk" about it when we are angry, to put our emotions out there for all to see, and endure. This is counter to peace. Inaction and silence prompt us to work through our attitudes toward things that confound us, rather than to turn them into a circus of words. Thought, word, and deed is such a tall order. But I think that if it leads to peace as the teachings suggest, it's worth it. All of my control issues are the result of my impatience, my inablity to let things unfold. I am working on developing patience.

THE DEAD SEA



We who lived there
didn’t call it that.
We worked the ink
as God works the tide,
sealing it with sand
and salt. We ate in
grace, moved in peace.
What kept us never
yelled or scolded. No
one got hurt. We were
allowed to leave but
who would want to?
Gazing out, the water
in us sang life that
only ended when
forgotten.

Back then we all moved
upon the water in our
minds. I left my cup
on a rock.It filled with
rain. But you won’t find
rain here. This rain
cleanses memory but
leaves no earthly mark.
And when you remember
us, picture me standing
on this cliff as you stand
now, kind visitor, gazing
out at what I saw but not
seeing.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

POETS


There are two worlds, that of form and that of emptiness. But the emptiness is never stagnant, nothing is every hollow. Everything in it, rather, is constantly filling with every shifting spirit. The more we can surrender to the world of emptiness, the less stressful and anxious we become. We become attuned to Vidya, the sanskrit Ultimate Reality, and the world that, as Paul writes in "Epistle to the Thessalonians," God hides from the unrighteous. Many of us in the "West" know this world--the world of mindblowing coincidence and flagrant interconnectedness. This is the world alluded to page after page in the Holy Bible as well as in Buddhism. Many of us are already living in Ultimate Reality and doing our level best to put up with the nitpickiness of the delusional world. Many of those whose lives "we," meaning the progress starved West, never made the mistake of leaving it. Many still know all the bullshit we call progress is totally delusional and is the very "sin," (off the path) we preach against. The literature of the Ultimate Reality didn't ever stop getting written in Europe and America, though, even if the Bible got hijacked by materialists 2004 years ago. Poets have been writing it, and knowing exactly what they were doing provided they had contact with the masons and rosicrucians (of which Shakespeare is called "The Mask").The poets who have lost touch with the fact of Avidya/Vidya and from whom the dual creation described in the "Epistles" was successfully kept never lost touch with the primordial mind, the mind that perceives the ultimate reality. Nowadays we reduce the most wondrous phenomenon to literary terms: metaphor and simile. These are techniques not only for talking to God, but describing it as well.

COMPASSION


Compassion itself is seen to be
The Seed of a rich harvest, water for growth,
And the ripened state of long enjoyment.
Therefore at the start, I praise compassion.
--CHANDRAKIRTI

Compassion draws the world into us. When we reach out with the light streaming from under our fingernails, as Chekhov says, we can touch the world, something it is impossible to do "literally." Imaginatively, though, we can do this, and the Vidya world, the Ultimate Reality, is reached only through imagination. Therefore, compassion is a doorway, every expanding into it, until ultimately the door is all it opens into and we no longer need it. Compassion becomes our natural state and we are thereby fused to and of the world completely. In this state, we become, as Paul writes in "Hebrews" "authors of life." Our compassion shapes the world in its own image. What we think, is. First, though we must overcome our perception of ourselves as separate from anything. We have to overcome our attachment to the illusion of form.

It is easy to overlook the mentioning of the nurturing mother in the Bible. When God's harshness is mentioned, it is in a context of a father "shaping" a son, just as fire shapes matter. When the Holy Ghost's desire for our return is mentioned, it is in terms of a mother's undying compassion for her child, her desire for her child to get well again. Paul mentions in "Romans" the world in labor pains until we allow ourselves to be adopted back into the whole. Certainly the strictness of masculinity, of form, dominates the subject matter of the Holy Bible, but in the manner of the feminine, the feminine when mentioned, when present indicates an unfathomable mother whose pains we are causing by not returning to her. The Bible is written in the masculine idiom of violence, but once we tame that violence by perceiving the fire as a healing and purifying force adn the sword as a method of
"detachment" from form, the language opens up and we can experience the compassionate teachings as celebrations of the imaginative mind liberated from linearity. The Dead Sea Scrolls become anthems toward creative spirit and perception of what lies under the material surface of 10,000 things.

And there, too, we find again and again, as in the Bible, that the path to this liberation is love. Love for the whole. Once we traverse the violent shells of the Holy Bible's words and enter the mystical content, we find, on every single bloodstained page, the Buddhist notion of compassion. Shame we didn't see this before we killed everybody. . . .

BALANCE OF HEART AND MIND


Seeing with the mind and seeing with the heart reveal two very different worlds. One of these is what Paul calls "delusion" in "Epistle to the Thessalonians" and one of these is "the way, the truth, and the light." None of this anything to do with anything beyond the human mind, which in Buddhism is the exact same thing as the world. Looking through the eyes, we can only perceive delusional reality. Poetry and visual art reveal the sight of the heart. Sages can see both worlds. To merge them, reason and emotion must become one. The only way to accomplish this, develop both. Create communication between the heart and the mind through a commitment to art, poetry and developing intuition. This is how to access what the Hindi call Vidya, Ultimate Reality.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

DYING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD



I am teaching my students T.S. Eliot's "Waste Land." I have been teaching British Literature, Beowulf to Ted Hughes, for almost ten years. I think having the words of the master English poets wash over me, through me, around me all this time has played a role in opening me up. Now that I'm open, I can't help but see how many of them--all of them--"practiced" poetry rather than just wrote it. They were all affiliated--ALL--with some aspect of Rosicrucianism or Masonry. And I am more and more convinced that these societies based on Alchemy have been the keepers of the True Religion all this time. There is in "The Waste Land" a perfect journey through the boundary "between worlds." As I taught it, I described this journey as it is found in the poem and this sparked a whole discussion about what the poet means by "dead." Dead is Avidya. Dead is all of this stuff. But what I want to impress upon them is that the spiritual path does not have to be taken in robes and shaved head and that they do not have to give up stuff intentionally. This is a forced detachment and I don't know if it accomplishes anything. All of my losses have been engineered from within the world. None have been my choice. And I live in a really nice house and I drive a CRV. And I've touched God and been feng shui'd from within by Boddhicitta that refragranced my mind. But I read People, Us, and I dye my hair blonde. What opened the doors for me wasn't at all an intentional pushing away of the material world. I was ripped from it as it was ripped from me. And I live in it now with awe and reverence. Just as I did before. And it is not at all far from me. I lost nothing. It's all here.

Avidya


Avidya is the Sanskrit word for the delusion of separateness. The purpose of life is to overcome it. It is used repletely through Hindu texts and also forms the basis of Buddhist Sutras and teachings. Adi Shankara says in his Introduction to his commentary on the Brahma Sutras, "Owing to an absence of discrimination, there continues a natural human behaviour in the form of 'I am this' or 'This is mine'; this is avidya. It is a superimposition of the attributes of one thing on another. The ascertainment of the nature of the real entity by separating the superimposed thing from it is avidya (knowledge, illumination)". In Shankara's philosophy avidya cannot be categorized either as 'absolutely existent' or as 'absolutely non-existent'. Once we commit to overcoming avidya, the realization of the true Self begins. This search finds expression in the universal metaphor of the snake and the rope. Avidya, our delusional attachment to the material perception, leads us to see a snake where a sage, one who has overcome Avidya, will see a rope. This metaphor appears in the Qur’an when Mohammed speaks of prophets, “are the rope of Allah which should be held fast. (3:104).” Signs and wonders connect us to the Divine, but we reject them because they do not make sense. They run counter to our Avidya. The serpent, the snake, lives on in Judeo-Christianity as Satan’s chosen form in the Garden of Eden. Avidya knowledge damns us to suffering. Freedom from avidya is communion with God.
We must face our own realities, though, before we can see the Reality of Creation. To do this, we each move through our individual darkness. People who deal with their ghosts in weekly therapy appointments are already doing this. Once it has been traversed, it allows us to see the “flipside” of reality, the material world in its spiritual manifestation. When we have traversed what Everett Fox translates as “waste and wild,” we attain the Buddhist state of the Brahmin, “one who having banished his evil, a contemplative for living in consonance, [is] one gone forth for having forsaken his own impurities (Dhammapada, 26).”

Monday, March 19, 2007

SAMADHI

Setting the correct wind-to-music
ratio driving home today

I thought of how looking back on the
world must feel for monks who,

having sung the sanskrit right,
walked the prayer wheel one last

turn, maybe had the wind jam a seed
of luminescent lapis shaded sand

in an eye where it lodged and blossomed
into a vision so complete it blinded

him forever, and as it did how small
it must have seemed then, the world, not

the sand, suddenly, how insubstantial to
have deserved so many believers in it,

walking their heavy steps that should
have, were it not for so much faith in nothing,

fallen through and yet driving their stupid
cars, windows half way up, down, no, up,

no, down, moon roof moonlessly open
on an open wide lashless cold March

sky and the music for today was U2’s
Achtung! Baby, the song, “You’re So Cruel.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

AL-CHEMISTRY


What is it in us that makes us go absolutely crazy for a person, to fall head over in heels, to reach levels of emotional ecstasy just by thinking about them, by soaring out of our bodies and minds just by touching them?

I have this in my life. Just the thought of him nourishes me when I am in my darkest places. In fact, thoughts of him have actually lifted me out of these dark places. Hearing from him when I was in the depths of a depression magically reminded me what happiness feels like, and its contrast to where I was slowly guided me upward. Love is a ladder out of darkness. It is a healer. And I think it is why "God" is "Love."
God is the name given to this state of enlightenment, (That hardly demystifies it since enlightenment is the deepest mystical state.) this corridor of wisdom wherein one interacts with the world and the world interacts back, as though no separation existed, epidermal or intellectual. I am increasingly aware that it has everything to do with brain chemistry, with some perfect balance that allows one with the universe on a chemical level.

What I have with this man in my life--it's nothing short of divine chemistry. It corrects depression. It heals wounds. It inspires art. And it flows like a fountain out of us and between us when we are together. Yet, how often have I read the term "chemistry" in Cosmo dating columns and not considered that Chemistry is what Alchemy is all about. Now I see that we have "chemistry" with things and people in this life because they are our chemical pathway toward wisdom. This is why it is important to follow one's heart, one's bliss. Because chemistry is a map. It leads us home.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

THE ALCHEMICAL HEART


At its very heart, this is about connecting with the heart of the world with our own hearts. We do this through feeling passionately, through taking risks and finding where our path is. The only way to find where one's path is by bumping into walls, especially invisible ones. The labyrinth is therefore a powerful symbol for Alchemists, for whom the process is not at all really about laboratories and bunsen burners but about everything that goes on within and around us. Our life is a labyrinth. And the life of the planet is a labyrinth. Our personal labyrinths are microcosmic of the whole. How passionately we live determines how deeply our path merges with the path of the world. It is so indefinably beautiful we can only turn to the poets through the ages to find reflections of the experience. The emotional daredevils of history draw us closer to the path we should be on. The fools who had the audacity to wander far from safety--they should be our guides.

WIKIPEDIALCHEMY


Here's a little bit about Alchemy. For deeper stuff look at Lyndy Abrahams' Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery--or just cruise online. But you won't find anyone saying the Bible is written by Alchemists. That's new. What's very, very cool and what makes this whole thing so striking is that Alchemy (Masonry, basically) is forbidden in Christianity. Also, Hebrew Scholars scorn Kabbalist insistence of a connection between the "divine influx" and a "hierogamos," a heavenly union of God and the Divine Feminine of Knowledge (Shekinah) to produce the sacred seed that grows into infinite wisdom. This hierogamos is one of the key symbols and concepts of Alchemy.

Here's Wikipedia, a sort of a primer since I know I go off on this stuff. . . and forget to ground out the basics.

In the history of science, alchemy (Arabic: الخيمياء, al-khimia) refers to both an early form of the investigation of nature and an early philosophical and spiritual discipline, both combining elements of chemistry, metallurgy, physics, medicine, astrology, semiotics, mysticism, spiritualism, and art all as parts of one greater force. Alchemy has been practiced in Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Persia, India, and China, in Classical Greece and Rome, in Muslim civilization, and then in Europe up to the 19th century—in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2500 years.

Western alchemy has always been closely connected with Hermeticism, a philosophical and spiritual system that traces its roots to Hermes Trismegistus, a syncretic Egyptian-Greek deity and legendary alchemist. These two disciplines influenced the birth of Rosicrucianism, an important esoteric movement of the seventeenth century. In the course of the early modern period, mainstream alchemy evolved into modern chemistry.

Today the discipline is of interest mainly to historians of science and philosophy, and for its mystic, esoteric, and artistic aspects. Nevertheless, alchemy was one of the main precursors of modern sciences, and many substances and processes of ancient alchemy continue to be the mainstay of modern chemical and metallurgical industries.

Although alchemy takes on many forms, in pop culture it is most often cited in stories, films, shows, and games as the process used to change lead (or other elements) into gold. Also another form that alchemy takes is in the search for the Philosopher's Stone, in which to obtain the ability to transmute gold or to eternal life.

MYTHOGENESIS AND THE LOST WAY


If one's God(s) and one's spirituality don't match, it is a sign that things are terribly misaligned. My experiences with the Divine have been playful and generous much more than stern and frightening. Most people I know who "know God" and have a working relationship with some form of the Mystery do not speak in terms of "going to hell" and "getting into heaven." Rather they borrow the language of the Buddhist path, which more and more people are turning to. The lifeblood of teh Judeo Christian faith has been, it seems, cut off from us. Needing this source so we may follow our hearts into the sacred, it only makes perfect sense that we would need to turn to other fountains.

I was reading the Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace the other day. I was deeply saddened by his suggestion that Judeo Christianity is a harmful religion. I agree that the way that it is practiced--with its patriarchal misinterpretation of Alchemy's deep symbols (in which the "male" and "female" references describe the active and passive nature of these psychic aspects)--is harmful. The Dalai Lama does not see the Alchemic metaphor in the text, otherwise he would not suggest we turn from it. He sees only the veil cast over it. But why not scrap the Judeo Christian faith? Why can't we just turn from it and pursue wisdom down other roads? Certainly, Buddhism is much more attractive and the Native American religions offer much more in the way of earthly connection.

According the Jung and Joseph Campbell, however, we achieve the heaven state of enlightenment through the symbols emblazoned on our psyches. A person whose pschye is forged in the "West" must fill the symbols of the Western tradition with meaning--these being the grail, the sword, the star, the cross (for Christians), the wheel-a-rollin' in the middle of the sky. These are the breadcrumbs back to the primordial mind, and connection with the God consciousness therein. Dreamcatchers, Totem Poles, yin yangs, and Buddhas may serve as cool reminders of the existence of sacred paths, but ultimately to cross over into the backlight of the ancient mind within us--to allow the "Buddha seed," or the "mustard seed" Christ speaks of, within to germinate, we have to go through the grail and the sword and the cross and the star. And there has been no way that we can know how to move through these symbols safely without knowing they were alchemical symbols for 7500 years before the Hebrew Bible was even written and added to 1500 years later.

My own path as definitely been a patchwork of world religions. From the Salish artwork, I learned the breakdown of hierarchy. From Buddhism, I learned self-examination and how to love without grasping. From the Koori in Australia, I learned about the dream ceremony and the power of imagination in traversing great distances. From Taoism, I became aware of some kind of balance between humans and nature. From Christianity, all I got was music, but damn I loved the music. But I also got something about the liturgical calendar. Teaching at an Episcopal boarding school I have to attend almost daily chapel services and I've come to see great correspondences between the sacred calendar and my own life. For instance, Lent is a time of death and letting go, whether I go to church or not. It's just a gloomy time. But I had to use all the other faiths I've explored to finally fill my experience in church with meaning. I have had to draw the connections that the church, long ago, severed. And it is through working with the alchemical symbols in the Holy Bible that I've crossed over into this other place of understanding. I think it's an important connection to make--this one between other faiths and Judeo-Christianity. After all, all faiths emerge from the same Mythogenetic zone in Asia thousands of years ago. In the end though, we each have our own mythogenesis in our psyches. To fully enter the enlightened state, one, I beleive, does so through the doorways laid out for one through centuries of gazing at them from infinitely deeply within.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

An Email to Father Tom at St. George's Episcopal Church


Dear Tom,

Thank you so much for the honor of presenting the alchemical reading of the passion narrative at St. George's. I read the Mark narrative last night in McDonalds while Andaluna played. And I just wept, Tom. Wept. Christ was so real to me, and the story, which I have read before, just resonated not with fear and terror and the anger I've been taught to feel against the priests, some righteous indignation which has blocked me from the meaning I received last night. What I saw was Christ's isolation at his darkest hour. In the Peshitta Bible Mark says, "and he began to be sorrowful and depressed. . . and he went aside a little and fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him." This "sorrowful and depressed" part and the desire to let an event pass without our being in it is so beautiful. It fits in with what I mentioned about Jonah yesterday, that there comes a time when we can't "think" through something and must relinquish control to our emotions so they may carry us. As the men fall away then in the series of betrayals, the ones who are left to witness are the women. (tho who that mysterious man in the loin cloth who runs off naked is invites so much inquiry--he's like the last male witness before the trial.) In the alchemical process, reason has to disappear in order for the soul to be free to unite with God, to enter this psychological heaven. Reason, being a masculine aspect, does fall away here. The women follow Christ. And the women are the first to see him after he rises. It is the feminine which remains the constant if we are to traverse death into rebirth. We must let go of our reason and allow the dark to carry us through, and the feminine aspect is what moves us. This is the thread throughout much of the whole Text. The women may be on the sidelines, like the animals, but they are the carriers through of the most profound transformations.

The great gift of this new way of seeing scripture is that we can invite illumination from the brethren faiths of Navaho, Buddhism, all. And this is our death myth. This is the myth and ritual we revisit just as we let winter fall from us. But the traversion of the border between seasons, particularly that from dead winter to living Spring is no small hop. This is serious. How do we get across? How do we ensure safe passage? This is so gorgeous: when the woman with the alabaster jar (the jar a symbol of the feminine of course) pours all the perfume over Jesus's head, he praises her actions as opposed to wishing she'd saved it for the poor. This is the key--do everything now, commit to this moment. be here. It's zen. It's about not thinking through the moment, weighing alternatives, but rather about just pouring all you've got into it in the spirit of sacred kindness. This is how to let the moment die completely in your hand so it can live on forever in a pure state. It is to act without regret or thought. It is to give.

The cup of suffering a strong figure. Christ knows he is staying in the fire and not forsaking suffering in favor for an easy life. The cup is something we can use to "pass away" from ourselves in times of suffering. We pour ourselves into the cup to be made new. The cup here becomes the metaphor for the crucible in which we are constantly formed. We transubstantiate into it, deliver the parts of ourselves that need taking away. But we don't get to choose which parts these are. That is God's will only.

In alchemy, Al-khaim (and I wonder if this is "chaim" in Hebrew, life?) in Arabic, the crucifix for 7000 years has been a part of the most difficult process, mortificatio, death in which the four elements that make us are drawn to their polarities completely (hence the four points of the cross). In the alchemical process, this is the torture and destruction of the matter so its soul can be set free. When it is done, the matter is covered with linen soaked in dew and left in a "tomb" to putrefy. The putrefactio stage renders the matter without its former identity. It is the death after the death. Most painful. It is the descent into the nothingness before nothing. When it is over, fermantatio occurs. The dead grape has turned to a great bottle of wine. But the key to all of it is commitment to each phase. We must go into the tomb and be in utter darkness.

During mortificatio, Christ transubstantiates and this is mercy--he does the process in a ghost walk, wherein he renders his soul to the maker while his body goes through the motions. It doesn't make it easy, it is a skill that one learns from the other stages because they have suffered enough by this point to be able to walk with ghost. (Glenis Redmond and I have often told eachother, "I'm ghosting" to get through a particularly difficult time.) It is the mastery of dissocation used to its fullest benefit, to get us through unspeakable trauma. It is the ability to move the greatest part of oneself back into God so this world can't hurt us anymore. And God carries us through. To be proud, to think we can handle it without Him, to think we are in this alone--these thoughts interfere with the process of rebirth. It is not enough to die. We have to die before we die. We have to give our lives back to God. It is like a suicide, only done in the right way. We kill our ego so our soul can live on. In putrefactio, we don't have the luxury to transubstantiate. We take on our death whole. When we rise, there's nothing left of who we were. The butterfly's got nothin' in common with the caterpillar.

In a garden, it would be wrong to try to keep the flowers alive through winter. To do so would be to interfere with the necessary husk and drain of the season. Andaluna got incredibly sad in the autumn when the last red leaves fell from the dogwood. I had to explain to her that this has to happen. We have to let go of the beauty so it can return to us in new form. The paradox of giving is always this--we can't do it thinking of what we'll get, but we can always know that in giving everything we will get more back in return. The motive must be separated from the action. This is the left hand path I suppose. The cup must be separated from the man. And all things must be permitted their course through the darkness--be they daffodils or us.

Speaking of daffodils--did you hear that thing on NPR years back, the man whose manic, troubled mother sent him a thousand bulbs which he, angry with her, didn't plant carefully but just, fed up with the space they took in his garage, dumped them all at once into a hole in his garden where a tree service had removed a tree. And he forgot about them. And she died and he still did not think of them, his countless issues with her madness unresolved. Then in Spring, there were these thousands of blossoms screaming gorgeous yellow from the unwintering earth. It is like this--this constant act of letting go of everything. This constant giving back to the earth what belongs to the earth and never stays.

In Native American tradition, every story is medicine. There are songs for our illnesses, rituals for great maladies. This is our medicine story of the greatest transformation, that which occurs in the final three stages of the alchemical process, and through which we all go as well symbolically, and hopefully as gracefully as Christ.

Safe journey,
Laura

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Heaven Game


In The Alchemist we read this tale. A boy enters a great house. He is told he may venture throughout the whole house. The trick is he is to hold a spoon with two drops of oil in it. He may venture throughout the whole house but he is not to spill the oil. This is the state of the mind of the master, or the adept.

Chaim, the root of alchemy, is life. But it is more than life, it is, as the Vedas say, the very life of life. There is a way to do it right. It is about living wisely but never dully, living wholesomely but without deprivation. In all things, a balance between their opposites exists. Between the farthest room in the house and the entire bulb of oil, there is a secret. The masters live in this zone and life, as a result of their doing so, unfolds for them magically. I don't exagerrate. It's magic. There is magic. It is wizardry, light side, dark side, so very crouching tiger, hidden dragon-type magic. Plato said, "Life is a game." And this is what he meant. For those who enter the realm of the masters, life becomes simply that, a game. By holding the right posture of mind, a master can make things occur, can draw words forth from other's mouths, can invite rain. It is a reality, the most supreme reality. The Dalai Lama inhabits it. I don't know who else, but I shudder to think of the Masons knowing this and using it to design our cities and win our elections. I never would have thought it possible if I were not standing in this place and catching my own novice glimpses of what can be done. Early Christianity rocked.

The game of wisdom must have been so thoroughly embraced during the Bronze Age for it to have breathed into form of our Sacred Texts. Reading the Bible in this context, one sees the double edge sword of mastery--the wonder it allowed, the solitude it bestowed. When Christ walks out over the water to helps his buddies in the boat, what better metaphor for being able to manage the sundry details and hobgoblins of the unenlightened life. What is a life threatening situation to the neophyte is just a walk across the water for the adept.

Those who enter heaven join in the game. Those who don't, get by the best they can until they "get it."

The Want of Ages

Gladys Reichard wrote the seminal work on Navaho belief system in Navaho Religion. I bought this book 10 years ago when I was experiencing mysticism for the first time. I was reading everything I could about any belief system other than my own. This time, though, I am convinced that this magical mystery stuff is embedded in my own religion, Christianity. I can read every line of the Holy Bible and connect it to the simple structure of the Alchemical process. But I know it would not have meaning for me if I had not lived this alchemical life which I have--a live rich with nature and beauty, passion and disaster--then read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, the book that gave a name to what I've been doing forever. To what many of us have been doing forever, I gather.

How could we not--for the alchemical process is ingrained in us, literally, emerging as we do from the earth, itself an ongoing alchemy. But it has been hidden from us in the West and from our counterparts in the Near East, these crazed monotheisms so much to blame. But not the texts of the religions, merely the interpreters of them, the confabulists of vertical cosmogonies, the makers of a faraway Maker. Once we undo that simple architecture, that heaven-up-there-hell-down-there and compress it to within the mind, the shifting symbols of the Holy Bible, drawn directly from alchemical symbology, are perfectly comparable to the Navaho symbologies in Reichard's text: "Considering a whole, all, or any one of its parts as the "same" affects classification. For example, , djic means "medicine bundle as a container," medicine bundle with all its contents, " "contents of medicine bundle," or a "separate item of a medicine bundle." The chanter knows perfectly well that the hide or muslin wrapper is not the same as a the bull-roater, that the "wide board" differs greatly from the talking prayer sticks or from the otterskin collar, yet in certain circumstances each is djic. He is acutely aware of the context and, therefore, of "sameness" and "difference," whereas his questioner is unable to determine the meaning because his is ignorant o the cultural context. (8) Cultural context is, of course, everything. And it makes our, meaning Western Judeo Christianity post-317 A.D., loss of the alchemical metaphor more heartbreaking. This is our culture. This is our context. And we have been forced to live without it and still expected to understand our own sacred texts.

What infuriates me: how may of my loved ones deal with depression and have actually succumbed to suicide when all along we have had this Book to guide us through our sorrows and our psychoses and no one was allowed to know. The way I see it: if a religion isn't healing its followers, somebody's being jacked.

And this is our story. 2700 years of jacking. And all along we have had what the Taoists, Buddhists, and Native Americans have had, a religious context for belonging in our own lives.

The Strawberry Field

At some point, a truth is simply a truth, a fact a fact. Whatever deafness took away from me, it has given me much more. I'm at the beach. This is, I suppose, my eighth week in this state of mind and every day brings a new lesson, a new penetration of what I used to call the world. Last night I prayed on the sand, just as I used to during my first initiation ten years ago. I used the prayer name I was given then, the one I don't say out loud to anyone. And I asked for a lesson. Lessons come in dreams and in day to day events. Once establised, as Mircea Eliade teaches, the dialectic of the hierophanies is a fluid interchange between invisible and visible worlds. My dream was this: an enormous strawberry. The biggest strawberry--as tall as a person, as wide as a couch, and inside it were all these other great big strawberries. I opened one of them took a bite and it was just the perfect strawberry, bite after bite. I can still taste it now. Later, the lesson came when I withdrew money from an ATM at the aquarium and found considerably extra funds in my bank account. This is also connected possibly to how yesterday when I was shopping rather wildly, I pictured a fountain each time I spent money. With my mind fixed on the fountain, I wondered if the "currency" of the water would flow into the "currency" of my cash. In the world of strawberries within strawberries, this apparently works. Upon finding the extra money in my account, I promptly started envisioning Niagara Falls and sending its "currency" into the bank accounts of my closest friends--and for the ones in my life who are coping with depression and break ups, I sent the currency as strength. Lao Tse teaches in one of the early Tao te Ching poems that one should be satisfied with enough in the cup and not ask for the filling portion. I remember this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How God Writes Poems

I think it goes very easily without saying, or hearing, that deafness isn't at all a physiological condition. Quite the contrary, were this so, the world would be such a better place. And as much as I have kept these posts to being about physical deafness, it's time simply to jump the fence. I've stumbled upon something. Call it an idea. Call it an hypothesis. But it's got proof to it. And it is amazing. Here it is in just a little over 1000 words:

HOW GOD WRITES POEMS

If I could do it all again, I’d be a locksmith.
--Albert Einstein

I’ve always loved a puzzle. Whether it was that little wooden triangle with red and white pegs at Stuckey’s through the 1970’s or hooking up a VCR, I was into it. And I was good at it. Interpreting and writing poetry have been great puzzles. And the greatest puzzle of all has been this concept of God. I never understood how can a person of excellent literary analytical skill and a strong faith, like myself, not “get” the Holy Books?

But two weeks ago I got it. Pushed into the netherworld of doom and gloom by a bitterly bad experience, I ordered a whole slew of books on Alchemy, at once the oldest and the latest fad in depth psychology. Lyndy Abraham’s Alchemical Imagery placed the key for me in the great lock, and Mircea Eliade’s The Forge and Crucible turned it. I recognized too many of the terms of the imagery from the New Testament and felt urged to confirm the familiarity. I got out my copy of the Holy Bible, read through a few stories, seeing where the words fit in. Then, in a state of shudders and, yes, tears, I opened the online Rheims New Testament which does word counts. I plugged in word after word from the Imagery and other websites and books. I found them by the tens and hundreds in the Sacred Text. Before going to bed, I’d found more than two hundred alchemical terms and symbols in the New Testament, all swirling in a magnificent whirlwind, and, yes, speaking to me.

Eliade’s The Forge and the Crucible illuminates our Iron and Stone Age ancestors’ alchemical belief systems. Alchemy was everything to them--science and religion combined. The Alchemical Process is a metaphor for self- and global- and cosmological improvement. The old idea of turning base metals to gold is used over and over as a metaphor for what goes on in each of as “God” or “the Universe” shapes us through suffering into something better. This is done in seven steps: Calcinatio, Dissolutio, Separatio, Coniunctio, Mortificatio, Putrefactio, and Fermentatio. Each of these corresponds beautifully to the major moments in Christ’s Life—going to “my Father’s house,” Baptism, Mary Magdelene, Crucifixion, Entombment, and Resurrection. Because it is all an alchemical metaphor, every story in these texts details an aspect of the alchemical process. They also provide lessons on how to live compassionately on earth so we never commit “blasphemy, “which means in Greek “hard speech, ” which is also "work" and "action." I had solved my puzzle: the Judeo Christian texts are written using the evershifting ultra-symbolic language of Alchemy and all the Hebrew Fathers and Jesus Christ Himself are all master alchemists. Our Sacred Texts, like all others, detail the sacred art of transformation.

It helps ease some of that residual guilt to know that the fish is an Alchemical symbol for constant attention (fish never close their eyes). To "convert" means to achieve the Philosopher's Stone and is what we are all moveing toward in our own time. The “cross”is a symbolic tool for drawing the four elements into polarities in “separatio.” It is what happens when we really, really fall apart to the extent that we will never again be the same again. They call this process crucifixion. An “ark” is a crucible. Jacob’s “Wheel-a-rollin’” is the opus circulatorum. Fire isn't eternal damnation but the element of earth used to purify us of ego and primordial sludge. Heaven is a state of mind attained once ego falls away. The “son” is the raw material which through much burning with fire and rinsing with water called “the virgin” emerges as any of the following and more: “the King of the Jews,” the wine, the stone, the tree, and the Way, the Truth, the Light. An “abortion” is the term for the alchemical process that doesn’t turn the base metal into gold, and is the usual result. The "Holy Virgin," the symbol for water, is also called“nightingale, palm tree, pearl, dove, phoenix, swan, ship, rose, lily, dew, star, moon, rainbow, mountain, and bee.”

Why so many words for one thing? Because our ancestors, as our Buddhist, Taoist, and tribal brethren, never bought into the concept of dictionaries. We live in a constantly shifting reality—more of a sand mandala than a parking lot—and our language should be an open system to allow its multidimensional changes. Each word is a momentary vessel for meaning just as our bodies are momentary vessels for our spirits. All words are metaphors, shape-changings. So, the question now is: what does it mean if the Holy Bible is written in this way?

Basically it means we get to discover it all for the first time. Churches and Temples don't need to change, except for hateful political agenda, since the rituals and text are still rooted in the Alchemical Opus and are therefore every bit as sacred as prior to this moment. We can also see this basic metaphor underlies the metaphors in the Tao te Ching, the Qu’ran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Rig Veda, and you can just take your pick of the “Lost Gospels” and any and all oral histories through the ages. We can now learn from all these other faiths. It also means that we can begin understand the Icons now, for they are rife with alchemical symbolism, for instance the gold leaf inspires us to turn our hearts to gold. The Dead Sea Scrolls can now be studied remnants of the Alchemical Age, sealed and hidden by Qumran inhabitants when they knew it was time to disappear. The puzzling thousands of coins buried under the door now find explanation: alchemy. We can now open up the Arthurian legends using the Rosetta Stone of Alchemical Imagery and other fine works; every color, ever animal, every symbol is found here. The sword is a lancet for the process, the grail, the crucible in which the process is undergone. The very best part is that we can now unite with our brothers and sisters of Babel, under the shadow of which we parted ways to conceal these secrets of knowledge from monotheistic warlords. We have found the single, universal meaning of our many different languages. Also, it means that the Judeo-Christians have been the "prodigal son" in the parable. We’ve blown our inheritance but we are returning Home.

Truthfully, there are many more very unacademic steps to this discovery. Miracles and wonders have never ceased for me. I have never stopped looking at the world through my childish eyes, and I never for a moment bought into this Age of Reason business because, as a poet, I never felt it bought into me. And it is through poetry, the wild validity of my imaginings and my passions that I’ve come to this, my first certainty. I always believed in God beyond any interpretation of His words. The real word, scripture teaches again and again, is all around us, and it is pouring forth all the time, the fountain of real life. I know this is the beginning of a beautiful time on earth. I know also that we must let go of our previously held notions of these texts. For all, this is the healing. But often with healing, more suffering must come first. In this case, it will come as a sense of having been betrayed. There will indeed be grief that I hope won't turn to anger. All is unfolding as it needs to. I know this for a wild, beautiful, irrationally irrefutable fact.

Sunday February 18, 2007