How God Writes Poems
HOW GOD WRITES POEMS
If I could do it all again, I’d be a locksmith.
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