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On The Music Box: Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker (Thanks to that mystery guy down in Tejas!) Good music for the end of a hard days work… Now drifting into Fahrenheit Project Volume 5…
A short note: My friend Tomas Brawley is coming this weekend. Very excited. We have communicated by internet and phone for several years, but never in person. Much like the 19th century, when people would correspond for years without ever meeting. He is bringing his daughter along, who lives in San Francisco. They are visiting family in central Oregon.
I am running off to work, so this must be brief. Lots of stuff in this edition. Great Art, wonderful poetry, and a special article from Erik Davis…
Hope you enjoy,
What is on the Grill for today:
On This Day: July 7th
The Links: Exploration into the Odd, The Strange and Today, The Bizarre…
Article: Spiritual Chaos? A wee bit of Erik Davis at what he does best…
The Poetry: William Morris
The Art: William Waterhouse (some rare ones, and some better known)
John William Waterhouse (April 6, 1849 February 10, 1917) was a British neo-classical painter most famous for his paintings of female characters from mythology and literature. He is frequently compared with the Pre-Raphaelites.
He was born in Rome to the painters William and Isabela Waterhouse, but when he was five the family moved to South Kensington, near the newly founded Victoria and Albert Museum. He studied painting under his father before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1870. His early works were of classical themes in the spirit of Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton, and were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the Dudley Gallery.
In 1874, at the age of twenty-five, Waterhouse submitted the classical allegory Sleep and His Half-Brother Death to the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. The painting was very well received and he exhibited at the RA almost every year afterwards until his death in 1917. In 1883 he married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an art schoolmaster from Ealing who had exhibited her own flower-paintings at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. They had two children, but both died in childhood.
In 1895 Waterhouse was elected to the status of full Academician. He taught at the St. John’s Wood Art School, joined the St John’s Wood Arts Club, and served on the Royal Academy Council.
One of Waterhouse’s most famous paintings is The Lady of Shalott, a study of Elaine of Astolat, who dies of grief when Lancelot will not love her. He actually painted three different versions of this character, in 1888, 1896, and 1916.
Another of Waterhouse’s favorite subjects was Ophelia; the most famous of his paintings of Ophelia depicts her just before her death, putting flowers in her hair as she sits on a tree branch leaning over a lake. Like The Lady of Shalott and other Waterhouse paintings, it deals with a woman dying in or near water. He also may have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Millais. He submitted his Ophelia painting of 1888 in order to receive his diploma from the Royal Academy. (He had originally wanted to submit a painting titled “A Mermaid”, but it was not completed in time.) After this, the painting was lost until the 20th century, and is now displayed in the collection of Lord Lloyd-Webber. Waterhouse would paint Ophelia again in 1894 and 1909 or 1910, and planned another painting in the series, called “Ophelia in the Churchyard.”
Waterhouse could not finish the series of Ophelia paintings because he was gravely ill with cancer by 1915. He died two years later, and his grave can be found at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.
On This Day 7 July. Consualia, the ancient pagan festival of Consus, god of Harvests, and Feast Day of St Cronaprava, the apocryphal patron saint of dwarves. Murile Melkis and her family were watching a film about the sinking of the Titanic on their TV in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, in 1975. Recalled Mrs Melkis: ‘Just as the Titanic was about to hit the iceberg we heard a terrific crash. We rushed outside and found tiles from our roof scattered everywhere.’ A big lump of ice had chosen that moment to fall from the sky and smash a two-foot-square hole in their roof.
The introduction to a 1996 issue of Fringeware Review devoted to “Chaos Spirituality,” co-edited by Erik Davis and Spiros Antonopoulos
Chaos stirs. Its fragment signs, millinery filigrees, and guttural moans are everywhere — in the collapsing nation-state, in the ferocious world market, in the damaged matrix of the biosphere, in your communications devices, and even in the plain old ordinary sense that nothing is plain, old, or ordinary any more.
Paradoxically, it was science, that last bastion of reason and order, that planted chaos anew in our heads. The new field (actually, a set of related and overlapping interdisciplinary fields) arrived with revolutionary fervor. Chaos science glimpsed the shadow of an abstract dance within apparently random turbulence, a movement in virtual phase space which sketched the flux of dripping faucets, heartbeats, and smoke. Suggesting the infinitely nested grooves of nature, fractals like the Mandelbrot set revealed a realm of mathematical objects that were both holistic and perpetually fractured. Kinda like us. Indeed, some of us recognized these Paisley arabesques from our most intimate forays into psychedelic chaos, and brazenly claimed them as sigils of the endlessly exfoliating plateaus of chemical wisdom. The florid rainbow colors that the PhDs used to represent the widely disparate behaviors of numbers in computer-generated fractal sets were just a tie-dyed bonus.
As the engines of postmodern perception, computers not only helped birth the new science, but produced a fundamental mutation in scientific style: away from reductionist and strictly causal explanations toward global modeling, experimental mathematics, and large-scale simulations of complex systems. Chaos thus allowed a careful reintroduction of the intuitions that had guided vitalists and other entelechy geeks for centuries as they waged a losing battle against mechanism and tight-assed reductionism. Everything became a complex system, a dissipative structure, manifesting the subtle magic of emergence: population dynamics, planetary orbits, the beloved marketplace, your brain. A digital whiff of spirit.
Many of us outside the labs fell in love with emergent behavior as well, and found our lover everywhere. A small publishing industry was born in the wake of James Gleick’s Chaos, and chaos threatened to usurp quantum physics as the science of choice for speculative acid ramblers and mystical pseudo-scientists everywhere. Rationalists rightly cringed, but those of us who spelunk the spongy clefts between the brain’s left and right hemispheres just smiled and drank it in.
A few dullards insisted that all this pop cult hoopla would have been nipped in the bud if James Yorke had followed the advise of more sober colleagues in 1975 and not named the curious mathematical behavior he had discovered after Hesiod’s Goddess of the watery void. After all, chaos means disorder, and chaos science concerned itself with determinist disorder — that is, disorder according to plan. This is science after all, which for all its visions and and machines and mathematical monsters, still boils down to control.
But if we let ourselves fall backwards through that watery void of myth, a bungie jump into the ravenous dark, we find that the question of whether chaos is order or disorder, an amorphous horror or a secret informing structure, lies at the very beginnings of culture. When humans first found themselves encased inside a fabricated world-view somehow set apart from the buzzing matrix of nature, they took a number of very different mythic snapshots of the bountiful chaos they were leaving behind.
Ancient Mesopotamia provides our first polaroid. In the Enuma elish, Marduk, the patron hero of the ascendent city-state of Babylon, kills Tiamat, the old goddess of primal chaos. With her corpse he arranges the heavens, fixing the stars and constellations. Then he proclaims himself king and creates humans so the gods don’t have to work anymore. Marduk represents the phallic thrust of the emergent State, with its grid-works and scripts, monarch worship and freshly-chiselled tablets of divine Law. From this point on, the State would demonize the ancient matrix from which it emerged, and which always threatens to engulf it again in waves of atavism and anarchy.
Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks all acknowledged the primal dragon of Chaos even as the gods of their civilizations felt compelled to kill the beast. Christianity tried to erase the goddess altogether. That’s why the Church decided that God created the world ex nihilo, from nothing at all. But you can still smell the briny spew of the primal goddess in the formless, watery void that opens Genesis and distinctly echoes the older Babylonian myth.
From that point on, all those forces fueled by Chaos — useless inertia, frenzied turbulence, feminine magic, the primal body-without-organs — could be found only in the demonic shadows of Church and State. For today’s chaos magicians, who continue the work of the great Austin Osman Spare in stripping away the barnacles of booklearning from the raw, atavistic heart of primal magic, the Paleolithic path lies through the outer dark. Don’t be fooled by peaceful Pagan eco-feminists: Tiamat fought Marduk with venomous serpents, mad dogs, and scorpion-men, and our reborn Goddess is as much Cthulhu as Earth Mom.
The dragon of Chaos wore a far more honorable face in the East, where it was known as the Tao. For ancient sages like Chuang-Tzu, the subtle order of natural chaos was rich and bountiful compared to the bankrupt legalism and moralistic strictures of Confucian civilization — which paradoxically produced the very disorder it wanted to suppress. The Taoists felt that only by tearing down the State of things — including ordinary consciousness — could we return to the golden age, the mixed-up harmony symbolized by the wonton (which derives from Mr. Hun-tun, Chuang-Tzu’s lord of chaos). If these anarchic dreams could not be realized in society — as Lao Tzu hoped to do — than at least they could be realized in the body, through spiritual and physical practices that would open up the spontaneous chaos within.
Taoism’s this-worldly embrace of natural chaos fed into the buddha-killing antics and instant samadhi of Zen Buddhism, the first nondualistic Eastern path to be embraced by Western hipsters. In Beat Zen and the later “holy madness” strains of yogic nondualism, mental and moral distinctions were suspect, and the total range of mind and life were open to the tantric embrace. But while crazy gurus like Chogyam Trungpa and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh wrote mind-blasting works of chaos wisdom, the communities that grew around them often degenerated into manipulative and authoritarian hippie bummers.
Around the same time, the avant-garde freaks of the psychedelic counterculture scoured through the world’s wisdom traditions while making mince-meat of all received truths. Rather than disguise the half-baked absurdity of trying to discover spiritual truths in the age of Saran-Wrap, space flights, and macrame, a few freaks began to proclaim that the whole glorious postmodern mess was itself the goofball revelation. The Principia Discordia, the Illuminatus! trilogy, and Dr. Tim’s inspired starseed technovisions all laid down this eclectic, hilarious, and skeptical anti-doctrine of bohemian chaos. This anarchic spiritual style went on to influence the Church of the Subgenius, the Pagan hardwiring of fringe computer culture, and today’s more focussed and informed shamanic revival.
Chaos has many faces, but they are all masks, and it is we who have fashioned them — as Chuang Tzu reminds us with his famous tale. The emperors Shu (Brief) and Hu (Sudden) wanted to repay the kindness of Mr. Hun-tun (Chaos), and they realized that while everyone else has openings in order to see, hear, eat (and presumably shit), Hun-tun had none. So they bored holes into him, organized his face — his body-without-organs — and so he died. The rants, jokes, revelations, and critiques you’re about to read don’t want to believe that ending. Instead, they dance around Mr. Hun-tun’s scatter-shot holes, or map them, or just dive right in, where they just might find the dragon alive and well and ready to return.
“Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.”
“We live in a rainbow of chaos.”
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”
Carl G. Jung
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of the void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself.”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Poetry: William Morris
Near But Far Away
She wavered, stopped and turned, methought her eyes,
The deep grey windows of her heart, were wet,
Methought they softened with a new regret
To note in mine unspoken miseries,
And as a prayer from out my heart did rise
And struggled on my lips in shame’s strong net,
She stayed me, and cried “Brother!” our lips met,
Her deawr hands drew me into Paradise.
Sweet seemed that kiss till thence her feet were gone,
Sweet seemed the word she spake, while it might be
As wordless music–But truth fell on me,
And kiss and word I knew, and, left alone,
Face to face seemed I to a wall of stone,
While at my back there beat a boundless sea.
Pray but one prayer for me ‘twixt thy closed lips,
Think but one thought of me up in the stars.
The summer night waneth, the morning light slips,
Faint and grey ‘twixt the leaves of the aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars
That are patiently waiting there for the dawn:
Patient and colourless, though Heaven’s gold
Waits to float through them along with the sun.
Far out in the meadows, above the young corn,
The heavy elms wait, and restless and cold
The uneasy wind rises; the roses are dun;
Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn,
Round the lone house in the midst of the corn,
Speak but one word to me over the corn,
Over the tender, bow’d locks of the corn.
The Nymph’s Song to Hylas
I KNOW a little garden-close
Set thick with lily and red rose,
Where I would wander if I might
From dewy dawn to dewy night,
And have one with me wandering.
And though within it no birds sing,
And though no pillar’d house is there,
And though the apple boughs are bare
Of fruit and blossom, would to God,
Her feet upon the green grass trod,
And I beheld them as before!
There comes a murmur from the shore,
And in the place two fair streams are,
Drawn from the purple hills afar,
Drawn down unto the restless sea;
The hills whose flowers ne’er fed the bee,
The shore no ship has ever seen,
Still beaten by the billows green,
Whose murmur comes unceasingly
Unto the place for which I cry.
For which I cry both day and night,
For which I let slip all delight,
That maketh me both deaf and blind,
Careless to win, unskill’d to find,
And quick to lose what all men seek.
Yet tottering as I am, and weak,
Still have I left a little breath
To seek within the jaws of death
An entrance to that happy place;
To seek the unforgotten face
Once seen, once kiss’d, once reft from me
Anigh the murmuring of the sea.
Earth the Healer, Earth the Keeper
So swift the hours are moving
Unto the time unproved:
Farewell my love unloving,
Farewell my love beloved!
What! are we not glad-hearted?
Is there no deed to do?
Is not all fear departed
And Spring-tide blossomed new?
The sails swell out above us,
The sea-ridge lifts the keel;
For They have called who love us,
Who bear the gifts that heal:
A crown for him that winneth,
A bed for him that fails,
A glory that beginneth
In never-dying tales.
Yet now the pain is ended
And the glad hand grips the sword,
Look on thy life amended
And deal out due award.
Think of the thankless morning,
The gifts of noon unused;
Think of the eve of scorning,
The night of prayer refused.
And yet. The life before it,
Dost thou remember aught,
What terrors shivered o’er it
Born from the hell of thought?
And this that cometh after:
How dost thou live, and dare
To meet its empty laughter,
To face its friendless care?
In fear didst thou desire,
At peace dost thou regret,
The wasting of the fire,
The tangling of the net.
Love came and gat fair greeting;
Love went; and left no shame.
Shall both the twilights meeting
The summer sunlight blame?
What! cometh love and goeth
Like the dark night’s empty wind,
Because thy folly soweth
The harvest of the blind?
Hast thou slain love with sorrow?
Have thy tears quenched the sun?
Nay even yet tomorrow
Shall many a deed be done.
This twilight sea thou sailest,
Has it grown dim and black
For that wherein thou failest,
And the story of thy lack?
Peace then! for thine old grieving
Was born of Earth the kind,
And the sad tale thou art leaving
Earth shall not leave behind.
Peace! for that joy abiding
Whereon thou layest hold
Earth keepeth for a tiding
For the day when this is old.
Thy soul and life shall perish,
And thy name as last night’s wind;
But Earth the deed shall cherish
That thou today shalt find.
And all thy joy and sorrow
So great but yesterday,
So light a thing tomorrow,
Shall never pass away.
Lo! lo! the dawn-blink yonder,
The sunrise draweth nigh,
And men forget to wonder
That they were born to die.
Then praise the deed that wendeth
Through the daylight and the mirth!
The tale that never endeth
Whoso may dwell on earth.
Have A Lovely Weekend….