A Delphic Oracle?
My body is Apollo’s lyre
and if you pluck the strings
perhaps you’ll sound an unknown chord…
On The Menu:
The Music Box: John Hassell – “The Surgeon Of The Night Sky”
Norman O. Brown Quotes
Dale Pendell’s Amulet Bracelets
God Is An Astronaut: “Radau Live”
Book Review: The Language Of Birds…
From Walk 1, Fall Creek, June 1993 – Walking With Nobby: Conversations with Norman O. Brown
The Poems of Daigu Ryokan
God Is An Astronaut: “Fragile”
Intro – Coda: Delphic Poetry…
Art: “The Delphic Oracle” – John William Godward & “Priestess of Delphi” – John Collier
Photo: Ally Yancey
Early evening, Absinthe in hand, at the computer ….
I am happy to announce that Turfing is pretty much back to normal with most images and videos restored. I will be working to clean up the stray coding bits as and if I find them. A large thank you to Ibn Foobar, for his kind work! Thanks Ibn, it means so much to me, such a load off the mind!
This has been one of my favourite projects of late, the construction of this entry. I sweated quite a bit over it, and especially over the review of “The Language Of Birds”. Then, I came to a point of surrender; I knew it would get done, all I had to do was get out of the way and allow it to happen. Of course, this is sort of a possession, being a blogs meat puppet and all. Still, the hunt for image, music and poem does take effort, even with the uses of Googlemany. You would think that every poet in the world, especially those well known if even just for other literary achievements should have an entry somewhere on the net, but nooooo. Even some of the greatest poets works are not all there. This of course is magnified if the writer is not a native English speaker/poet. Heaven help ya if you are looking for translations from Urdu, or any, and I mean any aboriginal people’s poetry. It is in short supply, and that short supply makes a small demand due to the magnifying ignorance quotient. There are riches to be uncovered, and sadly it is only at this point for the few. The time is short, and there is poetry to be shared.
January closes, and February springs open. Brigid’s day and evening has past, and Spring, the ancient Spring is finally here. Today, I saw rain misting in that beautiful way it does when the weather turns. There needs to be a language for rain like the Inuit have for snow and ice, in our sleep, rain is just… rain. It is so much more, with so much nuance. So driving today, with the light pouring in and the mist and rain about, I could feel the world turning in a delicious, “I am awakening” way. The ancient sap is running, new life is appearing and beauty, she is everywhere.
We have a rather large entry to kick off February, with poetry from Ryokan, A book review of “The Language Of Birds”, an excerpt from “Conversations With Nobby” (in its original form from 1993), quotes from Norman O. Brown, some wonderful music from “God Is An Astronaut” a wonderful Irish instrumental band, and sundry links and nice art to go along with the theme: “The Oracle”.
Everyone consults the Oracle in their own way… give it a thought.
More on the way, a couple of surprises lined up, and here is to the arrival of Spring!
On The Music Box: John Hassell “The Surgeon Of the Night Sky”
Musical Witchiness. Soundscapes rising and falling, neither sun nor moon. Birds giving voice off in the distance. A small touch of dread and sensuality – ceremonies that are forbidden to light. Calling up the dead for conversation. Prayers offered up, offered down. The hauntings of memory, the touch of soft flesh… Aural Glossalia. Recommended
Could These Artifacts Have Come From Troy?
Bringing the Aurochs back?
Did they live longer than we thought?
The Diamonds in the debris
Waving that White Flag after 40 years
Dr. Nutt challenges the Govt’s dominant paradigm
Norman O. Brown Quotes:
“All currency is neurotic currency.”
“Freedom is poetry, taking liberties with words, breaking the rules of normal speech, violating common sense. Freedom is violence.”
“I am what is mine. Personality is the original personal property.”
“In its famous paradox, the equation of money and excrement, psychoanalysis becomes the first science to state what common sense and the poets have long known – that the essence of money is in its absolute worthlessness.”
“Love without attachment is light.”
“The dynamics of capitalism is postponement of enjoyment to the constantly postponed future.”
“The view only changes for the lead dog.”
Dale Pendell’s Amulet Bracelets…
I have one of these. Love it, sitting on the altar at this point…. made with magickal intent…
God Is An Astronaut: “Radau Live”
Book Review: The Language Of Birds…
You can find a copy here…Three Hands Press
The other day, I found a package in the mail, opening it I found “The Language Of Birds”(some notes on chance and divination) by Dale Pendell. Now, I have always had a fondness for the concept and actions of the Oracle; I first consciously consulted the Oracle when I threw the yarrow sticks for the I Ching at 15 years of age so this volume got my attention. There are many forms of Divination, and it seems Dale has decided to catalog the majority of them and to go a bit further, well a lot further.
What struck me as I began reading was that I had in fact used more than a few of the different forms of augury; and that there were so many… of them. Reading along it struck me that as children, we instinctively seek to discern patterns in the chaos, and eventually, we lose sight of the chaos. What often remains is pattern/rule. We move from Dionysus to Apollo (and sometimes the other way) and somewhere along the way, we become locked in. If… if, chance does not enter in to it, and because we are indeed submerged in the patterns of chaos, chance is often the deciding factor, no?
Aeromancy – Chaomancy: What pulls us to exploring the Oracle? Curiosity of course, desperation at times as well. There seems to be a myriad of reasons as there are supplicants before this threshing floor of creation. As a child, I would lie with my friends on our backs and I would see creatures – beings emerge from the clouds. Late spring was best, as the winds were high as the clouds scuttled on that north Atlantic coast line. At a certain point, I knew what the various “apparitions” portended for my day. No training, no school but what exactly welled up from the depths. As we lay, we would clutch the new grass so as not to spin off the rolling earth into the sky. We would laugh and scream, exulting in the moment, and then carry on with the day, assured by the gifts received. (after rolling down the hill as a matter of ceremony)
Dale traces out how Dionysus sneaks back into the temple; as chance of course. It is a quest and a tale of discovery; dangerous and wild. The book flows nicely, and there are these moments of pure revelation that propels ones consciousness in the most startling of directions. You follow his thoughts, and doorways open up to vistas that though they were always there, the acolyte would stumble past. Divination is held up and examined, in myriad ways, and view points. Whilst reading you realize that Dale has been having this conversation for a very long time. Notably, with Norman O. Brown, but with many others as well. You can see the foot, paw, and claw prints across the pages. There are moments crystallized here, in the amber of time and examination.
Cleromancy-Chartomancy: 1968 – Sitting up the hill above Limekiln Creek in southern Big Sur, having just heard that the end of the world as we knew it was coming due to the arrival of Icarus the asteroid future impacting upon the earth: In response I threw the yarrow sticks. The question: ”Should I go south to the Oaxacan mushroom fields, or north to the remnants of Lemuria, i.e. Mt. Shasta?” I remember it as yesterday… “Go north, and good fortune will find the young man”. I did of course, and yes good fortune emerged in my life. Later on, I searched the I Ching, and I never found that phrase again…
Bibliomancy – So, I open up “The Language Of Birds” randomly as I am thinking about this review and I find: “Latin: divinatio, related to divinare, “to predict”, and to divinus,”divine,” “pertaining to the gods.”
[Greek: manteia “divination”. a prophet or a prophetess is a mantis, related to mainomai, “to be mad”, and mania “madness” all from the Proto-Indo-European root *men.
If the Greeks were right in connecting mantic with mainomai – and most philologist think they were – the association of prophecy and madness belongs to the Indo-European stock of ideas.
– E. R. Dodds
The Greeks And The Irrational
Men “mind” is also the root for “meaning.” Thus there is meaning in madness
According to Homer, the mantis was always welcome at a prince’s table, along with carpenters, doctors, heralds and poets.]
Divining a purpose, in all the madness. The challenge of the modern, no in every age. Coming to a sense of balance.
Botanimancy – Capnomancy – Demonomancy: Of course, the term “Mantis” has crept into our language of late from another direction, from the same realms, but perhaps more than once removed. Often it is said whilst partaking of Tryptamines one often encounters beings that resemble extremely large “Praying Mantis’s.” What territories are we wandering into? Wait a minute, our ship of divination has taken us over the horizon into very, very different waters!
There is no safety in divination, it exposes you to too much. Once the doors of the temple is knocked open by the Oracle, everything is up for grabs. Yet safety, could be divined as stasis, and if there is something to be said, “The Language Of Birds” is about a constant state of flow. Chance, and Fortune are expressions of the Dao, if nothing else. Think tidal; no think madness, think poetry. Bards, Olaves, calling forth, calling upon the Oracle; some are lucky, and some are not.
[ The Prophetic gift is like a writing tablet without writing, both irrational and indeterminate in itself, but capable of images, impressions, and presentiments, and it paradoxically grasp the future when the future seems as remote as possible from the present. This remoteness is brought about by a condition, a disposition, of the body by a change known as “inspiration.”
On the Cessation of Oracle
There is only poetry]
Oneromancy: I awoke one day, on the edge of the North Shore of Oahu. A dream had awoken me, telling that I must prepare , and leave to Europe as soon as I could muster myself. I sat there quitely, watching the early morning trade winds as the sun rose. I felt the fingers of prophecy working up and down my neck and arms. Goosebumps, from the breath of that which summoned. I went in to the main part of the house, and addressed the teacher who I had been studying under. I told him my dream, and that I must leave Hawaii. He looked at me, smiled and gave me his blessings. I left a couple of days later, swept up into something that I had no way of knowing where it would take me.
I flew into Los Angeles, working there until I had the money that was needed and headed to Europe not knowing why, or what I would find. I had lots of adventures, and if you know the story, I won’t belabor it, but I finally met the reason and purpose of the dream in Hawaii when the moment was right. Coming across space, time, and circumstance we soon divined what would be between us by an act of Philatomancy. Everything turned and changed on the acceptance of that dream’s prophecy.
The Oracle works in mysterious ways. Often in beauty, often not. One would do well in not ignoring what the Oracle has revealed in that moment suspended, for I among others have found that that way ends with the loss of intuition, and power. One does not lightly betray the the Oracle (or the Muse but that is another tale).
The volume of “The Language Of Birds” is some 71 pages. 71 pages, and to the point. It is concise, well thought out, and I was taken by the breadth of knowledge rolled out for our perusal. What you have before you when you open up “The Language Of Birds” is a dialog that is as deep and ancient as the Cro-Magnon caves, and modern as any philosophical discussion raging today about free will, spiritual intent, and our place in the universe.
I would suggest sitting back, invoking the Gods of Chance, Luck, and Fortune with an act of Oinomancy, and a reading of “The Language Of Birds” from cover to cover in one sitting. I promise, you won’t regret it.
NOB: I am looking at chance. I think that life is an accident. 1
1 This was NOT what I was expecting. It was as if in the eight years since I had last seen Nobby we had exchanged our roles. At our last meeting Nobby had been the one chiding me about my scientific attitude, with challenges such as “Poetic truth is metaphysical truth, and physical truth which is not in conformity with it should be considered false” (Vico: The New Science 205). Since then I had been heading for the NOB of divine madness, the 1967 NOB, and here was the 1993 NOB seemingly headed toward what I considered the most non-magical of reductions.
DP: Welcome to the twentieth century.
NOB: The old NOB, of Love’s Body, where I differed from Cage–I now think that NOB was wrong and that John Cage was right. 2
2 I had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe Nobby wasn’t sure himself. Later that year Nobby wrote:
The idea of chance, so much identified with John Cage; my friend since 1960; but I would not listen. I was a determinist; first a Marxist determinist; then Freudian determinist. The world of chance; the world of chance mutations. In Love’s Body, Ch. XII, it says ‘Nothing happens for the first time.’ That is dead wrong: everything happens for the first time. That is the meaning of chance; it contradicts both the Christian idea of eternity and the Nietzschean idea of eternal recurrence.
–“Love Hath Reason, Reason None,” lecture delivered at Boston University, December, 1993. (See Appendix 2.)
Nobby was uneasy with this piece. On the title page of the typescript it says “NOT TO BE CITED. IN PROCESS OF REVISION.” Early in 1995 Nobby discussed the paper by telephone with Jay Cantor. Jay followed up their conversation with a letter:
The chance universe leads you then to a new sense of non-recurring time. Mutations occur often, or often enough, so that recurrence is unlikely, and newness is likely indeed. But I don’t think this requires you to say that everything happens for the first time.
I think this leads to an epistemological problem, in any case. Language—and knowledge—depends on recurrence. . .
In May of 1995 I wrote to Nobby and added a third layer: “I disagree with Jay: think that chance does indeed require everything to be happening for the first time. All the time. (And in each repetition!)”
On the other hand, am I the only one who thinks that “recurrence” is being taken too literally? What about, as I’ve heard people say, “And then with my next girlfriend, the exact same thing happened . . .”? Like that.
Nobby may have been thinking of Heraclitus: fire/newness/Dionysus. Snow also has a way of making “all things new.”
DP: So are you going to recant?
NOB: I must write a palinode. We must embrace science.3
3 Nobby turned to take in the effect of his words on me, his chin elevated with that air of superiority he would assume when he felt he had scored a strong point. He wasn’t disappointed. I had been working hard to temper my scientific skepticism, in order to swim more freely in mythopoesis, and here was Mr. Mythopoesis defending the Philistines. I had started in physics: “science” seemed like the old news. Nobby told Tom Marshall that if he were starting today, he would study biology.
DP: But doesn’t science already have the upper hand? Isn’t the greater danger scientific reductionism? That self-satisfied smugness that Gurdjieff called “nothing-butism”?4
4 The rise of fundamentalism in the ensuing decade and a half has made me reconsider “the greater danger.”
NOB: No, we must go forward, with Science!
DP: Hasn’t science become the new religion, with Chance as the new god? 5
5 That is, even the “chance mutations,” the basis of Brown’s newness, are chance by definition; that is, axiomatically.
The hypothesis of chance is precisely what a hypothesis is devised to save us from. Chance, in fact, = no hypothesis. Yet so hypnotic, at this moment in history, was the influence of the idols and of the special mode of thought which had begotten them, that only a few—and their voices soon died away—were troubled by the fact that the impressive vocabulary of technological investigation was actually being used to denote its breakdown; as though, because it is something we can do with ourselves in the water, drowning should be included as one of the different ways of swimming. (Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, p. 64).
When “Chance” is used as an explanatory principle, in effect replacing “Providence,” the word might more properly be capitalized.
NOB: Then we agree that it is theology.
DP: I agree that chance has become the deus ex machina. But it could be that there is no such thing as chance–that there are no accidents.
NOB: That’s teleology.
DP: Why? I’m not saying that there is a plan, or a director, just that everything follows laws.
NOB: That’s why we need chance: it lets in Dionysus, chaos. The Lord’s Prayer is all wrong: “Our Father, who art in heaven” is not Dionysian. 6
6 The conversation was moving quickly and a great deal was being left on the table, unresolved. The equation Dionysus=chaos I accepted as a definition. That chaos doesn’t follow laws is more problematical. Just because we can’t determine what will happen, the system can still be said to be deterministic; there is no need to invoke God or Chance or Free Will as a causative agent. In any complex system of interacting bodies, the cumulative effects of an error in the measurement of the initial conditions, no matter how small, will inevitably result in unpredictable (chaotic) behavior.
Democritus allowed Chance (αυτοματια) in cosmic events (say . . . the origin of the universe) but left earthly and human actions determined by atomistic mechanics. Epicurus added chance deviation (παρέγκλισις), but while the “swerve” may sidestep determinism, it’s orthogonal to the question of free will, which still needs a mind-body coupling.
In physics, such attempts began within a year of the Heisenberg’s publication of the Uncertainty Principle in 1927, none very successful. More recently, Roger Penrose (Shadows of the Mind, 1994) has suggested that the ability of a quantum system to get information from “null measurements” could provide the necessary non-computational basis for consciousness. For our discussion, it is enough to know that the quantum state vector, Ψ, which is the solution to the Schrödinger wave equation, is a complex number that, strictly, has no physical analog—and that it is all the information we have. The square of the state vector, Ψ2, does have physical meaning: it is the probability of the event in question occurring. The mind/body coupling, at this point, is still a pun: parapsychologists use “psi” to refer to the information and energy transfer necessary for telepathy (“psi-gamma”) and psychokinesis (“psi-kappa”).
David Greenham points out that in Hesiod’s Theogony, Chaos (Χάος), which Brown translates as Void, comes first:
This is not the place of creation itself but the place where creation will take place when Earth and Sky come into being. (It is also the place, or gap, that . . . we will come to know as the imagination. (Greenham, The Resurrection of the Body).
DP: (I had many thoughts, but I wanted to follow Nobby to Heaven.) What about “Thy will be done”?7
7 Cf. “John Cage,” a lecture by Norman O. Brown at Weslyan University, Dec. 22-27, 1988, at the symposium held in honor of Cage’s seventy-fifth birthday:
We live in historical time: the process is history
we submit to the yoke of historical necessity
It is by reason of this fact that we are made perfect by what happens to us
rather than by what we do
(Meister Eckhart quoted in Silence)
We suffer history
The full Meister Eckhart quote, as given in Silence (64) is:
But one must achieve this unselfconsciousness by means of transformed knowledge. This ignorance does not come from lack of knowledge but rather it is from knowledge that one may achieve this ignorance. Then we shall be informed by the divine unconsciousness and in that our ignorance will be ennobled and adorned with supernatural knowledge. It is by reason of this fact that we are made perfect by what happens to us rather than by what we do.
When the Self advances to confirm the ten thousand things, that is delusion. When the ten thousand things advance and confirm the Self, that is realization. (Dōgen, Genjōkōan)
We slip out from under the reality-principle, into the truth; when the control breaks down. By great good fortune, gratis, by grace; and not by our own work or will. (LB 244)
NOB: That denies chance.
DP: That permits chance! 8
8 I was thinking of surrender, as in Sufism, and in the sense implicit in zazen, or by extension, “accepting what comes.” Nobby meant that if there is a higher power orchestrating everything, as in predestination, there is no chance. Of course, if the higher power has a chancy nature, both statements are true.
NOB: You’re too Christian, it effaces the ego. 9
9 Nobby didn’t mind contradicting himself. Cf. “What orthodox psychoanalysis has in fact done is to reintroduce the soul-body dualism in its own new lingo, by hypostatizing the “ego” into a substantial essence which by means of “defense mechanisms” continues to do battle against the “id.” (LAD 158-159)
DP: In formal systems there is no reveling. The closest they come is the Monte Carlo method: that lets in chance. Formal systems are grammatical, wild systems have what I call that the Coyote Principle.
NOB: What’s that?
DP: That no matter how well things are planned out, Coyote will find a way to fuck it up.
NOB: (Laughing.) How comforting. Well then, the struggle is over, there is nothing that we have to do. 10
10 A corollary of the Coyote Principle is that One World Government, the great hope of Einstein and other utopians, is a bad idea. And imagine nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants with Coyote at the controls—and he always gets there, eventually.
Likewise, drug laws will never keep Coyote off of drugs. Wouldn’t it be better to just accept that Coyote is going to take drugs, let him buy them at the drugstore, and deal with it as best as possible at the neighborhood level? The alternative encourages Coyote to take the control of prisons, police departments, drug cartels, street gangs, and any public office with possibilities of corruption.
The Poems of Daigu Ryokan (1758-1831)
First days of spring — the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything’s turning green.
Carrying my monk’s bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
“Why are you acting like such a fool?”
I nod my head and don’t answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!
Reply To A Friend
In stubborn stupidity, I live on alone
befriended by trees and herbs.
Too lazy to learn right from wrong,
I laugh at myself, ignoring others.
Lifting my bony shanks, I cross the stream,
a sack in my hand, blessed by spring weather.
Living thus, I want for nothing,
at peace with all the world.
Your finger points to the moon,
but the finger is blind until the moon appears.
What connection has moon and finger?
Are they separate objects or bound?
This is a question for beginners
wrapped in seas of ignorance.
Yet one who looks beyond metaphor
knows there is no finger; there is no moon.
A cold night – sitting alone in my empty room
Filled only with incense smoke.
Outside, a bamboo grove of a hundred trees;
On the bed several volumes of poetry.
The moon shines from the top of the window,
And the entire neighbourhood is still except for the cry of insects.
Looking at this scene, limitless emotion,
But not one word.
The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.
At night, deep in the mountains I sit in zazen.
The affairs of men never reach here.
In the stillness I sit on a cushion across from the empty window.
The incense has been swallowed up by the endless night;
My robe has become a garment of white dew.
Unable to sleep, I walk into the garden;
Suddenly, above the highest peak, the round moon appears
God Is An Astronaut: “Fragile”
News For The Delphic Oracle
There all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water sighed for love,
And the wind sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin’s back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death,
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance,
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off.
– William Butler Yeats