The Winds Of May

“How can we ever lose interest in life? Spring has come again And cherry trees bloom in the mountains.”
— Ryokan

Friday night, Saturday Morning: Early summer has been unfolding here in a most peculiar way. After Beltane the temperatures dipped, and stayed low. If ya saw a bee, it was moving at the slowest rate. The clouds have been scuttling across the sky, and the rain has kept a steady beat on the local street. Yet, it is entirely delightful. The wind has been up, and between storms, the sky tumbles with clouds and sunlight. I have been working on the magazine, assembling poetry post, sanding painting and getting ready to install them about town… We have also been rounding up painting both in the studio and out and about, and helping Rowan get ready in what ever way I can for his first bit of filming on Amour Sincere this week-end. We went off and picked up equipment today, from the Art Institute, and from “Gearhead”, a small local business that provides for filmmakers locally. Nice people! Watching him put this project together has been very enlightening, I wish I’d had his focus when I was his age. He manages to burn the candle at both ends, and maintain that B+ average we and the school love.

The week has offered up a pleasant surprise from the UK. Our friend Ley put some pictures up of Mary, which I have never seen before from around her 19th & 20th year when she was in London. I have spent quite a bit of time going over them. It makes me smile very, very much.

This entry has some new music from Peter Gabriel’s new album, A bit more on Islamic mysticism, poetry from Seamus Heany, quotes from Ryokan, and art from Jean Leon Gerome.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I have in putting this entry together.
Bright Blessings,
P.S.: If I were supposed to have published links for you in this entry please let me know; my memory is doing the dodgey bit this evening.
On The Menu:
The Links
Ryokan Quotes
Peter Gabriel Performing Elbow’s “Mirrorball”
Book Review: Birth Of A Psychedelic Culture
The Brethren Of Sincerity
Poetry: Seamus Heaney
Peter Gabriel – Listening Wind
Art: Jean Leon Gerome

The Links:
Crop Circles… from my friend Jim Gilland
Is DMT to weird?
Laser to scan Robin Hood’s prison under Nottingham city
8 Invented Diseases Big Pharma Is Banking on
Burnt Toast Closes A Train Station!
Ryokan Quotes:
“Someday I’ll be a weather-beaten skull resting on a grass pillow,
Serenaded by a stray bird or two.
Kings and commoners end up the same,
No more enduring than last night’s dream.”

“Why do you so earnestly seek
the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the
bottom of your own heart.”

“The plants and flowers
I raised about my hut
I now surrender
To the will
Of the wind”

“When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.”

Peter Gabriel Performing Elbow’s “Mirrorball”

Book Review: Birth Of A Psychedelic Culture

“Birth of A Psychedelic Culture” (mentioned as “BoaPC” for the rest of the article) traces the history, conversations, ruminations of Richard Alpert, Ralph Metzner with Gary Bravo through the Harvard Experiments, the Millbrook Experiences, and on through the Sixties.

There are amazing tales in this book, stories that delineate the course of consciousness expansion and discovery when the world was on the bring of destroying itself in a nuclear Armageddon between the western and eastern blocs. (It has been posited that perhaps that was the underlying engine that drove the emergent psychedelic culture; it certainly was the backdrop of the dominant culture then. Psychedelics were seen by many as the inner expansion of consciousness counter to the nuclear weapons. Natures/consciousnesses way of dealing with the misuse of natures building blocks.)

I found while reading that on one hand I was observing events seemingly long past, yet realizing that these events on the other hand are still effecting the world today. Here within these covers we find memories of dialogs and events that ended up shaking modern history, revealing the beginnings of the emergent culture that had its birth in psychedelics but spread through the arts, through the revisioning of psychology, healthcare, the ecological movement and so much more. It is still unfolding as you read this, and which will continue to unfold for a very long time. One never knows how these things shake out when you are in the midst of it all. We are often blind to the impact simple decisions we make in our lives will have on others, not only in the present but into the future as well.

Reading this book a joy. You find connections you never knew about; come to understand the underlying motivations and histories of the various players, and have one ah-hah! moment after another. The tone of conversation between Ram Dass and Ralph discussing their shared history is incredibly engaging, playful, witty and intelligent. You get to see Tim Leary in the light of how his colleagues viewed him, and you see the story unfold from Harvard, to Millbrook, with all the various wonderful intelligences that took part in these events. The family of Maynard Ferguson comes to mind, but the book also uncovers many other players not known to the general public who had great impact upon the following decades, and the shifting modes of consciousness.

The underlying theme that I found in BoaPC was the expressions of humanity on the edge of a vast frontier, sailing into uncharted waters of consciousness with bravery and hope. We see various streams of awareness emerging in their then embryonic states (well at least for this time around the wheel), and unfolding across the tapestry of lives and events. You feel the inner struggles of the main players, and see how they were challenged on a constant basis with the expectations of the past, and with the pressure of the emerging culture that was being birthed.

Well the his/her-story is still unfolding, and now you, I and a whole world are different now due to what occurred back then, and now are part of the ongoing story that started in Harvard those many years ago.

In the end, it leaves you wanting more, which is the goal isn’t it? I cannot recommend “Birth Of A Psychedelic Culture” enough. It is a wonderfully constructed book, neither nostalgic nor dated, but even current and beyond this time. Here is to Utopian ideas, and the powers that lie within them.

Thank you Tim, thank you Ralph, thank you Richard, for helping to birth the new world culture.

The Brethren Of Sincerity
compiled by Richard Shand

“Towards the end of the tenth century there appeared in Basra the eclectic school of philosophy known as Ikhuan al-Safa, or the Brethren of Sincerity. Their name derives from a story concerning a ringdove in which a group of animals managed to escape the snares of a hunter by acting as faithful friends, that is, as the ikhuan al-safa. Thus the term does not necessarily imply any kind of ‘brotherhood’. This strange and secretive Isma’ili sect aimed to overthrow the existing political order by undermining the predominant intellectual systems and religious beliefs. Their doctrines, which were a synthesis of Semitic and Neoplatonic ideas with leanings towards Pythagorean speculation, were expounded in a collection of fifty-one epistles know as the Rasa’il.”

“Fundamentally, the authors of these epistles formulated a doctrine which they believed led to God’s favor and the attainment of paradise. They suggested that this path, in order to avoid the errors which had crept into orthodox Islam, led to perfection by; means of a synthesis of Arab religious laws and Greek philosophy. Neoplatonism underlies the harmony between revealed religion and philosophical speculation, while they drew on Aristotle for logic and Pythagoras provided their particular reverence for numbers. Thus the system represents a remarkable synthesis of monotheism, Greek philosophy, elements of Persian religion and Hindu mysticism.”

“Isma’ilis believe that the Rasa’il was written by Imam Ahmad, one of their hidden imams, although it seems more likely that it was written by several authors. These epistles constitute an encyclopedia of knowledge at that time. Al-Ghazzali, perhaps the greatest of all Islamic theologians was influenced by the ideas of the Brethren and was himself a great influence on Dante and St Thomas Aquinas, as well as exercising enormous influence throughout Islam. Their ideals also entered Christian scholasticism through the works of Avicenna (Ibn-Sina).”

“The two great Assassin Grand Masters, Hasan-i Sabbah and Rashid al-Din Sinan, both have close links with these epistles. We know that Rashid, chief of the Syrian Assassins and original ‘Old Man of the Mountains’, used the writings in the Rasa’il diligently, while in the eighth epistle of the second section there is a spiritual portrait of the ideal man which is uncannily close to the person and ideals of Hasan-i Sabbah: this ideal man would be ‘Persian in origin, Arab by religion, Iraqi by culture, Hebrew in experience, Christian in conduct, Syrian in asceticism, Greek by the sciences, Indian by perspicacity, Sufi by his way of life, angelic by morals, divine by his ideas and knowledge, and destined for eternity’.”

“The religion of Mohammed is presented as having been rough and ready, simplified for simple desert folk, while additions from Christianity and Zoroastrianism rendered it more perfect as a system of revelation.”

– Edward Burman, The Assassins – Holy Killers of Islam
“The ordinary man requires a sensuous worship of God; but just as the souls of animals and plants are beneath the soul of the ordinary man, so above it are the souls of the philosopher and the prophet with whom the pure angel is associated. In the higher stages the soul is raised also above the lower popular religion with its sensuous conceptions and usages.”

– T.J. De Boer, The History of Philosphy in Islam
“This classification of philosophy introduced the concept of steps of graded knowledge. To each of the four sections of the Rasa’il corresponded a grade which was fixed by age – reminiscent of Plato’s Republic. Young men of fifteen to thirty whose souls are completely submissive to the teachers for the first grade. In the second grade, between thirty and forty, these men are introduced to secular wisdom and receive an analogical knowledge of things. Then in the third grade, from forty to fifty, they are given access to the Divine Law of the world. Finally, over fifty years old and in the fourth grade, the aspirant will see the true reality of things, like the blessed angels. Then he becomes exalted above nature, doctrine and law. Although the grades increased, first to seven and then to nine, this is recognizably the basis of later esoteric forms of Isma’ilism including the Assassins.”

– Edward Burman, The Assassins – Holy Killers of Islam


Poetry: Seamus Heaney

A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.

There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

The Otter
When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.

I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,
Your fine swimmer’s back and shoulders
Surfacing and surfacing again
This year and every year since.

I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air
Thinned and disappointed.

Thank God for the slow loadening,
When I hold you now
We are close and deep
As the atmosphere on water.

My two hands are plumbed water.
You are my palpable, lithe
Otter of memory
In the pool of the moment,

Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck.

And suddenly you’re out,
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones.

Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication

1. Sunlight

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed
in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall
of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove
sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.
Now she dusts the board
with a goose’s wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails
and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.
And here is love
like a tinsmith’s scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

2. The Seed Cutters

They seem hundreds of years away. Brueghel,
You’ll know them if I can get them true.
They kneel under the hedge in a half-circle
Behind a windbreak wind is breaking through.
They are the seed cutters. The tuck and frill
Of leaf-sprout is on the seed potates
Buried under that straw. With time to kill,
They are taking their time. Each sharp knife goes
Lazily halving each root that falls apart
In the palm of the hand: a milky gleam,
And, at the centre, a dark watermark.
Oh, calendar customs! Under the broom
Yellowing over them, compose the frieze
With all of us there, our anonymities.

Death of a Naturalist

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Seamus Heaney

Peter Gabriel – Listening Wind

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