Nepenthe: “such as drinck, eternall happinesse do fynd” – Edmund Spenser
It has been a hectic week or two since I last published Turfing. This year has been nothing if not change. As I write, I look out my window over green hills, and incredible blue skies. Though out of the way, our new home has some wonderful benefits. I am not so keen on the commute, as I have found that at certain times it is mayhem. So used to not commuting, as in ever.
This edition covers The Poison Path/The Flowery Path in poetry, writing and song. I hope you enjoy it!
in my hotel room overlooking Desamparados’ Clanging Clock,
with the french balcony doors closed, and luminescent fixture out
“my room took on a near eastern aspect” that is I was reminded of Burroughs
with heart beating—and the blue wall of Polynesian Whorehouse, and
mirror framed in black as if in Black Bamboo-and wooden slated floor
and I in my bed, waiting, and slowly drifting away
but still thinking in my body till my body turned to passive wood
and my soul rocked back & forth preparing to slide out on eternal journey
backwards from my head in the dark
An hour, realizing the possible change in consciousness
that the Soul is independent of the body and its death
and that the Soul is not Me, it is the wholly other “whisper of consciousness”
from Above, Beyond, Afuera—
till I realize it existed in all its splendor in the Ideal or Imaginary
Toward which the me will travel when the body goes to the sands of Chancay
And at last, lying in bed covered my body with a splendid robe of
indian manycolors wool,
I gazed up at the grey gate of Heaven with a foreign eye
and yelled in my mind “Open up, for I am the Prince of eternity
come back to myself after a long journey in chaos,
open the Door of Heaven, My Soul, for I have come back to claim
my Ancient House
Let the Servants come forth to Welcome me and let Silent Harp make music
and bring my apparel of Rainbow and Star show me my shoes of Light and
my Pants of the Universe
Spread forth my meal of myriad lives, My Soul, and Show up thy
Face of Welcome
For I am the one who has dwelled in the secret Temple before,
and I have been man too long
And now I want to Hear Music of Joy beyond Death,
and now I am be who has waited to Welcome myself back Home
The great stranger is Home in his House of Joy.”
or words or thoughts or sensations & images to that effect.
Thus for an instant the Sensation of this Eternal House passed thru my hair
tho I couldn’t liberate my body from the bed to float away—
tho did glimpse the foot of the thought of the gate of Heaven—
Then opened my eyes and Saw the blast of light of the real universe
when I opened the window and looked at the clock on the R R Station
with its halfnaked man & woman with clubs, creators of time and chaos,
and down on the street where pastry venders sold their poor sugar
symbolic of Eternity, to Passerby-and great fat clanking beast of Trolley
with its dumb animal look and croaking screech on the tracks
Powered by electric life,, turned a corner of the Presidential Palace
where Bolivar 200 years ago in time planted a secret everlasting Fig-tree
and a fog from another life crept thru its own dimension
Past the cornice of the hotel and travelled downward in the street
To seek the river-had a bridge with little humans crossing, faraway
—and up in the hills the silver gleam of sunlight on the horizon thru thick fog
—and the Cerro San Christobal—with a cross atop and Casbah of poor
consciousness ratted on its hip—
and overall the vast blue flash & blast of open space
the Sky of Time, empty as a big blue dream
and as everlasting as the many eyes that lived to see it
Time is the God, is the Face of the God,
As in the monstrous image of the Ramondi Chavin Sculptured Stone Monument
A cat head many eyed sharp toothed god face long as Time,
with different eyes some upside down and 16 sets of faces
all have fangs—the structure of one consciousness
that waits upstairs to Devour man and all his universes
—turn the picture upside down—the top eyes see more than the human bottom rows
Indifferent, dopey, smiling, horrible, with Snakes & fangs—
The huge gentle creature of the Cosmic joke
that takes whatever form it can to Signify that it is the one that has come to its Home
where all are invited to Enter in Secret eternally
After they have been killed by the illusion of Impossible Death.
~ Allen Ginsberg
~~ No Safe Place
Behind the white picket fence
on the sunny porch where I fed
my morning habits a fatherly voice
I grew up on antipsychotics
In the local bar comparing the ages
of psychedelic acoustics wondering
was the Invisible Temple always here
and have the routes changed a good-old
Freak says goodbye with hand games
to me a complete stranger declaring
You’re too smart for your own good
In the woods surrounded by the hum
of vegetable silence dialogue with Others
comes in nighttime motions topographies
delineated by fireflies and loons mumbled
messages from sleeping partners skry
There is no safe place for Magicians
and Shamans or Poets
under any phase of our Moon
The only Absolute
Change and Return
the gate to what
The crack of a ball
The moment before
you fell from the cliff
Not a care in the world a dog biting your heels
The Buddha eats strawberries
The Christ has a last meal
and nowhere and nothing will ever be the same.
~ Dr. Con
~~ Bread, Hashish And Moon
When the moon is born in the east,
And the white rooftops drift asleep
Under the heaped-up light,
People leave their shops and march forth in groups
To meet the moon
Carrying bread, and a radio, to the mountaintops,
And their narcotics.
There they buy and sell fantasies
And die – as the moon comes to life.
What does that luminous disc
Do to my homeland?
The land of the prophets,
The land of the simple,
The chewers of tobacco, the dealers in drug?
What does the moon do to us,
That we squander our valor
And live only to beg from Heaven?
What has the heaven
For the lazy and the weak?
When the moon comes to life they are changed to
And shake the tombs of the saints,
Hoping to be granted some rice, some children…
They spread out their fine and elegant rugs,
And console themselves with an opium we call fate
In my land, the land of the simple
What weakness and decay
Lay hold of us, when the light streams forth!
Rugs, thousands of baskets,
Glasses of tea and children swarn over the hills.
In my land,
where the simple weep,
And live in the light they cannot perceive;
In my land,
Where people live without eyes,
And live in resignation,
As they always have,
Calling on the crescent moon:
” O Crescent Moon!
O suspended God of Marble!
O unbelievable object!
Always you have been for the east, for us,
A cluster of diamonds,
For the millions whose senses are numbed”
On those eastern nights when
The moon waxes full,
The east divests itself of all honor
The millions who go barefoot,
Who believe in four wives
And the day of judgment;
The millions who encounter bread
Only in their dreams;
Who spend the night in houses
Built of coughs;
Who have never set eyes on medicine;
Fall down like corpses beneath the light.
In my land,
where the stupid weep
And die weeping
Whenever the crescent moon appears
And their tears increase;
Whenever some wretched lute moves them…
or the song to “night”
In my land,
In the land of the simple,
where we slowly chew on our unending songs-
A form of consumption destroying the east-
Our east chewing on its history,
its lethargic dreams,
Its empty legends,
Our east that sees the sum of all heroism
In Picaresque Abu Zayd al Hilali.
~ Nizar Qabbani
Societies of the past have used the psychedelic experience to strengthen, renew and heal the spiritual underpinning of their social structures. The ever-deepening social unease that Western civilisation seems to be caught in is the real source of our ‘drug problem’: natural hallucinogens are not the problems in themselves, it is the context in which they are used that matters. If there were orderly and healthy structures and mechanisms for their use and the cultural absorption of the powerful experiences – and knowledge – we could separate these from the culture of crime that surrounds them now. In short, the problems are not in the psychoactive substances themselves, but in a society, which on the one hand wants to prohibit, mind-expansion altogether and on the other chooses to use mind-expanding substances in a literally mindless, hedonistic fashion.
Perhaps only a shock of some kind could break our society free from the patterns of thought and prejudices that lock it into this crisis. The desire for such a shock may be hidden within the widespread modern myth of extra-terrestrial intervention. In fact, we do not have to look to science fiction for a real otherworld contact: it already exists in the form of plant hallucinogens. If we see them in the context of a ‘problem’, it is only because they hold up a mirror in which we see our spiritual, social and mental condition reflected. And they hold that mirror up to us as one species to another just as surely as if they were from another planet. Indeed, that champion of the psychedelic state, the late Terence McKenna, argued that the ancestral spores of today’s hallucinogenic mushrooms may have originated on some other planet. (This is not as fringe an idea as it sounds, for even some ‘hard scientists’ – the late Francis Crick, co-discover of DNA, among them – have suggested that the germs of life may have had extra-terrestrial origins, brought to Earth by means of meteorites or comet dust.) The psilocybin family of hallucinogens, says McKenna, produces a “Logos-like phenomenon of an interior voice that seems to be almost a superhuman agency…an entity so far beyond the normal structure of the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be.”
Other ‘psychonauts’ have emerged from the altered mind states enabled by plant substances with similar impressions. For instance, New York journalist Daniel Pinchbeck wrote about his various initiations with plant hallucinogens in his Breaking Open the Head (2002). In one ayahuasca session with Amazonian Secoya Indians he found himself wandering in a visionary space where he encountered beings that “never stopped changing” their forms. “The shaman and the elders seemed to be inhabiting this space with me… They sang, their words unintelligible, to these creatures, interacting with them… I had no more doubts that the Secoya engaged in extradimensional exploration.” Or, again, two of the three molecular biologists brought to the Amazon to experience ayahuasca trances by anthropologist and writer, Jeremy Narby, felt that they had communicated with an “independent intelligence.” Narby himself feels that in their ayahuasca altered states shamans plumb the molecular level of nature and that, to put Narby’s idea crudely, ayahuasca – with its trade-mark visionary snakes – has the ability to communicate information concerning the double-helix coil of DNA (The Cosmic Serpent, 1998). Indeed, to allow contact with the “mind of nature.”
We have already noted that the idea that ontologically independent beings (‘spirits’) or intelligences are contactable through plant-induced trances is standard in most if not all shamanic tribal societies, but to posit such a thing in modern Western societies is viewed as tantamount to insanity, a nonsense notion to be dismissed out of hand. In other words, we can’t discuss it without forfeiting all credibility. This problem concerning the inability to explore certain ideas has been addressed by Oxford-based researcher, Andy Letcher. He uses Foucauldian discourse analysis to critique the models, the ‘discourses’ employed by the West in dealing with the content of altered mind states. These include pathological, prohibition, psychological, recreational, psychedelic, entheogenic discourses. Each has its own imposed boundaries; they are cognitive constructs. Letcher notes that some of these discourses or approaches to hallucinogenic substances ignore the subjective experience of the altered mind states involved, or else place it within an inner, psychological framework rather than it being a case of simply seeing more, of being in a wider frame of consciousness. He critiques even the entheogenic discourse as relying on a “God within” model, divine revelation that does not by any means occur in all altered states. However diverse they might be, all these discourses can be used within the norms of Western culture. Only one discourse crosses that “fundamental societal boundary,” what Letcher refers to as the animistic discourse – the belief that the taking of, say, hallucinogenic mushrooms occasions actual “encounters with discarnate spirit entities.” Because of the deep-rooted modern Western assumption that consciousness cannot occur in any other guise than human (the ultimate hubris of our species, perhaps) discussion of a conscious plant kingdom, or of that providing a portal through which contact with other, ontologically independent beings or intelligences can occur, is simply not possible within the mainstream culture. “It nevertheless remains a phenomenon in need of further scholarly research,” Letcher rightly insists.
It is a remarkable fact that plant hallucinogens are hallucinogenic precisely because they contain the same, or effectively the same, chemicals as are found in the human brain, and so act on us as if we were indeed engaged in an interspecies communication. “The chemical structure of the hallucinogenic principles of the mushrooms was determined…and it was found that these compounds were closely related chemically to substances occurring naturally in the brain which play a major role in the regulation of psychic functions,” Schultes and Hofmann have observed, for instance. This challenges the view held by many people that taking a plant hallucinogen is somehow ‘unnatural’. Certainly, mind-altering plants take the brain-mind to states that are not “normal” by the standards of our culture, but the ‘normal’ state of Western consciousness cannot claim to be the one-and-only ‘true’ state of consciousness. (Indeed, judging by the mess we manage to make of our societies and of the natural world around us it may even be an aberrant or pathological state of mind that we are culturally locked into.)
“If one were to reduce to its essentials the complex chemical process that occurs when an external psychoactive drug such as psilocybin reaches the brain, it would then be said that the drug, being structurally closely related to the naturally occurring indoles in the brain, appears to interact with the latter in such a way as to lock a nonordinary or inward-directed state of consciousness temporarily into place… There are obviously wide implications, biological-evolutionary as well as philosophical, in the discovery that precisely in the chemistry of consciousness we are kin to the plant kingdom,” writes Peter Furst.
These are probably the same kind of chemical changes that occur during the course of long and intensive spiritual exercises, but it takes a rare person to achieve sufficient expertise in such techniques to arrive at experiences that match those accessible through hallucinogen usage, which are certainly very ‘real’ in a subjective sense. It is a culturally-engineered cliché to dismiss such states as being somehow delusional. They are subjectively no more delusional than the experience of daily life. The human body is an open system, taking in material from the environment and expelling matter into it all the time, and we really shouldn’t think of taking in natural chemicals for visionary and mind-expanding functioning as any different, any less natural, than taking in gases from the air for their chemical benefits to the body, or chemicals and compounds in animal and vegetable matter to provide food, or fermented fruits and vegetable matter to provide delicious, refreshing or inebriating beverages, or vitamins to augment healthy functioning, or medicines when we are ill, or caffeinated teas and coffees when we want to be energised. “Ethnobotanists now realize that psychotropic plant species extend further than had been suspected, as though nature truly wanted the human species to get in touch with its floral neighbors,” Richard Gehr muses. “As plant species die off at a furious rate, the issue is no longer what they are trying to tell us, but whether we will get the message in time.”
That message may be to do with the need for us to change our minds, or, at least, to broaden our cognitive horizons. The plant kingdom could be urging us to allow the ability to ‘switch channels’ in consciousness terms to let them become a recognised and acceptable part of our emerging global culture. Hallucinogen-using ancient and traditional societies had and have exceptional sophistication when it comes to understanding and navigating alternate states of consciousness, whereas we are still quite primitive and inexperienced in this regard. The manual for using expanded consciousness is a textbook we have not read – or, more accurately, recalled. Not that simply widening our collective experience of consciousness will act like a magic wand and remove all problems and obstacles, but it would help us to make wiser, more whole-some decisions in coping with them. If Western civilisation is truly to advance, we surely must learn to operate within the multi-dimensional capacities of our minds, rather than using the police to conduct an indiscriminate war on the means of doing so. A workable balance has to be struck between protecting the well-being and the orderly functioning of society as a whole, and allowing the human brain-mind to explore its full potential. We are smart enough and complex enough and able enough to make it possible to do both. There are no excuses.
The Long Trip is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK
~~~~~~ The Machine – Moons of Neptune
“For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Outsider
Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng together at the outset amid tumult and shouting, and jostle against one another but when the holy rites are being performed and disclosed the people are immediately attentive in awe and silence, so too at the beginning of philosophy: about its portals also you will see great tumult and talking and boldness, as some boorishly and violently try to jostle their way towards the repute it bestows; but he who has succeeded in getting inside, and has seen a great light, as though a shrine were opened, adopts another bearing of silence and amazement, and “humble and orderly attends upon” reason as upon a god. – Plutarch
It has been a hectic couple of weeks, with moving, and business and all that attends. As I type, I look out my window now on fog shrouded hills to the NorthWest. Some houses are there of course but on the main one sees the trees peaking through. Quite the different view than from our older home. It rains today, and the hint of autumn is strong upon the air and land. We are markedly higher, and the trees are turning rapidly.
Buster our cat, and Sophie our dog like the new place, but still follow us around a bit lost. Buster had lived his whole life in the other house. He has taken to the back deck though, and seems happy enough. Sophie mopes a bit. We drove through the old neighborhood the other day, and she perked up with the familiar scents as we went by.
I am setting up screen presses, digging out books and trying to envision what our hill-top home will be like. Another cycle of discovery, and change.
Lots to like in this new entry. I hope you enjoy it!
On The Menu:
Calvin Harris Class
Mother Destruction – Kalamaya
Arthur Symons – Poetry
The Greater Eleusinian Mysteries
Mother Destruction – Babalon Sun Mantra
~~~~~~ Commercial Plug For A Friend:
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Translation® is the core class that represents the foundation of The Prosperos instruction. Prosperos classes are presented in a teaching style that originates from the ancient Oral Tradition. These classes are designed to reveal to you the fundamental reality which is “back and behind the universe of time, space and change,” to discover the wordless by exploring the words that build your world. This is the practical application of the science of Ontology which immerses you in your true identity, where the power of universal energy is available to you through your understanding of universal principle.
The Prosperos tool: “Translation®” is a channel to the universal flow of energy into an unpredictable good!
TRANSLATION will be offered as a Class, given in a Retreat Setting at Aliso Creek Inn, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.
Grasp the Tool, on the weekend of October 12th and 13th. Make plans now to attend.
Contact: Calvin Harris firstname.lastname@example.org
Dates: Saturday, October 12, 2013 through Sunday, October 13, 2013
Times: Registration Saturday 9 a. m. Saturday Class hours 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday Class hours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Workshop hrs 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
New to Class : $175 / Review : $65 / Life Member : by contribution
Location: The Aliso Creek Inn
31106 South Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA. 92651
NOTE: If you intend to stay overnight at the hotel, contact hotel for reservations at:
800-223-3309, or 949-499-2271. (Space may be limited)
~~~~~~ Mother Destruction – Kalamaya
~~~~~~ Eleusinian Quotes:
“There were three degrees of initiation: the Lesser Mysteries which were a preliminary requirement, the Greater Mysteries or telete which means “to make perfect,” and the additional and highest degree, the epopteia. The telete initiation can be divided into the dromena : things acted, the legomena : things said, and the deiknymena : things shown. Theo Smyrnaios has his own particular stages of mystical initiation related to his five-step understanding of philosophy. They are 1) initial purification, 2) mystic communion or communication, 3) epopteia : revelation of the holy objects and transmission of the telete, 4) crowning with garlands as the badge of initiation into the mysteries, and 5) the happiness resulting from communion with God. According to inscriptions the crowning of initiates occurred at the beginning of the ceremonies described as the second and third stages. Their names were recorded on wooden tablets by the priests, and their myrtle wreaths were replaced by wreathes with ribbons, the emblem of their consecration to the goddesses.” – (Mylonas Eleusis p. 261)
“Crowned with myrtle, along with the other initiates we enter the entrance hall of the temple, still blind, but the hierophant who is within will soon open our eyes. But first, for nothing is to be done in haste, let us wash in the holy water. We are led before the hierophant. From a book of stone, he reads to us things which we must not divulge, under penalty of death. Let us say only that they are in harmony with the place and circumstance. You would laugh, perhaps, if you heard them outside the temple, but here you have no desire to laugh as you listen to the words of the elder (for he is always old) and as you look at the exposed symbols. And you are far from laughing when, by her special language and signs, by vivid sparkling of light and clouds piled upon clouds, Demeter confirms everything that we have seen and heard from her holy priest. Then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple; we see the pure Elysian fields; we hear the chorus of the blessed ones. Now it is not merely through an external appearance or through a philosophical interpretation, but in fact and in reality that the hierophant becomes the creator and the revelator of all things; the sun is but his torchbearer, the moon, his helper of the altar, and Hermes, his mystical messenger. But the last word has been uttered: Knox Om Pax.
The ritual has been consummated, and we are seers forever.” – (Schuré, Edouard The Great Initiates p. 406)
And the formula of the Eleusinian mysteries is as follows: “I fasted, I drank the draught (kykeon ); I took from the chest; having done my task, I placed in the basket, and from the basket into the chest.” – (Exhortation to the Greeks II, 18 Clement of Alexandria)
“There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness, – we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining in pure light.” – Socrates’ mystic vision of initiation from Plato’s Phaedrus
Arthur Symons – Poetry
In the Temple
When Lilian comes I scarcely know
If Winter wraps the world in snow,
Or if ’tis Summer strikes a-glow
The fountain in the court below,
When Lilian comes.
Her flower-like eyes, her soft lips bring
The warmth and welcome of the Spring,
And round my room, a fairy ring,
See violets, violets blossoming,
When Lilian comes.
When Lilian goes I hear again
The infinite despair of rain
Drip on my darkening window-pane
The tears of Winter on the wane,
When Lilian goes.
Yet still about my lonely room
The visionary violets bloom,
And with her presence still perfume
The tedious page that I resume
When Lilian goes.
The feverish room and that white bed,
The tumbled skirts upon a chair,
The novel flung half-open where
Hat, hair-pins, puffs, and paints, are spread;
The mirror that has sucked your face
Into its secret deep of deeps,
And there mysteriously keeps
Forgotten memories of grace;
And you, half-dressed and half awake,
Your slant eyes strangely watching me,
And I, who watch you drowsily,
With eyes that, having slept not, ache;
This (need one dread? nay, dare one hope?)
Will rise, a ghost of memory, if
Ever again my handkerchief
Is scented with White Heliotrope.
A Litany of Lethe
O Lethe, hidden waters never dry,
We, all we weary and heavy-laden, cry,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
–All we have sinnèd, and yet the scars remain.
–And we, all we had sorrow.–And we had pain.
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou that dost flow from Death to Death through Sleep,
Whose waters are the tears of those that weep,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou that dost bring sweet peace to hospitals,
And to the captive openest prison-walls,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou that dost loose the soul from murdered Truth,
And youth from yesterday, and age from youth,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou from lost love remembered sett’st us free
From hopeless love, a lorn eternity;
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou from repentance tak’st the sting, from vice
The memory of a forfeit Paradise;
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou in our grief dost hide from us no less
The anguish of remembered happiness;
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Thou that dost lay alike on all thy spell,
And free the saint from heaven, the wretch from hell,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
Bring, bring soft sleep, and close all eyes for us,
Sleep without dreams, and peace oblivious;
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
We, all we weary and heavy-laden, cry,
Too tired to live, and yet too weak to die,
O Lethe, let us find thee and forget!
The Loom Of Dreams
I broider the world upon a loom,
I broider with dreams my tapestry;
Here in a little lonely room
I am master of earth and sea,
And the planets come to me.I broider my life into the frame,
I broider my love, thread upon thread;
The world goes by with its glory and shame,
Crowns are bartered and blood is shed;
I sit and broider my dreams instead.And the only world is the world of my dreams,
And my weaving the only happiness;
For what is the world but what it seems?
And who knows but that God, beyond our guess,
Sits weaving worlds out of loneliness?
~~~~~~ And I will with the women and the holy maidens go
Where they keep the nightly vigil, an auspicious light to show.
(Aristophanes- The Frogs 442-443)
Pagan Regeneration, by Harold R. Willoughby, 
THE GREATER MYSTERIES AT ELEUSIS
AMONG the cults of Greece none was more favorably known in the first century of the Christian era than the Eleusinian mysteries. Although it was more definitely localized and centralized than were the other Greek mysteries, this circumstance did not detract from either its reputation or its influence. Locally it was associated with an antique tradition that ran back to prehistoric times, and such antiquity was a valued credential for any first-century religion. The home of this cult was the town of Eleusis on the fertile Rharian plain a few miles from Athens, where in prehistoric times the cereal goddess Demeter was revered by an agricultural community. Legends of the special initiation of foreigners like Heracles and the Dioscuri recall the primitive time when membership in the cult was open to citizens of Eleusis only. With the political fusion of Eleusis and Athens, however, the local barriers were broken down and rebuilt along much extended lines. The dominant city-state of Athens adopted the cult as her own, brought it under state supervision, and entrusted the general management of the mysteries to the Archon Basileus. Inscriptions of the Periclean period attest the well-considered plan of Athens to use the mysteries as a religious support for her political hegemony. This combination of ancient Eleusinian tradition and the official patronage of the Athenian state gave dignity and prestige to the mysteries of Demeter even in the first century.
But this cult was more than merely a state religion of the usual Greek model. In the first century its appeal and its guaranties were for the individual rather than for the citizen. On the one hand not all Athenians, by any means, were members of the cult. The citizen of Athens did not automatically come under the protection of Demeter by natural birth as he found himself under the aegis of Athena. It was by special initiation alone, conceived and represented as a process of rebirth, that he could avail himself of the cult privileges. No less an Athenian than Socrates was reproached for not seeking initiation into these mysteries. The state cult of Demeter operated as a voluntary religious association in which Athenian citizens were eligible for membership; but their adherence was a matter of their own volition.
Conversely, eligibility for admission was not limited to Athenians only. When, as a result of the absorption of Eleusis by Athens, the mysteries lost their local exclusiveness, they further took on a pan-Hellenic character. The so-called Homeric Hymn to Demeter, one of the earliest and most valuable of Eleusinian documents, invites the whole Greek world to come and participate in the mysteries. Herodotus states that in his day whoever wished to do so, whether they were Athenians or other Greeks, might come to be initiated. Later, even the Hellenic limitation was removed and persons of any nationality were received, providing they understood the Greek language in which the ritual was conducted. In the time of Cicero, just before the beginning of our era, “the most distant nations were initiated into the sacred and august Eleusinia.”
It is interesting to note further that women and slaves, even, were admitted to this cult. The author of the oration In Neaeram, which was once attributed to Demosthenes, states that Lysias, without any difficulty, was able to arrange for the initiation of his mistress Metanira. That slaves were admitted is suggested by a fragment from the comic poet Theophilus in which a slave speaks with gratitude of his beloved master who taught him his letters and got him initiated into the sacred mysteries. An inscription dated in the administration of Lycurgus (329-328 B.C.) further puts the question of the admission of slaves beyond doubt. It is an expense account of an Eleusinian official, and among the items included is the following: “For the initiation of two public slaves; thirty drachmae.” The mysteries of Demeter, therefore, once a local cult and later a state religion, came in the end to assume an international character and to make an individualistic appeal. In its developed form, the cult received into membership not only Greeks but also “barbarians,” and women and slaves as well as free men.
It is indubitable that the influence of the Eleusinian mysteries was widespread in the Graeco-Roman world. Though localized at Eleusis this cult influenced rites that were celebrated elsewhere in widely scattered centers. In Ionia, at Eleusis this cult influenced rites that were celebrated elsewhere in widely scattered centers. In Ionia, at Ephesus and Mycale, and again in the Arcadian city of Pheneus, Demeter Eleusinia was worshipped and her cult was related in local legend to the Attic foundation. Pausanias vouches for the statement that Celeae near Philius, and Megalopolis in Arcadia each had an “initiation mystery of Demeter” in which the proceedings were conducted “in imitation of those at Eleusis.” According to a late inscription (third century A.D.), a mystery of Demeter flourished at Lerna in Argolis, and the hierophant in charge was the son of an Athenian priest. There are further records that Demeter Eleusinia was worshiped in Boeotia and Laconia on the Greek mainland, and in Crete and Thera among the Greek islands. At Naples, in Italy, mysteries in honor of Demeter were celebrated after the Attic manner. It is even possible that the Andanian mysteries in Messenia, which Pausanias regarded as second in dignity and prestige to the Eleusinian alone, were also related to the Attic cult. In each of these instances two possibilities are to be considered. Either the similar rites had their origin in the Eleusinian ceremonies or else both came from a common parentage. In either case it is patent that there was widespread interest in Demeter cults in the Graeco-Roman world.
Quite apart from the question of related Demeter cults, however, there is an abundance of testimonia to prove the world-wide reputation of the Eleusinian rites themselves at the beginning of the common era. Crinagoras, the Greek epigrammatist of Mytilene, writing in the time of Augustus, advised his friend by all means to go to Athens and see the mysteries, even though he traveled nowhere else. If we may credit Philostratus, his hero Apollonius of Tyana, certainly one of the most famous and respected religionists of his day, applied in person for admission to the Eleusinian mysteries. “But the hierophant was not disposed to admit him to the rites, for he said he would never initiate a wizard and charlatan, nor open the Eleusinian Mysteries to a man who dabbled in impure rites.”
During the early imperial period some very famous non-Greeks showed their deep interest in the mysteries at Eleusis, among them the Emperor Augustus himself. Though normally not attracted by foreign religions, he was initiated at Eleusis in 21 B.C. Later, according to Suetonius, he gave signal proof of his reverence for the mysteries.
“He was hearing a case at Rome which involved the privileges of the priests of the Attic Ceres. When some of the mysteries of their sacred rites were to be introduced into the pleadings, he dismissed those who sat upon the bench with him as judges, as well as the bystanders, and heard the arguments upon these points himself.”
Seutonius also tells us that when Nero was in Greece, “he dared not attend the Eleusinian Mysteries at the initiation of which impious and wicked persons are warned by the voice of the herald from approaching the rites.” However, there were other emperors who like Augustus attained the goal which Nero failed to gain. Marcus Aurelius and Commodus were two of these illustrious mystae. The epitaph of an Eleusinian priestess mentions it as a matter of special pride that she set the crown upon their heads as they participated in the solemn rites. The fact that the first citizens of the Roman Empire sought membership in the Eleusinian cult is striking proof of its great influence.
Other significant testimony is given by the philosophers and moralists of this period. At the close of the pre-Christian era, Cicero declared it was his personal opinion that Athens had given nothing to the world more excellent or divine than the Eleusinian mysteries. At the beginning of the Christian centuries, the Stoic Epictetus spoke of the impressiveness of these mysteries in terms of genuine appreciation. Thus, at the beginning of our era, when Olympian Zeus had lost his ancient supremacy and Delphian Apollo, though reviving, was yet reduced in influence, Demeter of Eleusis still enjoyed a high reputation. The influence of her mysteries was literally world-wide during the early imperial period.
In order to understand the type of religious experience represented by this important cult, it is necessary clearly to keep in mind the main points of the Eleusinian myth which was developed to explain and justify the cult rites. These are stated with sufficient elaboration in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, although this document does not give the myth in its fully developed form. According to the story, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, “giver of goodly crops,” was stolen by Pluto and carried off to the underworld to be his bride. This was done with the knowledge and tacit approval of Zeus himself. The mother, frenzied with grief, rushed about the earth for nine days, torch in hand, abstaining from eating and drinking, and searching wildly for her lost daughter. As she rested at the “maiden well of fragrant Eleusis” she was welcomed by the daughters of Celeus, who took her to their father’s house for refreshment. Here she finally broke her fast and dwelt for a time. ln her resentment against Zeus, she brought famine upon the fruitful earth so that no crops grew for men and no offerings were made to the gods. Finally, an arrangement was made with Pluto whereby Persephone was restored to her sorrowing mother. Since, however, the daughter had eaten a sweet pomegranate seed in the underworld she was forced to return there regularly for a portion of each year. Demeter, in her joy at the restoration of her lost daughter, allowed the crops to grow once more and instituted in honor of the event the Eleusinian mysteries which gave to mortals the assurance of a happy future life. Such was the myth which stood in the background of thought for one who participated in the Eleusinian rites.
The experiential basis for this story is quite clear. It was a nature myth, a vivid depiction of the action of life in the vegetable world with the changing of the seasons. Each year nature passed through the cycle of apparent death and resurrection. In winter vegetable life was dead while Demeter, the giver of life, grieved for the loss of her daughter. But with the coming of spring the life of nature revived again, for the sorrowing mother had received her daughter back with rejoicing. Through the summer the mother abundantly maintained the life of nature until autumn, when again her daughter returned to the underworld and earth became desolate once more. Thus year after year nature re-enacted the myth of Eleusis.
It was also a reflection of poignant human experiences, mirroring the joys, sorrows, and hopes of mankind in face of inevitable death. The three actors of the Eleusinian tragedy, the mater dolorosa as the protagonist, the maiden daughter is the deuteragonist, and the sinister figure of the ravisher as the mysterious third actor, these three enacted the mystery of human life and death. The god of death himself stole the beloved daughter away from the life-giver; but the divine mother would not give up her loved one, and in the end she accomplished her daughter’s resurrection. Here was human experience made heroic and divine; for man has ever loved and lost, but rarely has he ceased to hope for reunion with the loved one. The Eleusinian myth told of these fundamental human experiences as well as of the life of nature.
With this mythological background in mind the Eleusinian ritual should be examined, at least in its more important features, in order to define the variety of religious experience fostered by this cult. It was an elaborate ceremonial, extending over a long period of time. The classical analysis of the Eleusinian rite divided it into four distinct stages: the katharsis, or preliminary purification, the sustasis, or preparatory rites and sacrifices, the telete, i.e., the initiation proper, and the epopteia, or highest grade of initiation. Of these various stages the first two were public, and concerning them there is a large amount of information. But the last two were very strictly private and therefore they remain for us shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, it is these very private ceremonials that are most important for the student who is interested in the personal religious experiences of paganism. The elaborate preliminary ceremonies do not concern us in detail except as a preparation for the all-important rites which followed.
More than six months before the “great mysteries” in September the “lesser mysteries” were celebrated at Agrae, a suburb of Athens, on the banks of the Illisus. Clement of Alexandria spoke of “the minor mysteries which have some foundation of instruction and of preliminary preparation for what is to come after.” This statement emphasizes what for our purpose was the most significant feature of the mysteries at Agrae–they were important as a prerequisite for the “great mysteries.”
On the thirteenth of September the “great mysteries” began and they lasted over a full week. Early in the festival there was a solemn assembly in the Stoa Poicile, the main item of which was a proclamation by the hierophant. This was not a sermon but rather a warning to depart, addressed to those who for one reason or another were disqualified or unworthy of initiation. As to the content of the formal warning, Libanius states that the “leaders of the mystae” proclaimed to those seeking initiation that they must be “pure in hand and soul and of Hellenic speech.” These terms are confirmed in part by a mathematician of the imperial period who compared his studies to the mysteries. “Not all who wish,” he said, “have a share in the Mysteries. But there are some who are forewarned to abstain; such as those whose hands are not clean and whose speech is unintelligible.” Celsus, as reported by Origen, gives two formulas of invitation, one altogether similar to those already cited and the other of a somewhat different character. He is quoted as follows:
“Those who invite people to other mysteries make proclamation thus: ‘Everyone who has clean hands and intelligible speech,’ others again thus: ‘He who is pure from all pollution, and whose soul is conscious of no evil and who has lived well and justly.’ Such is the proclamation made by those who promise purification from sins.”
These quotations from late pagan writers indicate that the Athenian proclamation included not only ritualistic requirements but elements of moral scrutiny as well. One may say that over the Eleusinian shrine as over the doorway of the Rhodian temple were inscribed the words “[Those can rightfully enter] who are pure and healthy in hand and heart and who have no evil conscience in themselves.”
On the day following the assembly came the cry, “To the sea, O Mystae!” and the candidates for initiation ran down to the sea, there to purify themselves in its salt waves–a lustration believed to be of greater virtue than that of fresh water. “Sea waves wash away ill sin,” said Euripides. The potent effect of the cleansing by salt water was further enhanced by sprinkling with pig’s blood. Each of the mystae carried with him a sucking pig which he purified by immersion in the waters of the sea. Later the pig was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the candidate. Tertullian, in speaking of this rite, declared, “At the Eleusinian mysteries men are baptized and they assume that the effect of this is their regeneration and the remission of the penalties due to their perjuries.” This striking affirmation by a Christian writer shows that the initiates themselves applied the new birth comparison to their own experiences in Eleusinian baptism. The rite was believed to be more than cathartic, merely. Regenerative powers were credited to it which operated to make the initiate in some sense a new being. It was with this rite particularly that the Eleusinian devotees associated the idea of personal transformation.
After the preliminary rites at Athens, the purified candidates formed in solemn procession on the nineteenth of September and marched to Eleusis, there to complete the celebration of the festival. Along the Sacred Way leading from Athens there were many holy places, and since the mystae performed ritualistic observances en route the company arrived at Eleusis by torchlight late in the evening. The long march was followed by a midnight revel under the stars, a ceremony that Aristophanes described in glowing terms. This was held on the Rharian plain, and it is not improbable that it partook of the nature of a mimetic ritual. Near the great propylaea of the sacred precinct was the Well of Callichoros, where the first choral dances were organized by the women of Eleusis in honor of Demeter. Close at hand was the Unsmiling Rock, where the desolate mother sat when she first came to Eleusis. Not far away were the meadows which had seen her torchlit wanderings. It would not be strange if the mystae beginning their choral dances at the Well of Callichoros, continuing their revel by torchlight in the meadows, or resting at the Unsmiling Rock–it would not be strange if they felt that they were really sharing in the antique experiences of their goddess. Certainly in their wearied state, weakened by fasting, they would be peculiarly susceptible to such mystical emotions.
Thus the mystae were prepared for the climactic feature of the celebration which took place in the telesterion, or Hall of Initiation. This sacred place was closed to all save the initiated, and the events which occurred there were strictly private and shrouded in the densest mystery. The initiates were under pledge of secrecy not to divulge the revelation there given. Apparently, Public opinion enforced this pledge in a very remarkable manner. Once when Aeschylus was acting in one of his own tragedies the audience became suspicious that he was betraying certain secrets of the Eleusinian mysteries. They arose in real fury and attacked the author-actor, who saved his life only by fleeing to the altar of Dionysus, a refuge that the Athenian mob respected. Later, however, Aeschylus was brought to trial before the Areopagus for revealing forbidden secrets and was acquitted quite as much because of his bravery at Marathon as because of his plea of ignorance. Alcibiades, on the eve of his departure for the Sicilian expedition, was charged with “impious mockery of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone” because he had “profanely acted the sacred mysteries at a drunken meeting.” Even such a garrulous historian as Herodotus, though he was “accurately acquainted with the sacred rites of Demeter” yet felt that he “must observe a discreet silence” concerning them. The secret of Eleusis was guarded all too well and as a result we know almost nil concerning the central rites of the mysteries of Demeter.
One of the incidents just mentioned, however, makes it clear that the heart of the Eleusinian ritual was in the nature of a religious drama. The accusation against Alcibiades very definitely specified actors in a mock pageant which he staged at his drunken revel. “Theodorus represented the herald, Polytion the torch-bearer, and Alcibiades the chief priest, while the rest of the party appeared is candidates for initiation and received the title of initiates.” This describes the situation in the telesterion at Eleusis on the night of initiation; the priests took the part of actors in a religious drama or pageant of which the initiates were the spectators. The archaeological remains of the Hall of Initiation at Eleusis bear out this theory. It was a great square hall around the four sides of which ran stone seats eight steps high, one above the other. Here the initiates sat and watched the spectacle staged in their midst.
Of what did the dramatic action in the telesterion consist? Only hints are given; yet these are sufficient to suggest what was probably the subject matter of the mystery play. Clement of Alexandria tells us that “Deo [Demeter] and Kore became [the personages of] a mystic drama, and Eleusis with its dadouchos celebrates the wandering, the abduction, and the sorrow.” Apparently the drama of the telesterion was a sort of passion play, the subject matter of which was essentially the same as that of the Homeric Hymn. It concerned the loss of the daughter, the sorrow of the mother, and the final return of the loved one from Hades. This view is further confirmed by the words which Apuleius puts into the mouth of Psyche when she appeals to Demeter “by the unspoken secrets of the mystic chests, the winged chariots of thy dragon ministers, the bridal descent of Proserpine, the torchlit wanderings to find thy daughter, and all the other mysteries which Attic Eleusis shrouds in secret.” From these two references it is evident that the important parts of the great myth of Demeter were enacted as a drama before the eyes of the mystae gathered in the telesterion.
Various writers, pagan is well as Christian, furnish additional evidence on this point and emphasize certain crises in the unfolding plot of the passion drama. Apollodorus, an Athenian historian and mythographer of the second century B.C., is quoted as saying, “The hierophant is in the habit of sounding the so-called gong when Kore calls for aid.” Undoubtedly this statement has reference to the Eleusinian ritual, as the mention of the hierophant proves. One can easily understand that the cry of Persephone marked a high point of interest in the course of the Eleusinian drama, and that it was accentuated by the sounding of a gong. The effect of this on the devotees can easily be imagined. It was an unexpected sound coming suddenly in the midst of a solemn ceremonial. It focused attention entirely and sharply on the immediate action. In emotional effect, it was probably not unlike the sounding of the gong during the celebration of mass. By this simple expedient, the abduction of Persephone was made a memorable part of the passion play of Eleusis.
The statement already quoted from the Alexandrian Clement concerning the actors in the Eleusinian drama makes specific reference to the grief of Demeter as constituting a part of the action. This reference is further confirmed by a quotation from a late pagan author, Proclus, who asserts, “The ceremonies of the mysteries in their secret part, transmit certain sacred lamentations of Kore, of Demeter, of the Great Goddess herself.” Thus again it becomes clear that the Eleusinian passion play was not merely a pantomime, reproducing the actions and gestures of the divine personages, but that it included vocal expression as well. By recitative or chant the actors who impersonated the goddesses gave expression to the emotions of the moment. The text suggests that these chants were traditional and were characterized by the fixity of form usual in ritual. Such being the case, the sorrow of Demeter which formed a distinct episode in the Eleusinian drama was further made impressive by traditional liturgical expression.
An important but very vague reference to the secret part of the Eleusinian mysteries is found in the Panegyric oration of Isocrates. “In her wanderings after the abduction of Persephone, Demeter came into our land. She wished to give testimony of her benevolence to our ancestors in recompense for the good offices of which initiates alone are permitted to hear.” What were these services with which only initiates into the Eleusinian mysteries were familiar and of which they could speak only among themselves? Obviously it could not be the welcome given to Demeter by the household of Celeus. That was known to the wide world through the Homeric Hymn. A Latin poet of the first century furnishes a possible explanation of this veiled reference in Isocrates. Addressing the goddess herself, Statius says:
“Tuque, Actaea Ceres, cursu cui semper anelo Votivam taciti quassamus lampada mystae.”
Here the Latin poet speaks as an initiate himself. He is contemplating a ceremony which is not a mere spectacle but a religious rite, shared in by the devotees. In solemn silence, torch in hand, they accompanied Demeter in her breathless wanderings. Just as the priestess personified the goddess, they temporarily represented the legendary inhabitants of Eleusis who not only welcomed the goddess but also assisted her in her search. These were probably the services of which Isocrates hinted with such reserve. In the wanderings of Demeter, then, the initiates actually participated by mimetic action. They did the very things which would enable them best to share emotionally in the profound experiences of their goddess.
A quotation from a fourth-century Christian writer, Lactantius, adds confirmatory evidence here and further suggests what was probably the closing scene of the Eleusinian drama. Referring specifically to the mysteries of Demeter, Lactantius says, “With burning torches Proserpina is sought, and when she is found, the rite is closed with general thanksgiving and a waving of torches.” The search was not in vain. The lost daughter was found and restored; and the initiates who had shared in the anxious wanderings of the mother now shared in her happiness at the recovery of her daughter. With joyous acclamation and the waving of torches the return of the lost daughter was hailed by the initiates. This scene of happiness, according to Lactantius, closed the drama of Eleusis.
Thus, notwithstanding the meagerness of information concerning the Eleusinian passion play, we can yet distinguish the main episodes of its action. The abduction of Persephone, the grief of her mother, the search for the lost daughter, and the reunion of the two goddesses–these were the principle scenes. The indecent actions suggested by a few Christian writers must be ruled out as vouched for only on the testimony of prejudiced and highly interested witnesses. On the other hand, the well-certified scenes, though so few in number, constitute the basis for a religious rite of impressive possibilities.
True, the actors in this passion play were few. But classical Greek tragedy at its best boasted of but three actors. And in the telesterion the protagonist was Demeter, the goddess of grain, and the deuteragonist was Persephone, the goddess of the underworld. Clad in gorgeous and traditional costumes the personages of the Eleusinian passion play must have been very impressive figures. Of scenic effect there was little or nothing. The architectural remains of the telesterion show no provision for anything like stage settings or machinery. There was not even a stage, and the properties were probably the simplest possible–torchlight and rich robes. Again the familiar effects of Greek drama may serve to account for this absence of properties. On the Greek stage all was simplicity and convention. Greek audiences, like the spectators of the Elizabethan drama, were trained to depend upon their imaginations to supply what was lacking in stage settings. So at Eleusis, the effectiveness of the passion play depended much upon the cultivated imaginations of the mystae. Moreover, by simple expedients the participation of the initiates in the action of the drama was brought about. They were not merely spectators of a pageant; they were participants in a ritual. The gong focused their attention upon the first great crisis of the drama, the abduction of the daughter. With torches they followed the mother in her frantic search and again with the waving of torches they expressed their joy at the return of her daughter. Thus, by participation in the dramatic action, as well as by active imagination, the mystae were enabled to share emotionally in the experiences of the great goddesses.
Does the plot centering around the abduction of Persephone and her restoration to her sorrowing mother mark the limits of the dramatic representation in the telesterion? Many students believe it does not. M. Foucart, for example, goes so far as to distinguish a second drama, enacted at Eleusis on the evening following the passion play just outlined. According to M. Foucart, the main features of this second mystery drama were a sacred marriage and the birth of a holy child.
The citations supporting this view are not numerous. A commentator on a passage in Plato’s Gorgias says, “The Mysteries are celebrated in honor of Demeter and Kore, because the latter was abducted by Pluto and because Zeus was united with Demeter.” This reference does suggest the possibility of two different Eleusinian dramas along the lines indicated. From the context, however, it is evident that the scholiast is drawing uncritically from Christian sources; hence the value of his testimony is not certain. Tertullian’s question, “Why is the priestess of Ceres ravished, unless Ceres herself suffered the same sort of thing?” is a passage of doubtful reference and interpretation that can scarcely be cited in proof of a sacred marriage at Eleusis. It is most reasonable to think that Tertullian in speaking thus merely confused Demeter and Persephone. As a subsidiary bit of evidence from a pagan source, it should be noted that Lucian had his false-prophet Alexander introduce a sacred marriage into his mysteries, which were modeled in part after the Eleusinian rites. However, the clearest passage in support of the sacred marriage idea is found in the writings of Asterius, a fourth-century Christian bishop. With unpleasant insinuation, he speaks of “the underground chamber and the solemn meeting of the hierophant and the priestess, each with the other alone, when the torches are extinguished, and the vast crowd believes that its salvation depends on what goes on there.”
If this passage may be taken as conclusive evidence of a sacred marriage in the Eleusinian telesterion, then it has a further significance that is noteworthy. It shows that the marriage was a representative act whereby the initiates entered into mystical communion with their deity. As such it would be a more or less realistic rite after the order of the marriage of the Basilinna at Athens with the god Dionysus, in which the city was united by proxy to the god. The point has this importance: if a sacred marriage was part of the Eleusinian ritual, then this rite assured the initiates of a more direct and immediate communion with the goddess than would otherwise be possible. Whether or not the testimony of Asterius is accepted, his insinuations deserve to be repudiated. There is no reason to assume that any part of the rites were indelicate or were regarded otherwise than with reverence by the initiates. We may be sure of this, that if there was a sacred marriage at Eleusis it was a solemn ceremonial, probably a liturgical fiction, and not an exhibition of licentiousness. Indeed, we have the positive statement of Hippolytus as to the scrupulous purity of the hierophant.
Closely connected with the question of a sacred marriage is that relative to a holy birth at Eleusis. Hippolytus, in the Naassenic sermon just cited, is almost the only authority for this episode. He says:
“The hierophant himself …. celebrating at Eleusis the great and ineffable mysteries beside a huge fire cries aloud and makes proclamation, saying: ‘August Brimo has brought forth a holy son, Brimos,’ that is, the strong has given birth to the strong. For august, he says, is the generation which is spiritual, or heavenly, or from above, and strong is that which is thus generated.”
Such a holy birth as this would normally follow the marriage rite just discussed. What lends exceptional interest to the rite is the idea suggested unclearly in a brief word study that follows. Quoting from “those initiated into the mysteries,” the name Eleusis is derived from eleusesthai (to come) “because we spiritual ones came on high.” This suggests that the holy birth of the Eleusinian drama, a birth “spiritual, heavenly, and from above” was viewed as typifying the new birth of the initiate which translated him from the earthly, human sphere to the heavenly, spiritual realm. On this interpretation the rite came to be viewed as a dramatic enactment of a spiritual rebirth experienced individually by the initiates themselves.
The possibility of such a two-act drama as this at Eleusis must certainly be allowed. With lights extinguished, the initiates may have waited in breathless silence for the consummation of a sacred marriage, believing that it involved their own direct communion with the goddess. Again in a blaze of light they may have welcomed the announcement of a holy birth, believing that their own rebirth as spiritual beings was involved in the process. If so, the rites of Eleusis held out to the whole body of initiates the possibility of immediate communion with deity and complete personal transformation guaranteed by appropriate rites. The mystical communion fostered by the problematic second drama at Eleusis was even more intimate and realistic than that cultivated by the passion play.
Distinct from the dramatic part of the initiation ceremony at Eleusis was the exhibition of sacred objects. This part of the service was at least of equal importance with the passion play. The title of the hierophant was “he who displays the sacred things,” and his exhibition of these objects was an act of the utmost solemnity. Only a part of them were, shown during the celebration at which the neophytes witnessed the mystic drama and attained the grade of mystae. Others were reserved for exhibition a year later at the epopteia, or final grade of initiation, when the mystae became epoptae. Thus the display of venerable objects marked the culmination of the “great mysteries” and, so far as we know, was the all-important feature of the final grade of initiation.
Just what the “sacred things” were is a question not clearly answered. It is but reasonable to suppose that they were the very objects which were solemnly escorted to Athens at the beginning of the festival and were later returned to Eleusis in the procession of the candidates on the nineteenth of September. In these processions they were treated with the highest honors and were carefully guarded from public view. Probably they included statues of the goddesses, images of great antiquity and sanctity. We know how the crude old wooden statues of the gods were venerated in other cults. Ordinarily their origin was a matter of marvel. At Athens, for example, the wooden image of Athena Polias, which was believed to have fallen from heaven during the reign of Cecrops, was inextricably bound up with the fortunes of the city. Tertullian speaks not only of a wooden statute of Athena but also of a like image of Demeter as well. Accordingly, we may infer that Eleusis had its wooden image of Demeter even as Athens had its xoanon of Athena Polias, and in all probability this was the most sacred of all the sacred objects at Eleusis. Quite certainly it was accompanied also by an image of Persephone. Within the sacred area at Eleusis, these statues were housed in the anactoron, or chapel, of Demeter which crowned the citadel. This was the holy of holies in the Eleusinian precinct and none but the hierophant might enter here. An Epicurean who had the hardihood to violate the shrine perished miserably as a result of his impiety. In this anactoron the sacred objects were carefully guarded from profanation until the time came for their exhibition.
The display of the hiera was contrived in a most impressive manner. When the door of the shrine was opened the hierophant, clad in his festival robes, came out into the full blaze of a bright light and revealed the sacred objects to the gaze of the initiates. It was an awesome spectacle. The hierophant in his priestly vestments was himself an impressive figure. Eleusinian inscriptions also suggest how effective was the lighting of this scene. One of them speaks of the “holy night, clearer than the light of the sun.” Another one, a metrical inscription engraved on the base of the statue of a hierophant, exclaims: “O mystae, formerly you saw me coming from the shrine and appearing in the luminous nights.” Being in an impressionable state of mind, the mystae must have felt themselves very near to divinity when objects so jealously guarded and of such sanctity were finally exposed to view. The emotional effect of the exhibition is well suggested by a passage from Plutarch. In discussing “Progress in Virtue,” he used a figure of speech derived from the initiation ceremony of these mysteries. According to Plutarch, “He who once enters into philosophy and sees the great light, as when shrines are open to view, is silent and awestruck.” This passage probably well describes the impression made by the spectacle at Eleusis on a company of initiates.
Of the epopteia attained a year after the telete, our knowledge is most scanty. Apparently it was in the nature of a further revelation of sacred tokens. But a single rite is known to us and this only on the authority of Hippolytus. With a fine show of sarcasm he speaks of “the Athenians initiating people at Eleusis and showing to the epoptae that great and marvellous mystery of perfect revelation, in solemn silence, a cut cornstock!” There are two points of emphasis in this passage: first, that the exhibition of a corn token formed a part of the Eleusinian mystery, and, second, that this exhibition was reserved for the epoptae. On these two points there can be little doubt. Indeed, considering the agricultural background of the Eleusinian festival, it is not only credible, but even probable that a corn token should be among the most sacred things of the Eleusinia. The solemnity of this final exhibition is emphasized by the phrase “in silence.” In this case the display took place without a word of elucidation from the hierophant, whereas the year before the spectacle had been accompanied with an explanatory discourse throughout. As to the meaning of this silent exhibition, we are left entirely to conjecture. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the corn was regarded as the symbol of a birth and rebirth in man paralleling the vernal rebirth of nature. This, at least, is the explanation suggested by Farnell. To the gentile mind of the first century, however, it was not merely a matter of symbolism, but rather a conviction arising “in accordance with the naive and primitive belief in the unity of man’s life with the vegetative world.” In this final exhibition, therefore, the initiate would find a proof as well as an illustration of a personal rebirth like that of the grain in springtime. The emotional effect of this rite was probably not unlike that of the hieratic spectacle a year previous. But the conviction arising from it would be rather the assurance of individual rebirth to new life, instead of communion with deity.
The revelation in silence at the epopteia serves to throw into relief a third distinctive element of the Eleusinian mysteries, the discourse or verbal explanation which accompanied the ceremonial. A quaint rhetorical fragment preserved under the name of Sopatros suggests the importance of this discourse. It recounts the dream of a young man who saw the spectacle of the mysteries. Because he did not hear the words of the hierophant, however, he could not consider himself initiated. Without the priestly discourse, then, the initiation was incomplete.
It is difficult to determine precisely what the content of the discourse was. The references at hand concerning these utterances, however, make it clear that it was not,in isolated speech but rather a running commentary which served to expIain to the mystae the meaning of the tableaux and the significance of the sacred objects. In all probability the formulas used were liturgical in character, though some freedom of utterance may have been allowed the hierophant. In the course of the explanation, he probably descanted on the blessings assured by the initiation ceremonies, and he may have included moral exhortation as well. About all that can be said, therefore, concerning the sacred discourse is that it was an oral interpretation of the Eleusinian ceremonial intended to give to tableau and drama and exhibition their full meaning.
Having canvassed the drama, the spectacle, and the discourse, have we exhausted the significant elements in the Eleusinian ceremonial? Clement of Alexandria has preserved a formula that suggests the possibility of a different type of ritualistic observance. His statement is, “The password of the Eleusinian Mysteries is as follows: ‘I have fasted, I have drunk the barley drink, I have taken things from the sacred chest, having tasted thereof I have placed them into the basket and again from the basket into the chest.'” There is no reason for doubting the genuineness of this password. The meaning of the first two elements in the process is fairly clear. The fasting of the mystae corresponded to that of the sorrowing goddess Demeter who “sat smileless, nor tasted meat nor drink, wasting with long desire for her deep-bosomed daughter.” Likewise the drinking of the barley drink corresponded to the breaking of her fast; for the goddess had refused a cup of sweet wine, “but she had them mix meal and water with the tender herb of mint, and give it to her to drink.” This mixed potion the goddess accepted. Accordingly, in drinking a similar potation the mystae shared the cup from which the great goddess drank in her sorrow. It was a direct and sympathetic participation in the experiences of the goddess, an action expressive of attained fellowship with the deity.
Just what the eating of food from the chest meant to the participant is less obvious. Like the drinking of the barley drink, it was probably a sacrament of communion, and it may have implied an even more realistic communion than was involved in the act of drinking. If, as is most likely, the sacred food consisted of cereals, then the assimilation of this food meant a direct and realistic union with Demeter, the goddess of grain. It meant an incorporation of divine substance into the human body. However the idea was arrived at, this rite clearly involved a mystical communion by the act of eating, even as the barley drink stood for mystical fellowship through the act of drinking. Already emotionally united with Demeter through participation in her passion, the initiates now became realistically one with her by the assimilation of food and drink.
It is further important to note the effects, both imediate and ultimate, of this elaborate ceremonial upon the lives of the devotees. According to Aristotle, the mysteries did not teach rules of conduct but rather stimulated the emotions. “Aristotle is of the opinion,” Synesitis affirms, “that the initiated learned nothing precisely, but that they received impressions and were put into a certain frame of mind. To use the Aristotelian formula, not mathein (to learn) but pathein (to suffer) was the reason for participation in the Eleusinian ritual; and in its immediate aspect this was exactly the effect of the celebration.
This stimulation of emotion is so frequently mentioned in Eleusinian sources that there is little danger of exaggeration at this point. Plutarch drew several striking comparisons illustrating the emotional effect of the rites of Eleusis. In his treatise on “Progress in Virtue” he compared the effect of initiation on a confused and jostling crowd of candidates to the influence of philosophy on a noisy and talkative group of students.
“Those who are initiated, come together at first with confusion and noise, and jostle one another, but when the mysteries are being performed and exhibited, they give their attention with awe and silence….. So also at the commencement of philosophy…. you will see round its doors such confusion and assurance and prating, some rudely and violently jostling their way to reputation; but he who once enters in assumes another air and is silent and awestruck, and in humility and decorum follows reason as if she were a god.”
Plutarch used yet other striking similes to illustrate more specifically the emotional effect of participation in the mysteries. The joy of the initiated, he affirmed, was like that of the ostracized returning to their native land after banishment. Again he took advantage of the mingled trouble and apprehension, the peculiar hope and final joy of the initiated to describe the feelings of the soul at death. According to Plutarch:
When a man dies,he is like those who are being initiated into the mysteries. The one expression teleutan the other teleisthai correspond….. Our whole life is but a succession of wanderings, of painful courses, of long journeys by tortuous ways without outlet. At the moment of quitting it, fears, terrors, quiverings, mortal sweats, and a lethargic stupor, come over us and overwhelm us; but as soon as we are out of it pure spots and meadows receive us, with voices and dances and the solemnities of sacred words and holy sights. It is there that man, having become perfect and initiated–restored to liberty, really master of himself–celebrates crowned with myrtle the most august mysteries, and holds converse with just and pure souls.
With all this evidence it cannot be doubted that the extended ceremonial of the Eleusinia had a profound effect in stirring deeply the feelings of the mystae. They experienced the whole gamut of emotions from doubt and fear to hope and joy.
Furthermore, the Eleusinian rites were so ordered as to enable the worshiper to enact the legendarv experiences of his goddess, and feel as she had felt of old. There was, first of all, the careful mental and physical preparation, the purification of body, and the disposition of mind, which Epictetus stressed, without which, he said, the mysteries could bring no benefit. It was a long preparation beginning at Agrae six months before the initiation proper. At the opening of the greater mysteries the candidates prepared themselves for approach to divinity by fasting and lustrations. They marched in solemn procession along the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis, stopping at holy places redolent with memories of their goddess. After all these preliminaries, they were impressionable and psychologically prepared to share intensely in the emotional experiences of the Great Goddess. When in the passion play of the telesterion they witnessed the abduction of Persephone they were sensitive to the grief of the mother. They assisted her in her frenzied search for her lost daughter, and at the reunion of the goddesses they participated in the joy of the occasion. Like Demeter herself they broke their fast by drinking of the barley drink. As completely as possible the devotees of Demeter reproduced her experiences, shared her feelings, and thereby established a sense of mystical fellowship with their goddess. This was the great experience of their religion.
It was not, however, a mere matter of temporary emotional satisfaction to the initiates; for the rites of Eleusis gave positive assurance for the future as well. The mystical communion established by initiation was a lasting one. Sharing in the other experiences of the goddess, the mystae believed they would share also in her triumph over death. According to Farnell, it was their sense of present fellowship that led directly to this conviction concerning the future.
“These deities, the mother and the daughter and the dark god in the background, were the powers that governed the world beyond the grave: those who had won their friendship by initiation in this life would by the simple logic of faith regard themselves as certain to win blessing at their hands in the next. And this, as far as we can discern, was the ground on which flourished the Eleusinian hope.”
Nothing is clearer than that the devotees of Demeter enjoyed the anticipation of a happy future life. It was not merely the vague promise of a future existence, it was the definite assurance of a blissful future that the mysteries of Eleusis offered to seekers for salvation. In classical antiquity this Eleusinian assurance was generally known and appreciated. The Homeric Hymn declared, “Happy is he among deathly men who has seen these things! But he who is uninitiated, and has no lot in them, will never have equal lot in death beneath the murky gloom.” Pindar and Sophocles re-echoed the same thought. “Thrice happy they who go to the world below, having seen these mysteries; to them alone is life there, to all others is misery.” Among the orators, Isocrates declared, “Those who share this initiation have sweet hopes for the end of life and for all future time.” Plato also gave recognition to this conviction when he said that the mysteries taught enigmatically “that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will lie in a slough, but he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.” At the beginning of the Christian era, this was still the strong hope that the mysteries of Eleusis guaranteed. Cicero said of them, “In the mysteries we learn not only to live happily but to die with fairer hope.” Thus, the mythical experiences of the Eleusinian goddesses in breaking the power of death became the basis for a definite assurance of a happy life beyond the grave. Precisely what the relationship was between the mythological experiences of the Great Goddess and the hopes of her devotees is, indeed, unclear, but that the relationship existed is certain and that the mysteries gave prized assurance of immortality is indubitable.
Not only did the experience of initiation result in a temporary emotional exaltation and a lasting guaranty of future bliss, but it eventuated also in a purification and elevation of the present life of men as well. It is true that the Eleusinian mysteries were criticized at exactly this point. Diogenes of Sinope, for example, sarcastically declared, “It will be an absurd thing if Aegesilaus and Epaminondas are to live in the mire and some miserable wretches who have been initiated are to be in the island of the blest.” Undoubtedly there was reason enough for his criticism. Nevertheless, the general testimony of the ancients was on the other side of the case. Andocides, on trial for impiety before a jury of mystae, assumed that those who had been initiated would be more ready to punish the impious and save the righteous than others would be, and that sin was the more heinous in one who was consecrated to the service of the mother and daughter. At the close of one of his beautiful odes, Aristophanes had the happy initiated sing, “To us alone is there joyous light after death, who have been initiated and who lived in pious fashion as touching our duty to strangers and private people.” Cicero stated as his conviction that in the mysteries we perceive the real principles of life. Even such a stern moralist as Epictetus encouraged reverence for the mysteries, recognized their benefits, and asserted that they were established by those of old for our education and the amendment of life.” In face of such an imposing array of evidence, the modern student cannot avoid the conclusion that the Eleusinian mysteries did exert an elevating influence on the moral life.
Here again, the precise relationship between the Eleusinian ritual and its moral effect is exceedingly unclear. We do not know what was the basis for the Eleusinian ethic. There may have been no exhortation to the mystae to lead pure and good lives. Indeed, the immediate and conscious aim of the rites may not have been an ethical one at all. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the mysteries of Demeter did exercise a salutary influence in the matter of practical living. Not only a temporary stimulation of the emotions, not only a positive guaranty of future happiness, but also a lasting elevation of moral standards was a result of initiation into the mysteries at Eleusis.
For the devotees of Demeter initiation into her cult marked the beginning of a new kind of life more divine than they had known before. It was virtually for them the experience of a new birth. True, the exact word palingenesia does not occur on any of the Eleusinian monuments, but Tertullian attests that the mystae applied this very figure of speech to their initiation experiences and to baptism especially. Tertullian himself did not question the applicability of the term, though as a Christian he naturally insisted on the superior validity of the Christian rite and experience. He argued thus:
“If the mere nature of water, in that it is the appropriate material for washing away, leads men to flatter themselves with a belief in the omens of purification, how much more truly will waters render that service through the authority of God, by whom all their matter has been constituted.”
In other words, Christian baptism according to Tertullian was a potent agency for spiritual regeneration, while Eleusinian baptism was not, though the Christian lawyer admitted that pagan religionists claimed regenerative power for their rite.
In the Eleusinian ritual itself there was much besides baptism to suggest and realistically induce a new birth experience. The mythical background of Eleusinian thought distinctly picturized the recurrent revival of life in nature with each successive year. It represented this fact of common experience in the mythological terms of a goddess who was carried off to Hades but later returned to the upper air. The lesser mysteries, celebrated at Agrae in the springtime, were probably especially suggestive of this renewal of life in nature. The ritual of purification and the long period of fasting preliminary to the great mysteries were intended to wash away the stains of the old life so that the purified candidates might approach the two goddesses prepared for personal renewal. If a ritual marriage formed a part of the mysteries, then the initiates realized a real unio mystica with the divine, in itself a completely transforming process. If the sacred marriage was followed by a holy birth, then the idea of anew life “spiritual, heavenly, and from above,” was further accentuated. With the exhibition of sacred relics the initiates were brought very close to things divine, and the most sacred of these objects, the corn token, was itself a symbol of regeneration. Furthermore, in a realistic sacrament of eating and drinking, the neophytes assimilated food charged with such divine potency that it could transmute human nature into immortal essence. Thus, by realistic union as well as by sympathetic communion, the individual neophyte came to realize a new life by means of initiation.
The type of life which was thus induced by the Eleusinian ritual has been sufficiently characterized. From a purely descriptive standpoint the new birth experience of Eleusis was temporarily a matter of the feelings–the arousal of deep emotions by participation in an ancient and well-ordered ritual. But it resulted in more than a temporary satisfaction of the emotions merely. It eventuated in an amended moral life and the ultimate assurance of future happiness. These were the permanent effects of Eleusinian regeneration.
~~~~~~ Mother Destruction – Babalon Sun Mantra
~~~~~~ Ericapaeus, celebrated pow’r,
Ineffable, occult, all-shining flow’r.
‘Tis thine from darksome mists to purge the sight,
All-spreading splendor, pure and holy light;
Hence, Phanes, call’d the glory of the sky,
On waving pinions thro’ the world you fly.
Priapus, dark-ey’d splendor, thee I sing,
Genial, all-prudent, ever blessed king.
With joyful aspect on these rites divine
And holy Telite propitious shine.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus ) (Henryk Siemiradzki – Phryne on the Poseidon’s celebration in Eleusis)
Beautiful days here in Portland. Catching up with art, packing and getting ready to move. Very, very busy times.
The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled.
Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things!
Blunt the sharpness,
Untangle the knot,
Soften the glare,
Merge with dust.
Oh, hidden deep but ever present!
I do not know from whence it comes.
It is the forefather of the gods.
~~ On The Menu:
Equations Of Power – Dale Pendell
Lamb – Build A Fire
The Science Delusion – A talk with Rupert Sheldrake
Lamb – Górecki
Dao De Ching Lao Tse
Equations Of Power – Dale Pendell
Science arose from poetry… when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Perhaps a moment of that has appeared with the publication of Dale Pendell’s “Equations Of Power”. The Truth contained within Science and the Truth contained within the Poetic Realms do at times coincide. Yet, science and poetry can (and do) stand as separate pillars that hold up the roof of the greater temple of an all encompassing vision and experience of truth.
Dale ventures into this territory with this new volume of verse. The poems ebb and flow across the shared territories of the disciplines:
“Shells and horns,
galaxies and fractals,
roaring through time:
Catches and snares your attention across vast expanses, and pulls you back:
the awful shadow of some unseen power
(The Chambered Nautilus)
time and again.
The poems open up, and swallow your consciousness as they dance at the bidding of the powers of myth and equation, and bring you back again.
I admit that I had to reference, and search out some of the terms, it has been quite awhile since I studied the sciences, so I had to refresh the memory (and discover new wonders as well). Being more of a myth based person it took me a bit to follow some of the breadcrumbs, but soon I was up to speed. Dale shows the adept hand of a wordsmith at the peak of his powers. The poems cover wide territories, and some that are quite familiar at least to me:
Having a nightmare, I
must’ve been moaning
or whimpering, my cat
woke me up by
licking my arm, realized
that I did the same
for her, just, not
using my tongue.
Do lizards dream?
think I heard that but
it’s hard to tell
A blue-bellied fence swift
closes its eyes
on a rock
in the sun.
It is not a large volume, (11 poems in all) but it is wide ranging. I have several favourites amongst them, “Nautilus” of course, but the very fine “Serpentine” having walked the same hills, evokes nicely. You can go back and forth within the boundaries of the covers of “Equations of Power” skipping between verse and poem, but you will not be bound by those limitations. You will be pleasantly surprised at where “Equations” will take you. If of the scientific bent, you might start seeing phenomena in couplets and perhaps rhyme, and if of the poetic school, you might see reality as formula, wave, and again and again, at least for me, Light.
Dale’s ease of verse makes it seem easy, but what is occurring is something that runs deeper, and wilder. The poet is casting jewels of wonder in the proverbial fields of the Nephilim, jewels that reflect the terrible beauty and power that reside within the scientific realm, and within the mythic realms of poesy. Terrible (as in the original meaning of the word) revelations are made visible here, pulsing, rhythmic and evocative. Poems indeed for a new time. Read with delight.
So, it is indeed: Recommended. If you enjoyed Dale’s “Walking With Nobby: Conversations with Norman O. Brown”, you will certainly enjoy “Equations of Power”
Here is a link to order a copy: (I know, Amazon. I did indeed look elsewhere!) Equations of Power
~~ I find such joy in this poem. I think you may as well!
Schrödinger’s Wave Equation
Long lines of the south swell
bend around the point – a seeming preference
for odd integers, waves reflecting
off the jetty in peaks and valleys;
a bat ray, below, undulating-
crack of whip,
stop and go on I-5
(or like that remipede
from the lower Pennsylvanian
with a low Reynold’s Number)
It flashes from birds in flocks,
or a storm front
moving through the trees
across the canyon.
Erwin Schrödinger spent the night
in adulterous fornication
with his mistress.
By morning he was thinking
about waves, in a classical way:
a weight hung from a spring,
or a pulse sinuously traveling
along a rope, or the plucked string of a guitar-
these phenomena all dynamically described
by a second order partial differential equation
relating the rate of change of the rate of change
to the rate of change of the rate of change
Wave being wife, or,
on that night, close enough,
the good physicist assumed
that the energy of the whole ménage
was conserved – that a push here
created an equal and opposite
pull there. He added in
a couple of “pi’s,”
and that troubling granularity
de Broglie had picked up from Planck,
all with enough intuitive genius
to hold the entire state
simultaneously continuous and dicrete,
a particle and a wave,
an arrow of potential in a space of infinite dimensions,
his vector by itself
seemed to provide
the probability of existence,
as if waves of mind
and waves of world
in some orgasmic way,
(in a few simple cases)
by an act of sentience.
~~ “Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
~~~~~~ Lamb – Build A Fire
~~~~~~ The valley spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and Earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.
~~~~~~ The Science Delusion Steve Marshall talks to Rupert Sheldrake about dogma and delusion in contemporary science
By Steve Marshall
Millions of people around the world claim personal experience of unexplained phenomena, which can be as simple as ‘knowing’ who is calling them when the telephone rings. Mainstream science can provide no explanation for this, other than dismissing it as mere delusion. Rupert Sheldrake, after many years of investigating telepathy, the unexplained powers of animals and human precognition, believes that he can. Sheldrake claims that his theory of ‘morphic resonance’ not only explains these widespread phenomena, it also shows how simple organic forms can self-organise into more complex ones, as an addition to Darwin’s process of Natural Selection. According to Sheldrake:
“The formation of habits depends on a process called morphic resonance. Similar patterns of activity resonate across space and time with subsequent patterns. This hypothesis applies to all self-organising systems, including atoms, molecules, crystals, cells, plants, animals and animal societies. All draw upon a collective memory and in turn contribute to it. A growing crystal of copper sulphate, for example, is in resonance with countless previous crystals of copper sulphate, and follows the same habits of crystal organisation, the same lattice structure. A growing oak seedling follows the habits of growth and development of previous oaks. When an orb-web spider starts spinning its web, it follows the habits of countless ancestors, resonating across space and time. The more people who learn a new skill, such as snowboarding, the easier will it be for others to learn it because of morphic resonance from previous snowboarders.”
There is far more to morphic resonance than this, but I’m not the one to explain, as I have to admit I don’t understand all of its many aspects. Sheldrake believes that memories are not stored in the brain but somewhere outside of it; the brain recalls them not as a hard drive does, by playing back physically-stored electrical signals, but more like a television that tunes into transmitted signals and decodes them as memories. It does this by morphic resonance. Here, there are strong similarities with Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and archetypes. Jung’s ideas were accepted (if rather half-heartedly) by many scientists of his day; although Sheldrake does get support from some of his peers, it tends to come privately. His explorations into the liminal areas of science are particularly unpopular with dogmatic sceptics, who regard the work as ‘pseudoscience’ and “outside the scope of scientific experiment’.
But Sheldrake, to the chagrin of his detractors, is not just another amateur crackpot but a bona fide scientist – a Cambridge-trained biochemist with a double-first-class honours degree and a doctorate. Before developing his current interest in parapsychology, he led more conventional research programmes and made important discoveries in plant physiology. Criticism of Sheldrake’s work makes fascinating reading, as it reveals so much about his critics. There is a good deal of professional jealousy and resentment that Sheldrake’s research continues to be funded by Cambridge University, and sour grapes because he sells a lot of books. Most commonly, his theories and findings are dismissed because they do not conform to accepted scientific dogma; this has made him a particular target of the materialists. Frequent, vitriolic attacks are not directed just at Sheldrake’s work either; in 2008, he was stabbed in the leg by a Japanese madman who had followed him to the USA, believing that Sheldrake was using mind-control techniques on him (FT236:5).
Sheldrake has borne all of this with uncommon grace and good humour; however, he retaliates with his latest book The Science Delusion, an elegant counter-attack on scientific materialism. As attacks go, it is rather polite and gentlemanly, but effective.
Just before publication, I spoke to Sheldrake about the ideas in the book and his motives for writing it. First, the title, which appears to be a direct swipe at Richard Dawkins. Did Dawkins really inspire this response?
“No,” admits Sheldrake, “the title was at the insistence of my publishers, and the book will be re-titled in the USA as Science Set Free. Dawkins is far less important outside Britain. Actually, he’s not really very important here either – it’s just that the British media find him a convenient figurehead for the tide of evangelical atheism we’ve seen in recent years. Dawkins is a passion-ate believer in materialist dogma, but the book is not a response to him – although I do object to his dumbed-down representation of science.
“I’ve actually been thinking about the ideas in this book for many years, perhaps 30 or 40. Certainly, since I was an undergraduate and realised that something had gone horribly wrong with science. There was no point in dealing with the problem piecemeal: it was essential to look at the whole picture. There were so many assumptions in place and I wanted to open things up, which is what I’ve done by turning the issues into questions.”
The Science Delusion begins by laying out the 10 dogmata of modern science:
Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, “lumbering robots”, in Richard Dawkins’s vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activity of brains.
The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the Universe suddenly appeared).
The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not ‘out there’, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
Each of these is allotted a chapter in the form of a question, and a short list of further related questions addressed directly to materialists. Some are very funny, highlighting the inherent and often silly contradictions in so much accepted dogma. Is Nature Mechanical?, for example, points out that the mechanistic theory was intended to be a metaphor but has come to be taken literally. Living organisms are not automata, a fact that is patently obvious to any cat or dog owner; few readers would regard themselves as a genetically programmed machine in a mechanical Universe. As Sheldrake puts it: “Most of us feel we are truly alive in a living world – at least at weekends.” Two of his questions to materialists are: “Do you think that you yourself are nothing but a complex machine?” and “Have you been programmed to believe in materialism?”
Sheldrake questions many of science’s basic ‘truths’, which are revealed, with splendid irony, to be either assumptions or, heaven forbid, beliefs. That the Universe began with a Big Bang has been orthodoxy since the 1960s, but it is actually a theory, and one that raises as many questions as it provides answers. Sheldrake does not dispute the theory but compares it to religious creation myths, all of which begin with an initial act of creation by God; the Big Bang theory is different only in that God has been removed from the story. One of the basic tenets of physics is the law of conservation of matter and energy, which asserts that neither can be created or destroyed: the amount of matter and energy in the Universe is always the same. Except of course, in the primal singularity of the Big Bang, when the Universe appeared from nothing, violating all of science’s laws. Sheldrake quotes Terence McKenna: “It’s almost as if science said, ‘Give me one free miracle, and from there the entire thing will proceed with a seamless, causal explanation.’”
Most physicists believe that only about four per cent of the mass and energy in the Universe is conventional; the remaining 96 per cent is made up of ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, about which nothing is known. Gravitation should be slowing down the expansion of the Universe, but observations made in the mid-1990s showed that it is actually speeding up. The continued expansion of the Universe is now believed to be driven by dark energy, which is reckoned to account for 73 per cent of the Universe’s total mass-energy. In the current model, the amount of dark energy may be increasing, counteracting the gravitational pull that should make the Universe contract, driving its expansion in an apparently continuous process of creation. This should not be possible, but the conservation laws apply only to the four per cent of ‘standard’ matter and energy, not necessarily to the mysterious remaining 96 per cent. In the light of modern cosmology, asks Sheldrake, how can anyone possibly be sure that the total amount of matter and energy has always been the same?
The reliability of another of science’s ‘constants’ is also doubtful: the speed of light may not be as constant as we have been led to believe. “When I investigated this some years ago,” Sheldrake tells me, “I came to realise that although the speed of light is assumed to be constant and precisely known, there is evidence to suggest otherwise. The speed of light is measured regularly, in university laboratories all around the world, and each comes up with slightly different results. The final figure is arrived at by a committee of expert metrologists who average the ‘best’ results and arrive at a consensus. But this is not based on all the results they are supplied with; some are discarded, either because they differ too much from what is expected or because their source is not considered totally reliable.”
Measurement of the speed of light began in the early 20th century. Initially, there were considerable variations, but by 1927 the experts had agreed on an “entirely satisfactory” speed of 299,796km (186,300 miles) per second. The following year, this mysteriously dropped by around 20km (12 miles) per second. The new speed was recorded all around the world, with the ‘best’ values closely matching. This lower speed remained constant from about 1928 to 1945, then in the late 1940s it went back up again. It was suggested by some scientists that this might indicate cyclical variations in the speed of light.
“Now we may never know,” Sheldrake laments, “because the problem was eventually solved by locking the speed of light into a closed loop. The metre is now defined by the speed of light – which is defined in metres. So if the speed of light really does vary in the future, the metre will vary with it, and we shall have no way of telling! I took this up,” he goes on, “with some of the experts. I visited one – he actually had a sign on his door saying Chief Metrologist. When I inquired about the 1928 to 1945 variation he muttered, ‘Oh you know about that, do you?’ He admitted it was a little embarrassing that so many respected scientists had made faulty measurements during that period…
“‘But this is interesting!’ I said. ‘What if there really were variations? Shouldn’t it be investigated?’ He looked at me aghast. ‘Whatever for? The speed of light is a constant!’ The Universal Gravitational Constant also varies,” adds Sheldrake, “but they’re a bit more open about that.”
The constancy of the speed of light is regarded as sacrosanct among physicists. When alleged ‘faster than light’ neutrinos made world news last summer, the celebrated Professor Brian Cox explained the issue in layman’s terms for BBC radio. Adamant that the speed of light is a “universal speed limit” that can never be exceeded, he came up with a neat analogy. If an aeroplane were to travel from London to Australia at this absolute maximum speed, there would be no way of making the journey any faster. Apart from, he added, digging a tunnel through the Earth and taking a shortcut. So you see, declared Cox cheerfully, the neutrinos are not necessarily travelling any faster than light – they may be simply taking a shortcut through another dimension! To a non-physicist, it seems surprising that experts find it easier to accept a universe of multiple dimensions (which is possible, but only theoretical) than to question scientific dogma.
Are memories stored as material traces in the brain? Sheldrake is not alone in concluding that they are not. Since the 1890s, a vast amount of research time and money has been spent on this fascinating question and still no traces have been found. Typically, laboratory animals are taught to perform some task, then parts of their brains are surgically removed; later, they can still remember what they have been taught, despite in some cases having hardly any brain left at all. The animals presumably also learn to distrust humans wearing white coats. Sheldrake explores the evidence in great detail and puts a very convincing case. One of his arguments against physically-stored memory is that: “Memories can persist for decades, yet the nervous system is dynamic, continually changing, and so are the molecules within it.” So how could memory be stored in the brain so that it is not lost by molecular turnover? Sheldrake cites recent experiments in which cater-pillars were taught to avoid a stimulus. After undergoing two larval moults and metamorphosis within the pupæ, the resultant moths still remembered what they had learned as caterpillars.
Sheldrake maintains that memories are stored somewhere outside of the brain and retrieved by morphic resonance. So could these memories – and perhaps ideas – be accessed by others? I once met the late Bob Moog at a Theremin convention and thanked the Great Man for inventing voltage-controlled synthesisers. To my surprise, he looked slightly embarrassed and shrugged: “Oh, it was no big deal, just an idea that was going around at that time – it was in the air. Lots of other people must have had the same idea, but I was just lucky that I was able to do something with it.” Most creative people have experienced the zeitgeist at some time or other; had Sheldrake, I inquired, ever known any materialist scientists to complain of falling victim to it?
“No,” he laughs. “But I’m probably the last person they’d tell about it anyway! It has happened many times in science though: Newton and Leibniz, for instance, both simultaneously invented Calculus. On the 75th anniversary of Vogue magazine, I was invited to a symposium at Vogue House to talk on morphic resonance and the zeitgeist. There were many people from the fashion world designers, retailers and so on, and some from finance and the stock market. All were convinced there is a zeitgeist and that they had experienced it. Some had suspected they had spies working inside their company, passing ideas onto their rivals! But it’s people accessing a collective memory. I haven’t dealt with creativity at all in this book, but I believe creative people may be tapping into something beyond space and time.
“When I was writing A New Science of Life, I was very aware that others must be working on the same idea, so I’d better get on with it. And sure enough, there were two or three. One of them, Nicholas Greaves, was not a scientist but an estate agent; he just had this idea come into his head and felt he must express it. His version is called ‘Duplication Theory’. We met, and found that both of us had ideas that were very similar.”
In The Science Delusion, Sheldrake reminds us that scientists are, above all else, human, with all the short-comings and foibles of other mere mortals: “They compete for funding and prestige, constrained by peer-group pressures and hemmed in by prejudices and taboos.” This image runs directly counter to that actively promoted by scientists in recent history – one of a totally impartial, dispassionate elite, who can be uniquely relied upon to reveal the exact truth. Sheldrake quotes Ricky Gervais, who naïvely claims that: “Science is humble… It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along.” This popular view of science is aired regularly in the media by other high-profile celebrities. Stephen Fry (“The stupid person’s clever person”) is an enthusiastic devotee of Richard Dawkins, whose supporters, incidentally, include a surprising number of comedians.
Since the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the world of science has professed to operate in “an open-minded spirit of enquiry” but this is rarely true in practice; any modern research programme is under a good deal of pressure to not produce unexpected or unwanted results. Making waves by questioning accepted dogma is simply not on. Rupert Sheldrake may well be correct in his assertion that something fundamental has been ignored by science – it could even be something as important as gravity. But unless science comes to practise the open-mindedness that it preaches, we may never know. As Sheldrake writes:
“In the Enlightenment ideal, science was a path to knowledge that would transform humanity for the better. Science and reason were the vanguard. These were, and still are, wonderful ideals, and they have inspired scientists for generations. They inspire me. I am all in favour of science and reason if they are scient-ific and reasonable. But I am against granting scientists and the materialist worldview an exemption from critical thinking and sceptical investigation. We need an enlightenment of the Enlightenment.”
~~~~~~ Lamb – Górecki
~~~~~~ The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
Kassian Cephas (1845-1912) The Temple Complex of Borobudur in Magelang
Unity field II (Metaphysical Circus) – Gwyllm Llwydd
Lots of changes.
Since our last posting, we have been to California for my sister’s memorial, which was very lovely. We drove down the Oregon coast to the Arcata/Eureka area for 3 days. Drove back up the coast as well. The northern California and the Oregon coast are so beautiful. I will put up with the couple of extra hours just so I don’t have to deal with I-5, which is a bit of torture for me.
We lost our home Caer Llwydd as the landlords sold it rather rapidly (though to a very nice person that we do like!) 17 years here, but now it is time to move on. We have less than a month at this point to find a new home, which seems to be a bit of a hurdle at the present time. Burn some candles for us!
Dreamhost got hacked for WordPress so our sites were down for 3 weeks plus. Thankfully our friend Doug came through and helped out. It has been a crazy time, but we are back. Soon to migrate to our own server. More details on that soon.
On The Menu:
Upcoming: Equations Of Power
Rabindranth Tagore Quotes
Cell – Universal Sunrise
Our Lady Of Bohemia – The Poetry of Alessandro Cusimano
The Timid Hare and the Flight of the Beasts
Cell – The Bushman
Upcoming: Equations, our next entry with a review of Dale Pendell’s new poetry book “Equations Of Power”
I have been delighted to sit and go over this new selection of poems by Dale. The book’s theme is clearly in the camp of science, with some surprising results. Dale keeps pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, always something new popping out! I will have a full review of it this next week, so please be patient!
~~~~~~ Rabindranth Tagore Quotes:
“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”
“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but
for the heart to conquer it.”
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
~~~~~~ Cell – Universal Sunrise
~~~~~~ Our Lady Of Bohemia – The Poetry of Alessandro Cusimano
(Paris by Night -George Brassaï 1933)
Our Lady of Bohemia
is not a church mouse
is a stray queen
Our Malicious Mary
full of grace and confidences
sovereignty of mirrors and sofas
fragrant drink of salvation
scalds and flares up
and knocks again
in the dark dirty burlesque
a jewel case for Dionysus
with a blessed voice
flowing in the shadows
with a principle of faith
~~ Amsterdam Wide Dreams
a lovely girl brings home her puppet boyfriend
and plays with him
the tall convex space appears turquoise
draws a sinuous line
sensual on the perimeter
steeped in the events of others
is the profile of a wave
villain of the most beautiful seawater
ensures the persistence of blue
the opposite of darkness is spreading
the wave breaks regular
has a changing effect
hands out colours
the night owns the future
forgives the guilt
multiplies the fixed and reflected light
surrounds the vaporous game
unties a curtain
you look and measure the content
the anxiety of the angels goes on stage
the vibrations are perpendicular
penetrate the skin
a mass of water rises and falls
able to overwhelm the spectator
with the honesty of her sins
under a dim light
so as not to be seen
so you do not see the others
there’s a glare
vision is complex
a comely light
the volume of the music is consumed
a ruby-throated hummingbird flies free
growing soft folds follow the trend
the long radius
the imagination to reach
the underside of the tables
steel and water deposit the gray and blue
in the depths of deepest eyes
wooden puppet head is sitting on himself
his face is opalescent
inspired by an happy melodrama
built on the water
Queen of all Flowers
the gaze bends
the night damp colours
bold shapes wink and move
under the roses
things you can touch
clear in the stretch
rose leaves sweeten the thorns
night put on its coloured plumes
the great silence wakes up
and takes away the agony of boredom
the wail of a rose is the cry
of a carnivorous spider
with sweet mouths
showing off brand new throats
with its multiple body
innumerable and victorious
~~ The Brigade
countless eyes mislaid
still in the light
all appears undisclosed
a glint in a lifetime
a vision with no depth
a false dawn
lives hanging in the air
like never free lives
as if time had stopped
in a glacier of emotions
cast into a bottomless pit
before a regret depicted
by the icy warmth
of a pale smile
Son of a painter and a teacher, Alessandro Cusimano was born in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, on July 2, 1967. He lives in Rome, where he is a writer, poet, and translator with a special focus on the visual arts ranging from painting to cinema, from photography to theatre.
An expressivist poet, he freely refers to peripheral and irregular languages, drawing on dialect, slang, and various sectorial and technical forms of expression, which he recreates with personal inventions and varying intensity in every moment of his literary production.
He appeared recently on the international literary stage. Some of his writings have been published by The Cynic Online Magazine, Decanto Magazine, The Recusant, Streetcake Magazine, Numinous Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, RED OCHRE Lit, and Black Cat Poems.
~~~~~~ The Timid Hare and the Flight of the Beasts
Once upon a time when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisatta [the future Buddha] came to life as a young lion. And when fully grown he lived in a wood. At this time there was near the Western Ocean a grove of palms mixed with vilva trees.
A certain hare lived here beneath a palm sapling, at the foot of a vilva tree. One day this hare, after feeding, came and lay down beneath the young palm tree. And the thought struck him, “If this earth should be destroyed, what would become of me?”
And at this very moment a ripe vilva fruit fell on a palm leaf. At the sound of it, the hare thought, “This solid earth is collapsing,” and starting up he fled, without so much as looking behind him. Another hare saw him scampering off, as if frightened to death, and asked the cause of his panic flight.
“Pray, don’t ask me,” he said.
The other hare cried, “Pray, sir, what is it?” and kept running after him.
Then the hare stopped a moment and without looking back said, “The earth here is breaking up.”
And at this the second hare ran after the other. And so first one and then another hare caught sight of him running, and joined in the chase till one hundred thousand hares all took to flight together. They were seen by a deer, a boar, an elk, a buffalo, a wild ox, a rhinoceros, a tiger, a lion, and an elephant. And when they asked what it meant and were told that the earth was breaking up, they too took to flight. So by degrees this host of animals extended to the length of a full league.
When the Bodhisatta saw this headlong flight of the animals, and heard the cause of it was that the earth was coming to an end, he thought, “The earth is nowhere coming to an end. Surely it must be some sound which was misunderstood by them. And if I don’t make a great effort, they will all perish. I will save their lives.”
So with the speed of a lion he got before them to the foot of a mountain, and lion-like roared three times. They were terribly frightened at the lion, and stopping in their flight stood all huddled together. The lion went in amongst them and asked why there were running away.
“The earth is collapsing,” they answered.
“Who saw it collapsing?” he said.
“The elephants know all about it,” they replied.
He asked the elephants. “We don’t know,” they said, “the lions know.”
But the lions said, “We don’t know, the tigers know.”
The tigers said, “The rhinoceroses know.”
The rhinoceroses said, “The wild oxen know.”
The wild oxen, “the buffaloes.”
The buffaloes, “the elks.”
The elks, “the boars.”
The boars, “the deer.”
The deer said, “We don’t know; the hares know.”
When the hares were questioned, they pointed to one particular hare and said, “This one told us.”
So the Bodhisatta asked, “Is it true, sir, that the earth is breaking up?”
“Yes, sir, I saw it,” said the hare.
“Where,” he asked, “were you living, when you saw it?”
“Near the ocean, sir, in a grove of palms mixed with vilva trees. For as I was lying beneath the shade of a palm sapling at the foot of a vilva tree, methought, ‘If this earth should break up, where shall I go?’ And at that very moment I heard the sound the breaking up of the earth, and I fled.”
Thought the lion, “A ripe vilva fruit evidently must have fallen on a palm leaf and made a ‘thud,’ and this hare jumped to the conclusion that the earth was coming to an end, and ran away. I will find out the exact truth about it.”
So he reassured the herd of animals, and said, “I will take the hare and go and find out exactly whether the earth is coming to an end or not, in the place pointed out by him. Until I return, do you stay here.” Then placing the hare on his back, he sprang forward with the speed of a lion, and putting the hare down in the palm grove, he said, “Come, show us the place you meant.”
“I dare not, my lord,” said the hare.
“Come, don’t be afraid,” said the lion.
The hare, not venturing to go near the vilva tree, stood afar off and cried, “Yonder, sir, is the place of dreadful sound,” and so saying, he repeated the first stanza:
From the spot where I did dwell
Issued forth a fearful “thud”;
What it was I could not tell,
Nor what caused it understood.
After hearing what the hare said, the lion went to the foot of the vilva tree, and saw the spot where the hare had been lying beneath the shade of the palm tree, and the ripe vilva fruit that fell on the palm leaf, and having carefully ascertained that the earth had not broken up, he placed the hare on his back and with the speed of a lion soon came again to the herd of beasts.
Then he told them the whole story, and said, “Don’t be afraid.” And having thus reassured the herd of beasts, he let them go.
Verily, if it had not been for the Bodhisatta at that time, all the beasts would have rushed into the sea and perished. It was all owing to the Bodhisatta that they escaped death.
Alarmed at sound of fallen fruit
A hare once ran away,
The other beasts all followed suit
Moved by that hare’s dismay.
They hastened not to view the scene,
But lent a willing ear
To idle gossip, and were clean
Distraught with foolish fear.
They who to Wisdom’s calm delight
And Virtue’s heights attain,
Though ill example should invite,
Such panic fear disdain.
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, because the mass man will mock it right away. I praise what is truly alive, what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights, where you were begotten, where you have begotten, a strange feeling comes over you, when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness, and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter. Now, arriving in magic, flying, and finally, insane for the light, you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I have been on hiatus from Turfing, as this has been a period of transition and change that I couldn’t quite get myself to to write during the time after my sister passed away. When one is in grief, it seems all else is suspended. I have had many deaths amongst friends and family along the way, but Rebecca’s death was the hardest. Perhaps the closeness we had, or the similar paths we tread. I find myself still dwelling on her death these months on.
Along with this, I had to finish off the magazine, which took some 27 submissions believe it or not. This was for yours truly a bit harrowing. I came close to surrender, but I plowed on. There were concessions I had to make, and these of course not willingly. If anything I am obsessed with artistic perfection. Even at a moment of what would seem to others a triumph, I find that I could do more, and do better.
I have begun several new art projects, and setting up the new site for ER-Turfing with the help of Morgan Miller, good friend here in Portland. I decided that Earthrites has to evolve, and hopefully I can find some co-conspirators along the way who want to join in.
Life goes on at Caer Llwydd, spring truly is here, and the bamboo is going crazy, working it’s way into boxes of other plants along the way. For the first time I think we just might have to jump ship to get away from the mayhem this species brings along with it.
I have been working on t-shirts again, and here is a great deal for a good cause: http://ic.earthrites.org/?p=35 You can get a great t-shirt at a great price, $15.00 plus shipping! (USA only thanks!)
This edition has some great poetry, good music, and art. I hope you like it. I have really enjoyed putting another Turf into place,and especially one that helps me in my Reemergence.
~~ On The Menu:
Dead Can Dance performing “Children Of The Sun” Live on KCRW
Lao Tzu Quotes
The Poetry Of Love – Lenore Kandel
Terry Riley – Rainbow In Curved Air
The Architecture Of Dream – A.E. Russell
Dead Can Dance “The Host of Seraphim”-Live @ Grand Rex, Paris – 27/09/2012
Dead Can Dance performing “Children Of The Sun” Live on KCRW
I so love this band. Thanks to Rob for sending me the link. Saw them live last summer as I may have said earlier on, and if you get a chance, please see them.
Lao Tzu Quotes:
If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.
The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.
To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
To lead people walk behind them.
The Poetry Of Love – Lenore Kandel
Invocation for Maitreya
to invoke the divinity in man with the mutual gift of love
with love as animate and bright as death
the alchemical transfiguration of two separate entities
into one efflorescent deity made manifest in radiant human flesh
our bodies whirling through the cosmos, the kiss of heartbeats
the subtle cognizance of hand for hand, and tongue for tongue
the warm moist fabric of the body opening into star-shot rose flowers
the dewy cock effulgent as it bursts the star
sweet cunt-mouth of world serpent Ouroboros girding the universe
as it takes in its own eternal cock, and cock and cunt united
join the circle
moving through realms of flesh made fantasy and fantasy made flesh
love as a force that melts the skin so that our bodies join
one cell at a time
until there is nothing left but the radiant universe
the meteors of light flaming through wordless skies
until there is nothing left but the smell of love
but the taste of love, but the fact of love
until love lies dreaming in the crotch of god …
“there are no ways of love but/beautiful/
I love you all of them
I love you / your cock in my hand
stirs like a bird
in my fingers
as you swell and grow hard
in my hand
forcing fingers open
with your rigid strength
you are a hundred times beautiful
I stroke you with my loving hands
pink-nailed long fingers
I caress you
I adore you
my finger-tips… my palms…
you cock rises and throbs in my hands
a revelation / as Aphrodite knew it
there was a time when gods were purer
/ I can recall nights among the honeysuckle
our juices sweeter than honey
/we were the temple and the god entire
I am naked against you
and I put my mouth on you slowly
I have a longing to kiss you
and my tongue makes worship on you
you are beautiful
your body moves to me
flesh to flesh
skin sliding over golden skin
as mine to yours
my mouth my tongue my hands
my belly and my legs
against your mouth your love
our bodies move and join
your face above me
is the face of all the gods
and beautiful demons
love touches love
the temple and the god
— Lenore Kandel, God/Love.
Hard Core Love
To Whom It Does Concern
Do you believe me when I say / you’re beautiful
I stand here and look at you out of the vision of my eyes
and into the vision of your eyes and I see you and you’re an
and I see you and you’re divine and I see you and you’re a
and you’re beautiful
the divine is not separate from the beast; it is the total crea-
the messiah that has been invoked is already here
you are that messiah waiting to be born again into awareness
you are beautiful; we are all beautiful
you are divine; we are all divine
divinity becomes apparent on its own recognition
accept the being that you are and illuminate yourself
~~~~ Terry Riley – Rainbow In Curved Air
The Architecture Of Dream
– A. E. Russell
I have failed in my purpose if I have not made it clear that in the actual architecture of dream and vision there is a mystery which is not explained by speaking of suppressed desire or sex or any of those springs which modern psychologists surmise are released in dream. A mood may attract its affinities but it does not create what it attracts, and between anger and a definite vision of conflict there is a gulf as mysterious as there was between Aladdin’s desire and the building of his marvellous palace. I desire a house, but desire does not build it. I design a house, but every line is drawn with full consciousness, and when I give the plan to the builder every brick is placed with full consciousness by the masons. No coherent architecture in city or dream arises magically by some unreason which translates bodiless desire into organic form. However swift the succession may be, in that second of time between desire and its visionary embodiment or fulfilment there must be space for intellectual labour, the construction of forms or the choice of forms, and the endowing of them with motion. A second to my brain is too brief a fragment of time for more than sight, but I must believe that to a more intense consciousness, which is co-worker with mine, that second may suffice for a glimpse into some pleroma of form for the selection of these and the unrolling of a vast pageantry. Something there is, a creature within me. behind whose swiftness I falter a hopeless laggard, for it may be a traveller through the Archaeus and back again with the merchandise of its travel before my pulse has beaten twice. As an artist who has laboured slowly at the creation of pictures I assert that the forms of dream or vision if self-created require a conscious artist to arrange them, a magician to endow them with life, and that the process is intellectual, that is, it is conscious on some plane of being, though that self which sits in the gate of the body does not know what powers or dignitaries meet in the inner palace chambers of the soul. When we have dreams of flying and see all things from an angle of vision of which we never could have experience in waking, we know that to speak of the moving pictures of dream as memories or unconscious recombinations of things seen when waking, is to speak without subtlety or intellectual comprehension. I criticise the figures I see in dream or vision exactly as I would the figures in a painting. Even if I see a figure in dream I have seen when waking, if the figure acts in a manner differing from its action when seen with the physical eye, if it now walks when it then sat, or looks down where before it looked up, and if these motions in dream appear authentic so that face and form have the proper light and shade and the anatomies are undistorted, that dream change in the figure of memory is itself a most perplexing thing. We must suppose that memory as memory is as fixed in its way as a sun-picture is fixed or as the attitude of a statue is fixed. If it fades it should be by loss of precision and not into other equally precise but different forms and gestures. Now we could not without cracks or distorting of anatomies or complete remodelling change the pose of a statue even if it was modelled in some easily malleable substance; and the plastic change from stillness to motion in a figure, which we presume to be a memory, is wonderful when we think of it, as wonderful as if the little Tanagra in clay upon my shelf should change from its cast solidity and walk up and down before me. For myself I think man is a protean being, within whose unity there is diversity, and there are creatures in the soul which can inform the images of our memory, or the eternal memory, aye, and speak through them to us in dream, so that we hear their voices, and it is with us in our minute microcosmic fashion even as it was said of the universe that it is a soliloquy of Deity wherein Ain-Soph talks to Ain-Soph.
We can make such general speculations about all pictures moving before the inner eye, and it is always worth while investigating the anatomy of vision and to be intent on what appears to us, for if we have intentness we have memory. A mental picture which at first had yielded nothing to us may be followed by others which indicate a relation to the earliest in the series so that they seem like pages read at different times from the same book. When I was young I haunted the mountains much, finding in the high air vision became richer and more luminous. I have there watched for hours shining landscape and figures in endless procession, trying to discover in these some significance other than mere beauty. Once on the hillside I seemed to slip from to-day into some remote yesterday of earth. There was the same valley below me, but now it was deepening into evening and the skies were towering up through one blue heaven to another. There was a battle in the valley and men reeled darkly hither and thither. I remember one warrior about whom the battle was thickest, for a silver star flickered above his helmet through the dusk. But this I soon forgot for I was impelled to look upwards, and there above me was an airship glittering with light. It halted above the valley while a man, grey-bearded, very majestic, his robes all starred and jewelled, bent over and looked down upon the battle. The pause was but for an instant, and then the lights flashed more brilliantly, some luminous mist was jetted upon the air from many tubes below the boat, and it soared and passed beyond the mountain, and it was followed by another and yet others, all glittering with lights, and they climbed the air over the hill and were soon lost amid the other lights of heaven. It must be a quarter of a century ago since I saw this vision which I remember clearly because I painted the ship, and it must, I think, be about five or six years after that a second vision in the same series startled me. I was again on the high places, and this time the apparition in the mystical air was so close that if I could have stretched out a hand from this world to that I could have clutched the aerial voyager as it swept by me. A young man was steering the boat, his black hair blown back from his brows, his face pale and resolute, his head bent. his eyes intent on his wheel: and beside him sat a woman. a rose-coloured shawl speckled with golden threads drawn over her head. around her shoulders, across her bosom and folded arms. Her face was proud as a queen’s, and I long remembered that face for its pride, stillness and beauty. I thought at the moment it was some image in the eternal memory of a civilisation more remote than Atlantis and I cried out in my heart in a passion of regret for romance passed away from the world. not knowing that the world’s great age was again returning and that soon we were to swim once more beneath the epic skies. After that at different times and places I saw other such aerial wanderers, and this I noted, that all such visions had a character in keeping with each other, that they were never mixed up with modernity, that they had the peculiarities by which we recognise civilisations as distinct from each other, Chinese from Greek or Egyptian from Hindu. They were the stuff out of which romance is made, and if I had been a storyteller like our great Standish O’Grady I might have made without questioning a wonder tale of the air, legendary or futurist, but I have always had as much of the philosophic as the artistic interest in what people call imagination, and I have thought that many artists and poets gave to art or romance what would have had an equal if not a greater interest as psychology. I began to ask myself where in the three times or in what realm of space these ships were launched. Was it ages ago in some actual workshop in an extinct civilisation, and were these but images in the eternal memory? Or were they launched by my own spirit from some magical arsenal of being, and, if so, with what intent? Or were they images of things yet to be in the world, begotten in that eternal mind where past, present and future coexist, and from which they stray into the imagination of scientist, engineer or poet to be out-realised in discovery, mechanism or song? I find it impossible to decide. Sometimes I even speculate on a world interpenetrating ours where another sun is glowing, and other stars are shining over other woods, mountains, rivers and another race of beings. And I know not why it should not be so. We are forced into such speculations when we become certain that no power in us of which we are conscious is concerned in the creation of such visionary forms. If these ships were launched so marvellously upon the visionary air by some transcendent artisan of the spirit they must have been built for some purpose and for what? I was not an engineer intent on aerial flight, but this is, I think, notable that at the moment of vision I seemed to myself to understand the mechanism of these airships, and I felt. if I could have stepped out of this century into that visionary barque, I could have taken the wheel and steered it confidently on to its destiny. I knew that the closing of a tube at one side of the bow would force the ship to steer in that direction, because the force jetted from the parallel tube on the other side, no longer balanced by an equal emission of power, operated to bring about the change. There is an interest in speculating about this impression of knowledge for it might indicate some complicity of the subconscious mind with the vision which startled the eye. That knowledge may have been poured on the one while seeing was granted to the other. If the vision was imagination, that is if the airship was launched from my own spirit, I must have been in council with the architect, perhaps in deep sleep. If I suppose it was imagination I am justified in trying by every means to reach with full consciousness to the arsenal where such wonders are wrought. I cannot be content to accept it as imagination and not try to meet the architect. As for these visions of airships and for many others I have been unable to place them even speculatively in any world or any century, and it must be so with the imaginations of many other people. But I think that when we begin speculation about these things it is the beginning of our wakening from the dream of life.
I have suggested that images of things to be may come into our sphere out of a being where time does not exist. I have had myself no definite proof as yet that any vision I saw was prophetic, and only one which suggested itself as such to me, and this was so remarkable that I put it on record, because if it was prophetic its significance may become apparent later on. I was meditating about twenty-one years ago in a little room, and my meditation was suddenly broken by a series of pictures which flashed before me with the swiftness of moving pictures in a theatre. They had no relation I could discover to the subject of my meditation, and were interpolated into it then perhaps, because in a tense state of concentration when the brain becomes luminous it is easier to bring to consciousness what has to be brought. I was at the time much more interested in the politics of eternity than in the politics of my own country, and would not have missed an hour of my passionate meditation on the spirit to have witnessed the most dramatic spectacle in any of our national movements. In this meditation I was brought to a wooded valley beyond which was a mountain, and between heaven and earth over the valley was a vast figure aureoled with light, and it descended from that circle of light and assumed human shape, and stood before me and looked at me. The face of this figure was broad and noble in type, beardless and dark-haired. It was in its breadth akin to the face of the young Napoleon, and I would refer both to a common archetype. This being looked at me and vanished, and was instantly replaced by another vision, and this second vision was of a woman with a blue cloak around her shoulders, who came into a room and lifted a young child upon her lap, and from all Ireland rays of light converged on that child. Then this disappeared and was on the instant followed by another picture in the series; and here I was brought from Ireland to look on the coronation throne at Westminster, and there sat on it a figure of empire which grew weary and let fall the sceptre from its fingers, and itself then drooped and fell and disappeared from the famous seat. And after that in swift succession came another scene, and a gigantic figure, wild and distraught, beating a drum, stalked up and down, and wherever its feet fell there were sparks and the swirling of flame and black smoke upward as from burning cities. It was like the Red Swineherd of legend which beat men into an insane frenzy; and when that distraught figure vanished I saw the whole of Ireland lit up from mountain to sea, spreading its rays to the heavens as in the vision which Brigid the seeress saw and told to Patrick. All I could make of that sequence was that some child of destiny, around whom the future of Ireland was to pivot, was born then or to be born, and that it was to be an avatar was symbolised by the descent of the first figure from the sky, and that before that high destiny was to be accomplished the power of empire was to be weakened, and there was to be one more tragic episode in Irish history. Whether this is truth or fantasy time alone can tell. No drums that have since beaten in this land seem to me to be mad enough to be foretold of in that wild drumming. What can I say of such a vision but that it impressed me to forgetfulness of analysis, for what it said was more important than any philosophy of its manner. I have tried to reason over it with myself, as I would with a sequence of another character, to deduce from a sequence better than could be done from a single vision, valid reasons for believing that there must be a conscious intellect somewhere behind the sequence. But I cannot reason over it. I only know that I look everywhere in the face of youth, in the aspect of every new notability, hoping before I die to recognise the broad-browed avatar of my vision.
Dead Can Dance “The Host of Seraphim” – Live @ Grand Rex, Paris – 27/09/2012
O Holy One, I ran through the fields and gathered flowers of a thousand colors — And now I pour them out at Your feet. Their beauty and their brightness shout for joy at Your Presence. You created the flowers of the fields and made each one far more lovely that all the skill [any person] could design. Accept my joy alone with theirs, this field of blossoms at Your feet. Holy One, as the wind blows through these flowers till they dance in the ecstasy of creation, send Your Spirit to blow through my being till I too, bloom and dance with the fullness of Your life. —Ishpriya R.S.C.J.
(Gwyllm Llwydd – “Black Mandala” – 2013
Pen & Ink (reversal in photoshop) This is a return to the basic work of pointillism combined with mandalas that I have done most my life. The return to form was inspired by contemplation of the lotus of the heart, ever opening ever dilating with love expressed through consciousness. It is dedicated to my sister Rebecca, who embodied such a sense of grace in her shining moments.
With updating the site, and un-updating it, to repairs and then other events, this post is far to long in coming. This may be perhaps the last post of Turfing in this manner, good changes are planned! We hope to update the site this week into its newest mutation.
Thanks for sticking with us! Thanks to all,
As some of you may know, I lost my sister Rebecca a couple of weeks ago. We shared similar paths for many years, and shared adventures and friends. She was a few years older than me, and recently had lived in Portland. She died from septic shock, a complication of pneumonia, and the other problems that had accumulated for her.
She was a genuinely nice person, kind and generous. She was an adventurer, and very talented. She didn’t understand her impact on others, from the emails and notices on Facebook she touched and gave so much to so many people.
From her dance & theatre work, to her teaching of women’s studies in eastern Europe she affected change where ever she went. There is a memorial planned for her around the time of her birthday in June to allow friends & students from Europe, across the US and Asia to attend. It should be quite the event!
I wake up each morning with a sense of loss. I know others have experienced this, throughout time. I am thankful for the time we had together, and I ponder what could of been. This is of course the way of it all. She was the first person in our family to hold Rowan after Mary & I. She blessed him, and welcomed him. She will be missed terribly.
She was here, and now she is gone like, a shooting star.
To all that is brief and fragile superficial, unstable,
To all that lacks foundation argument or principles;
To all that is light,
fleeting, changing, finite
To smoke spirals,
To sea foam and mists of oblivion…
To all that is light in weight for itinerants on this transient earth
with transitory words
and vaporous bubbly wines
I toast in breakable glasses.
—Maria Eugenia Baz Ferreira
~~~~~~ Harold Budd / Akira Rabelais: As Long as I Can Hold my Breath (by Night)
~~~~~~ Poems: Theodore Roethke
I Thirst By Day
I thirst by day. I watch by night.
I receive! I have been received!
I hear the flowers drinking in their light,
I have taken counsel of the crab and the sea-urchin,
I recall the falling of small waters,
The stream slipping beneath the mossy logs,
Winding down to the stretch of irregular sand,
The great logs piled like match sticks.
I am most immoderately married:
The Lord God has taken my heaviness away:
I have merged, like the bird, with the bright air,
And my thought flies to the place by the bo-tree.
Being, not doing, is my first job.
~~ Elegy For Jane
My student, thrown by a horse)
I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once started into talk, the light syllables leaped for her.
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.
Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.
If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover
Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.
In A Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
We are here, then we are gone.
I have been in interesting communications with various folks around the world, hatching ideas and plans. I feel almost giddy with the possibilities opening up art and literature wise, so much to get done at this point. I am publishing the magazine, and launching it in the next couple of days, and have begun on a couple of new projects in the print field as well. The art is flowing again, and life seems wide open with possibilities.
Our son Rowan is in the south of France near Nice working on a documentary on a Bulgarian dancer from the 40′s through the 60′s, Sonia Arova, who worked with the greats of those time periods leaving an amazing legacy. He walked through the streets of Paris, and I think his eyes are opening to such new possibilities with this excursion. He is there with his friends Colleen (who is directing the documentary) and Adam who is the DP for this project. Rowan is doing sound & lights. Colleen’s mother was a student of Arova, and she is doing the interviews on this project. I think it is very exciting!
This Edition: Ah, closer. A most enjoyable edition to put together. Sifting through what has washed up upon the cultural shores, I have come back with riches. I think you will thoroughly enjoy this edition as much as I did in constructing it.
~~ On The Menu:
The Semi Commercial Corner
John Coltrane: Lush Life
Jack Kerouac: The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
John Coltrane: Autumn Leaves
I thought about December 21st and how it looks like the end of the world in lots of people view points. Actually, I think it’s an occasion for a very big party, which this poster is a nod to. We are helping fund production cost for the publishing of The Invisible College Magazine with this little number, a must have for those Post-Apocalyptic Days that are just around the corner! Click Here To Purchase If You So Desire!
(Click afterwards on Prints!)
~~~~~ Gwyllm’s 2013 Calendar!
Finally, a new calendar after such a long break! This calendar is full of illustrations from the Invisible College Magazine and other current projects. I am pretty excited to see it out there!
Did I create that sky? Yes, for, if it was anything other than a conception in my mind I wouldnt have said ‘Sky’-That is why I am the golden eternity. There are not two of us here, reader and writer, but one, one golden eternity, One-Which-It-Is, That-Which- Everything-Is.
The awakened Buddha to show the way, the chosen Messiah to die in the degradation of sentience, is the golden eternity. One that is what is, the golden eternity, or, God, or, Tathagata-the name. The Named One. The human God. Sentient Godhood. Animate Divine. The Deified One. The Verified One. The Free One. The Liberator. The Still One. The settled One. The Established One. Golden Eternity. All is Well. The Empty One. The Ready One. The Quitter. The Sitter. The Justified One. The Happy One.
That sky, if it was anything other than an illusion of my mortal mind I wouldnt have said ‘that sky.’ Thus I made that sky, I am the golden eternity. I am Mortal Golden Eternity.
I was awakened to show the way, chosen to die in the degradation of life, because I am Mortal Golden Eternity.
I am the golden eternity in mortal animate form.
Strictly speaking, there is no me, because all is emptiness. I am empty, I am non-existent. All is bliss.
This truth law has no more reality than the world.
You are the golden eternity because there is no me and no you, only one golden eternity.
The Realizer. Entertain no imaginations whatever, for the thing is a no-thing. Knowing this then is Human Godhood.
This world is the movie of what everything is, it is one movie, made of the same stuff throughout, belonging to nobody, which is what everything is.
If we were not all the golden eternity we wouldnt be here. Because we are here we cant help being pure. To tell man to be pure on account of the punishing angel that punishes the bad and the rewarding angel that rewards the good would be like telling the water ‘Be Wet’-Never the less, all things depend on supreme reality, which is already established as the record of Karma earned-fate.
God is not outside us but is just us, the living and the dead, the never-lived and never-died. That we should learn it only now, is supreme reality, it was written a long time ago in the archives of universal mind, it is already done, there’s no more to do.
This is the knowledge that sees the golden eternity in all things, which is us, you, me, and which is no longer us, you, me.
What name shall we give it which hath no name, the common eternal matter of the mind? If we were to call it essence, some might think it meant perfume, or gold, or honey. It is not even mind. It is not even discussible, groupable into words; it is not even endless, in fact it is not even mysterious or inscrutably inexplicable; it is what is; it is that; it is this. We could easily call the golden eternity ‘This.’ But ‘what’s in a name?’ asked Shakespeare. The golden eternity by another name would be as sweet. A Tathagata, a God, a Buddha by another name, an Allah, a Sri Krishna, a Coyote, a Brahma, a Mazda, a Messiah, an Amida, an Aremedeia, a Maitreya, a Palalakonuh, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 would be as sweet. The golden eternity is X, the golden eternity is A, the golden eternity is /\, the golden eternity is O, the golden eternity is [ ], the golden eternity is t-h-e-g-o-l-d-e-n-e-t-e-r- n-i-t-y. In the beginning was the word; before the beginning, in the beginningless infinite neverendingness, was the essence. Both the word ‘god’ and the essence of the word, are emptiness. The form of emptiness which is emptiness having taken the form of form, is what you see and hear and feel right now, and what you taste and smell and think as you read this. Wait awhile, close your eyes, let your breathing stop three seconds or so, listen to the inside silence in the womb of the world, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, re-recognize the bliss you forgot, the emptiness and essence and ecstasy of ever having been and ever to be the golden eternity. This is the lesson you forgot.
The lesson was taught long ago in the other world systems that have naturally changed into the empty and awake, and are here now smiling in our smile and scowling in our scowl. It is only like the golden eternity pretending to be smiling and scowling to itself; like a ripple on the smooth ocean of knowing. The fate of humanity is to vanish into the golden eternity, return pouring into its hands which are not hands. The navel shall receive, invert, and take back what’d issued forth; the ring of flesh shall close; the personalities of long dead heroes are blank dirt.
The point is we’re waiting, not how comfortable we are while waiting. Paleolithic man waited by caves for the realization of why he was there, and hunted; modern men wait in beautified homes and try to forget death and birth. We’re waiting for the realization that this is the golden eternity.
It came on time.
There is a blessedness surely to be believed, and that is that everything abides in eternal ecstasy, now and forever.
Mother Kali eats herself back. All things but come to go. All these holy forms, unmanifest, not even forms, truebodies of blank bright ecstasy, abiding in a trance, ‘in emptiness and silence’ as it is pointed out in the Diamond-cutter, asked to be only what they are: GLAD.
The secret God-grin in the trees and in the teapot, in ashes and fronds, fire and brick, flesh and mental human hope. All things, far from yearning to be re-united with God, had never left themselves and here they are, Dharmakaya, the body of the truth law, the universal Thisness.
‘Beyond the reach of change and fear, beyond all praise and blame,’ the Lankavatara Scripture knows to say, is he who is what he is in time and time-less-ness, in ego and in ego-less-ness, in self and in self-less-ness.
Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.
Things dont tire of going and coming. The flies end up with the delicate viands.
The cause of the world’s woe is birth, The cure of the world’s woe is a bent stick.
Though it is everything, strictly speaking there is no golden eternity because everything is nothing: there are no things and no goings and comings: for all is emptiness, and emptiness is these forms, emptiness is this one formhood.
All these selfnesses have already vanished. Einstein measured that this present universe is an expanding bubble, and you know what that means.
Discard such definite imaginations of phenomena as your own self, thou human being, thou’rt a numberless mass of sun-motes: each mote a shrine. The same as to your shyness of other selves, selfness as divided into infinite numbers of beings, or selfness as identified as one self existing eternally. Be obliging and noble, be generous with your time and help and possessions, and be kind, because the emptiness of this little place of flesh you carry around and call your soul, your entity, is the same emptiness in every direction of space unmeasurable emptiness, the same, one, and holy emptiness everywhere: why be selfy and unfree, Man God, in your dream? Wake up, thou’rt selfless and free. ‘Even and upright your mind abides nowhere,’ states Hui Neng of China. We’re all in heaven now.
Roaring dreams take place in a perfectly silent mind. Now that we know this, throw the raft away.
Are you tightwad and are you mean, those are the true sins, and sin is only a conception of ours, due to long habit. Are you generous and are you kind, those are the true virtues, and they’re only conceptions. The golden eternity rests beyond sin and virtue, is attached to neither, is attached to nothing, is unattached, because the golden eternity is Alone. The mold has rills but it is one mold. The field has curves but it is one field. All things are different forms of the same thing. I call it the golden eternity-what do you call it, brother? for the blessing and merit of virtue, and the punishment and bad fate of sin, are alike just so many words.
Sociability is a big smile, and a big smile is nothing but teeth. Rest and be kind.
There’s no need to deny that evil thing called GOOGOO, which doesnt exist, just as there’s no need to deny that evil thing called Sex and Rebirth, which also doesn’t exist, as it is only a form of emptiness. The bead of semen comes from a long line of awakened natures that were your parent, a holy flow, a succession of saviors pouring from the womb of the dark void and back into it, fantastic magic imagination of the lightning, flash, plays, dreams, not even plays, dreams.
‘The womb of exuberant fertility,’ Ashvhaghosha called it, radiating forms out of its womb of exuberant emptiness. In emptiness there is no Why, no knowledge of Why, no ignorance of Why, no asking and no answering of Why, and no significance attached to this.
A disturbed and frightened man is like the golden eternity experimentally pretending at feeling the disturbed-and-frightened mood; a calm and joyous man, is like the golden eternity pretending at experimenting with that experience; a man experiencing his Sentient Being, is like the golden eternity pretending at trying that out too; a man who has no thoughts, is like the golden eternity pretending at being itself; because the emptiness of everything has no beginning and no end and at present is infinite.
‘Love is all in all,’ said Sainte Therese, choosing Love for her vocation and pouring out her happiness, from her garden by the gate, with a gentle smile, pouring roses on the earth, so that the beggar in the thunderbolt received of the endless offering of her dark void. Man goes a-beggaring into nothingness. ‘Ignorance is the father, Habit-Energy is the Mother.’ Opposites are not the same for the same reason they are the same.
The words ‘atoms of dust’ and ‘the great universes’ are only words. The idea that they imply is only an idea. The belief that we live here in this existence, divided into various beings, passing food in and out of ourselves, and casting off husks of bodies one after another with no cessation and no definite or particular discrimination, is only an idea. The seat of our Immortal Intelligence can be seen in that beating light between the eyes the Wisdom Eye of the ancients: we know what we’re doing: we’re not disturbed: because we’re like the golden eternity pretending at playing the magic cardgame and making believe it’s real, it’s a big dream, a joyous ecstasy of words and ideas and flesh, an ethereal flower unfolding a folding back, a movie, an exuberant bunch of lines bounding emptiness, the womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void, happy young gods talking and drinking on a cloud. Our 32,000 chillicosms bear all the marks of excellence. Blind milky light fills our night; and the morning is crystal.
Give a gift to your brother, but there’s no gift to compare with the giving of assurance that he is the golden eternity. The true understanding of this would bring tears to your eyes. The other shore is right here, forgive and forget, protect and reassure. Your tormenters will be purified. Raise thy diamond hand. Have faith and wait. The course of your days is a river rumbling over your rocky back. You’re sitting at the bottom of the world with a head of iron. Religion is thy sad heart. You’re the golden eternity and it must be done by you. And means one thing: Nothing-Ever-Happened. This is the golden eternity.
When the Prince of the Kalinga severed the flesh from the limbs and body of Buddha, even then the Buddha was free from any such ideas as his own self, other self, living beings divided into many selves, or living beings united and identified into one eternal self. The golden eternity isnt ‘me.’ Before you can know that you’re dreaming you’ll wake up, Atman. Had the Buddha, the Awakened One, cherished any of these imaginary judgments of and about things, he would have fallen into impatience and hatred in his suffering. Instead, like Jesus on the Cross he saw the light and died kind, loving all living things.
The world was spun out of a blade of grass: the world was spun out of a mind. Heaven was spun out of a blade of grass: heaven was spun out of a mind. Neither will do you much good, neither will do you much harm. The Oriental imperturbed, is the golden eternity.
He is called a Yogi, his is called a Priest, a Minister, a Brahmin, a Parson, a Chaplain, a Roshi, a Laoshih, a Master, a Patriarch, a Pope, a Spiritual Commissar, a Counselor, and Adviser, a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, an Old Man, a Saint, a Shaman, a Leader, who thinks nothing of himself as separate from another self, not higher nor lower, no stages and no definite attainments, no mysterious stigmata or secret holyhood, no wild dark knowledge and no venerable authoritativeness, nay a giggling sage sweeping out of the kitchen with a broom. After supper, a silent smoke. Because there is no definite teaching: the world is undisciplined. Nature endlessly in every direction inward to your body and outward into space.
Meditate outdoors. The dark trees at night are not really the dark trees at night, it’s only the golden eternity.
A mosquito as big as Mount Everest is much bigger than you think: a horse’s hoof is more delicate than it looks. An altar consecrated to the golden eternity, filled with roses and lotuses and diamonds, is the cell of the humble prisoner, the cell so cold and dreary. Boethius kissed the Robe of the Mother Truth in a Roman dungeon.
Do you think the emptiness of the sky will ever crumble away? Every little child knows that everybody will go to heaven. Knowing that nothing ever happened is not really knowing that nothing ever happened, it’s the golden eternity. In other words, nothing can compare with telling your brother and your sister that what happened, what is happening, and what will happen, never really happened, is not really happening and never will happen, it is only the golden eternity. Nothing was ever born, nothing will ever die. Indeed, it didnt even happen that you heard about golden eternity through the accidental reading of this scripture. The thing is easily false. There are no warnings whatever issuing from the golden eternity: do what you want.
Even in dreams be kind, because anyway there is no time, no space, no mind. ‘It’s all not-born,’ said Bankei of Japan, whose mother heard this from her son did what we call ‘died happy.’ And even if she had died unhappy, dying unhappy is not really dying unhappy, it’s the golden eternity. It’s impossible to exist, it’s impossible to be persecuted, it’s impossible to miss your reward.
Eight hundred and four thousand myriads of Awakened Ones throughout numberless swirls of epochs appeared to work hard to save a grain of sand, and it was only the golden eternity. And their combined reward will be no greater and no lesser than what will be won by a piece of dried turd. It’s a reward beyond thought.
When you’ve understood this scripture, throw it away. If you cant understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.
O everlasting Eternity, all things and all truth laws are no- things, in three ways, which is the same way: AS THINGS OF TIME they dont exist because there is no furthest atom than can be found or weighed or grasped, it is emptiness through and through, matter and empty space too. AS THINGS OF MIND they dont exist, because the mind that conceives and makes them out does so by seeing, hearing touching, smelling, tasting, and mentally-noticing and without this mind they would not be seen or heard or felt or smelled or tasted or mentally-noticed, they are discriminated that which they’re not necessarily by imaginary judgments of the mind, they are actually dependent on the mind that makes them out, by themselves they are no-things, they are really mental, seen only of the mind, they are really empty visions of the mind, heaven is a vision, everything is a vision. What does it mean that I am in this endless universe thinking I’m a man sitting under the stars on the terrace of earth, but actually empty and awake throughout the emptiness and awakedness of everything? It means that I am empty and awake, knowing that I am empty and awake, and that there’s no difference between me and anything else. It means that I have attained to that which everything is.
The-Attainer-To-That-Which-Every thing-Is, the Sanskrit Tathagata, has no ideas whatever but abides in essence identically with the essence of all things, which is what it is, in emptiness and silence. Imaginary meaning stretched to make mountains and as far as the germ is concerned it stretched even further to make molehills. A million souls dropped through hell but nobody saw them or counted them. A lot of large people isnt really a lot of large people, it’s only the golden eternity. When St. Francis went to heaven he did not add to heaven nor detract from earth. Locate silence, possess space, spot me the ego. ‘From the beginning,’ said the Sixth Patriarch of the China School, ‘not a thing is.’
He who loves all life with his pity and intelligence isnt really he who loves all life with his pity and intelligence, it’s only natural. The universe is fully known because it is ignored. Enlightenment comes when you dont care. This is a good tree stump I’m sitting on. You cant even grasp your own pain let alone your eternal reward. I love you because you’re me. I love you because there’s nothing else to do. It’s just the natural golden eternity.
What does it mean that those trees and mountains are magic and unreal?- It means that those trees and mountains are magic and unreal. What does it mean that those trees and mountains are not magic but real?- it means that those trees and mountains are not magic but real. Men are just making imaginary judgments both ways, and all the time it’s just the same natural golden eternity.
If the golden eternity was anything other than mere words, you could not have said ‘golden eternity.’ This means that the words are used to point at the endless nothingness of reality. If the endless nothingness of reality was anything other than mere words, you could not have said ‘endless nothingness of reality,’ you could not have said it. This means that the golden eternity is out of our word-reach, it refuses steadfastly to be described, it runs away from us and leads us in. The name is not really the name. The same way, you could not have said ‘this world’ if this world was anything other than mere words. There’s nothing there but just that. They’ve long known that there’s nothing to life but just the living of it. It Is What It Is and That’s All It Is.
There’s no system of teaching and no reward for teaching the golden eternity, because nothing has happened. In the golden eternity teaching and reward havent even vanished let alone appeared. The golden eternity doesnt even have to be perfect. It is very silly of me to talk about it. I talk about it simply because here I am dreaming that I talk about it in a dream already ended, ages ago, from which I’m already awake, and it was only an empty dreaming, in fact nothing whatever, in fact nothing ever happened at all. The beauty of attaining the golden eternity is that nothing will be acquired, at last.
Kindness and sympathy, understanding and encouragement, these give: they are better than just presents and gifts: no reason in the world why not. Anyhow, be nice. Remember the golden eternity is yourself. ‘If someone will simply practice kindness,’ said Gotama to Subhuti, ‘he will soon attain highest perfect wisdom.’ Then he added: ‘Kindness after all is only a word and it should be done on the spot without thought of kindness.’ By practicing kindness all over with everyone you will soon come into the holy trance, infinite distinctions of personalities will become what they really mysteriously are, our common and eternal blissstuff, the pureness of everything forever, the great bright essence of mind, even and one thing everywhere the holy eternal milky love, the white light everywhere everything, emptybliss, svaha, shining, ready, and awake, the compassion in the sound of silence, the swarming myriad trillionaire you are.
Everything’s alright, form is emptiness and emptiness is form, and we’re here forever, in one form or another, which is empty. Everything’s alright, we’re not here, there, or anywhere. Everything’s alright, cats sleep.
The everlasting and tranquil essence, look around and see the smiling essence everywhere. How wily was the world made, Maya, not-even-made.
There’s the world in the daylight. If it was completely dark you wouldnt see it but it would still be there. If you close your eyes you really see what it’s like: mysterious particle-swarming emptiness. On the moon big mosquitos of straw know this in the kindness of their hearts. Truly speaking, unrecognizably sweet it all is. Don’t worry about nothing.
Imaginary judgments about things, in the Nothing-Ever-Happened wonderful void, you dont even have to reject them, let alone accept them. ‘That looks like a tree, let’s call it a tree,’ said Coyote to Earthmaker at the beginning, and they walked around the rootdrinker patting their bellies.
Perfectly selfless, the beauty of it, the butterfly doesnt take it as a personal achievement, he just disappears through the trees. You too, kind and humble and not-even-here, it wasnt in a greedy mood that you saw the light that belongs to everybody.
Look at your little finger, the emptiness of it is no different than the emptiness of infinity.
Cats yawn because they realize that there’s nothing to do.
Up in heaven you wont remember all these tricks of yours. You wont even sigh ‘Why?’ Whether as atomic dust or as great cities, what’s the difference in all this stuff. A tree is still only a rootdrinker. The puma’s twisted face continues to look at the blue sky with sightless eyes, Ah sweet divine and indescribable verdurous paradise planted in mid-air! Caitanya, it’s only consciousness. Not with thoughts of your mind, but in the believing sweetness of your heart, you snap the link and open the golden door and disappear into the bright room, the everlasting ecstasy, eternal Now. Soldier, follow me! – there never was a war. Arjuna, dont fight! – why fight over nothing? Bless and sit down.
I remember that I’m supposed to be a man and consciousness and I focus my eyes and the print reappears and the words of the poor book are saying, ‘The world, as God has made it’ and there are no words in my pitying heart to express the knowless loveliness of the trance there was before I read those words, I had no such idea that there was a world.
This world has no marks, signs, or evidence of existence, nor the noises in it, like accident of wind or voices or heehawing animals, yet listen closely the eternal hush of silence goes on and on throughout all this, and has been gong on, and will go on and on. This is because the world is nothing but a dream and is just thought of and the everlasting eternity pays no attention to it. At night under the moon, or in a quiet room, hush now, the secret music of the Unborn goes on and on, beyond conception, awake beyond existence. Properly speaking, awake is not really awake because the golden eternity never went to sleep; you can tell by the constant sound of Silence which cuts through this world like a magic diamond through the trick of your not realizing that your mind caused the world.
The God of the American Plateau Indian was Coyote. He says: ‘Earth! those beings living on your surface, none of them disappearing, will all be transformed. When I have spoken to them, when they have spoken to me, from that moment on, their words and their bodies which they usually use to move about with, will all change. I will not have heard them.’
I was smelling flowers in the yard, and when I stood up I took a deep breath and the blood all rushed to my brain and I woke up dead on my back in the grass. I had apparently fainted, or died, for about sixty seconds. My neighbor saw me but he thought I had just suddenly thrown myself on the grass to enjoy the sun. During that timeless moment of unconsciousness I saw the golden eternity. I saw heaven. In it nothing had ever happened, the events of a million years ago were just as phantom and ungraspable as the events of now, or the events of the next ten minutes. It was perfect, the golden solitude, the golden emptiness, Something-Or- Other, something surely humble. There was a rapturous ring of silence abiding perfectly. There was no question of being alive or not being alive, of likes and dislikes, of near or far, no question of giving or gratitude, no question of mercy or judgment, or of suffering or its opposite or anything. It was the womb itself, aloneness, alaya vijnana the universal store, the Great Free Treasure, the Great Victory, infinite completion, the joyful mysterious essence of Arrangement. It seemed like one smiling smile, one adorable adoration, one gracious and adorable charity, everlasting safety, refreshing afternoon, roses, infinite brilliant immaterial gold ash, the Golden Age. The ‘golden’ came from the sun in my eyelids, and the ‘eternity’ from my sudden instant realization as I woke up that I had just been where it all came from and where it was all returning, the everlasting So, and so never coming or going; therefore I call it the golden eternity but you can call it anything you want. As I regained consciousness I felt so sorry I had a body and a mind suddenly realizing I didn’t even have a body and a mind and nothing had ever happened and everything is alright forever and forever and forever, O thank you thank you thank you.
This is the first teaching from the golden eternity.
The second teaching from the golden eternity is that there never was a first teaching from the golden eternity. So be sure.
~~~~~~ Beat Quotes:
Oh, smell the people!’ yelled Dean with his face out the window, sniffling. ‘Ah, God! Life!’”
-Jack Kerouac, On The Road
“Obviously the ‘purpose’ of the trip is carefully selected to symbolize the basic fact of purposelessness. Neal is, of course, the very soul of the voyage into pure, abstract meaningless motion. He is The Mover, compulsive, dedicated, ready to sacrifice family, friends, even his very car itself to the necessity of moving from one place to another.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg on Neal and his skeptical views of the man and voyage which spurred On The Road
“Love is all.’
“I went with him for no reason.”
-Jack Kerouac on Neal Cassady
“What’s your road, man? -holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”
-Neal Cassady as Dean Moriarty in On The Road
“Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?”
-Jack Kerouac, on the final gathering/Snyders’ going away party
“The omlet fell apart, as with such eggs it must.”
-Wilifrid Sheed, on the San Francisco Renaissance Poets
“I am getting so far out one day I won’t come back at all.”
“Ginsby boy, he’s all over Oregon like horseshit howling his dirty pome.”
-Jack Kerouac on Allen Ginsberg
“I am beginning to think he is a great saint, a great saint concealed in a veneer of daemonism.”
-Jack Kerouac on Allen Ginsberg
“We are all trying to get the exact style of ouuselves.”
-Michael McClure on the San Francisco Renaissance
“To rebel! That is the immediate objective of poets! We can not wait and will not be held back…The “poetic marvelous” and the unconscious are the true inspirers of rebels and poets.”
Jack Kerouac’s Translations of Buddhist Terms
Dharma: “truth law”
Tathata: “that which everything is”
Tathagata: “attainer to that which everything is”
Bodhisattva-Manasattvas: “beings of great wisdom”
“Kerouac’s version of Buddha is a dimestore incense burner, glowing and glowering sinisterly in the dark corner of a Beatnik pad and just thrilling the wits out of bad little girls.”
“I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, accute pain. I don’t mean sexually. I mean in connection with my writing.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg
“I did no think I was hooked on him like this. The withdrawl symptoms are worse than the Marker habit. Tell Allen I plead guilty to vampirism and other crimes against life. But I love him and nothing else cancels love.”
-William Burroughs to Jack Kerouac on Ginsberg
“I have a strange feeling here of being outside any social context.”
-William Burroughs in Tangiers
“Not that Irwin wasn’t worthy of him but how on earth could they consumate this great romantic love with vaseline and K.Y.?”
-Jack Kerouac on Ginsberg and Burroughs relationship
“Between incomprehensible and incoherent sits the madhouse. I am not in the madhouse.”
-Jack Kerouac to Carl Solomon.
I hope you enjoy the selections for Turfing. I was writing about politics and all, but frankly, I am done on that account. The magazine is close to being done, if I could but concentrate a bit better. I went through 2 minor surgeries in the last 2 days, so I am not as sparky as usual.
I really like what is in Turfing for this edition. I hope you like it as much as I did in putting it together.
~~ On The Menu:
Eugene Debs Quotes
Aes Dana – Perimeters (Full Album)
The Poems of Robinson Jeffers
Orgies Of The Hemp Eaters
~~~~~~~ Eugene Debs Quotes:
The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society — we are on the eve of universal change.
I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands.
Wherever capitalism appears, in pursuit of its mission of exploitation, there will Socialism, fertilized by misery, watered by tears, and vitalized by agitation be also found, unfurling its class-struggle banner and proclaiming its mission of emancipation.
I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.
What the workingmen of the country are profoundly interested in is the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, the enslaving and degrading wage-system in which they toil for a pittance at the pleasure of their masters and are bludgeoned, jailed or shot when they protest — this is the central, controlling, vital issue of the hour, and neither of the old party platforms has a word or even a hint about it.
As a rule, large capitalists are Republicans and small capitalists are Democrats, but workingmen must remember that they are all capitalists, and that the many small ones, like the fewer large ones, are all politically supporting their class interests, and this is always and everywhere the capitalist class.
You may have seen this from my postings elsewhere, but it is worthy to watch again, and to share with your friends and fellow travelers.
~~~~~~~ Aes Dana – Perimeters (Full Album)
~~~~~~~ The Poems of Robinson Jeffers
Robinson Jeffers in Carmel
Perhaps we desire death: or why is poison so sweet?
Why do the little Sirens
Make kindlier music, for a man caught in the net of the world
Between news-cast and work-desk,-
The little chirping Sirens, alcohol, amusement, opiates,
And carefully sterilized lust,-
Than the angels of life? Really it is rather strange, for the angels
Have all the power on their side.
All the importance:- men turn away from them, preferring their own
Vulgar inventions, the little
Trivial Sirens. Here is another sign that the age needs renewal.
To A Young Artist
It is good for strength not to be merciful
To its own weakness, good for the deep urn to run
over, good to explore
The peaks and the deeps, who can endure it,
Good to be hurt, who can be healed afterward: but
you that have whetted consciousness
Too bitter an edge, too keenly daring,
So that the color of a leaf can make you tremble
and your own thoughts like harriers
Tear the live mind: were your bones mountains,
Your blood rivers to endure it? and all that labor
of discipline labors to death.
Delight is exquisite, pain is more present;
You have sold the armor, you have bought shining
with burning, one should be stronger than
To fight baresark in the stabbing field
In the rage of the stars: I tell you unconsciousness
is the treasure, the tower, the fortress;
Referred to that one may live anything;
The temple and the tower: poor dancer on the flints
and shards in the temple porches, turn home.
PREHISTORIC MONUMENT NEAR CUSHENDALL
Steep up in Lubitavish townland stands
A ring of great stones like fangs, the shafts of the stones
Grown up with thousands of years of gradual turf,
The fangs of the stones still biting skyward; and hard
Against the stone ring, the oblong enclosure
Of an old grave guarded with erect slabs; gray rocks
Backed by broken thorn-trees, over the gorge of Glenaan;
It is called Ossian’s Grave. Ossian rests high then,
If there were any fame or burial or monument
For me to envy,
Warrior and poet they should be yours and yours.
For this is the pure fame, not caged in a poem,
Fabulous, a glory untroubled with works, a name in the north
Like a mountain in the mist, like Aura
Heavy with heather and the dark gray rocks, or Trostan
Dark purple in the cloud: happier than what the wings
And imperfections of work hover like vultures
Above the carcass.
I also make a remembered name;
And I shall return home to the granite stones
On my cliff over the greatest ocean
To be blind ashes under the butts of the stones:
As you here under the fanged limestone columns
Are said to lie, over the narrow north straits
Toward Scotland, and the quick-tempered Moyle. But written
Will blot for too long a year the bare sunlight
Above my rock lair, heavy black birds
Over the field and the blood of the lost battle.
Oh but we lived splendidly
In the brief light of day
Who now twist in our graves.
You in the guard of the fanged
Erect stones; and the man-slayer
Shane O’Neill dreams yonder at Cushendun
Crushed under his cairn;
And Hugh McQuillan under his cairn
By his lost field in the bog on Aura;
And I a foreigner, one who has come to the country of the dead
Before I was called,
To eat the bitter dust of my ancestors;
And thousands on tens of thousands in the thronged earth
Under the rotting freestone tablets
At the bases of broken round towers;
And the great Connaught queen on her mountain-summit
The high cloud hoods, it creeps through the eyes of the cairn,
We dead have our peculiar pleasures, of not
Doing, of not feeling, of not being.
Enough has been felt, enough done, Oh and surely
Enough of humanity has been. We lie under stones
Or drift through the endless northern twilights
And draw over our pale survivors the net of our dream.
All their lives are less
Substantial than one of our deaths, and they cut turf
Or stoop in the steep
Short furrows, or drive the red carts, like weeds waving
Under the glass of water in a locked bay,
Which neither the wind nor the wave nor their own will
Moves; when they seem to awake
It is only to madden in their dog-days for memories of dreams
That lost all meaning many centuries ago.
Oh but we lived splendidly
In the brief light of day,
You with hounds on the mountain
And princes in palaces,
I on the western cliff
In the rages of the sun:
Now you lie grandly under your stones
But I in a peasant’s hut
Eat bread bitter with the dust of dead men;
The water I draw at the spring has been shed for tears
Ten thousand times,
Or wander through the endless northern twilights
From the rath to the cairn, through fields
Where every field-stone’s been handled
Ten thousand times,
In a uterine country, soft
And wet and worn out, like an old womb
That I have returned to, being dead.
Oh but we lived splendidly
Who now twist in our graves.
The mountains are alive;
Tievebuilleagh lives, Trostan lives,
And Aura, the black-faced sheep in the belled heather;
And the swan-haunted loughs; but also a few of us dead
A life as inhuman and cold as those.
Apology For Bad Dreams
In the purple light, heavy with redwood, the slopes drop seaward,
Headlong convexities of forest, drawn in together to the steep
ravine. Below, on the sea-cliff,
A lonely clearing; a little field of corn by the streamside; a roof
under spared trees. Then the ocean
Like a great stone someone has cut to a sharp edge and polished
to shining. Beyond it, the fountain
And furnace of incredible light flowing up from the sunk sun.
In the little clearing a woman
Is punishing a horse; she had tied the halter to a sapling at the
edge of the wood, but when the great whip
Clung to the flanks the creature kicked so hard she feared he
would snap the halter; she called from the house
The young man her son; who fetched a chain tie-rope, they
Noosed the small rusty links round the horse’s tongue
And tied him by the swollen tongue to the tree.
Seen from this height they are shrunk to insect size.
Out of all human relation. You cannot distinguish
The blood dripping from where the chain is fastened,
The beast shuddering; but the thrust neck and the legs
Far apart. You can see the whip fall on the flanks . . .
The gesture of the arm. You cannot see the face of the woman.
The enormous light beats up out of the west across the cloud-bars
of the trade-wind. The ocean
Darkens, the high clouds brighten, the hills darken together.
Unbridled and unbelievable beauty
Covers the evening world . . . not covers, grows apparent out
of it, as Venus down there grows out
From the lit sky. What said the prophet? ‘I create good: and
I create evil: I am the Lord.’
This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places,
(The quiet ones ask for quieter suffering: but here the granite cliff
the gaunt cypresses crown
Demands what victim? The dykes of red lava and black what
Titan? The hills like pointed flames
Beyond Soberanes, the terrible peaks of the bare hills under the
sun, what immolation? )
This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places: and
like the passionate spirit of humanity
Pain for its bread: God’s, many victims’, the painful deaths, the
horrible transfigurements: I said in my heart,
‘Better invent than suffer: imagine victims
Lest your own flesh be chosen the agonist, or you
Martyr some creature to the beauty of the place.’ And I said,
‘Burn sacrifices once a year to magic
Horror away from the house, this little house here
You have built over the ocean with your own hands
Beside the standing boulders: for what are we,
The beast that walks upright, with speaking lips
And little hair, to think we should always be fed,
Sheltered, intact, and self-controlled? We sooner more liable
Than the other animals. Pain and terror, the insanities of desire;
not accidents but essential,
And crowd up from the core:’ I imagined victims for those
wolves, I made them phantoms to follow,
They have hunted the phantoms and missed the house. It is not
good to forget over what gulfs the spirit
Of the beauty of humanity, the petal of a lost flower blown
seaward by the night-wind, floats to its quietness.
Boulders blunted like an old bear’s teeth break up from the
headland; below them
All the soil is thick with shells, the tide-rock feasts of a dead
Here the granite flanks are scarred with ancient fire, the ghosts
of the tribe
Crouch in the nights beside the ghost of a fire, they try to remember
Light has died out of their skies. These have paid something for
Luck of the country, while we living keep old griefs in memory:
Envy is not a likely fountain of ruin, to forget evils calls down
Sudden reminders from the cloud: remembered deaths be our
Imagined victims our salvation: white as the half moon at midnight
Someone flamelike passed me, saying, ‘I am Tamar Cauldwell,
I have my desire,’
Then the voice of the sea returned, when she had gone by, the
stars to their towers.
. . . Beautiful country burn again, Point Pinos down to the
Burn as before with bitter wonders, land and ocean and the
He brays humanity in a mortar to bring the savor
From the bruised root: a man having bad dreams, who invents
victims, is only the ape of that God.
He washes it out with tears and many waters, calcines it with
fire in the red crucible,
Deforms it, makes it horrible to itself: the spirit flies out and
stands naked, he sees the spirit,
He takes it in the naked ecstasy; it breaks in his hand, the atom
is broken, the power that massed it
Cries to the power that moves the stars, ‘I have come home to
myself, behold me.
I bruised myself in the flint mortar and burnt me
In the red shell, I tortured myself, I flew forth,
Stood naked of myself and broke me in fragments,
And here am I moving the stars that are me.’
I have seen these ways of God: I know of no reason
For fire and change and torture and the old returnings.
He being sufficient might be still. I think they admit no reason;
they are the ways of my love.
Unmeasured power, incredible passion, enormous craft: no
thought apparent but burns darkly
Smothered with its own smoke in the human brain-vault: no
thought outside: a certain measure in phenomena:
The fountains of the boiling stars, the flowers on the foreland,
the ever-returning roses of dawn.
From the New York Herald, Friday, March 15, 1895: Orgies Of The Hemp Eaters: Hashish Dreamers’ Festival in Northwestern Syria Occurs at the Time of the Full Moon.
Women Join The Ceremony: Scenes at the Sacred Dance That Surpass the Wildest Ecstasy of Any Opium Dream.
Eugene Alexis Girardet – The Almeh
THE DRUG AND ITS EFFECTS.
Standing in the outskirts of the little town of Latakieh, in Northwestern Syria, famous everywhere for the excellent tobacco which takes its name from the otherwise obscure and insignificant place — and turning his back on the ramshackle houses the flea infested caravansary, the malodorous bazaar and garbage strewn streets, where the scavenger dogs lie stretched out [in the] noonday sun — the traveller sees in the distance, beyond a wide stretch of green slope and alternate level, a low range of hills, on which a soft purple haze [!] seems always to linger. These hills lie between the Lebanon, where the fierce Druses dwell in their highland fastnesses, and the Nahr-el-kebir, “The Mighty River.” They are known nowadays as the Nosairie Mountains, the home of the so-called Nosairiyeh tribesmen, the modern “Assassins,” or “Hemp Eaters,” as they should be designated from their ceremonial use of hemp, in Arabic “hashish.” AT THE TIME OF THE FULL MOON. The festival or gathering of the hemp eaters is celebrated monthly, at the time of the full moon, the moon being then supposed to exert a specific influence upon human beings. The sectaries meet under a sacred oak tree growing upon a hill, about equidistant from Latakieh and the valley of the Orontes, and close to a tiny village inhabited by some twenty families of the tribe. There is an enormous drum, some three feet in diameter, standing at the entrance to the village, a couple of hundred yards off, and as soon as it begins to darken and the westering sun appears to have fairly sunk in the waters of the Mediterranean, which is clearly visible from the elevated hilltop on which the Nosarriyeh are gathered, a deafening boom comes from the instrument and rolls over the mountain tops like the rumble of thunder, rousing the tribesmen to activity, and in a moment they are on the alert. Lamps are quickly lit and suspended to the branches of the sacred oak among the dangling rags and buttons and feathers and metal scraps that decorate it. A square heap of wood is built up in front of the tree about a dozen yards from it. A sheep is brought forward by one of the men, and the rest of the tribesmen then gather around, the lamps throwing a dim light on their picturesque figures and grim countenances. The Sheikh puts his hand gently on the head of the bleating animal, it is thrown down, its throat cut, after the fashion of the Moslems, and in little more time than it takes to write the words the fleece is off, the carcass is divided and placed on the wood heap, to which fire is applied and kept up till all flesh as well as timber is utterly consumed. Now the Nosarriyeh seat themselves in a circle upon the earth, the Shiekh in the centre, with an attendant on either hand, one holding a large earthenware bowl containing a liquid, the other a bundle of stems to which leaves are attached — the leaves of the sacred hemp plant. The chief takes the stems in his left and the bowl in his right hand and slowly walks around the circle, stopping in front of each man present, who takes from him, first the greenery, at which he sniffs gently, then the bowl, the contents of which he sips. The vessel contains a sweetened infusion of hemp, strong and subtle in its action. WHAT THE DECOCTION IS LIKE The taste of the decoction is sweet, nauseously so, not unlike some preparations of chloroform, and its first effects are anything but pleasant, for it produces a distict tendency to vomit, not unlike a strong dose of ipecacuahna. As soon as all have in succession partaken of the drink, which is termed “homa”, big horns are produced containing spirits, for the Nosarriyeh are great dram drinkers. The horns of liquor are passed about and in a few moments the effects are apparent, following upon the hemp. The eyes brighten, the pulse quickens, the blood seems to bound more actively in the veins, and a restlessness takes possession of the whole body. At this moment the booming of a giant drum is heard again, giving the signal for the sacred dance which is the next item in the ceremonial of the evening. From each of the dozen parties or so into which the clansmen are divided one steps out, and the dozen individuals so designated form up against a gentle declivity in rear of them. Two of the tribe with a “reba,” one string fiddle, and a tambourine, seat themselves and start a peculiar air in a minor key, which all those around take up, clapping their hands the while rhythmically, and to this rhythm the dancers, joining hands as they stand, begin to move gently to and fro. The moonlight is full on them, showing up their white nether garments, but leaving the dusky faces and dark upper garments in a semi-shadow. First the dancers move slowly, a few steps to the right and further to the left they go each time, till the movement becomes a positive allegro. Faster goes the music, faster the dancers, until with a finale furioso the men stop, panting and out of breath, at the signal of the Sheikh. He claps his hands and twelve others step out, and the figure begins as before. When these are exhausted a fresh set take their place, and this is continued until each of the clansmen has taken part in the dance. In conclusion all join hands and go seven times round the sacred oak in the direction left to right. A CRAZY FESTIVAL The solemn supper is now ready, and is served by the wives of the tribesmen, who have been busy preparing it in huge earthernware dishes placed upon the ground in the middle of each group. And the moonlight meal in the shade of the sacred oak is none the less striking by reason of its being dished up by women who wear in their shash-bands a sharp yataghan, of which the handle shows clearly, and a brace of pistols in the girdle. The plates are peculiar. First there is fried liver, eaten to the accompaniment of fiery arrack — the favorite spirit of the hemp eaters. Then comes “leben” — a species of sour cooked cream, with more “arak;” afterward the “kibabs” of mutton, in slices on little wooded sticks, like the familiar ware of the cat’s meat man; eggs filled with a force meat of rice, tomato, mutton and onions and “pillau.” Each person has a wooden spoon to eat with, and the etiquette of the table requires one to eat much and eat quickly, and to drink as much as one eats. The appetites of the Nosairiyeh are proverbial in Syria, the usual allowance of meat being a sheep or two. I can vouch for their tippling powers. Scores of them finish their pint horn of arrack in a couple of draughts, taking a couple of quarts in the course of their supper. The meal is really a match against time, and, with such good trencher men as the hemp eaters, is quickly finished. The real business of the evening now begins. The hemp, powdered and mixed with sirup [sic], is brought round in bowls, together with the decoction of the leaves well sweetened. Each of the tribesmen secures a vessel of arrack — for it quickens and heightens the action of the drugs — and disposes himself in the most comfortable attitude he can think of. Then, taking a good spoonful of the hemp, and washing it down with an equally good drink from the liquor receptable, he lies or leans back to allow it to operate. I take a reasonable allowance of the compound (it tastes very much like raw tea leaves flavored with sugar water), and then lie back to note the action on my own person, and watch, so far as I can, its effects upon the modern assassins whose systems are seasoned and more accustomed to the drug. Five, ten minutes pass, and there is no sensation; the men around me, with closed eyes, look like waxwork figures. Another ten minutes, and the pulse begins to beat rapidly, the heart commences to thump against the sides of the chest, the blood seems to rush to the head, and there is a sensation of fullness, as if the skull would be burst asunder at the base. There is a roaring in the ears, and strange lights, blurred and indistinct, pass before the eyes. In a moment and quite suddenly all of this passes of
f, leaving a feeling of delicious languor, and an idea that one is rising from the ground and floating in space. Little things assume an enormous size, and things seem far off. EFFECTS OF THE DRUG. The oak tree close by appears to be a mile off, and the cup of drink looks a yard across, the size of a big barrel. One’s hands and feet feel heavy and cumbersome, and then feel as if they were dropping off, leaving one free to soar away from the earth skyward, where the clouds seem to open to receive one, and one long perspective of light shines before the eyes. The feeling is one of estactic [sic] restfulness, contented unconsciousness, suggesting the “ninirvana” [sic] of the Buddhist. This marks always the end of the first stage of hemp eating. The aphrodisiac effects, the visions of fair faces and beauteous forms, the voluptuous dreams and languishing fancies which the Easterns experience — these are the results of larger and oft repeated doses of the drug.
Already the larger quantities of the compound, repeated many times in the meantime and stimulated by frequent draughts of arrack, are beginning to show their results upon the hitherto immobile figures of the Nosiariyeh round the sacred oak. Again and again they seize the spoon and convey it to their mouths, until the hemp craze is fully upon them. One or two stir uneasily; then another screams for “Ali, Ali!” (their founder Ali), who is identical, they say with Allah. A half a dozen respond lustily, “Ali hu Allah!” then empty the arrack cups beside them.
A few move about with outstretched arms as though they were in the clouds trying to clutch the houris, whose imaginary forms they see, and disappointed, sink back, after a fresh supply of the drug has been swallowed. From the extremity beyond, where the women are located, come the sound of singing and of laugher and the rhythmic patter of feet upon the ground. The ladies have been indulging on their own account, and the noise they make rouses the men from their dreams. Three or four jump up from the floor at a single bound, and, seized by the dance mania, begin capering away as for very life. They jig here and there, they twine and twist, and writhe and wriggle and distort themselves, awakening […fragment missing…] blows off his matchlock as he capers merrily round, while his neighbor stretches out his fingers for the arrack.
END OF THE HASHISH DEBAUCH
In the distance we hear the sound of the women’s voices as they scream and sing and dance in a noisy whirl under the influence also of the intoxicating hemp. Again and yet again the tribesmen quaff from the hashish bowl, and the riot grows wilder and madder than before. It becomes a veritable saturnalia. Flushed and inflamed, they fly from side to side, tear to and fro, whirl round on the heels, skipping in the air and jumping feet high above the ground, to the banging of the great drum in the village; the shouting of those unable to move, the screeching of the “Reba,” or fiddle, which still plays on, and the crackling of the guns as they go off. Scimitars are drawn, yataghans flourished, half a dozen engage in mimic combat, slashing and cutting at each other with an all too earnest resolve to draw blood — a result speedily obtained — while yet another batch dance round and round on their heels spinning like tops in play. Faster and furious grows the corybantic rout, and in their mad excitement the men tear the garments from their bodies, throw away their weapons, fling the turbans from their heads and, naked to the waist, with dishevelled hair and eyes ablaze and extended arms, they continue their mad antics, until foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the nostrils, they sink to the earth and lie huddled in heaps, hopelessly and helplessly intoxicated with the hemp.
Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground. – Dante Alighieri
Jean Delville – L’Ecole de Platon (the school of Plato)
Well, this finds us mid month. We have been working on several projects, with some success. I am bouncing back from my surgery that I had earlier in the month. My nose is on the mend, thankfully.
Mary & I celebrated her birthday, and our 34th year of marriage this past week or so. We are blessed in our love, and in the family and friends within our community.
I was going to write about the concepts of transmission, but perhaps another time. When I read poetry, or see a great painting, or hear a delightful song, I feel the eternal move in concert with all that exist.
We are droplets of consciousness in the waves of such a greater ocean. Our lives rise, crest and fall within these tides of beauty. Blindly it seems, that we don’t recognize the signs moment by moment; we rush here and there, trying to be elsewhere but here, here and now.
“…ma gia volgena il mio disio e’l velle
si come rota ch’igualmente e mossa,
l’amor che move: i sole e l’altre stelle
…as a wheel turns smoothtly, free from jars, my will and my desire were turned by love, The love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
― Dante Alighieri, Paradiso
~~ On The Menu:
Link o’ Beauty
Solar Fields – Earthshine
Dante Alighieri: Poems On Love
An Overdose of Hasheesh
~~~~~~ Link o’ Beauty Steve McCurry’s Blog
~~~~~~ Menander Quotes:
“The character of a man is known from his conversations.”
“Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado.”
“The person who has the will to undergo all labor may win any goal.”
“The sword the body wounds, sharp words the mind.”
~~~~~~ Solar Fields -Earthshine
~~~~~~ Dante Alighieri: Poems On Love
Raffaele Giannetti – First meeting of Dante and Beatrice
My lady carries love within her eyes;
All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
And droops his troubled visage, full of sighs,
And of his evil heart is then aware:
Hate loves, and pride becomes a worshiper.
O women, help to praise her in somewise.
Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
And who beholds is blessèd oftenwhiles,
The look she hath when she a little smiles
Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
‘Tis such a new and gracious miracle.
Whatever while the thought comes over me
That I may not again
Behold that lady whom I mourn for now,
About my heart my mind brings constantly
So much of extreme pain
That I say, Soul of mine, who stayest thou?
Truly the anguish, soul, that we must bow
Beneath, until we win out of this life,
Gives me full oft a fear that trembleth:
So that I call on Death
Even as on Sleep one calleth after strife,
Saying, Come unto me. Life showeth grim
And bare; and if one dies, I envy him,
For ever, among all my sighs which burn,
There is a piteous speech
That clamors upon death continually:
Yea, unto him doth my whole spirit turn
Since first his hand did reach
My lady’s life with most foul cruelty.
But from the height of woman’s fairness she,
Going up from us with the joy we had,
Grew perfectly and spiritually fair;
That so she treads even there
A light of Love which makes the Angels glad,
And even unto their subtle minds can bring
A certain awe of profound marveling.
OF BEAUTY AND DUTY
Two ladies to the summit of my mind
Have clomb, to hold an argument of love.
The one has wisdom with her from above,
For every noblest virtue well designed:
The other, beauty’s tempting power refined
And the high charm of perfect grace approve:
And I, as my sweet Master’s will doth move,
At feet of both their favors am reclined.
Beauty and Duty in my soul keep strife,
At question if the heart such course can take
And ‘twixt the two ladies hold its love complete.
The fount of gentle speech yields answer meet,
That Beauty may be loved for gladness sake,
And Duty in the lofty ends of life.
OF THE LADY PIETRA DEGLI SCROVIGNI
To the dim light and the large circle of shade
I have climbed, and to the whitening of the hills,
There where we see no color in the grass.
Natheless my longing loses not its green,
It has so taken root in the hard stone
Which talks and hears as though it were a lady.
Utterly frozen is this youthful lady,
Even as the snow that lies within the shade;
For she is no more moved than is the stone
By the sweet season which makes warm the hills
And alters from afresh from white to green
Covering their sides again with flowers and grass.
When on her hair she sets a crown of grass
The thought has no more room for other lady,
Because she weaves the yellow with the green
So well that Love sits down there in the shade,–
Love who has shut me in among low hills
Faster than between walls of granite-stone.
She is more bright than is a precious stone;
The wound she gives may not be healed with grass:
I therefore have fled far o’er plains and hills
For refuge from so dangerous a lady;
But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,–
Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green.
A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,–
So fair, she might have wakened in a stone
This love which I do feel even for her shade;
And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady,
I wooed her in a field that was all grass
Girdled about with very lofty hills.
Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills
Before Love’s flame in this damp wood and green
Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady,
For my sake, who would sleep away in stone
My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass,
Only to see her garments cast a shade.
How dark so’er the hills throw out their shade,
Under her summer-green the beautiful lady
Covers it, like a stone cover’d in grass.
~~~~~~ “An Overdose of Hasheesh” (1884)
by Mary C. Hungerford
Gaetano Previati – Women Smoking Hashish (1887)
Being one of the grand army of sufferers from headache, I took, last summer, by order of my physician, three small daily doses of Indian hemp (hasheesh), in the hope of holding my intimate enemy in check. Not discovering any of the stimulative effects of the drug, even after continual increase of the dose, I grew to regard it as a very harmless and inactive medicine, and one day, when I was assured by some familiar symptoms that my perpetual dull headache was about to assume an aggravated and acute form, such as usually sent me to bed for a number of days, I took, in the desperate hope of forestalling the attack, a much larger quantity of hasheesh than had ever been prescribed. Twenty minutes later I was seized with a strange sinking or faintness, which gave my family so much alarm that they telephoned at once for the doctor, who came in thirty minutes after the summons, bringing, as he had been requested, another practitioner with him.
I had just rallied from the third faint, as I call the sinking turns, for want of a more descriptive name, and was rapidly relapsing into another, when the doctors came. One of them asked at once if I had been taking anything unusual, and a friend who had been sent for remembered that I had been experimenting with hasheesh. The physicians asked then the size and time of the last dose, but I could not answer. I heard them distinctly, but my lips were sealed. Undoubtedly my looks conveyed a desire to speak, for Dr. G—-, bending over me, asked if I had taken a much larger quantity than he had ordered. I was half sitting up on the bed when he asked me that question, and, with all my energies bent upon giving him to understand that I had taken an overdose, I bowed my head, and at once became unconscious of everything except that bowing, which I kept up with ever-increasing force for seven or eight hours, according to my computation of time. I felt the veins of my throat swell nearly to bursting, and the cords tighten painfully, as, impelled by an irresistible force, I nodded like a wooden mandarin in a tea-store.
In the midst of it all I left my body, and quietly from the foot of the bed watched my unhappy self nodding with frightful velocity. I glanced indignantly at the shamefully indifferent group that did not even appear to notice the frantic motions, and resumed my place in my living temple of flesh in time to recover sufficiently to observe one doctor life his finger from my wrist, where he had laid it to count the pulsations just as I lapsed into unconsciousness, and say to the other: “I think she moved her head. She means us to understand that she has taken largely of the cannabis indica.” So, in the long, interminable hours I had been nodding my head off, only time enough had elapsed to count my pulse, and the violent motions of my head had in fact been barely noticeable. This exaggerated appreciation of sight, motion, and sound is, I am told, a well-known effect of hasheesh, but I was ignorant of that fact then, and, even if I had not been, probably the mental torture I underwent during the time it enchained my faculties would not have been lessened, as I seemed to have no power to reason with myself, even in the semi-conscious intervals which came between the spells.
These intervals grew shorter, and in them I had no power to speak. My lips and face seemed to myself to be rigid and stony. I thought that I was dying, and, instead of the peace which I had always hoped would wait on my last moments, I was filled with a bitter, dark despair. It was not only death that I feared with a wild, unreasoning terror, but there was a fearful expectation of judgment, which must, I think, be like the torture of lost souls. I felt half sundered from the flesh, and my spiritual sufferings seemed to have begun, although I was conscious of living still.
One terrible reality — I can hardly term it a fancy even now — that came to me again and again, was so painful that it must, I fear, always be a vividly remembered agony. Like dreams, its vagaries can be accounted for by association of ideas past and passing, but the suffering was so intense and the memory of it so haunting that I have acquired a horror of death unknown to me before. I died, as I believed, although by a strange double consciousness I knew that I should again reanimate the body I had left. In leaving it I did not soar away, as one delights to think of the freed spirits soaring. Neither did I linger around dear, familiar scenes. I sank, an intangible, impalpable shape, through the bed, the floors, the cellar, the earth, down, down, down! As if I had been a fragment of glass dropping through the ocean, I dropped uninterruptedly through the earth and its atmosphere, and then fell on and on forever. I was perfectly composed, and speculated curiously upon the strange circumstances that even in going through the solid earth there was no displacement of material, and in my descent I gathered no momentum. I discovered that I was transparent and deprived of all power of volition, as well as bereft of the faculties belonging to humanity. But in place of my lost senses I had a marvelously keen sixth sense or power, which I can only describe as an intense superhuman consciousness that in some way embraced all the five and went immeasurably beyond them. As time went on, and my dropping through space continued, I became filled with the most profound loneliness, and a desperate fear took hold of me that I should be thus alone for evermore, and fall and fall eternally without finding rest.
* * *
For five hours I remained in the same condition — short intervals of half- consciousness, and then long lapses into the agonizing experience I have described. Six times the door of time seemed to close on me, and I was thrust shuddering into a hopeless eternity, each time falling, as at first into that terrible abyss wrapped in the fearful dread of the unknown. Always there were the same utter helplessness and the same harrowing desire to rest upon something, to stop, if but for an instant, to feel some support beneath; and through all the horrors of my sinking the same solemn and remorseful certainty penetrated my consciousness that, had I not in life questioned the power of Christ to save, I should have felt under me the “everlasting arms” bearing me safely to an immortality of bliss. There was no variation in my trances; always the same horror came, and each time when sensibility partially returned I fought against my fate and struggled to avert it. But I never could compel my lips to speak, and the violent paroxysms my agonizing dread threw me into were all unseen by my friends, for in reality, as I was afterward told, I made no motion except a slight muscular twitching of the fingers.
Later on, when the effect of the drug was lessening, although the spells or trances recurred, the intervals were long, and in them I seemed to regain clearer reasoning power and was able to account for some of my hallucinations. Even when my returns to consciousness were very partial, Dr. G—- had made me inhale small quantities of nitrate of amyl to maintain the action of the heart, which it was the tendency of the excess ofhasheesh to diminish. Coming out of the last trance, I discovered that the measured rending report like the discharge of a cannon which attended my upward way was the throbbing of my own heart. As I sank I was probably too unconscious to notice it, but always, as it made itself heard, my falling ceased and the pain of my ascending began. The immense time between the throbs gives me as I remember it an idea of infinite duration that was impossible to me before.
For several days I had slight relapses into the trance-like state I have tried to describe, each being preceded by a feeling of profound dejection. I felt myself going as before, but by a desperate effort of will saved myself from falling far into the shadowy horrors which I saw before me. I dragged myself back from my fate, faint and exhausted and with a melancholy belief that I was cut off from human sympathy, and my wretched destiny must always be unsuspected by my friends, for I could not bring myself to speak to any one of the dreadful foretaste of the hereafter I firmly believed I had experienced. On one of these occasions, when I felt myself falling from life, I saw a great black ocean like a rocky wall bounding the formless chaos into which I sank. As I watched in descending the long line of towering, tumultuous waves break against some invisible barrier, a sighing whisper by my side told me each tiny drop of spray was a human existence which in that passing instant had its birth, life, and death.
“How short a life!” was my unspoken thought.
“Not short in time,” was the answer. “A lifetime there is shorter than the breaking of a bubble here. Each wave is a world, a piece of here, that serves its purpose in the universal system, then returns again to be reabsorbed into infinity.”
“How pitifully sad is life!” were the words I formed in my mind as I felt myself going back to the frame I had quitted.
“How pitifully sadder to have had no life, for only through life can the gate of this bliss be entered!” was the whispered answer. “I never lived — I never shall.”
“What are you, then?”
I had taken my place again among the living when the answer came, a sighing whisper still, but so vividly distinct that I looked about me suddenly to see if others besides myself could hear the strange words:
“Woe, woe! I am an unreal actual, a formless atom, and of such as I am is chaos made.”
Henry Holiday – The First Meeting of Dante and Beatrice
“Amor, ch’al cor gentile ratto s’apprende
prese costui de la bella persona
che mi fu tolta; e ‘l modo ancor m’offende.
Amor, che a nullo amato amar perdona,
Mi prese del costui piacer sì forte,
Che, come vedi, ancor non m’abbandona…”
“Love, which quickly arrests the gentle heart,
Seized him with my beautiful form
That was taken from me, in a manner which still grieves me.
Love, which pardons no beloved from loving,
took me so strongly with delight in him
That, as you see, it still abandons me not…”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno: A New Verse Translation