Thursday, May 11, 2017


Now, at dusk, I wait. A Lamplighter cannot walk these streets until he is needed. The gods watch by day but at night they must sleep and then it is up to us.

What is a Lamplighter? How did I become old watching over this city? Ah, how did this old man become the Winter Watchman of Stroya? That is a long and difficult tale and one day I will tell it, but not now. Now, I will tell you what a Lamplighter is, what I am, what the other’s are.

Others? Oh, yes, there are others. There must be others. Three of us, one for each season. I for the winter, long and longer every year now,  Levta of the red beard for Autumn, sighing softly as he carries his torch, and my poor sweet Nika, Watcher of the Spring, my love, my green-eyed wife. How I miss her!

They are seldom awake now-Levta for a moon and a little more. My sweet Nika has only a few weeks, while I nod at my short nap and then shoulder the burden again when the snows pile high and the ice flows like ships of war down the blessed Voy, crashing like thunder.

And so we go walking the snow covered cobbles in our boots of walrus, lifting our long pole high to the metal and glass. Come with me now and you will see that each post is different, each is carved with sigils difficult to read. Each post is weathered black, red, ochre, and green, and each has a name. Do you know the names, my mortal friend? Which is Div, which is Siv? Mav with it’s yellow sun? Ruv, the howling wolf? But I know them and whisper the names to awaken them as I hold the torch to light them. In all Great Myra, the world, they are unique. They are my friends and my care of centuries.

We begin with the street of Wolves where the Great Houses stand all in a row. They are alive, you will see. There! This lamp, Irda,which stands proudly before Merulov House! Watch as it casts it’s glow. Do you see how it breathes out the Holy Light upon this sad House? The House is old but Irda is older still and this torch I hold, that light was made by He who created the gods. Blessings upon it!

Merulov is an old House, and a sad one. The windows tall and wide and cased in black oak, blink back frosty tears. You can see the fire’s glow inside. Stones and heavy oaken beams cannot keep out misery and even the Dumya Merulov must put his head in his hands when the winds of fate blow open his doors to the cold night air. What? You do not know the tale? But, everyone in Stroya knows of it! Come then and walk with me as I tell it to you, shivering son of man. Wrap yourself in bearskin and listen while we walk for tomorrow is the end of it, if I find my allies well.. but walk. The lamps come first, always first, for they protect.

Now, old Merulov House is sad because it’s daughter, sun-haired Dinka, lies in state in a coffin with a ruby glass lid, cold and dead, with the Snowdrop of Stroya upon her breast. She has lain there these three weeks, fresh as a spring flower, and some say that Old Man Death is reluctant to take her, that it is a miracle and St. Aliada the cause. Perhaps. Look, there she is, the saint, standing high and severe in heaps of snow, over the Elder Graveyard. Don’t go there at night, my friend, without me. Can one be both severe and loving? I hope so. I pray so.

And so poor Dinka lies with the Snowdrop upon her breast while Vrehoja, the Gypsy fiddler, her young lover, formerly so gay, dreams dark revenge against Merulov and all Stroya-garth. He sits in his tent by the ice-locked Voy and a dank mist has entered his soul, all because of  the Tzenti-witch from far Yarai.

This witch, curse her unknown name, covets the Snowdrop because she once possesed it and believes that what she once achieved is hers forever. But the Snowdrop is tied to the city. How, you ask? Ha! Like the hidden dolls one tale fits inside another and you will never uncover it’s beginning. But tonight it is the tale of Dinka and Black Vrehoja and so forward to Kerkovy Square!

And here we are where Kerkovy Square stands, dark already, yet the moon rises soon. Still, we will light it for a blessing. Here is where I first saw Black Vrehoja. Here he would come to watch little Varya muster the Kerkovy Guard. The Rhadice Palace stands at the other end, overlooking the blustery flatness. Each morning the Prince marches out the brave guardsmen from under the bulbous towers, which rise in a bunch over the halls of the Great Rhadice.

Vrehoja wished to join the guard. It is true that he wanted to wear the bearskin boots that come over the knee, and the green coat with brass buttons. He wanted to grow his black moustache long down the sides of his face and weight them with green ribbons won on campaign against the golems. He wanted to march with a long curved headcutter resting over his shoulder, bravely singing the old ballads. But the guardsmen laughed and the Prince would not look at him. You are a Gypsy, they said! There are no Gypsies in the Kerkovy Guards! Vrehoja smiled and played his fiddle. He danced and struck a brave posture, to no avail. His dark Gypsy eyes grew sad and his fiddle hung at his side and it was then that Dinka saw him. She fell in love with his romantic soul and his brooding, secret eyes. Soon she was meeting him in the Elder Graveyard behind the tomb of the Karonevsis, where the is a mourners bench and the black lilies bloom in winter. Together they drank red wine and Vrehoja played his wandering tunes for her. He laughed and his dark eyes captured her soul. Soon enough a passionate kiss sealed their fate.

But their future was bleak for when Dinka told her Father, Merulov of the Merulov’s, of their love he thundered like a storm in the Balbous mountains. A daughter of Merulov with a Gypsy? Never! He would burn the ancient House to the ground before a Gypsy entered it’s high doors! Dinka was never to see him again!

The lovers met again in secret while she told Vrehoja of her father’s verdict.

But now the Tzenti-witch saw her chance. She had flown from the Yarai swamps on the back of an owl, riding on a foul wind, to cast destruction upon fair Stroya. She whispered into Black Vrehoja’s ears and the words turned into black snakes in his brain and Vrehoja cast his spell upon pretty Dinka: Bring me your father’s treasure, the Snowdrop of Stroya, the gem which glows in the light of the northern star, and together we will leave cold Stroya and fare across the sultry south where Gypsies sing, and we will make sweet love and live forever in bliss!

Dinka walked as if asleep. She entered her father’s closets and opened the great chest. She took the gem and wrapped it in a scarf of blue spiral silk. The wind was cold and all the stars shone down upon her as she walked to the graveyard to hand her father’s treasure to the exulting boy.

But the plans of the Tzenti-witch went awry and the Dumya awakened, and seeing his daughter gone from the house, guessed the truth. Calling the Kerkovy Guards to aid him, he scoured the streets for his daughter, crying Dinka, Dinka, your father needs you! Three guardsmen attending close upon the Dumya found the pair hiding behind the tomb of Keronevsis and Dinka awakened from the spell at the sound of her father’s voice. The fearless guardsmen held their headcutters aloft but the Tzenti-witch cast darkness into their eyes while Vrehoja killed them, one, two, three, with a curved dagger. No more will they march behind Prince Varyatsin Elverus Karonevsi singing the old ballads. No more will they tramp the hills before the Balbous mountains hunting golems. No more will they drink fiery kvelt and dance before the fire when the sun has sunk in the west. Their blood has melted into the snow and their bones rest in Myra’s bosom.

Poor Dinka tried to reach her father but the Gypsy pulled her back with a hawk’s grasp. Stretching, she handed the gem to her father, wrapped in blue silk, just as the gypsy plunged the wicked curved blade into her chest, crying that is was she who had killed their love. Sobbing, her soul escaped through the hole in her chest and Black Vrehoja and the Tzenti-witch escaped on the back of the giant owl. All of this happened in the blink of a man-child’s eyes and I appeared too late to stop it. The Dumya Merulov put his head in his hands and wept tears which turned to ice, for he had traded his only daughter for the Snowdrop of Stroya. Tomorrow the Kerkovy guards will march in a row, green ribbons flying in the frozen wind. They will play the drums and chip away the ice from the doors of the Tomb of the Merulovs. They will pick up little Dinka, she who was so warm and happy,and place her there within the cold stone and there she will lie until the Flamebird returns and the world ends.

And the Snowdrop which her father will lay upon her breast in his grief? You ask this? How can you not know? The Tzenti-witch will return with Black Vrehoja and take it, and brave Stroya will go under the glazed ice forever.

Unless I stop her, oh son of man. Unless I stop her.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Boulevard Place appears on no map. Denied in ink on scrolls of any provenance and unreliably pinpointed by rebellious archangel satellites, it remained a blank spot to all in the metropolis of Atlanta but those few lost denizens who happened to wander a street or two over from the carbon monoxide haze of Ponce De Leon Avenue to discover what the eponymous explorer himself could not: the fountain of youth in drinks poured out by old Nick, the demiurge of Nick’s Quixotery. The Quixotery was housed within a ramshackle manse built near the turn of the last century and was owned by an unnamed and rarely seen individual who was supposed to appear only on holidays and at odd hours. Nick was noncommittal and, when questioned closely, roundly cursed the owner in terms that made even the decadent regulars of the Quixotery blush.

“I’m only the caretaker, you bastards. You’re lucky to have me. Who would feed you booze in your sorrowful condition if I weren’t here?”

The Quixotery itself bloomed along a line of houses of similar nature, all in ill repair, which rolled down Boulevard place, each leaning on the other another, invalids of wood and stone, waiting for a medieval king to notice them and place a hand on their broken pons and heal the crumbling shingles. Dripping and sagging the straggled down the forgotten street. Each side was home to the cast off, the disappeared, those who had taken a wrong turn while walking without a guide. Messages were chalked on the broken pavement, read upside down by walkers huffing it up the hill and were skipped over in the same fashion modernity had leapt the plaintive cries of a cargo cult, with a sense of lost purpose and with grave doubt that any angel could read them from above. Nick’s Quixotery sat surely in the middle of this scribbling of the soul, secure, ancient, a pumpkin proud of its rotting innards, noisy in a quiet way, an odd anthill of hope and scorn.

The place itself was certainly illegal. No certificate of business was evident on its stained walls. Kudzu creeping up from a deep ravine behind the manse closed off any possibility of inspection of water, power, or sewage lines. The saturnine leaves climbed the chipped wooden columns to write its name on the roof in a green sans serif. Inside, an old parchment nailed to the wall above the sinuous cracked bar stated that the Government of the Confederate States recognized the de-facto existence of the establishment behind enemy lines and was signed with an indecipherable scrawl. Another beside it declared it anathema by the Pope where it was listed among a dozen establishments recommended closed as dens of the utmost iniquity, spreaders of false doctrine, and exemplars of Dante’s worst moral fears. Swords from various ages hung on the plaster walls alongside war clubs of Creek and Cherokee indians. Stone totems sat collecting dust in the corners mugging at the bibulous crowd who hunched over the bar where they watched Nick set up drinks like rows of tombstones. An old Confederate battle flag, scarred by Yankee bullets which had killed the last true aristocracy, hung to one side, occluding the entrance to the Tartarus Room, where the weekly game of Crawdad was being held. It was this game, one I had attended every Wednesday evening for the last three years, which drew me to the Quixotery just before a lazy mosquitoed dusk.

From the noisy traffic of Boulevard I made a sharp left turn onto Boulevard Place and, vaulting over the daemonic sigils of despair, strolled down the sidewalk and up the dozen wooden steps to the foreboding front door of the Quixotery, curses and imploring calls from lost denizens flying over my head. My hat, inscribed prophylactically with the inscription ‘Harris Tweed’, kept me safe as usual and I ducked through a double door blackened by the soot of a thousand chimneys and the bug-speckled grime of a southern summer blown against its vertical plane.

Nick was in the back as usual, squinting through a frosted  monocle as he stirred yet another uncountable martini. The monocle was circled by a gold band and was supposed to have been given to Nick sometime during World War II by a Sicilian Baron who was later paralyzed in an air raid in Salzburg. Nick said it was a gift for some advice about women but no one believed him since Nick didn’t look a day over a hard-drinking thirty-eight. A stocky goateed man, with forearms a thick as Popeye’s, Nick was a consummate liar and known to fib about the weather among other things. When the innocent went to verify his assertion through a grimy cracked  portal he returned to find his untasted whiskey or ale gone and no amount of cursing could induce Nick to pour a replacement-the tantalized cherub must order another at full price. Nick was, however, known to be charitable to those who exhibited a real drinking problem, providing drinks gratis when sobbing reached a crescendo. Asked about this behaviour he invariably replied that moralizing was the least of the world’s problems considering the precarious state of the human soul. “It needs to be moved, one way or the other, and not just talked about.”. And when a vestigial conscience motivated one of the stone-faced gargoyles seated at the long forensic slab of a bar to call to the prickly bartender’s attention that tying an anchor to a drowning man was unlikely to result in saving even one soul the monocle would point, a foggy kaleidoscope, at the inquisitor and Nick would proceed to give an exhaustive and  unchallenged encyclopedia of all that was wrong with humanity, including its propensity to love too much and get itself in trouble through utopian ideology. Did the soul really want to be saved? Duly admonished, the gargoyles went mum and raised their glasses in a fascist salute, toasting an indisputable and infernal wisdom.

Nick disdained to enter the Tartarus room except on rare occasion and so I ordered my poison across the bar.

“Booze, brown and pungent.”

“Legal or cheap?”


Nick scrutinized me through the monocle, lifted my hat and gave the shape of my skull an appraising look. Then he nodded. “Ripe.”

“Ripe what?” I tossed off the unnamed spirit and narrowed my eyes. “Ripe what?”

Nick put the bottle back under the table and turned his back, making a show of moving dust around on miraculous crocks from ages gone. Nick’s cellar must be spectacular, the regulars speculated, but no one had ever seen him enter it to bring up any nectar.

“Ripe what?” I repeated, throwing a glance over my shoulder at the curtain separating the Tartarus room from the common room.

Nick declined to answer but poured out a second of the volcanic spirit, which resembled something from an alchemist's alembic, redolent of smoky beams running through an old cob house, tarred at the corners and sweating with new grass on the thatched roof. I coughed and opened my eyes. Then I entered the Tartarus Room.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Weeing of Wiltshire

She stooped that day

a British flower returned to the soil
and blessed the earth chalk on chalk
while mum pixies watched from prickly leaves
she reconciled broken rock from ages gone.

Flint-knappers, knights, and monocled dandies
and clinking pubmen felt it down their necks
 a ripple of afternoon sunlight quenched the thirsty rock

a mercury serpent

and leaking in salved the salvific whiteness of the soil
and soiled it not

between Horse and Smithy there's no bit of difference
in the girl and her Island

by Carnuntum
dedicated to my beautiful wife


by Carnuntum

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari

My own approach to the Vedas has been a gradual one - a process of alternating weeding and expanding, following hints from the most obscure sources to the most obvious of conclusions.  As I recently explained, I am an American of German and Scotch-Irish ancestry, raised in enough proximity to Protestant Christianity only to be annoyed by it.  Drawn to philosophy, I soon sickened of what the modern West had to offer and looked east, first fascinated by India and then backed off by the cloying sweetness of its bhakti.  Then I picked up Buddhism, in various forms beginning and ending with Zen, having benefitted immensely from its practice but being repulsed by the shallowness of its modern incarnation, the hypocrisy of its adherents, and most importantly its failure or refusal to understand or believe the thing I found most important in my own meditation experience - the awareness of a true sense of Self that goes beyond the shallow individuality of modern identity and yet stops short of the useless Oneness and ephemeral insubstantiality espoused by Buddha's modern advocates. 

In search of my true Self, whose identity I could no longer deny, I took up Asatru, the modern reconstruction of my ancestral religious practices.  There I found strong gods, gods with passions who called to me deep in my true nature, unlike the probably fictitious, banal Jesus or the either dry or syrupy Buddha whom I'd known (who I'm now convinced was only a modern evisceration of the real one, the strong Aryan warrior prince of the Vedic tradition - but that for later).  In the Nordic tradition I found the roots of ancestor and family that were missing from modernism, I found the true basis of a Self that is more than just me, the atomized individual.  In Odin I found inspiration, in Tyr I found direction, and in Thor I found heart.  Truly, the next step of my process, after destroying the modern person in Zen, was to begin the true Self from its building blocks in my genes.  For I will never be just a man, isolated and alone.  I will ever be the child of my ancestors, and of the forces of the Storm and the Sea.

It became clear to me - the linguistic, meta-historical, and even astronomic arguments are too complex (although compelling) to set forth there - that behind the un-evolved (due to the conquering sword of Christ) tradition of the Nordics and the German, and the smothering blanket of Hinduism which still disgorges great truths, there lay a common Tradition, a part of my heritage as much as that of the Indians, a true wisdom of man whose now unknown source was the origin of the Vedas, which appear to be the oldest preserved and highest tradition of Man, whose truth the Buddha tried to restore and mistakenly tried to rephrase thousand of years later, and whose basic truths have been the target of every engine of destructive untruth from Zoroaster to Marx.  Lot of people write about the Vedas - but how to truly know them?

The Vedas, the ancient pre-Hindu texts of India, passed down for maybe thousands of years by word of mouth before transcription as we "know" them somewhere around four thousand years ago - how do we know them?  We have only the words of others, really - the Vedas are there to be read, originally in a language known as Vedic, an early form of Sanskrit.  I have studied some at Sanskrit, a designed language unimaginably complex, and my hope lessens as I go on that I will be able to read the Vedas with anything like their original meaning.  The modern translations I'd found were either unexplained and thus inexplicable, drily academic, or mined for propaganda by some modern advocate of a devolved understanding.  Trying to understand the four ancient Vedas, plus the Brahmanas, the Upanishads, and all the supporting texts - this would be a lifetime process, a process I really wish I had an extra lifetime to undertake.  But I don't, as far as I know, and thus was blessed by a book called The Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari: An Anthology of the Vedas for Modern Man and Contemporary Celebration, by Raimundo Panikkar.

This is a book written in modern times - published in 1977, and my edition is from a press in India, and its author died only in 2010.  Panikkar appears to have been a fascinating man and scholar, a product of a Spanish Catholic mother and an Indian father, a Jesuit priest who in his own words began in Catholicism, went to India to discover Hinduism, and came home a Buddhist.  His multi-religious nature is evident from the body of his work, but refreshingly lacking in this earnest and penetrating anthology of Vedic texts.  I am about as sick of the argument for the oneness of all religions as I can be - it may be true that there is only one higher truth, expressed in many languages and through many cultures and traditions, but the syrupy multiplistic Evangelism of our time, the pandering to each and every, holds nothing but the trashy sentiment of Hallmark cards for me. Panikkar instead unfolds the Vedas from their own heart and source, and does so faithfully.

What the author does, in this 900-page tome which is full of Vedic verses rendered into comprehensible English, appropriately and meaningfully footnoted, and most especially full of insightful commentary and explication, and formed into an organic whole, is to discuss the Vedas by topic, and make them make sense to me.  He discusses the subject matter of the Vedas from the formation of existence through the ritual, sacrifice and meaning of man, as reflected in each of the four Vedas and the Vedanta, especially the Upanishads.  He renders them in his own insightful prose and poetic translation.  Every footnote is a gem, pretty much.  I gained from this volume not only the best understanding of which I may be capable of the literal content of the Vedas - the gods, the concepts, the rituals and their meanings, the basic building blocks and course of evolution of all that is - but also a deep understanding, I think of their heart, which is much like mine.

The most surprising and unexpected thing that Panikkar finds in the Vedas is the one unnamable thing that seems to me to be the organic nature of my true self, that results from the polar understanding, the seeing of (1) the nature of ultimate existence, unmanifest or just manifest, undefined, the essential oneness which Buddha calls impermanence, what is beyond our comprehension or even our ability to imagine comprehending, and (2) the essential this-is-that ground-based, natural yet stone-like and unarguable truth of my existence as this person, this particular person and not some other, not a product of, but a part of, a genetic stock, a species, a race, a culture and a family.  I may be the tail end of my gene pool, but I do swim in it.  In this book, this Vedic anthology, the sky truly meets the earth, the heavens thunder and Titans roar, together.  This is the Purusa, the man who is the universe, the true Self.

Having spent weeks reading and mediating on this volume, I find that there are indeed some differences between my intuitive understanding of the essential truth behind the Vedas, and those of the author.  I certainly will never in this lifetime be able to argue with him about the Vedas, because I am relatively ignorant, and he is dead.  Nevertheless, commentary is commentary, and meaning is both universal and subjective.  For example:  it seems to me (I'd rather not put words in their mouths) that most modern Hindus, or those who have an interest in the Vedic source of most of their religions find the peak of Vedic thought to come in the Bhagavad Gita.  Personally I find the Gita to be a bit too far toward what became the Hindu end of the spectrum.  Starts with karma, ends with bhakti, and all the attention goes to the latter - as pointed out by one of my current favorites Bal Tilak - current as a man can be who died in 1920, that is - in a book I technically own but can't read, his Srimad Bhagavad Gita Rahasya (e-book problem).  It may be that Panikkar agrees with the large group of Vedic scholars and modern mystics who place the pinnacle of Vedic thought in the Upanishads, with their introversion into the meditative aspect of man, as Hinduism moved to parallel Buddhism and to foresee Christianity, or what became known as such.  Hard to say.   For me, the essential truth of the matter seems to lie in a time and a place that are not time and place, in our modern sense of the words - before matter was the dense thing we know now, before man was man.  The truth, it seems to me lies in a time outside of time, from which time and all things personal and material manifest.

And of this timeless time, this unformed instance in which is found all form, this true source of Tradition and Self, meaning and knowledge, it seems to me so far that the Vedas may be the best record we have, in the language of man so far better than our current languages, maybe better than our tongues can ever render again.  And that so far, The Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari, is the best introduction to that record which I have encountered.  I can forgive its author his acceptance of Christianity (if that is really a fair term for the understanding that there are truths behind the veil of illusion which is its main aspect)  as long as his understanding of the Vedas is this deep, and he can present it to me this forcefully.

For those who want to witness the place where the Earth meets the Sky in your own hearts, I can recommend no better place to begin, except of course where you are.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spartan Malaise

He is weary now.
The reins of his chariot lie coiled in the dust,
parched silent tongues

Horses drip sweat,
patient, unforgiving
Bronze sloughs away and pink flesh burns in the sun shielded not by love, honour, or common dirt

Mud homes sink into the earth, collapse, molecules not divine

A single point of light above, God's torch, will not even forsake him,
burns lovingly and with care
Hatred provides no refuge

Falcon-eyed Mother:"Με την ασπίδα σας ή σε την"
There is no shield for the heart and a strong one too
Paradox of Sun and Earth

'Let me steal the rain, a cloud to cloud my bosom
and none to blow it away, a cloak to cloak cloakedness'

An unbegged-for blessing
water comes in torrents
hated moisture

The horses start
before two laughing ruts in the mud

by Carnuntum

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am a Child of Earth and Starry Heaven

by Carnuntum

In the early 1970’s, my grandfather leaped from a bridge. To say he leaped is perhaps too romantic, too hopeful. His car was found parked at an angle on the road next to an overpass near a small town. Sometime in the middle of the night he had driven there, weary with years of pain and drugged by medicine designed to combat that pain; the pain which comes from long battle with emphysema. I am sure he must have climbed reluctantly over that rail-guard, wishing only to end the torment. In the small and boyish mind’s eye which, for me, captures that moment for an eleven-year old and translates it into the mind of a fifty-year old man, he spreads his arms and falls like Icarus into the grasp of a loving Father. In reality, he lingered for some hours in a hospital bed, his bode the tinny ring of a telephone-- church bell of the suicide-- causing an alarmed flurry of feet through darkened rooms in the earliest hours before dawn.

He was sure his loving father would catch him, carry him upward, just as he had described for me many times over: “When I gave my soul to

Jesus I was carried down that aisle in a rapture. My feet never even touched the ground.” One strong hand gripped the primordial, white stone coffee mug he always used, circling it, the handle there simply for show. The other reached to grip my own, startling me, to show me with just what strength his Savior had grasped his soul. He always wanted me to become a Christian. I never did- at least not the kind of Christian he would have recognized.

Or perhaps he would have recognized something akin to that rapture in my soul were he alive today, something maturing at last into a bud worthy of the joy he must have felt knowing that he had given himself totally into a love that stretched so far on either side that it was like gazing at the sea before ships or even the idea of a ship had occurred to the first man who ever lived.

He hurt his family. I am sure he understood that. The large funeral home where my mother’s hand lingered in a last caress on the wood of his coffin, the wood burnished bright by the unsmiling lights high above and reflecting in round circles their multiple glorious suns, was filled to overflowing with unfamiliar faces. Most churches would have been too small to accommodate the people of the county who, with age and experience, were able to appreciate my grandfather in a way that at eleven I was not. During the years following the Great Depression, still difficult for Southerners who had not benefited from post-war industrywhich would come only in the 1960’s and which would turn many of them into the new class of slave, my Grandfather, a self-made man, was successful enough to help many in the area past financial difficulties. My surprise at the numbers of respectful mourners foreshadowed the many times my own undeserving hand was taken by some citizen who, upon ferreting out my familial connection (as Southerners always do upon meeting,) told me that my grandfather was ‘A Marietta Legend.’

I only knew that he was a Saint of my childhood, for he was the kindest, most generous man I can remember knowing. He taught me how to shoot a BB gun with infinite patience- we shot bottle caps hung on bushes on land behind his house. He was never too tired to play games with me, always letting me win just to see the joy in my face. He looked down at me with his brown eyes twinkling and put something in my hands. It was love. Love was always put into my hands with infinite patience, assuming with a mythic timelessness that I would eventually understand the gift. He was a self-made man in a time when every man was assumed to be so, whatever his condition. Money came to him but meant nothing. He cared about what others felt. He was conservative but in the original way, where love engendered responsibility rather than need and he was a man made in the mold of the South in a time before that mold was broken and discarded for a more shallow indenture.

My mother’s hand smoothed lovingly the grained wood of his coffin. The pews were filled with mourners, cars parked boustrophedon in the sprawling lot, a secret message that only God could read. Wooden pews bolted to the floor rattled to hymns, shaking belief into every attendee. An adolescent boy watched without understanding.

My grandmother was a reed before the altar. At her home, furniture waited, sullen, square corners illuminated by a shaft of sunlight, a prismed angel’s tress spilling onto the untrodden carpet.

It was there at her home that I spent the night two weeks later and there I saw my grandfather once again.

Inside of every tree there is a seed and inside every seed a tree lies impatient for life. A family is the same. Like the last of the molasses, trapped against the lip of the jug, pooling, seemingly vanished forever, then rushing forth with renewed sweetness, a family flows again. My grandmother, as loving and bountiful as her husband, craved the company of her grandchildren and we wanted her comforting embrace so we spent the night with her as we had so often before. I had exhausted myself mentally and physically earlier in the day and so my slumber was placid until early morning. Then I experienced a dream that was not a dream and the needle’s eye of metaphysical truth that has taken decades to mature. I had not the aid of a Henry Corbin, a Julius Evola, nor any staretz at that time to point a sharpened finger at the map of existence, showing me an engineer’s diagram of the reality which was about to spread before me. An angel, valkyrie, fravarti, was only as close as Howard Pyle or Robert E. Howard would allow, save for the visions conjured by an elementary school library with its schoolboy editions of "The Iliad" and "Robin Hood".

My grandmother’s Victorian parlour was a place the grandchildren entered, if not cautiously, at least knowingly. Colder than the rest of the house, it was an alethean river channeled by minds and an 8mm motion picture device; a preserved iceberg of cherrywood furniture, doll-cases, and tasseled curtains. My grandmother had filled the room with plates of china, dolls, and wooden screens, carved by aliens and shipped in boxes imprinted with what was to our adolescent imagination, the seal of the imperial Chinese Court. We gleefully despoiled the offerings, wringing them from the cartons like tribute from defeated rebel Boxers, plates wrapped in crumpled newsprint packed on the other side of the galaxy by midgets wearing conical caps. Squinting, we deciphered the encoded messages, sure they were meant for us alone. The plates, china dolls, and sundry were carried by Grandmother into the parlour like unexploded bombs and placed in a glass case more holy than anything Sinai had seen. Athena whispered in my ear and the fane was never disturbed.

This sanctum of a parlour was where the angels led me when I dreamed that night, a dream that was not a dream, a truth that was as atomistic as it was cosmic. There I was reunited with my Grandfather- my soul awakened by a wordless beckoning in the deepest part of the evening.

My consciousness awakened to a presence. Though I had fallen asleep in my usual bed surrounded by red silk sheets and heavy velvet curtains, I awakened on the couch in the room adjacent to the parlour, summoned by the same force that summons winter from summer. The inky, vertical darkness shimmering in the threshold of the parlour door was uninviting. Can a soul shiver? If so, I shivered as I walked through it in my dreamless dream.

“Your Grandfather wants to see you.”

He was seated in the middle of the parlor, head in hand, covered by blackness, death’s well-knitted quilt. I went and stood next to him, afraid to touch his pain. There he sat, head in hand, sunk in despair. He didn’t look up and indeed I was afraid for him to do so. I sensed that I should not speak. A calming panic filled me, like that of a man endlessly floating in space, the wonder of it all conquering singularity while emphasizing the helplessness of existence.

Around me the room was filled with cooling darkness, thick like the salt sea, healing, encompassing, inescapable but for the grace of God. I was a stranger there.

“He will be here until he feels well again. He is sad.”

There was a rustling sound from behind my Grandfather. Wings? Tall shapes draped themselves over my mind, flanking the sadness, guarding it, allowing healing to take place. Were they guards or guardians? Both? I was not allowed to view them, only sense their heavy presence, infinitely patient, a stone respiring simply because it must.

“You may ask him a question. He is allowed to answer.”

An overwhelming sense of anguish, a well of love and despair, which affected me less that I would have expected, arose from the bowed form of my grandfather. The muting of self rendered undeniable by primordial law left him unable to speak to me in the way he would have wished. Nevertheless he was allowed an oracular boon for one moment, a polishing of the soul, done for his sake, and mine. Somehow I knew it would be alright, that a plan was being followed, mercy and love extended in a cocoon woven from threads spun both above and below.

Michelangelo painted it and we breathe it every day, not filtering the dust but inhaling it all, soot, honey, earth.

His need was great. I asked a question, the meaning of it all. All. Not knowing that I had asked and not comprehending the perfect symmetry of the thought. Nothing that was me asked. It was not my speck of a soul which queried but the resounding echo of existence, a reflection of the divine in our soul, that which already knows what it needs to know but which has hidden that knowledge from itself in an eternal game of hide and seek. In the games of hide and seek my Grandfather played with me I had always found him. Now he had found me and even in his pain wished to show me the way home.

“What does it mean? What is everything for?”

Head still down, eyes shielded to what he felt unworthy to see, he pointed upward with one finger.

When I followed that finger there was no ceiling but that of the heavens, a whirling cosmos of stars, unending light signifying countless souls, creatures born of that love which is like the sea, encompassing and from which there is no escape, bounded by just shores, with each wave crashing onto that boundary only to be pulled again into the deep center. Perfection showed itself to me that night, unexplainable save through the limiting form of language and rendering me as mute as my beloved Grandfather. I stared in wonder, understanding the reason for it all.

Najmuddin Kubra might have understood and explained it all better so that I could put pen to paper and share my experience but I had not made his acquaintance yet and would not do so until forty more years had passed in the crucible of life. Ibn-Arabi might have drawn a dialectical map for me while carefully pointing out that the map was not the terrain. Al-Khidr would dance logic into fallibility and fallibility back into truth but I had not his acquaintance then. I was merely an adolescent given a seed, like many others, and released once more into the stream, a trout caressed and blessed by the love of my Grandfather and divine will.

Mercifully, I have forgotten everything I learned in that chrysalis moment.

Like Chaung Tzu I am a butterfly who cannot know he is a man, a mere man who reaches to grasp the beauty of a twinkling butterfly. With the Breath of God we pass from one to another. Drinking from the river Lethe allowed me to preserve the gift of that seed, for which I am eternally grateful and to forget the knowledge that my consciousness could not hold. I am still only a small boy inside, waiting to grasp the hands of the divinity. Perhaps it is through Odin’s spear, which points upward as a finger of truth that reality will be revealed, or in the variable lights of Kubra or Suhrawardi, but it is as much through the love of my Grandfather as contemplating any of the sages that I will unforget that unifying truth.

There is a place for souls, and infinite mercy. I pray for my Grandfather silently and often, knowing that time is irrelevant, a mere human conceit, and that he is healed constantly and forever.

And for him there is an altar in my heart.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

White Boy

I remember listening to this song in 1973 or so, with very little idea of what Paul Kantner was talking about, except knowing that in some sense, he was talking about me.  The times were probably the peak of White Guilt, or at least the last time at which it was so subconsciously induced.  Fresh out of the Civil Rights, Women's, Hippie and every other kind of movement of the '60's precursed by the Beats in the 50's, flaming Liberalism and straight-out Revolution had seized the druggy minds of most of those who'd made it to the 70's.  It's not my briefer intent here to rehash that time.  But I remember listening to this seeming out-of-place song on Baron Von Tollboth and the Chrome Nun and thinking... what..??

Almost forty years later, I'm sitting here reading a great 1921 bio of Lokamanya Tilak, Indian nationalist of the era before Gandhi and author of The Arctic Origin in the Vedas.   If you're not familiar with the Polar mythos of Arktos, this book is not a bad intro and not nearly as lurid as its title and cover.  Whether it's Tilak or the more multicultural (though vastly more suspect for other reasons) Theosophical speculations (or revelations, depending on whom you believe) of Madame Blavatsky, the origin of the Aryan race in the former (before the last shift) North Pole is a very popular theme in some very non-popular circles.  I really don't want to rehash it all for you here, though I am definitely encouraging you to check out the subject if your intuition inclines you to such things.

Another topic NOT subject to total re-hash at this point is the whole idea of races of man.  If you're one of those rapid multiculturalists who wants to deny even that such things exist... well, why are you reading me in the first place?  Because it doesn't take a doggie supremacist to admit that Irish Wolfhounds and Poodles are different breeds.  I would, however, recommend the excellent discussion in what I find the most interesting chapter of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, which is I think the most readable, fascinating and valid exposition of the modern concept of man's history that I've encountered.  Though I don't buy the Out of Africa theory - I tend to think that "mankind" originated as multiple species in multiple places that "somehow" bred together - and Diamond's presentation presents merely the evolutionary history of man, in other words, his ascending history - as opposed to his descending history as taught to us by Tradition and the Vedas - it is still more than worth a read, especially for his chapter on Africa, the history of which is more complex than I'd imagined.  Did you know that there are currently five distinct races of mankind, two of them found almost uniquely in Africa?  Did you know that there are six distinct families of Semitic languages, and only Hebrew is not found exclusively - guess where? Hmmmn....

Anyway.  What I found as my true awakening into manhood, around 2004 (chronicled in more detail here, and in other articles on that blog site) was when I discovered that in between Eternity - the undivided One - and the purely Now, the world of transitional and impermanent forms - is a whole lot of interesting stuff.  As a matter of fact I seem to have devoted my life to swimming in those interstices as much as possible, and am getting a lot of satisfaction out of doing it.  It led to my abandonment of institutional, American Zen - which I had discovered has all the authenticity of a Renaissance Fair, and at any rate pretends to an understanding of, and background in, a culture of which I think I can safely say that very few modern Americans, and almost zero of those who come to it through the New Age quest for "self" (which is based on Westernized individualism in the first place), understand.  I discovered through my own meditations that I am in fact part of larger entities on many levels, not just "the One", or the "nothing" which might better be labelled a goal of Zennies (though they deny having goals, in some facile wordplay that makes them unchallengeable in their own delusions).  And yes, I come from a family, and a clan, and a tribe (although those are lost, dissolved) and a Race.  I am of primarily German and Scotch-Irish descent, as best I can tell.

The denigration of the Indo-European - dare we say, Aryan? - peoples has been in full swing since at least the end of World War II, and is probably nowhere more rampart than the deteriorated societies of Europe.  I needn't argue the ridiculousness of this, except to cite that as always, the winner of the wars write the histories.  The most obvious fallacy of this derision that began in the late-fifties was the concept that somehow racial pride was a good thing for Blacks, for Indians, for everyone except Whites, who were supposed to feel guilty. It led to a lot of social problems and contributed to the rise of the Welfare state in American (already underway since the '30's) and is currently just one more factor in the imminent total collapse of Western civilization.  But enough for all that, for now...

It is indeed a historical mystery, the origin of the White race.  "Did you come from the Earth? Did you come from the Sky?"