Thursday, May 11, 2017
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
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
dedicated to my beautiful wife
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
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
burns lovingly and with care
Thursday, March 29, 2012
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
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?"