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?"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vishnu at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts

by Kalki Weisthor

The legacy of the Frist family is a dark one, and not in a good way.  Their legacy, as received by America in its current state of final decline, consists largely of the Hospital Corporation of America, and Bill Frist.  HCA, the corporate medical megalith pleaded guilty in 2003 to fourteen felonies and admitted systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about use of hospital space.  It paid two billion dollars in fraud settlements in 2000 to 2002, which the U.S. Department of Justice boasts as the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history.  Bill Frist, one of two sons of the HCA founder, was George Bush’s Majority Leader from 2003 til 2007.   Need I say more?

In some semblance of giving back for sucking the blood of the country, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts was founded at the end of the American Century in downtown Nashville, blocks from to Union Station, a tomb of the railroad history which flourished there during that same century.  Nashville is usually seen as the buckle of the Bible Belt; when I left the museum after my first visit to the exhibit Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior, which appeared at the Frist from February 20 through May 29, 2011, the crowds of slack-jawed geeks I had to dodge as they wandered through traffic like giggling zombies, were on their way to see Joel Osteen, the curse of Sunday morning TV, at the Bridgestone Arena, the home of the Nashville Predators, which seats over seventeen thousand Last Men.  I’d just spent a relatively quiet couple of hours with the images of Vishnu and his avatars, however, searching for the shadow of Tradition, and I had been rewarded. 

The exhibit itself, if poorly titled and often poorly lit, was both well designed for its audience and ultimately rewarding to someone like myself, a more than casual viewer.  Since the exhibit is reported headed to the Brooklyn Museum for the fall and summer, I will speak of its continued existence, and encourage you to attend, if possible.  According to its catalog it consists of “more than 170 paintings, sculptures and ritual objects, dating from the Fourth through the Twentieth Centuries”.  Not surprisingly, its oldest objects are stone and rather worn, the oldest being sandstone! while the most distinct objects tend to be bronze; the paintings are of course more recent. 

The exhibit is of course a reflection of Indian history, so interwoven with its philosophies and religions, as seen through modern Hinduism, and that image reflected again through the deluded historical sensibilities of modern man, with his unconscious but dominant belief in the Myth of Progress.  The “educated” Tennessean beholds the glory of Rama from the Age of Heroes through the veil of the Enlightenment, thinking that his understanding has moved beyond that of the statue’s unknown sculptor, not realizing that he is but a depraved and decadent descendant.  This is in spite of the fact that the exhibit informs him in large bold type, as the Rig Veda teaches, that he lives in the Kali Yuga, the last of the descending ages in the world cycle, which began somewhere between 3,000 and 600 B.C. (depending on your source and reckoning), in which Man is but a shadow of what he once was, the last bitter whisper of the Being which Became him many ages ago. 

I go to such an exhibit with the knowledge of my limitations, my inadequacies and my shortened grasp, in hand.  Most of the world’s great traditions teach of the world cycles.  In the Vedic tradition and its heirs including Buddhism, these are known as kalpas.  All of these traditions teach us that the age in which we live is the last and the most decadent, in which the higher truth that clearly shines in the earliest times, and is mirrored in the second as memory and Being fades.  In the third age, the heroes attempt to arise amidst the coming sleep brought foreshadowed by the second, but they ultimately fail, and we enter the last, the true Dark Age, which is ended only by destruction, and the cycle begins again.

The Vishnu exhibit centers upon images of the Hindu god probably most acceptable to the victims of Modernism, Humanism and watered Christianity who are its most likely and common viewers.  Of course there are hundreds, thousands, or millions of Hindu gods, depending on where the distinctions are drawn, but modern Hindus are usually devotees of Vishnu, Siva, or Kali (Devi).  From another angle, we can look at Brahma, the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer.  Analogies to the Fates or the Norns hold, but just so far.  Suffice it to say that the sad title of the exhibit refers to the fact that Krishna, in mainstream Hinduism an avatar of Vishnu (though the Krishna cult sees it the other way around) is sort of the Hindu Jesus, although he probably wouldn’t’ be too acceptable at the Osteen rally down the street because of his relentless promiscuity with the milkmaids (gopis).  Nor would the sect of male followers who dress themselves as milkmaids hoping for Krishna’s attentions be cherished among most Baptists; but I digress.

Vishnu was only a minor character in the Vedas, the sacred texts of the Aryans who rolled into India on a wave of conquest between 2000 and 1000 B.C.  The Vaishnavites teach that it was Vishnu from whose belly Brahma arose to create the world, and who retrieved the Vedas from the ocean of chaos at the end of the previous world cycle, preserving the teachings for our own ages.  But the Aryans, the descendants of the Golden Age, whose teachings even in their decline spawned many of the Western world’s most virile belief systems, including those of the Iranian precursors of Zoroaster and the Wotanists, were warriors, as were their gods. They brought their Indra, royal god of thunder, in chariots of war into the valley of the Indus River where they encountered a curious people known as the Dravidians.  And from the marriage of these was born modern Hinduism.

Authorities differ on the influences of the Dravidians, who were all accounts a smallish, dark people, on and within modern Hinduism.  My Indologist professor followed the interpretation of Heinrich Zimmer, a teacher of Joseph Campbell, insofar as the Dravidian culture was seen as the source of the more esoteric, meditative aspects of Hinduism.  Zimmer maintained that Yoga and its philosophical aspect Sankhya, as well as Jainism and even Buddhism were re-emergences of the forest-dwelling, introverted religion of the Dravidians, which was absorbed into and eventually emerged dominant within the warrior religion with which the Aryans baptized India in fire.  Traditionalists like Baron Julius Evola disagree, and maintain that Buddhism and Yoga - the most successful of the non-Vedic Indian teachings – are instead the renaissance of the original Traditional understanding of the Aryans, after a period of descent and decay.  We may never know; the Dravidians left no writings, and we have only the documents in Sanskrit and Pali left by the conquerors and their heirs.

Evola’s view of tradition states that the original, highest teachings which came to man were the products of a golden age, the age of solar powers, and the man of the age, should we call him such, was a transcendent being.  The following age, the silver, was a slight decay into a more passive, feminine element.  The third age was the age of heroes, in which man tried to regain the glory of the first, to overcome the sloth induced by the second, but could not, due to his degeneration during that long era.  The fourth age is the age of decline and end; the twilight of man.  It is from this diminished perspective that we gaze with dimmed vision at the glory of the earliest times, but we cannot see.  We can see only its reflections in the remnants of an age that was itself diminished.  It was the intuitive call of this vision that drew me to the exhibition of Vishnu.

In passing I should note that the above disagreement is interesting, but not, to me, critical. If the theory of diminishing ages is correct, why can the Dravidians themselves not have been the descendants of their own golden age, or of the same originators, taken another route?  Evola sees the Dravidians as just another autochthonous people, worshipping nature or its manifestations; in fact, archeological finds in the region north of the Indus indicates that the Dravidians may have had their own previous solar religion, decayed further and faster than that of the Aryans. So perhaps their higher culture was older and more pristine in its origin than the Aryan one, or one that took a faster route to decay.  How can we know? We know only what we intuit when we heed the call to the higher within ourselves that the remnant images can help to draw forth.

The exhibit is a two-dimensional representation of the multi-dimensional truth of the teachings that produced it over a course of nearly two thousand years, and the truths of the teaching that may extend for millennia before.  Perhaps the clearest example of this is the clearly depicted series of avatars, or incarnations, of Vishnu (read: the godhead) over the course of this world cycle.  The understanding behind this is that Vishu the preserver periodically appears to maintain the world cycle on course, as it were – occasionally in his true form (as in the most frightening and memorable scene it the Bhagavad Gita, as the Vishvarupa.), but most often as an Avatar. Strangely, for a system that was firmly in place in most of its elements by about the Fourth Century B.C., the earliest avatars recapitulate the phylogeny of evolutionary theory – an apparent challenge to the opposing theory of historical devolution, which I have yet to see addressed by the Traditionalists.

At any rate, Vishnu appears first as a fish, Matsya, who retrieves the Vedas from the bottom of the ocean at the beginning of the world cycle and saves Manu (man) from the “Flood” (really more analogous to Ginnungagap), so that he can continue from the last cycle to this one (another interesting survival is the sage Markandeya).  The second avatar is Kurma, a tortoise who holds the world on this back.  The second is Varaha, the boar whose rescues the earth from the primordial ocean (a better Flood analogy, I think).  From there we move on through a man/lion to a dwarf, then to a vengeful Brahman (see below), to Rama, the King and hero of the Ramayana, then on thru Krishna, the Buddha, and then Kalki.

The latter incarnations especially deserve explorations in our latter days.  Somewhere around the appearance of Parashurama, we begin to entertain the faintest images of recorded history, and begin to see the impact of man’s recording thereof.  Parashurama is, as seen from the viewpoint of modern Hinduism, a vengeful Brahmin who comes to put the ascendant Kshatriya, or warrior class, back in its place.  Herein, we see how history is written by the victors, vis-à-vis the caste system.  To wit:

The caste systems in its less degenerate forms has four main division of labor, analogous to Georges Dumezil's three functions of society.  The top class consists of the Brahmins or Priests.  Second come the Kshatriyas or warriors.  Third is the Vaishvas or merchants.  Fourth is the Sudras, or laborers.  Below this we find the castless.  The ordering of these four above is that of modern Hinduism. Its aspect that is important to us with regard to this avatar is the conflict between the top two classes.  Dumezil’s classification says that the top two classes are in fact a double aspect of the priest/king, such aspects being equal but usually split within a society.  A major split between the two ‘modern’ schools of Radical Traditionalists, those of Evola and of Rene Guenon, results from this issue: Guenon maintaining the rightful primacy of the priest class, which would accord with and put Guenon in agreement with the mission of Parashurama.  Evola hold that the Golden age was that of the unified entity of the Priest/King, the divine ruler, and that the usurpation of supreme power by the priesthood was the degeneracy of the Silver Age.  Apparently the Silver Age has occurred and the Priests won; hence our Avatar.

So with Parashurama we enter Evola’s Silver Age, which is in other dimensions scene as the Atlantean (as opposed to the Hyperboreanism of the Gold).  Many, many years later we encounter Rama, the prototype of the modern prince or hero, and namesake of the Ramayana, one of the two major epics of Hindu tradition, set down a few hundred years after Homer and roughly contemporaneous with the traditional form of the Old Testament of the Hebrews.  At this point we have clearly entered the age of heroes.   At the same time, or a bit later, we get the written incarnation of the Mahabharata, the other main epic, which ultimately included the Bhagavad Gita, probably the best-known holy writing of the Hindus, which predominantly features Krishna and enters into the age of devotion, or Bhakti.

Bhakti can be beautiful, and may be in its highest form the only beauty available to modern man – the worship of the other in the highest form he can conceive it. Bhakti as seen in the Gita and in the remains of the Heroic tradition, is the playing of ones role, the enactment of ones dharma, to the hilt, without attachment to consequences or results.  It is the aspect of Zen that is trashily and modernistically interpreted as mindfulness.   It has its Apollonian aspect, and its Dionysian.  But the most serious advocates of Dionysus, who miss the transcendence of the Apollonian – who fail like Nietzsche to perceive the transcendent, and who abandon the transcendent for the Superman – fall ultimately into their own animal nature, of which the Superman is but the biggest and strongest aspect.

Zimmer indicates that the proper practice of modern man in this Final Age of Iron is Tantra.  Tantra is more evident in the devotees of Shiva than those of Vishnu, and in certain forms of Mahayana Buddhism, most notably the Tibetan.  It is akin to magic.  But even this, involving action as it does, still involves an effort, a striving for a higher consciousness.  Once that is abandoned, once man is devolved to far, there is nothing left but the empty form of worship of modern man, which is modernism.

Modernism is the spiritual practice of modern man, a creature so depraved that he can no longer emulate the gods or aspire or ascend to godhood, but can only slavishly worship them, in the hope that they – the divine external – can lift him up, improve his essence and status, so that perhaps in the next life he can aspire to better prospects – perhaps to an incarnation in the world of gods (which are still far below the ultimate reality). Modernism is the religion of slaves.  It is the practice of the modern mainstream Hindu, of most and all modern Christians, and its most materialistic, debased form, of the religions of Humanism and the Myth of Progress, with its fading sects of Capitalism and Communism. Modernism is the devoted self-abnegating nihilism that currently manifests as multiculturism and totalitarianism, as humanity slides into the scum at the bottom of the barrel, at the end of the current age.  It is the mindset of the followers of Joel Osteen.

Such is the end state of current religiosity.  But there are two more avatars of Vishnu: Buddha, and Kalki.  The appearance of Buddha in this pantheon is problematic and interesting.  The historical Buddha was one of six non-Vedic teachers who arose around 600 B.C., in response to a decline of the Vedic teachings.  The initial teaching of the Buddha opposed that of the prevalent Bhakti, and asserted that man could still transcend the bonds of karma and the illusion of Maya.  The earliest Buddhist scriptures tell the story of an Aryan prince who, tired of the world’s luxuries and informed of its inevitable woes, intuitively sensed that his possibility was more and higher, and embarked on a quest to realize a higher meaning.  After trying the teachings available at the time and finding no satisfaction in them, he sat in quiet contemplation for a number of days (or weeks) until at last he transcended the bounds of his personal consciousness and reached enlightenment. 

Those same sutras tell us that upon reaching enlightenment, Buddha realized that what he had found could not be taught, and resolved to make no error to do.  At this point, however, Brahma, chief of the gods, appeared to him and convinced him that there were others, maybe a few, who could benefit and be inspired by his teaching.  Thus the first sangha began, and Buddhism began to spread, assuming many forms over 2600 years and perhaps experiencing its last gasp of vitality in America today.  Of course Buddha’s teaching has devolved, too; from its original manifestation as the way which was by definition unteachable, it was corrupted through the monkism of Hinayana, the missionary proselytism of Mayahana and the magical rituals of the Vajrayana (Buddhist Tantrism) until it became just another religion, devolved at its worst into a religion of Humanism and ‘Psychology’.  A few years ago at a Zen center in Atlanta I saw for sale a t-shirt that read “Zen is for Everyone’ and began to realize that I was in the wrong place to look for eternity.

The Buddha is the strangest of Hindu avatars; he occupies a place in the family of Vishnu similar to that of Jesus among the Muslims.  That is, he is venerated, but not much.  Hinduism teaches that Buddha came to spread false teaching! And by doing so, to draw off the fools, so that the correct worship may proceed without them.  He, along with Parashurama, is the least depicted of the Avatars.  When he is depicted, he is depicted as sitting quietly (as befits a Buddha) as opposed to most of the others, who are depicted in action.

The final Avatar of Vishnu is not yet come, and he is the Avatar whom we await in our day.  Kalki comes with a sword, rides a white horse, and comes to end the modern age in blood.  He comes to abolish the degraded age, and to return its essence to the cosmic soup, so that it may began again its rise into the next world cycle.  Such a dynamic figure of destruction is curiously absent from our modern awareness, despite the growing majority of those who see that the world as it is cannot hold, and will not endure.  Gore Vidal wrote a pretty good novel about him, but in our culture he is usually overshadowed by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or some other borrowed myth.  He is the instigator of Ragnarok, in a sense.  We await his cleansing fire.

I have been to see the exhibit entitled Vishnu: Hindu’s Blue-Skinned Savior twice.  The first time I was rushed through and I went back on a Sunday afternoon to bask in the timelessness of the powerful images from another existence.  The strongest of the images, the casts of the warrior avatars in stone and in bronze, and the beautiful later paintings embellished with gold and silver, held me for that space and spoke to me from out of time.  The final rooms of the exhibit brought me back to modernity.  We see how the images of Vishnu have survived into and been used by the modern world (the adoption of Hanuman, the monkey god, in the revolution against the British).  We are presented with a Hindu shrine, a model of the manner in which the modern Hindu in his home, no longer aspiring to godhood in his own life, propitiates the higher essences in the hope that he may be ennobled in some future time (which, being in time, will not come).

The music at the exhibit plays softly in the background.  Occasionally I recognize the beauty of some Ravi Shankar piece that I have in my own collection.  During my first visit, the visitor was rudely interrupted by the incongruous blaring of electrified guitar and folkish warbling from the lobby, and I remembered where and who I was, in my little manifestation, down the street from where the mindless hordes of Osteen were congregating.  I was OK though.  The images of Higher Tradition had already spoken to me, through the veil of manifestation and modernity, and for a time I could remember Myself, and reside At Home.

The Inner Life of a Gnome

by Carnuntum

I am an optician. It’s a profession not a definition. Like many in the world today, I spend a large part of the waking day working to keep body and soul together. My designated area of toil is a section of a large warehouse. Yes, I said warehouse. In the new meta-life created from blueprints provided by the Electric Jew an optical establishment is both demanded and provided by the faceless global corporations who shoulder one another aside like myopic titans in their supreme effort to blot out the sun. Here, in the dank confines of the workaday world, hubris has given way to the blunt edge of spiritual dissonance.

The Fool
At least hubris had a goal.

The area in which I dwell during the infamous ‘hours of operation’, is a guttering lamp of competence and professionalism in an inky blackness of mediocrity. The Doctor and I will hold the conch for only a short while before the heart of darkness devours us. The cannibals are canny and, having no other sustenance, will consume anything that presumes to rise above a level consonant with that of flat earth.

During the day we are provided with two state-mandated breaks and a lunch. These must be taken at specified times since a less organic drudge, the computer system, has been set to lock out anyone who fails to obey. This step was taken because the global corporation in question abused its slaves in the past. They do not wish to anger the parent corporation, commonly known as The Government, and so make an effort to comply. The Beneficent Overseer known as 'Uncle Sam' decrees that bricks may be made without straw so long as the shape and size are determined to be fair, regular, and equitable.

The Corporation nods. Their Ronald McDonald smile outshines the sun.

During the working day- a time I call ‘the dead zone’, a panoply of figures dance before my eyes. Mexicans, Africans, Pakis, Hindus and Asians bully and bargain their way through the stone walls of our mutual cultural prison in varying shades of brown and yellow. The Mexicans wear t-shirts with American flags to show careful loyalty to their new country. They are sure their illegal status will not make them taboo to the God of commerce who rules their somnambulant host. The Paki’s and Hindu’s, slightly more worldly, seek only the passion of the bazaar and the thrill of bargaining. They care not who they step upon in their desire to win at the game of material steeplchase-those races for whom race itself is the saddle of victory .

We have taught them well, our new Global Citizens.

As I use my training and experience to help our newfound friends I am informed, by loudspeakers nested in the girders above, that they are the essence of diversity. Burdened by Kipling’s flawed soul I fail to be moved by the trumpets of Jericho echoing above. The walls of my soul are still, sadly, intact. Yes, my friends, it is possible that I am so spiritually afflicted that I do not recognize that true diversity is found in cultures which project only slightly varying shades of color, both skin, hair, and eye, whose cultural attributes do not exert a magnetic attraction even among their own, and who approach me wearing mass produced ads which contain more variety, both of colour and original thinking, than do the wearers. For modern Americans the t-shirt is the new symbol of the soul, our Lascaux. Lacking even the rudiments of Universal Love when regarding the horde of cultural ambassadors arrayed before me I do not see the colorful costumes which would describe their unique spiritual essence. Instead, they appear in a variety of modernized garb confiscated from the society they have invaded so successfully. Mammon and Mad Max- they dance like Fred and Ginger over the corpse of our European identity.

“Habla Espanol? Do you take Medicaid?” The cry comes frequently and with pathos. They will spend over a hundred ‘gringo dolla’s’ to buy their colored contact lenses. Green-eyes Senorita? Spain was never your home…

The loudspeaker intrudes on our one-sided dialog,” Diversity is our greatest asset. America is built on diversity.”

I think of my friends and family, Southerners, with hair the color of sun and of heather, with eyes of blue, green, brown, and with the language of Shakespeare flowing from their lips. This could not be true diversity, I am informed.

” Diversity is our greatest asset in America.” The speaker attempts to penetrate my inner soul as I ponder my own inability to understand the subtle distinctions. Remedial diversity classes, offered by the ‘corporation,’ may help me to understand my biological defect.

The immigrant before me becomes more insistent. With the patience of Stonehenge I explain that, ’one must have a prescription,’ in order to make glasses, and that , ’ No , I cannot sell you glasses for your mother in Madras without a prescription.’ They attempt to bargain me down, sure even first-world standards must give way before the Greenspan's Titan. I repeat my mantra of order like prayers at the Alamo. This tiny bridge to the stars will fall hard.

The Lunchman Cometh.

The computer obfuscates my attempts to function. I must eat now or forever hold my peace.

Lunches are taken as far away as possible from the warehouse. A variety of multi-cultural establishments are at my disposal. Mexican, Asian and generic fast food buildings cry out at the noontime hour in shades of brown and green, the proud new flag of our nation. Many of the immigrants who own these eateries come to the cantonment where I work to receive their eyewear. With futility, I describe the limits of science with regard to optical possibilities. Had I known that the feild of optics was an esoteric gnosis I could have requested a more grandiose title than that of 'optician'.

The computer Overseer speaks, stopping my work for now, and I wend my way to the break- room. Known as ‘the dump’ by the denizens of the New World Order, it is dirty and unsanitary, nevertheless, is it diverse. Several languages echo from its concrete walls, a crossroad of confusion rather than a metropolis of understanding. The peeling paint and unsanitary conditions are predicated more on the condition of the denizens than upon any specific circumstance. When you live someplace, you care. When you merely inhabit something, the soul of a gypsy rides upon your shoulder. It is in this nurturing environment that I attempt to read my book, an escape from the inverted society around me.

I settle down in the cafeteria to nurture the mind, if not the body:

Page 19, On Being Pagan, by Alain DeBenoist:
‘That affiliation established, there is generally serious underestimation of the differences that exist between Judaism and Christianity. In practice this often leads to the attribution to paganism of features that supposedly radically distinguish it only from Judaism or- as is much more often the case-’

(Yo, d’you see dat game?)

‘-It has often been maintained, for example, that Greek thought was dynamic, concrete, and synthesizing in opposition to an essentially static-’

(I saw dat. I done fell asleep wit dat game.)

‘-In fact it was certainly the opposite, as shown by James Barr, who correctly opposes “ the Greek type of thought, analytical, creator of distinctions and pieces, and the synthetic Hebrew type of thought.” Furthermore-’

(yo man don’ hab no right)-shrill

(I know he don’)

‘-Furthermore, Semitic languages spontaneously lead to synthesizing and the concrete; partially lacking in syntax-’

(various Sinitic gabble-they are not discussing Taoist philosophy)

Night begins to fall. Back in our den the Doctor and I huddle around the computer, spreading our palms for warmth. Was it like this at Rorkes Drift? As the shadows climb the walls we hear them coming. The Doctor attempts a false bravado, telling me of his youth in Spain. I give him bonhomie in return but fail to ease his mind. Soon, others will control the Conch. Soon, others will practice our professions but with different worldviews and standards that the inheritors of the Acropolis will not find measured among their Gods. We who created and propagated this particular science and the very word ‘profession’ will be no more.

What will come after?

The loudspeaker blares once again. “Thank you for shopping at the Worlds Largest Retailer. Remember, Diversity is one of our greatest strengths…”

'This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper'

T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

Original story by Carnuntum posted on May 3, 2006.  Used by permission.