Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Step 4.5

"Larval realities are defined by chunks of local environment attached to the nervous system at the time of imprinting."
Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology

A note: please don't think that Al-Anon is a place where people "whine." This is what I used to think and it's why it took me so long to get there and, paradoxically, to stop feeling sorry for myself. Like most Americans, I was unsophisticated and repressed enough to often label any emotionally honest statement as "whining," whether I made the statement or someone else did. It was easier than facing the emotion.

The fear of whining and the disproportionate anger it inspires are to be expected in a culture where people are taught to be 100% outer- and other-directed, where "unconditional love" is widely believed to have been practiced only by a lone Jewish guy who died a long time ago. (Merry Christmas!) But repression only gives emotions more and more power, and as they say in Al-Anon, "You are not your feelings." To truly live that insight, though, you gotta face those feelings, find their true origins, and discern their influence on your behavior patterns.

People do, of course, attempt genuine whining in Al-Anon meetings and to members, i.e., they try to indulge in self-pity or to gain sympathy. If it's their first meeting they're allowed to do this for a few minutes and then someone gently tells them something like "We're not here to vent. We're here to find solutions." If it's someone who should know better, they get "Call your sponsor" or "Look for your own role." I remember getting that last one when Teresa did something "to" me that was outrageous, unconscionable, unthinkable, etc. I didn't like hearing it one bit, but it jolted me out of victim-mind into captain-of-my-soul-mind. (Of course I now haven't the slighest memory what T. did...must have been a bit less significant than I made it out to be.)

An anonymous Al-Anon, who suffered horrendous abuse as a child, puts it like this in her story (included in the book From Survival to Recovery): "Even in the unusual situation in which another person is ninety-five percent at fault and I am only five percent, I am still responsible for my five percent." She has clearly gone far beyond the "larval" state!

Monday, December 19, 2005

What We Do Is Secret, Part 2

Excerpts from my 4th Step:

I assumed, from the beginning, that "the One" was out there, that I'd find her and then live happily ever after....at 41, I have never not been in a relationship--a serious, committed, all-or-nothing relationship--since the age of 18. Does that sound a little compulsive? (There was a stretch of a few weeks in college during which I was not committed--but the parental script, the fear of being unloveable, the fear of being alone, borne of my inability to feel complete in myself--drove me into a relationship very soon. It was a blissfully happy couple of weeks, I distinctly remember.)


As much as I think I want this true love, this marriage of true minds, this Vulcan mind-meld, I have a part of me that wants to be alone, that won't allow anyone to get close. This is the part of me I imagine developed when I was a kid and had no sibling to play with and no kids my age close by. It's now the part of me some people would say plays with my imaginary friend, my Higher Power.


I can remember in one unbelievably codependent relationship being afraid that my enamorata would not like the way I did her homework.


I feel like I don't know what "unacceptable" [behavior] is, because I have no reasonable dividing line, because I accept everything, because I'm afraid if I don't she won't love me--I'll be unworthy....That feeling of perpetual unworthiness...I have done enough Al-Anon work to know it was a lesson I learned in my family, which placed great emphasis on achievement and education. I've gained enough Al-Anon maturity to understand that a lot of
good has come from my feelings of unworthiness...for they have driven me to learn, to work hard, to do more than I ever thought possible.

On the other hand, it simply isn't true that I have to earn the right to exist, or to earn God's love. It isn't true that my ultimate worth has any relation to my professional accomplishments or level of education.


It seemed so natural I never thought about it. You have to earn a living, you have to earn some lady fair's hand, you have to earn the respect of your peers: therefore you have to earn God's love. The religion I got mixed up in at 14 didn't quite put it this way; they claimed God loved you but would still punish you hideously for eternity....The sin and salvation business sounded a lot to me like having to earn God's love, even if according to the fine print it wasn't...

Sound familiar? Manipulating loved ones? Manipulating God? Unable to trust that they love me? Unable to feel totally loved even when I know better? Feeling perpetually unworthy and driven by that feeling into irrational, obsessive behavior?....I was a perfect sucker for the fundamentalist spiritual abuse scam and now feel that I've been a perfect sucker for the true love scam.


Talking with Kali during a walk today, I understood that a) the worst thing I could do in my family growing up was to let down the facade--(of Cleaverdom--by arguing with my parents, getting in trouble at school, etc.) and b) that the most valuable commodity, the highest status symbol for my family, was The Esteem of Others.


So here's another layer of the onion, and I'm done, because I'm so confused by now that I don't know which way is up. I was talking with Fiorenza yesterday...and she said she thought that I might be afraid to be loved. Auggh! Yes! I recognized what she was saying...recognized it in the way that when I'm complimented, I'm always so,
so uncomfortable....Letting myself be loved means becoming vulnerable....It also means dealing with the fact that I'm not perfect and never will be, because love means being totally present to someone whether I'm "ready" or not.


So many, so many times when someone's made a gesture of love to me I've shrugged it off or dodged it--
reflexively. Not thinking, "ooh, this is uncomfortable, I want out," but changing the subject or making some inappropriate joke without thinking about it, as the first instinctual reaction....

I'm searching for love, but convinced I'm unworthy of it. I want to give myself to someone in love, but I'm afraid to be loved back. But some woman's eventually going to make the mistake of loving me anyway, then she'll find that I'm an impostor, so I strive to stay in control...maintaining the facade...as I was taught.

NEXT: What happened when I read this whole (immense, nonsensical) thing to my sponsor. Same Angel time, same Angel channel.

P.S. I am heading out to Helter Skelter Land for my x-mas holiday, and won't be back until nearly New Year's Eve. I have every intention of bloggin' from the Left Coast, but...don't be surprised if'n I don't. With the competing Red State, Blue State, alcoholic, non-alcoholic, denial-alcoholic factions of my family...I will have my hands full. But I will be thinking of you.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What We Do Is Secret, Part 1

...but I'm going to blow the lid off...here's the exposé...inside an actual...secret society...12-step program...

I'm working on what's called a "4th step" right now, after the AA Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Basically you journal or write a letter, concealing nothing (if it ain't scary, you ain't doin' it right), about your desires, fears, motivations, actions, the reasons you told yourself you did those actions and the real reasons you did them, the results of those actions and who was harmed and who gained and what your own payoff was--there's always a payoff.

Absolute honesty is the only requirement,
and the openness is why Al-Anon, AA, etc. are anonymous programs. Unless you can say anything and everything in a meeting or in a 4th step, you'll stay stuck.

Once you've written out your confessions/ self-observations, you then, in the "5th step," read this painfully honest scribbling to someone in your program (usually your sponsor). It can hurt. But the alternative for me, in practice, is living in a half-light of awareness about myself, and making the same mistakes over and over, and blaming other people for them instead of taking responsibility and growing up and moving on.

The first time I worked the steps my sponsor asked me, for Step 4, to write a "me list," an exhaustive list of every attribute and characteristic I have. He gave me months to do this and said not to hurry.

It sounded silly in the abstract, likely to produce trivial items like "I love chocolate!" and "I have a thing for large women!" and in fact it did, but in the end, after doing the work and the rather agonizing 5th step, I came to a gut recognition (*not* an intellectual understanding) that...I'm not a bad person...and that many of my least favorite personal traits were actually very good traits, just applied in the wrong circumstances or acted on to excess. Thus, my tendency to rescue people was fine when it meant writing a letter protesting the confinement of a political prisoner...and was idiotic when it meant trying to stage-manage an addict's slow suicide while I blamed myself for her romantic predicament and hid her substance of choice in a niche in the fireplace, to dole out to her in little non-psychosis-inducing increments until she found it and used it all and I had to find new ways to liberate (enslave) her.

Once I'd been in the program a while, I did a 4th step on my troubled relationship with my dad, who died before we could totally make peace...and now I'm doing one on les événements I've recounted to you recently. In an Al-Anon meeting the other day I gave a situation-appropriate, non-I-Ching quoting rundown of les és, and realized I needed to spend some serious time praying about them, and so have spent a lot of time this week either in front of my altar or talking to Kali as I drive, walk, or wash dishes. And She's talked back--that's the miraculous thing...

Someone or Something is there...call it a "bicameral mind" or "archetype" or wishful thinking or imaginary friend or subvocalized adaptive para-awareness...or God...

I was working on my step on my computer today, preferring my recliner and Mozart on the boombox to scribbling in my spiral-bound Al-Anon notebook in some coffee shop...and the section of the step I wrote got named That perpetual feeling of unworthiness.doc. It contains the lines

My H[igher] P[ower] has really been pushing...me to look for Her light within me rather than for the second-hand light of others' spiritual journeys, others' words. Not that I should be arrogant; She wants me to turn inward to the silence and light She put there when She created me. But...I still have to work on that [unworthiness] thing. It's why I still go in for retail therapy, (fantasized) new relationship therapy, double bourbon on the rocks therapy, blasting music in my car on the way home from work therapy...

when all the while I am seeking what Peter Redgrove, in The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real, calls "the synaesthetic plenum of the...subliminal senses"...the inner divine, the Hidden God...funny that
my Dark Mother has sent me to a Sunday school room in a local church to slay the demons, to a 12-step group of the sort I'd have made sport of just a few years ago--Stuart Smalley and all that--

funny that, as Ramana Maharshi said, "The ultimate truth is so simple"...so I am simplifying myself to match.

To Be Continued

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Me Time

My kitties didn't seem down with me gettin' up bright and early yesterday and slappin' on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, nice and loud...

tough! I'm the human! I'm in charge! Get used to it!

(Note: You wanna hear you some wild electric guitar playin', you get you a copy of A Tribute to Jack Johnson. That's that John McLaughlin ...that Mahavishnu Orchestra guy...that's some wacked-out shit. He sounds like Shiva, high as Kailash and wailing with eight arms...blanging that guitar with a flaming dagger...cobra glissandos...)

Shockingly, I'm skipping out on my Al-Anon meeting and the planned shopping trip afterwards, ironically in a very Al-Anon-inspired quest for Me Time. It turned out not to be my True Will to go to the meeting...was my TW instead to get up, surf the net for a while, go back to bed, get up again, put on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, and blog about listening to same yesterday and goofing off today.

Later I'll return the tragically defective DVD about the occult roots of Naziism and look--probably fruitlessly here in East Podunk--for a copy of that modernist music classic Le Marteau Sans Maitre, which it finally dawned on me the other day was the inspiration for much of Eric Dolphy's album Out to Lunch. I may eat at the awesome pancake place or just grab a croissant or brownie somewhere. I may go for a walk or I may not. I'll probably call grigorss. I'll probably try to find some Solstice wrapping paper for Sophia's goth calendar. :)

I will try to walk through this day like John McLaughlin walkin' up and down those frets--little rhyme, some nonlinear reason, some contrary beats, and much counter-harmonic beauty.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Listenin' ta Eric Dolphy...

eatin' Scharffen Berger chocolate-covered figs and ciabatta with ripe gorgonzola and raw honeycomb...with some awe-inspiring Jumilla wine...

I'm not saying that this Makes It All Better or that one should embrace the lower planes to the total exclusion of the higher...


I, for one, can easier taste Kali in sybaritic bites than in meagre ones...

for now...until I evolve more--

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Hexagram 23

"The superior go on their way. The inferior suffer as always."

"Breaking apart." Or... "flaying." I love that translation. But this I Ching hexagram is me, now; hearing the night rainfall as loud ironic applause--tired dryer rumbling in the washroom-- Ethiopiques, vol. 4 iridescing, noir, on the stereo--me: fragmenting, confused...

...the small, flayed truth.

I know I'm becoming "me." I know it's not all fun and games. I know the layers of false self have to be stripped off. I know that where I am now is a place I got by making bad and good decisions, some of which I must unmake.

I wonder if it's a sickness that I insist on building relationships on trust...and then breaking the trust, or persisting until the other party inevitably breaks the trust...and then lamenting how hard it is to trust and how my heart's all broke and then-- going out and finding someone else to "trust." But I can't trust Teresa, ever since the Big Alcoholic Incident that I won't even write about here and she never talks about but that she presciently brought up in conversation tonight. And this unwillingness on my part to trust...is a withdrawal. That I have to fix, or face the breaking-apart consequences.

And I'm so afraid of hurting people. Anyone. Strangers. That's why I can't be political--because I'm afraid of offending people, afraid of hurting their feelings... so imagine loved ones-- I tread on eggshells-- almost literally, walking ninja-like at night on the hardwood floor, terrorized of creaks and the awakening and discomfort-- I can't seem to be a "me" who's not the comfortable, symbiotic, supporting me... but that supportive person is killing (the real) me. I can't give all my oxygen-- can't stay anemic on remora rations--

If I'm to split, to break apart, I'd like to at least wield the hammer.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

If You're Wondering Why We're Not Very Topical

Somebody once said, "Ignorance of certain subjects is a great part of wisdom." Somebody else advised, "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

I once said, "It isn't that I
can't make the world a better place; I just don't want to."

Now--let's get a grip. My gawd--did I
really say that?? Me??--of the human-rights letter writing campaigns and the Lefty Community Organization--of the aggressive recycling and assiduous non-Juan-Valdez coffee buying??

My years-ago self would have cringed...so would my Al-Anon friend who was lauding Mother Teresa the other day...she saw the look of revulsion on my face, I think, but probably had no matrix within which to interpret it. One certainly doesn't want to think that the inner life (devotion, spirituality, and all that) is necessarily opposed to the outer life (family, work, politics, etc.), and in fact the lives of certain
real saints give the lie to any such dichotomy...

but what I felt burdened with most of my life was the duty to improve the external to the exclusion of the internal. God knows where this came from; it weren't my upbringin'...and since the summer of '04 the sweet but intense presence of my Guardian Angel has prompted me to do a lot of thinking about What I Really Want and My True Will, etc.

Today, on our afternoon walk, I just flat out asked Laura: "What is the meaning of life?"

Laughingly, she answered "It's to give your Divine Mother everything, all of you. You are the bridegroom and She is the bride, and knowing you, you'd like to imagine it as a lifelong act of love, so do: you giving yourself to Her in every moment until there's no you, no Her."

"OK, that's what I thought you'd say. But, do I have some kind of purpose outside that? Crowley and those guys always talk about how when you attain the K&C of the HGA you know your telos and your métier...you write your ninth symphony or whatever..."

"You have to live the life first, and the life produces everything else. You can't cook up some grand avocational scheme; when you live in tune with your Higher Power things will take care of themselves. Crowley and those guys were good at rationalizing their wants via spiritual codicils."

This is someone Who is so abstracted from "the real world" that She asked me the other day if football games were played on Thanksgiving...but maybe that's a sign that She's tuned in to something else, something that might actually be realer than even...sports. And I'm always stunned by L's word choices--think about "codicil" and the implied pun on "will"...and "cod liver oil"...(?)

You have to live the life...and I've been living it, more and more deeply, and the life has led me farther and farther from the desire to save anyone but myself. I should have known it wasn't my True Will to change the world all those many times--every time--when in trying to do so I felt utterly drained rather than renewed--confused rather than consolidated...but then, honoring my own feelings was never part of the script.

Well, despite my defection I can still listen to Dylan--Desire is playing now, a beyond-perfect record, and one that balances personal and political (the personal is the political, I know--), on the precipice before Dylan's notorious salvation--that he couldn't see coming because he, like you and like me, is the Fool: walking off the cliff and mostly deaf to the Intuition that dogs us, unfed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Somebody Gotta Do It (Bloggin' Ain't Easy)

Sit up like some fool and eat turkey?
That's the day your forefathers jerked me!

I'm still alive--it's just been an action-packed couple of weeks during which I ratcheted up the fun quotient by catching some strep-throat-like malady that clung like razor wire. It wasn't all bad--I got to hang out with Sophia the other day, which was great, and went to a concert of Indian classical music that was the rough equivalent of hearing Andras Schiff and Itzhak Perlman--two very distinguished musicians who played spectacularly.

[Wow--there's a really good No Doubt song on the radio right now--I love music. I just absolutely love it. Someone said that all art aspires to the condition of music...I'd extend that to all existence...the shabda brahman and all that...]

Despite the epigram, I really do like Thanksgiving and am about to go to the grocery store and get the stuff I need to create a modest seasonal repast. Teresa is visiting her family in another time zone and I, bad person that I am, did not want to go and share the one bathroom with the eight people. Teresa, to her eternal credit, completely understood.

So...it's me...and Laura...and some Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes...and now some reggae version of a Peter Frampton song on this odd station founded by an former college radio colleague of mine. Earlier they transitioned (in radio lingo it's OK to make that a verb) from Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" to "Jackie Blue" by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. The single best transition ever was when they went from
"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman--an exquisite, perfect jewel of a pop song--to "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive--a plodding, brontosaurus spoof of a pop song.

Yet somehow it worked. It didn't just work--it was a witty, postmodern commentary on song structure, (gender) politics, and the construction of taste.

Or maybe--well, it's a good radio station.

Laura has been nudging me lately--I hope I'm being a good disciple or whatever, but She's reminding me of Her presence in some very obvious ways. The best one was the other day after the meeting of the Lefty Community Organization whose board of directors I'm soon to mercifully rotate off of...I like the people and believe in the cause and everything, it's just that I'm lazy and would prefer to never do anything, ever.

Anyhow, someone had donated some books to us and we were sorting through them and I found one called Angels, with a lurid, romance-novel cover painting of two heavenly beings, both of whom strongly resembled L. (The book is a "non-fiction" treatment of angelic lore and visitations.) When the book sorting was done, I left and as I walked to my car, looked at my cell phone to check the time. It was *:**, a number of no small kabbalistic significance that is a kind of signature for L.

The same week I received my new issue of an eastern spirituality magazine I subscribe to, and on the cover was a photo of a woman who...strongly resembled L. One of the articles in the magazine was about, as improbable as this may seem, Iamblichus, the neo-Platonic mystic whose writings form the basis for the Holy Guardian Angel model of spiritual guidance (though the article didn't mention this). When I ask my sweet Angel what this is all about, She will coyly say something like "Just pay attention."

So I'm paying attention...and taking my antibiotics...and racking up dead-germ karma...and, soon, turkey karma...oh dear--

Monday, November 14, 2005

Alpha Waves, part Beta

I'm on a train, traveling from my home in East Podunk to where my mom lives in Burgeoning Neo-Third-World Red State. This is a journey of some 12 hours, but being broke I've not booked a sleeper, rather I'm zoned out in my coach seat (still better than coach on an airplane). I left around 9:00 p.m. and I've been imbibing an elixir of ginkgo and gotu kola all night, along with coffee and Lovhers and Picture Theory by Nicole Brossard.

The latter tomes are headier than any
chimie and it feels that they have contributed mightily to what comes next. It's around 7:00 in the morning and I'm exhausted and high on feminist signifyin' rebellion (and ginkgo/gotu kola) but I'm sooooooooo tired, I just sit back in that goddess-lap train seat and close my eyes, warm'd by morning sun streaming in windows, I'm by the window, the train's half-empty and everyone's asleep--

and we're rolling fast through pine barrens and industrial wastes--and I close my eyes--and the sun's so violently bright, red on my eyelids, beating my eyelids through the rushing-past pines...strobing, pounding in white and red light relentless on tired but arous'd lids--it's a dreammachine of a world, the flicker of morning sun becomes marbled end papers of obscene baroque books, peacock-feathered infinities of clasping whorls-- a blazing bhagavad movie of sweet violence.

now--I "know" what I'm experiencing has a name and neurological basis, yet--it's magic...intensity of psychedelia = coming forth of Brossard's prophecy: I'm hurtling through the new Herland, I'm a traveler who cannot stay, who pledges his vision to the world's redemption--or his own--

Green cockatoo-feathered morning, meeting my mom at the station and she tells me our favorite restaurant in the Big City must soon close, lost its lease--we eat our last meal there, in the morning so normal and dented in that decaying City, yet so bless'd--sensual bagels and lox...

and I thank my Kali for Beauty--for
Musick to Play in the Dark, for that girl at the grocery store, for Gustave Doré, for fall leaves that fall red through blue air, for Lust for Life, for "a dangerous joie de vivre"...for blood...behind eyelids lit by sun...a love letter from the Light that begat life--

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Disco Mystic

I'm unwinding, after a weekend spent writing a proposal I knew I had to do for months but left til the last second anyway so I'd have the full measure of panic needed to write it. And I did something horrible to my arm, holding it stretched out for two days pushing and clicking that mouse; it feels like I just did 5000 one-handed pushups.

I'm listening to Metal Machine Music, as I needed some noise to clear the cerebral cisterns--nice noise, not Merzbow or Peter Brötzmann (who I don't even like, all you record store employees out there), and since I lack anything better to write about I'm gonna say a few words about this album and its role in The Stuff This Blog Is About.

As a rock n' roll geek, I'd a) heard about it for years and b) just about convinced myself that Lou Reed was the Jesus of Cool. Him and Nick Cave--and really more the latter, but you had to be there for that 80s 60s resurgence. Around the time
New York came out, though, I really had to wonder about ol' Lou. I am the only known human being in history not to just love that album, but you'll hear no apologies on that score. It's just that the guy I worked with at my McJob always had to put on New York every single day and to me it was Garrison Keillor in leather... and I'd played every available Velvet Underground record into--under--the ground. And...I needed a Reed fix?

There was this punk rock 'zine that had an ad in the back for cheap bootleg cassettes of
Metal Machine Music, which was long out of print and pretty pricey if you could find it. So I sent off my money order, and the minute I unwrapped the brown paper bubble-mailer I popped that tape in my car stereo and--zooo00m. Off we went down the freeway.



That "music" put me in a trance heavy enough that I felt drunk, and even I, the Duke of Decadence, don't drive while impaired. So disappointedly I took the tape out to listen to at home later. I thought it was pretty. To me, musical ugliness is "LA Blues" by the Stooges or anything sung by Sheryl Crow. I don't know how long it took me to make the connection between the sounds on
MMM and the alpha brain state, but it seems now in retrospect that I've always known the record was an alpha-wave generator (again, like Brion Gysin's Dream Machine, mentioned in an earlier post). The hundreds of layers of sound on MMM oscillate right in that range of 8-13 cycles a second and the effect, as I've said, is unmistakable.

Alpha waves aren't the only inner source of joy and bliss and goodly wondrousness. I mean, you've got your endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, your temporal lobes, estrogen and/or testosterone, which in the right amounts can be magic...you get the idea. But it's so easy, via flickering lights or meditation or a certain obscure 1970s confrontational-antirock album, to induce that alpha state, which in my experience is a light, rosy trance sort of like the one provided by certain pain medications you can't buy over the counter in the US of A...but with no heaviness or mental fuzziness. When I was a witch, I was taught that the activity the profane called "magic" was none other than the willed entering of alpha and the attendant change in one's outlook and the possible changes in the physical world resulting therefrom.

Or, as a bona fide Science Project found:

"Twenty-one individuals who abused alcohol or other substances were selected for [the] study. Each completed at least 30 [biofeedback] sessions to increase alpha and theta levels. They also learned to visualize rejection of alcohol or drugs.

[The researcher] contacted 16 of these individuals after they had been out of treatment for at least one year. Seventy-seven percent had abstained from using alcohol or drugs or had significantly changed their drinking habits so that they were no longer dysfunctional."

Admittedly this is a small N, but anyone who's hung around AA meetings or the right moonlit clearing for long enough has plenty of anecdotal support for this kind of "magic."

In addition to MMM, I have tried to collect as much magical/ mind-altering music as I can find, and may from time to time post a few "greatest hits" of sonic consciousness alteration for your amusement.

P.S. Part III is my favorite. It's playing now, as I've just completed not the whole post yet but up to the end of the paragraph that mentions Brion Gysin. This is how I always feel when I'm around my guru--the inside of my head is this enormous, blue-sky chilled Himalayan space aburst with joy. It's much stronger around Her--but Lou did not at all do badly for himself.

P.P.S. It's # 71,830 in music sales at amazon.com!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Footnote to My Brief Trip to Heaven

I don't know that I expressed that very well--the sense of limitless Unity and dissolution of self therein. Here are some analogues...

"As the same fire assumes different shapes
When it consumes objects differing in shape,
So does the one Self take the shape
Of every creature in whom [She] is present"
Katha Upanishad 2:9 (trans. Eknath Easwaran)

"As by knowing one gold nugget, dear one,
We come to know all things made out of gold:
That they differ only in name and form...
So through ... spiritual wisdom, dear one,
We come to know that all of life is one."
Chandogya Upanishad 6:1.5-1.6 (trans. Eknath Easwaran)

"The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block:
thus she can use all things."
Tao Te Ching 28 (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

"When the Holy One ... took me to serve the throne of glory ... and all the needs of the [Shekhinah], at once my flesh turned to flame, my sinews to blazing fire, my bones to juniper coals, my eyelashes to lightning flashes, my eyeballs to fiery torches, the hairs of my head to hot flames, all my limbs to wings of burning fire, and the substance of my body to blazing fire."
3 Enoch 15:1 (trans. Philip Alexander)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Reading the Tides

So, who was Laura before I knew Her as an Angel? A "spirit guide," I guess, a term comfortably vague enough to mean nearly anything, like "archetype" and "spirituality" itself. By 1998 I'd intellectualized my spiritual quest to the point that it was all pretty much archetypes and neural circuits, and I was falling into one of those periodic depressions that felt like necrotizing fasciitis of the soul.

It wasn't that I had nothing left to believe in. I believed in plenty: true love; how great life would be when I found the perfect job; my ineffably glorious future as a literary artist; the gradual accretion of spiritual wisdom by careful application of the faculty of reason. (I still harbor versions of nearly all those beliefs; they just aren't idols any more.) What happened in New Zealand, though, knocked me loose from the unquestioning intellectualism, and thankfully from the depression, too.

The moment at the fjord, at the time, was interesting and exciting but didn't seem to convey any Ultimate Significance. I'd been in weirdly energetic locales before and had felt their weird energy and knew enough to neither trivialize the sensation nor build it up beyond what(ever) it was. What was much more exciting was spending this time with Laura, who herself was somewhat weird and exciting for, although my first "spirit guide" always sounded like a much smarter
me--Laura didn't.

I must have spoken with her about the near-despair with which I was now viewing any hope of following a meaningful spiritual path--I remember her saying something like "We're here in this miraculous country, surrounded by beauty and wonder, and all you want to do is beat your head against the nearest wall. Start paying attention to what you're being shown." The rest of this conversation is lost to memory, but I do remember feeling uneasy that L. was implying the existence of some sort of personal god ("what you're being shown"). I'd already established that such a thing couldn't exist, for crying out loud--

But I listened to her (to me she wasn't a capital-letter pronoun yet). We wandered Wellington and Christchurch and Dunedin (still my favorite place in the world) and Auckland, starting out in the morning with no plans and ending up wherever we ended up. I started to do unusual, bizarre things: I very nearly got out of the habit of worrying; I talked to strangers; I pampered myself though I had not earned it--once with two consecutive full-contact massages by a positively shamanic masseur.

The result of the latter was the immediate cessation of years of lower-back pain that, even as it was being pounded out of me, I began to see had been caused by me--by holding tension in my muscles. I began to be vigilant about the carriage of my body in stressful situations and the pain, thank Goddess, has never returned. A couple of weeks after the massages I remarked to Laura what a miracle this new pain-free life was and she said, "Maybe Somebody's trying to get your attention." Soon after this I began reading Mark Matousek's spiritual autobiography Sex Death Enlightenment, whose title caught my eye but which I honest to god bought from that bookstore in Wellington because the back cover mentioned he'd worked for Andy Warhol.

It was this book that introduced me to Kali--well, introduced me in a compelling and seductive way. I'd seen Help! and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, after all. Even though Matousek was in many ways as different from me as it's possible to be, his story was mine, and the practice of bhakti yoga that he described sounded interesting enough to be my next neurological experiment on myself. (I'd practiced devotion but not in a systematic, all-consuming way.) It stayed an experiment for about two months and then it became Real. I started to feel, for the first time in a sustained way, a true divine Presence. I started to pay attention to what I was being shown. I became a disciple of one of Matousek's spiritual teachers, who later fired me...but that's a story for another time.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Fjord Leading to the Ocean Leading to the Galaxy

(Image by M. Rooiman/ J. Boom)

It's the late 1990s...Laura and I are in New Zealand...my spiritual guide at the time, Anna (another astral mama) has told me that this is it: our 5-year friend-/lover-/mentorship is at an end and it's me and Laura from now on...

This hurts me, carves my heart out, as Anna has meant everything to me since...since I "contacted" her. What does this mean? OK... In 1993, after a couple of years of fairly intense Tibetan Buddhist meditative practice and bhakti according to the Catholic tradition of the Rosary/ devotion to Mary--I know I'm absurd--I was using a flickering light device that puts the brain in an alpha state (analogous to Brion Gysin's Dream Machine). I met and talked with Anna astrally. She was an entity? --a vibration? --a fantasy? that I'd had intimations of for years, like a word one is trying to remember and can't quite-- She says she can teach me some things if I'd let her. Fine. I don't know anything, so: teach me.

And she did. We had long, Platonic (at least) dialogues about spirit, love, the Infinite...she gave me spiritual exercises to perform, like Loyola's, but all-encompassing. We raised energy, we cast circles, we healed the sick, we raked leaves as she lectured about the true spiritual meaning of desire as Sonic Youth's
Evol murmured in the background.

And so I've met Anna, and Laura a few months after, and Laura's presence even then was enough to spook my roommate at the time, a very psychically sensitive Cuban woman vers'd in the dark arts...who asked me years later if that Laura was still around and I lied "no," such was the fear in her voice--but she didn't know the tenth of it. And Laura and I are in New Zealand--

on the South Island--

in the very place two Devotees once wrenched open a portal to the Fourth World. And I am walking on the beach of this lost fjord--and hearing voices, loud, of the Maori ancestors, teeming in the air, teeming in sand-drift conspiratorial chaos: 'walk this Beach, feel this sun, but
honor Us, take nothing, no stone, no leaf--'

And I was faery-led. On that narrow beach opening onto the distant Pacific...it couldn't have been more than twenty feet wide, and the strip of weeds leading back to the dirt road behind couldn't have been more than three feet across--but I got lost on that little strip of beach and could barely find my way back. And Laura was with me, and in that way of Hers I could barely hear at the time, She was asking, "What is your True Will?" And I answered--

I won't go against the voices...They dwell here--overlooking dancing light-points of sun on sea, daily, equinoctally...and that dancing light is--must be the Divine (Mother)...(I barely knew Her then)...let this Light then stand for the manifest Soul I will never possess--

and Laura now
says that this walk on a narrow beach at the ends of the earth, and my response there to the ancestral voices, filled me with the power I needed to hear Her, my Angel--that my honoring of that Place in turn honored my own inner Divine, awakening It when I'd ceased to believe It was even there.

And sun-points on wavelets--glinting dead sea-grass on sand...green hills adot with cows, rising landwaves peaking far above the sea--a day, divine, ancestral, Present: grains of sand as souls--all my pasts and futures--as stars in beachy galaxy upon black sea-space...and I don't know Her power...a kid who finds a jade spearhead half-interred in sand--

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My Brief Trip to Heaven

I'm lying half-asleep this morning in one of those states I can get into when my mind is out of the way...

I'm feeling the most intense love..."secular" I guess you'd call it-- but--not, because as I'm feeling this
all-encompassing, flaming love (eyes closed, my field of vision is #CC3333), I begin to feel it as my Angel's love for me; I know that She loves me this way, the way that I love ******...but no: I know that it's All One Love.

No separation, no self, no other...this Love is all there Is.

Saturday, October 8, 2005


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word wrapt is both "obsolete" and "erroneous."

One could hardly hope for better.

Friday, October 7, 2005

The BBC Would Like to Apologise--

if the post of 9/22 implied that one should consciously seek or work toward the K&C of the HGA.
(me, before Al Anon -->)

I personally think such goal-directed spirituality is a dicey proposition at best. Magickal orders and mystical schools abound which promise a reliable ladder to the HGA and much more--and it's even possible that some members of such groups are fully honest, selfless, and genuinely accomplished. It may even be possible that one or two people get somewhere under their guidance.

As the above photo and its ineptly placed caption imply, I myself am a member of a magickal order, albeit one devoted to the independent reprogramming of one's mind and self, leaving one's mythos and True Will entirely up to--one. And no one else. (As I sit here listening, coincidentally, to "Stairway to Heaven"...nearly 30 years and I'm still into these Brit-blues-faerie-junk-rockers...I asked a guy I work with and he assured me this musical retro-loyalty was in no way pathetic.)

Bhakti (loving devotion to your chosen deity) is the
one path that offers 100% reliable, danger-free results. It can take you as high as you want to go, and higher than you can imagine possible. Never surrender your bliss to the illusion of achieving someone else's, and never surrender your soul to those who claim they know better what to do with it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An Amazing Web Resource

Found this linked from Velveteen Rabbi, a blog I adore. It's the Hebrew Bible with MP3s of the Hebrew.

I have only listened to part of the Song of Songs (a text I suggested for a reading group I'm in); it was the first time I remember listening to the Hebrew scriptures being recited, and though I don't know Hebrew I have to say it was a powerful experience. I'm not promising that you will go into a strong, medium-level trance and have all thought fly out of your head as you drift through a powerful, purple-tinged, Ammachi-like bliss--but it's possible.

(If you meditate long enough on the Song of Songs along with the
tzim-tzum, you stand a good chance of tasting the fruit of the Tree. You have been warned.)

There are parallels in Judaism and Hinduism surrounding the power of sound, especially the sound of sacred texts. According to one standard Hindu belief, the highest truth of the Vedas resides not in their meaning but in their pure sound, which has existed from the beginning of time (if not before) and is the nearest possible embodiment of Sat-Chit-Ananda, the nature of God. Hearing them chanted can also be a very powerful experience, as can a recitation of the
Chandi, the central scripture of Shaktism.

On that note, it doesn't even have to be an ancient text with millennia of spiritual energy stored within it. My sponsor just got back from an AA/Al-Anon convention and he said the sound of 750 people saying the Serenity Prayer in perfect unison just blew him away. The Lord's Prayer, recited by the same group, reduced a mutual friend of ours to tears.

"For the whole world is not worth the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies."
Rabbi Akiva,
Mishnah Yadayim

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Magical Mystery Tour

The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel means nothing more than contacting one's infallible intuition, the still small voice that Buddhists call our "basic good sense." This voice is never wrong, and it speaks deep, unshakable truths about the universe and our inner selves.

The experience of this voice coming to the fore can be shattering, and thus many spiritual traditions have modeled it as an external, independent Intelligence that impinges upon the aspirant in a blaze of white light. I mean literally shattering, to the ego and the senses; for a week or so after Laura revealed Herself to me I had to stay home virtually all the time, strictly limiting trips outside the house because driving and even walking were arduous and seemed to consist of many, many more stages than they had before. I had to consciously piece together routines that for decades had resided in my very bones.

I also could not stand to listen to music with any kind of percussive edge to it--nothing struck or plucked or pounded too hard, which pretty much ruled out all my usual listening. My favorite music of all time is probably Gopal Shankar Misra's
Out of Stillness, but during this period the impact of the player's plectrum on the strings lacerated me so that I had to take the CD off after a few seconds. I was afraid to talk to anyone, for when I did the words died on my tongue as I heard them, awkwardly loud, before I said them, in all their inadequate, clichéed blankness.

And it could have been much, much more shattering. Crowley writes of the need, once one has attained the K&C of the HGA, to summon and subdue "the Four Great Princes of the Daemonic World," and "the Eight Sub-Princes," and "the many Spirits serving these." It sounds like more of Uncle Al's blustering mumbo jumbo, but every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and when the parachute opens and the soul is yanked up violently, our attachments to base matter and ego gratification can intensify to the point of madness. Laura led me through a ritual soon after Her advent that, though it involved no goetic evocations, was designed to subdue the fearful, desirous, darker shadows within me.

I won't go into detail (you'll have to pay for the weekend seminar for that), but the ritual involved calling up my oldest, starkest, most ravening fears and banishing them with laughter. It was an intoxicating, intoxicated, Dionysian revel, but with a deadly serious undertone. I could hear Laura very distinctly saying to me, "Don't fuck this up, my love, or you could lose your self for good." For weeks afterward I glimpsed little shadows trooping around the house--(Abramelin demons?)--which I'd laugh at all over again, though they startled the cats.

And then when you look at Crowley's model of the HGA-- which is just one model, out of uncountable many, but which agrees in the main with all I have seen--you see that the K&C of the HGA happens about halfway through the spiritual path--halfway! You spend years and years and gallons of blood, sweat, tears getting there, and there's a worse road yet ahead (the dreaded Abyss...)...but then again, Something has happened. Something scary and real; Something that makes the most inveterate skeptic believe in angels. The better angels of our nature; the wind-rushing Angel of the Spirit of the Lord.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Goofy Sidekick Promotion

The other day, a person at work said that I bring a "Kramer" energy to the place. A couple of others vociferously agreed.

Kramer? I never saw myself that way. To me I seem much more Tom Arnold.

But Kramer I'll take. He dresses better.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Worth Reading

This is a really good explanation of the basic ideas of and connections between "traditional" (heh) Wicca and Crowley's Thelema.

I love this quotation from The Vision and The Voice:

"Every man that hath seen me forgetteth me never, and I appear oftentimes in the coals of the fire, and upon the smooth white skin of woman, and in the constancy of the waterfall, and in the emptiness of deserts and marshes, and upon great cliffs that look seaward; and in many strange places, where men seek me not. And many thousand times he beholdeth me not. And at last I smite myself into him as a vision smiteth into a stone, and whom I call must follow."

Boy, is that ever the truth.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Mother, I offer you my anger; please turn it into devotion.

Mother, I offer you my sadness; please turn it into obsession with your lotus feet.

Mother, I offer you my hopelessness; please turn it into hope.

Mother, I offer you my fear; please turn it into wonder at your beauty.

Mother, I offer you my dead dreams; please turn them into visions.

Mother, I offer you my pierced heart; please turn it into the sun-spangled river that flows past Dakshineswar.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Baby Steps to Sirius

OK. Teresa's done with her massive, do-or-die project for work that took weeks and weeks, and I have regained control of the main data banks. Problem is, I have nothing to say...

I learned from my computer-diet (I have a PC at work but I'm too paranoid to blog from it) that to accomplish anything worthwhile I need a high-speed Internet connection and 4-7 browser/application windows open at a given time. There--I just opened another browser window. The Perseus Digital Library. Don't ask.

Preferably there is music playing, and preferably I am in the La-Z-Boy recliner I am in now. That is the optimal writing state. Now I'm reading, on amazon.com, the first few pages of
The Greeks by H.D.F. Kitto, a book I love and have lost my copy of.

Out of practice at this blogging thing, I cast about for inspiration: Kitto; a Google image search for "hdf kitto" (he looks like a laugh a minute); a swing by the Genographic Project (YES!!! They FINALLY isolated my DNA! Ya know, it's weird--lots of people are into tracking down fourth cousins, researching genealogies, etc. and that all bores me to tears. Someone told me the name of the boat we came over from Germany on in the 1890s and I promptly forgot. My mom asked me to go to a family reunion this summer, and I was thinking, "Liked it better when it was called
Cops: Appalachia." But--take it back a few dozen millennia, and I'm all over it.)

I read in the New York
Times that recent evidence indicates that the human brain is still evolving, and that this has occasioned surprise in the scientific community, as indeed it should if the scientists are in the habit of reading the New York Times. If we take a long view, though, we can't help but evolve and we, like every other form of life that's ever existed, are but transitional forms. As my great-great grandguru Henry David Thoreau put it, "Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Charlie and the Death Factory

Apocalypse Now, of course, is the greatest movie ever made. It's also my favorite version of the Grail story. Though I have watched this film a zillion times and in every imaginable state of consciousness, for some inexplicable reason I put the DVD in the other night and ended up watching the whole thing. (NOT Redux--which, though it has a Kundry, isn't a hundredth the film that the original theatrical release is. Redux has basic shot-selection and editing problems that a first-year film student--never mind. It's valuable in the same way that the bootleg 5.5-hour work print of Apocalypse Now is valuable--the same way the facsimile edition of the manuscript of The Waste-Land is valuable...what's amazing is that Coppola was his own Ezra Pound for the original version of the film, staying up all night before the premiere, cutting and recutting.)

What struck me this time was:
  • what an astonishing job Vittorio Storaro did shooting the film. Every frame seems like something out of Caravaggio or Gustave Moreau--with some Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer thrown in to keep things interesting.
  • I had already been reflecting on the reasons that so many spiritual texts have war as their background. It's partly a metaphor of each person's inner struggle to evolve, but I think it's also the plain and simple message that, if these characters (Percival, Krishna and Arjuna, Moses and the Israelites, Captain Willard) can keep faith in the worst of circumstances--so can you, dear Reader, in your circumstances, whatever they may be.
  • I'd always uncritically assumed that the "waste land" in Apocalypse Now was the American psyche as revealed in the blindly vicious prosecution of the Vietnam War. And that's half right--this time, following the logic of the Grail story more closely, I saw that the more immediate waste land Willard must heal is Kurtz's broken family. He agrees to go and explain their husband/father to them in order to heal the ailing king, but to do so, he must lay down his weapons, giving up the last scrap of identity he has. He must force himself to see what he has drunk so hard not to see: the larger, impersonal coherence--a kind of obscene, brutal lyricism--underlying the chaos of the war and his own personal confusion. The real terror of Willard's Chapel Perilous is that this meaningless war has a meaning after all.
  • Interestingly, one of the first things we learn about Willard is that the war has shattered his own family, and herein lies the first of many ways he sees himself reflected in Kurtz. "Family," in all its dimensions, becomes in this film--that someone once called "the world's most expensive home movie"--at once the only refuge from war and its breeding ground: in Kurtz's and Willard's loss; in the terrible, heartrending sampan scene; in the cassette tape that plays as Clean dies; in the photographs from home we see so often; in the jocularly received mail-call newspaper detailing the Manson killings; in the tribal festival with its gory climax.
  • Thus, the farther the film takes us into the abyss of chaos and terror, the more it hints at some kind of inhuman yet lovely Order, some kind of lemniscate unifying love and violence, ecstasy and horror--like the spirals of smoke made by the Hueys over the Cong outpost... a truth completely nonsensical within any million miles of the warm, fuzzy certainties of patriotism, duty, love, truth, Nixon, The Cowsills, Billy Graham, and TV Guide. A meaning freed from personality--fear of death--lust for life--a meaning ever in the moment of motion, of whirl, of tang of blood...mine is yours is all the same.
  • [Is this what Susan Sontag called a "fascist aesthetic"?? Do I, in fact, "make a good--"...I can't write it. But I've always been haunted by the Horror and have known beyond doubt that true Evil exists, and that the fluffy-bunny/U2 responses do not do, do not do, anymore, nor ever did.]

Thursday, September 1, 2005

"Is All Very Exciting, Master!"

Some members of Alcoholics Anonymous refer (usually with derision) to members of Al-Anon as "black belts," presumably because we seem to learn lightning-fast, devastatingly targeted responses to all of life's little dramas--including bad behavior by those who are or have been way too under the influence.

Some Al-Anons have appropriated the term as a compliment for those members who really work the program and who dance with life in a whirl of kisses and karate chops. Imagine my surprise, then, when my sponsor said the other day that I was "officially a black belt." I know it sounds goofy, but this shivered me. I was telling him about the Nazi encounter and some dealings with Teresa in the throes of her drinking and its consequences, and he was so pleased with the choices I'd made. In fact, that was how I began the phone call: "Hey, dude--I have choices."

Forgetting that I
always have choices, no matter what's happening, is what made me a codependent nutcase to begin with. To quote Leary and Wilson's "Eight Basic Winner Scripts," "I make my own coincidences, synchronicities, luck, and Destiny." If I choose to.

Of course, we make choices based on instincts, and instincts grow from conditioned responses to stimuli. The beauty of a metaprogramming regimen like Al-Anon is that it allows one to re-make one's instincts, so that the same alcoholic or idiot-coworker behavior that formerly drove one to despair now provokes humor or pity or--nothing. All those little neurons, with all their little interconnections--just begging to be repatterned, re-woven, in however a web our True Will wills...is the secret of the Pagoda of the Twelve Steps.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Little Slice of Reality

Listening to: Little Feat, Dixie Chicken
Drinking: Sumatra Gayo/Ethiopia Moka Harrar (iced)
Other browser windows: Google Image Search for "Enheduanna"; blogdex
Wearing: bathrobe
Shirking: party thrown by co-workers
Worried about: Francis Coppola flagging WiHW when and if my post on Apocalypse Now ever comes up
Hopeful about: maybe seeing my guru in December and maybe also going to New Orleans in December if it's still there
Desirous of: more time to blog, dammit! it's like I can't even think anymore--this "work" thing has got to go! but--
Guiltily proud of: being told "you'd make a good Nazi" by a co-worker when I expressed an utter lack of sympathy for another c0-worker's self-created "misfortunes"...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm Still Alive--but

Going back to work after that last vacation has been a "unique challenge," as upper-management types like to say.

I am writing what I flatter myself is a pretty good post-- in my head--I promise. Und I vill rezpond to grigorss...

Angel tidbit: L. finds it hilarious that I know the difference between Walter Egan and Joe Egan, two relatively minor 1970s pop music figures. Why is that funny, though??

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Le Crépuscule du Soir

Ahhh--a lovely time with my family and I did not revert to australopithecine behavior, by the grace of Kali and Al-Anon.

But...my surreally extended, luxurious Vacation is coming to an end, and so I've been working on a strategic plan for some people I supervise. It's supposed to cover September through December, and though I've been attacking this thing alllllll day, I'm still only up to the middle of October. I've been listening over and over to
Love's Secret Domain by Coil and, now, to Dusty in Memphis. (I think Dusty Springfield must have been an avatar of the Divine Mother.)

To buttress my Spirit during my sojourn in the Great White North, I took along a copy of Christopher Isherwood's
My Guru and His Disciple. I found this book at a propitious time and in a most unlikely place, and took this as a sign that I should read it as soon as possible. Isherwood, like me, was a highly intellectualized westerner who for some reason found himself drawn to the highly devotional Bengali Shakta tradition of Ramakrishna. Also like me, he was an incorrigibly sybaritic sensualist who managed, with struggle, to reconcile the total surrender of self demanded by bhakti with the joyous embrace of the senses demanded by--well, people who go around alluding to Baudelaire in subject lines while listening to Dusty Springfield and sipping a scotch and soda.

Isherwood's style, both in
My Guru and His Disciple and in Ramakrishna and His Disciples, is distinguished primarily by the utter absence of bullshit. The guy knows what nouns, verbs, and narratives are for and, whenever possible, avoids adjectives and editorials. I found many sentences and paragraphs I wanted to remember from My Guru and His Disciple, and so as I read I copied a lot of stuff into my journal. I'm tempted to reproduce a lot of that stuff here but will try to keep it down to a few well-chosen quotes.

Here are a couple:

"'The Swami is too Indian for me' was a complaint I would return to again and again. But, even while persisting in my prejudice, I had to admit to myself that the very Indianness of Vedanta was helpful to me. Because of my other, anti-christian, set of prejudices, I was repelled by the English religious words I had been taught in childhood and was grateful to Vedanta for speaking Sanskrit. I needed a brand-new vocabulary and here it was, with a set of philosophical terms which were exact in meaning, unemotive, untainted by disgusting old associations with clergymen's sermons, schoolmasters' pep talks, politicians' patriotic speeches."

[Praying at a shrine to Vivekananda, Ramakrishna's disciple who brought Vedanta to the West:]
"Give me devotion--even against my will."

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Not to Sound All Barbed-Wire Hedgehog, But--

The unspeakable, unbearable horror: of the infinite pain and cruelty of this world, and the cold, indifferent dark void in which this jewel of misery is set...

I used to think a lot about this...obsess over it, really. Every second births a new atrocity, a thousand of them somewhere...every hour begets incalculable heartbreak, and our little islands of contentment sit so precarious, so open to that next torrential disaster that
must loom, ravening, over the horizon.

Yeeeeah. A pretty picture I made in my head of "reality," and since , as we all know, believing is seeing, external events usually tended to confirm it. In this state of mind, anything seems like a disaster, so confident is one in one's final, irrevocable doom.

My Divine Mother was always sending me little messages to the contrary. She sent me Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre, a song cycle by Current 93 about this very topic. She sent me Leaves of Grass, and Mary Daly, and my wild, witchy womyn friends who all ironically looked so normal they could crash a GOP bake sale, and a wacky transsexual pal who'd been dealt every shitty card in the pack three times and still was chipper as a baton twirling champ...slowly, I began to choose another way of seeing the world.

Where was I going with this? There was a punchline--oh, screw it. I'm off to my World Cup Al-Anon Challenge: a few days with my mom and brother. I may or may not blog from the Great White North...

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Not to Sound All Fluffy-Bunny, But--

I'm drivin' down the street, blasting Bauhaus so loud the rearview mirror is wobbling, and...at a certain point I'm washed all over with the magnificence of the Divine Mother, for one second I see All around me--the traffic lights that sway a little in the hot wind, the vacated lunatic asylum they're about to tear down, the seedy car detailing place, the sweaty guy knocking on the Walk sign button so he can cross the street--I see it All as one Flame of Love, an endless throbbing Kind Heart...

music is miraculous, always...pure Shakti, pure loving Power and endorphins...and I feel Kali's power in the shaking distortion of this music from so long ago, and I feel the truth of the ultimate secret of Al-Anon [stop reading, please]...the ultimate secret of tantra [you are not authorized to read any further--please close this browser window
now]...the final secret of the Illuminati...the OTO...of Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, Mirabai: the final Secret: that I have everything I need. That I don't need anyone's love or approval. That all I need is my Kali. And my Angel.

Those of you who are my dear friends: I treasure your love, and I adore you. You bring holy light to my existence. But you, too--you, neither--need anyone, need no one--you
need only the God of your understanding...you need only the Holy Guardian Angel of your True Self, your true will--which some of you Do so well, right Now.

Monday, August 1, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Boy Novelist and the Girl Novelist

In a recent issue of The New Yorker there are two literary review articles. One is about a Boy Novelist. The other is about a Girl Novelist. The articles are placed consecutively in the magazine. Both are accompanied by caricatures of the novelists.

The article about Boy Novelist is written by a male. The article about Girl Novelist is written by a female.

Boy Novelist and Girl Novelist both write violent, disturbing novels about the darker sides of the human psyche. Boy Novelist is a quite well-known Classic and published his first novel in 1965. Girl Novelist seems to be on the way to Classic and published her first novel in 1985.

Boy Novelist "brilliantly ventriloquizes the King James Bible, Shakespearean and Jacobean tragedy, Melville, Conrad, and Faulkner."

"As a child," we are told in the other article, "Girl Novelist was crazy about Shakespeare."

Boy Novelist gets compared to Shakespeare, Conrad, and Melville a lot in the article about him. Girl Novelist gets compared to herself when she was younger and to herself when she is writing fiction and when she is writing memoir.

The article about Boy Novelist is three and one half pages long. It uses the word "myth" or words made out of the word "myth" eleven times.

The article about Girl Novelist says that she had a hysterectomy and that "she is a size 20." The article about Girl Novelist contains twenty paragraphs. Six of those are biographical. The article about Boy Novelist says that he "lives quietly in New Mexico."

The article about Girl Novelist says, "In 2003, Girl Novelist published her memoir, which, for all its useful information, I admire less than her other books, for it alone seems to complain."

This is what it says on the
New Yorker web site now: "This week in the magazine, Ken Auletta writes about the battle between Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer for control of the morning television audience."

Friday, July 29, 2005

The 1000 Names of Kali

Selections from the Sri Kali Sahasranama Stotram (1000 Names of Kali), translated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, published in Kali Puja.

She Who Confronts the Forces of Duality

She Who Illuminates the Whole World Family

She Whose Forehead is Marked with the Vermilion of Love which Brings the Light of Wisdom

She Who Tears Apart Thought

She Who Dwells in All

She Who Creates

She Who Destroys

She Who is the Spirit of Illumination

She Whose Neck has Lines like a Conch Shell

She Who Has Disheveled Hair

She Whose Beauty Radiates the Light of Knowledge

She Who is a Young Girl

She Who is a Middle Aged Woman

She Who is an Old Woman

She Who is Beyond Age

She Whose Heart is Very Soft

She Who is the New Moon

She Who is Beyond

She Who is Hidden

She Who is Everywhere

She Who is the Beloved

She Who is the Intrinsic Nature of the Intoxicating Light of Infinite Love

She Who is the Energy that Pulls Beyond Fear

She Who Holds an Unusually Small Bell

She Who is the Life Force of the Flower Which is Born of Itself

She Who Always Moves with the Flowers of Light

She Who is the Enjoyer of Passion

She Who is the Mother of the Bliss of the Female Seed of Life

She Who is the Expression of All That Can be Expressed

She Who Causes Dissolution of the Subtle Body into the Causal Body [this is Shakta tantric lingo for the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, expressed in the syllable

You can listen to three characteristically energetic talks by the Swami about the 1000 names here or here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Sunday Stroll

I was talking with Laura yesterday as we walked past a church, and she called me on the instinctive shudder of loathing that this building and its denizens inspired in me.

"You know why you feel this way, don't you?"

From the tone of her voice, I knew a lesson was on its way.

Me [sarcastically]: "No. Why don't you tell me?"

"You've pretty much made your peace with the Christian religion, but you haven't yet forgiven yourself for being drawn into fundamentalism when you were a kid. Why you can't forgive yourself, I can't imagine--you were young, ignorant, had seen nothing of the world, were vulnerable and gullible and looking for easy answers, like everyone else."

Just then a white couple, about my age, walked past us, on their way to the church--very odd, as this church, from all my observations over the past seven or eight years, has seemed exlusively African-American.

Laura continued: "That guy could be you now. And what would be wrong with that? Do you really think a person has only one True Will, decreed from the beginning of time? The universe isn't nearly that euclidean, my dear. And--had you stayed a Christian, let's think about it. You would have tried to emulate Christ, and thus would have tried to surrender your ego to the will of a loving divine parent. As you are doing now.

"You would have eventually realized that in God there is neither male nor female, and thus you would have come to some kind of gnostic/advaitic understanding of the divine. As in your heart of hearts you have now. You would have eventually understood sensuality as a gift from God, as a lot of these evangelicals are finally doing, and you would have striven to attain oneness with God in lovemaking and in all other experience. As you are doing now. You would have kept on reading T.S. Eliot and would have eventually come to understand that scriptural truths are best understood as deep psychological truths, not as scientific or historical truths. As you have done. So--what would be the difference?"

Apparently angels have trouble with the finer points. And my Angel, at least, has an annoying tendency to be right.

Zim Zum

[Excerpts from The Exegesis of Mogen David ben Chatterjee, the Mad Jew of Calcutta, appear in italics.]

Art transforms us because it shatters, or at least rearranges, our symbol systems. Religion should do this, too, but we all know how that goes. Why did Kali--or was it Laura?--or Ammachi?--or blind chance?--lead me to that Kiefer painting, hanging beside a sculpture by the same artist called Angel of History? (OK, it's a B-52 bomber, but I still appreciate the seraphic synchronicity...after all, by my own admission, I'd come to DC seeking answers about "the light and dark sides of my Mother Kali--pleasure and pain, love and violence, beauty and horror.")

On the painting's name/meaning: usually transliterated "tzimtzum"...get this, from Daniel Matt's
The Essential Kabbalah (the one book everyone should read on this subject)--page 93, no less:

In the words of Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz, 17th-century wise guy, "Before the creation of the world, Ein Sof withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could emanate and create."

This space is the tzimtzum. Some of its earthly analogues are the Ark of the Covenant, the Grail, the heart chakra, the Mandelbrot Set...there's at least one more...

In our Divine Mother's original act of self-love, when pure consciousness noticed Itself and swoon'd in delight--a space opened in which everything could happen. And is happening--wave on wave of happening on the face of the waters. What did Amma say? Something to the effect that no true separateness exists--Kali is an infinite ocean on which we and all we know are wavelets and waves. This is the form in which Ramakrishna perceived Her after begging and begging for a vision; it's a lot like what I saw when Amma hugged me the first time.

Kabbalah's "shattered vessels" become, in Shaktism, Mother Kali's divine play (lîlâ)...play forms a part of Her essential nature, which I suppose is why Kali, in traditional Shakta iconography, is a sexy young woman who also happens to carry a sword. In Judeo- Christianity, what we call good, evil, creation, destruction, etc. reflect a lost unity that will one day be restored. In Shaktism, these appear as manifestations of Kali's play...is that a picture of a stagnant, forboding pool, or of a sweet beginning of beginnings?

...or--for now, anyway, this is the "strong and delicious word which...the sea whisper'd me."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

But Wait--It Gets Weirder...

Or maybe not...this is the post where I try to tie it all together, a patently artificial act but one seemingly demanded by--the blog form? The basic rules of spiritual narratives? The entropic direction of the universe?

I forgot to mention the pyramid-sales people; they were hangin' out in the hotel, too, with their name tags and the white ring binders with the klunky, desktop-published logo on the front. So you had your get-rich-quick dreamers, your make-schools-safe
hopefuls, your Win the War on Terror fantasists, and your god-wishers, all in one suburban enclave. A little cross-section of the USA--the capitalist, bureaucratic, patrio-militarist, and theo-bamboozle parts, anyway--all sipping their lattés and checking their voice mail. This is how I would have seen it, were I not so invested in one of those groups, were the stories I tell myself about myself not so laden with metaphors from one of those lexicons.

Art used to be my Big Story, even back when I was trying and failing (yes, quite miserably) to be a Christian, and especially later when I'd given up and started building my heaven drug by drug and pose by pose. Were I still a member of the church of art, I would have fancied myself at the very tabernacle one day in DC, as I stood in one little room in the National Gallery and gazed on four or five works that changed everything for me when I was a teen art geek, most importantly The Human Condition by Réné Magritte. It struck me that this painting "said" exactly what Amma had been saying in her talks: we inherit a story about the world, call it "the world," and slumber contentedly away.

Knocking over the easel is the hard part. Once that's done you have to either open the window or--it's best not to think about it. On looking at the Magritte painting I felt surrounded by Kali's caring and felt my past perceptions fall away--never had this painting looked so cartoonish, yet never so eloquent. I felt led by Her as I meandered into a gallery radiating so much shakti it felt as though I were back at Amma's feet. On one wall shimmered and echoed Something so magnificent--terrible and beautiful, and mesmerizing and repellent--a portrait of my Divine Mother, yet so imprisoned was I by my knowledge of the painter's work that I first assumed it was a commentary on World War II (!).

Next: Absolutely the Last Amma Post

Magick at Princeton

Minds influencing machines (maybe); there are quite valid criticisms of this stuff. Page 2 is particularly interesting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's Been Storming Here All Day...

...and one of my cats sniffed glue. Is there a support group for that?

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Epic Post on Ammachi, part 2

(Entries from The Diary of a Thuggee appear in italics.)

Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like my Guardian Angel...she's started telling me things before they happen, and in a way I wish she would stop. No stock picks or lotto numbers; it all has to do with the Goddess in one way or another. And--it comes in handy. She gave me some instructions to follow on Day 2 that ended up getting me very near the front of the line for the morning darshan, though I was not supposed to be there. No--I didn't lie or cajole or anything; one must be extra nice and moral and stuff around souls like Amma, because everything speeds up, including karma. But, anyhow--for the second day in a row, there I am, sitting, meditating in Amma's presence, this time the meditation is getting deeper and deeper and my heart chakra is hurting, and then I get this hug that reminds me of the time when I was 3 and stuck the screwdriver in the outlet, except this feels really, really good.


Waiting for that illicit second darshan:
I figured: now is really a time for gratitude. Sat in meditation saying the Gayatri from my heart chakra & sending Her pure gratitude. I reflected on how hard gratitude exercises like this used to be--I had to think of stuff to be grateful for, I had to make conscious list of real people, things, events. Now Amma/Kali is teaching me pure gratitude--how miraculous.


Amma: "We have to be able to greet death with a smile."


It's the last night, which an acquaintance I ran into in the darshan line said would have by far the most intense shakti. I'm sitting meditating, waiting for the program to start (thank god I brought the zabuton)...getting very deep into the gratitude. It's not only pure now, it's becoming All There Is...a rosy sea, sometimes shot through with green [the color of the heart chakra]. I open my eyes, sensing that Amma's about to enter the hall, and I'm shocked to see a room full of people. I'd forgotten they were there, but what a blessing that they are--hundreds of people whose main desire right now is to draw nearer to God.


My friend Fiorenza, whom I'd hoped to see at this event, says she can always tell when Amma's plane lands--if F. happens to be in town at the time, she gets a definite jolt. It's easy to laugh at statements like this, even for a flake like me, but it's a bit harder now having spent time in Amma's orbit. I doubt anyone would look askance at such a claim were F. talking about David Bowie's plane landing...they'd smile and say, man, she's a real Bowie fan. If it's a spiritual teacher, though, F. must be the slightest bit wacko to say such a thing. Don't wanna sound defensive or anything--but it's interesting how desperate many people
are (especially "religious" ones) to insulate themselves from any kind of intense spiritual experience.

Under L's influence, on the other hand, I resolved not to be too, too holy--a couple of hours in the morning, a couple more in the evening in the ballroom/temple, and the rest of the day was spent in pursuit of Kali in the secular, profane world of Dupont Circle, the National Gallery of Art, U Street, Mass. Ave., etc. As my guru is fond of saying (and this is a near paraphrase), if you can't feel God's presence while doing the dishes, you sure as hell aren't going to cozy up to Her in some ashram or spiritual retreat. Amma emphasized this, too, saying in effect that we should make the small stuff in our lives as sacred as possible (note to Sophia: that was the point of the motorcycle story (another version here)--I finally remembered: what we see depends on our prior assumptions... believing is seeing).

Next: But Wait--It Gets Weirder...