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, 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 the secret of the Pagoda of the Twelve Steps.