Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blasphemy Day International

It's today. Let's get to it!

For civil libertarians, blasphemy is an act of conscience. For atheists and skeptics, blasphemy is recreation. For lovers of God, blasphemy is an obligation.

Think of it as an idolatry vaccine.

Inspirational Quotes
"You are God's beauty." -- Sri Chinmoy (emphasis added)

"One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms." -- H. L. Mencken

P.S. Let me admit that I can't bear the thought of saying anything truly scurrilous about my Mother Kali. So-- I'll let the infamous toilet seat do my talking for me.

P.P.S. Can you blaspheme a Goddess who isn't imagined to be "pure," who resides in all things, "good" and "evil" alike, and whose worship and iconography explicitly confront the worst as well as the best of existence? I guess it's all in the intent, finally.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jung's HGA Diary

Wow... The Red Book, Carl Jung's account of protracted wrestling with his Holy Guardian Angel, is about to see the light of day. There's a meticulously detailed and dryly funny New York Times article about the twisted history of this document, and it couldn't have a better title: "The Holy Grail of the Unconscious."

Apparently Jung's family feared that the old man comes off like a nutjob in the pages of The Red Book, so they hid it in a safe deposit box for decades. I guess I can see their point, but I'd wager that most people who'd be weirded out by the diary are already weirded out by Jung's work on dreams, UFOs, synchronicity, Eastern mysticism, the collective unconscious, and alchemy.

Jung's autobiography has a pretty fair account of what went on 'twixt him and Philemon, the wing├Ęd Gnostic sage, but apparently the story is woolier and wilder than we knew. Also, Jung drew and painted dozens of images of his inner journey, whose painstaking reproduction explains the book's near-$200 price tag. New York's Rubin Museum is presenting an exhibition based on The Red Book, and you can see several of Jung's paintings here.

This post is in danger of turning into a miscellany, so I may as well throw something else out there and sign off. (I'm working on my department's spring schedule today and so I have about the brain capacity of a European hedgehog.) But... maybe you knew this, but I didn't: Jung hung out with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who apparently was into major woo himself. They wrote a book together, and now a book has been written about their friendship (interview with author here).

Sample quote: "The two sat for hours on end in Jung's gothic-like mansion on the shores of Lake Zurich, dining on fine foods, drinking vintage wine and smoking the finest cigars while discussing topics from physics and whether there is a cosmic number at the root of the universe to psychology, ESP, UFOs, Armageddon, Jesus, Yahweh and Pauli's dreams."

How do you say "Awesome, dude!" in German????

Update: Crunchy Con gets all Jungian. I jest not.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cha Cha Cha

"the secret to spiritual practice is doing it precisely when you don't feel like doing it."
--Jay Michaelson

... dancing...! The words fall 'pon the male ear as fatefully as the word Voldemort falls 'pon the ear of the wizard... yet for some reason I've always felt smaller because I can't dance. All I have to do is hear an old song like "Dancing Machine" or "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" or "Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)" and the ancient agenbite bites once more, as it did in [choke] middle school ... the wallflower psychology, ya know, learning the truth at seventeen and all that. It's still there, many years after seventeen, though mercifully attenuated by maturity (or premature senility).

One either ignores this sort of thing or one faces it down. When Sophia and I got married, the ignoring days were over, since we planned to dance the first dance at our wedding. We took a few lessons with this Russian guy who was Bolshoi-punctilious but who made it fun, and we whirled a credible go of it after our vows as Ella Fitzgerald sang "I Could Write a Book." It was wonderful. Once wed, we talked about dancing more, talked about finding black tie galas to attend. I mean, I have the tux now. And I'll take any reason to hold Sophia close to me and look into her stunning blue eyes...

So we're taking this ballroom dance class. In a hot-as-hell gym in another town with a semi-professional dancer who reminds me of the Heaven's Gate guy. Not private lessons but a class with--how can I say this?? --undergraduates. About 20 of them, with whom of course we have to practice dancing. And I like holding Sophia close, but-- those other chicks aren't Sophia. And I danced with a guy at the last class because all the girls were taken. Not that there's anything wrong with that... but...

I haven't told you about the alcohol wipes. They're not as big a factor now, not in my new life of elementary school and Cub Scout camp. But for years they were my crutch, my graviton shields against a disgusting world. The germs... the viruses... the... other people's sweat! Like the chick I had to dance with the other night, a very good dancer but sweaty as hell and not wearing enough clothes and ... can't the gym have some nice delousing showers?

But microscopic bugs aren't the real issue. Dancing bring up my whole Quasimodo complex-- That Feeling of Perpetual Unworthiness that I've done battle with for years and have all but defeated... but you know demons don't die easy. The body image issues... the feeling of clumsiness... the 40-foot-long mirrors running down both walls reflecting 20 svelte youngsters and-- my aging, cetacean form. That stuff.

So instead of Being Here Now or trying to see the divine in the class, the students, the teacher, the dance steps... I was letting the loser scripts ("I can't do this," "This is stupid," "I have better things to do") get the better of me. Hell, I could at least have remembered that Kali dances in Shakta mythology, that Shiva dances, that She's my Beloved and He's my role model. (At least we're taking Ballroom and not classical Indian dance...)

Sophia is a lot of things. She's a mom and a poet and a photographer and a scholar and an institutional hard-ball playa and a teacher... and a Teacher. This is what she had to say about being the old person in the dancing class in the hot gym at night after a long day: "I'm here because I want to be. And I don't have to be the best dancer in the class, I just have to learn it the best I can. It feels weird to be 20 years older than the next oldest student in the class, but I don't care what they think. I don't care what the teacher thinks. I don't have to make a good grade. I'm doing this for me."

Sound familiar? Do what thou wilt.

Germs can't stop you, sweat can't stop you, even false self-images from the past can't stop you, if you decide to do your Will. But doing it means doing it, acting with your whole self. This is what I see Sophia do every day: act with her whole self even if she's just pulling weeds. I admire her for it and I love her for it, and I love myself when I am that way, when I heed Krishna's words and cut away doubt with the sword of knowledge, turn to God, and stand up!

It's funny how our fears can divide us from ourselves, lead us away from what we want to do. But it doesn't have to be that way. Our fear-born self-obsession can turn the world into a tragedy, a horror show, a bland Becket farce, but it doesn't have to be that way. Krishna had to fight in a war. All I have to do is dance-- and seek my Mother.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Vultures, Part II: The More Personal Stuff

In the previous post I mentioned the Shakta concept of the interlacing of, the inseparability of, life and death. One of the cognitive changes that Shakta spiritual practice aims at is establishing a gut awareness that life is filled with and depends upon death, while death in its turn inevitably flows from and begets life... that life and death are finally the same.

I remember when this truth first hit me in a visceral, deeper than intellectual way: early in my Shakta career, probably in 1999 or 2000, I was driving some back road here in East Podunk, a lovely twisting road through endless emerald woods and fields. I turned a rather sharp corner and came upon a dead deer lying partly in the road, with a couple of vultures chowing down, shaded by trees that bent over an old fence.

The birds were so black, so lovely and regal, and one bird's beak shone with blood. The whole scene took on a jewel-like completeness: death, life, blood, beauty. I shivered; I saw Kali in that blood, in those black feathers.

I'd never been this close to a vulture before; I grew up in Florida near some of the wilder parts of that state, and had seen hundreds of vultures from afar, usually gliding in their stately holding pattern above some future meal. (It's not true, though, that vultures circle because they're waiting for animals to die. Or, rather, that's not the main reason. I've read that they circle to attract other vultures to the site and to make sure some bigger, badder animal isn't lurking on the ground to snatch their dinner.)

Me and Sophia and the kids just went to Florida a few weeks ago, and it was vulture central, as usual, but we had some fairly close encounters. At Kennedy Space Center the sky was black with them at times-- KSC occupies what has to be one of the largest (mostly) unspoiled areas in the state. About 5000 alligators live there, if that gives you any idea. We also went to a zoo and around sunset the trees filled up with a large venue (yet another collective noun) of vultures. The walkways were heavily dotted with the birds' past contributions and one walked beneath those trees mindfully and briskly. But the sight of them, perched in the dying light, was shiver-making and I kept taking pictures, hoping for one that did justice to the birds' dark majesty.

We didn't get pooped on, and Sophia laughed in her sweet, teasing way at my "goth" obsession-- Sophia, my Nekhbet, my personal "Mother of Mothers." It felt so good: I was home-- in Florida, with my Beloved and her kids, and under the dark and somewhat dangerous wings of the Goddess.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I Like Vultures...

...and you should, too.

Did you know that they're a symbol of the Goddess-- of, as we Shaktas say, "Life in death and death in life"?

And they're just
cool. Did you know that Old World vultures evolved from raptors, while New World vultures evolved from crane-like birds? Did you know that the collective noun for vultures is a "wake" of vultures? (I've also heard "committee of vultures," which is even more appropriate.)

Did you know that Zora Neale Hurston wrote part of a chapter in
Their Eyes Were Watching God from the point of view of vultures?

Saturday, September 5, 2009 is
International Vulture Awareness Day.

I want you to go hug a vulture.