Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Company of Great Souls

Narada, in the Bhakti Sutra, says that the company of great souls is the most efficacious route to higher consciousness and union with God. We normally interpret this as "you should hang out with saints, gurus, sages, rishis, mahatmas, swamis, aghoris, avadhutas, and other extremely spiritual people."

Such people, of course, are vanishingly rare and tend to reside on the tops of mountains, in cremation grounds, in caves, and at ashrams far, far away. If you're in Calcutta, they're in Kerala; if you're in East Podunk they're in Napa -- "always somewhere else," to quote Terence McKenna on daimonic happenings. I have to agree with Narada that the company of a genuine saint can do more to aid one's evolution in a shorter time than anything else but a direct zap from God, and I have to get down on my knees to Kali Ma (I'll literally do this once I hit "Publish Post") and thank Her and thank Her for the many saints She has allowed me to meet and learn from.


I was driving to school this morning, as I do nearly every morning, singing along with some bhajans on my iPod. It was the song "Radhe Govinda," and I was thinking that Radha, in all her meekness and prim beauty, is scarier than Kali, scarier than all the fierce faces of the Mother, for Radha embodies pure love to the point of total negation of self. She is so devoted to Krishna that She loses Herself in Him, asks nothing from Him but His glance, though She wants so much more. Radha, like Christ, calls us to the Abyss, and I have to steel myself even to sing these beautiful songs to Her; I feel like lightning will strike at the mention of Her name and I will be called on, that instant, to give Kali everything I am, give Her everything I have and want and don't want and everything I can be  -- everything I know and love, all of it rushing up, up in a hideous cloud of surrender-smoke.

So I'm thinking all of this and of course my family comes to mind; first and foremost, they are what I do not want to give up, cannot imagine letting go of. I think of my dear, brave step-daughter Molly -- a surpassingly wise soul, a soul who loves with all of her, an artist of astonishing depth, a young woman I admire more than anyone, save her mother. I think of James, and there are tears in my eyes again as I write this, James whose wit at age nine is sharper and sports more sideways angles than most New Yorker writers ever sprout, James who can race to the top of a tree fast as a squirrel and with as little fear, whose heart is as wide as the worlds he draws, filled with flying sharks and laser-eyed chimeras.

I think of Sophia, mother of these children and image of The Mother; I think of Sophia whose love and trust nearly shame me, whose beauty is itself a song -- to Radha for love, to Kali for power, to Matangi for sidereal vision. I think of Sophia who is a miracle; "only in the sense that we all are," she protests, but if you were to ask James and Molly and the people whose lives Sophia has touched with her art, her organizational genius, her teaching, and her friendship, I think the answer would be "there are miracles and then there are miracles." I think of Sophia and the thousand big and little ways she loves us, every minute, the thousand ways she Creates and Sustains, like the One from whom she flows; I think of Sophia and James and Molly and I think, "I have the company of great souls, every day." Kali, with the devious loving gravity She uses to pull us all in, has brought me to Vrindavan in the American South, has brought me to the feet of rishis in my own home.

Vrindavan has been suffocatingly hot lately, as always in June. Today, though, a soft, almost cool breeze is blowing. I need to be working, chained to my computer, not going outside; I shouldn't even be writing this-- so I wasn't going to leave my office. But my computer had a conniption and I decided to walk across campus to return a book while it restarted. So I went outside my plastic bubble of busy-ness and walked over to the Science building, hoping like hell I wouldn't run into the book's owner (there's no time to talk!), which of course I did.

And what did the book's owner do when she saw me, but summarize this very post I'd been writing this morning: "Wow, your life is so different now. I used to think of you as the guy who would just go to Paris whenever he felt like it. But now you're married and you have kids -- how is that working?"

It's working like the unexpected soft breeze caressing my face, a breeze that "shouldn't" be there in any normal world and that, as a bhakta, I feel as my Lover's touch. It's working like the soft glow of seven billion years, galaxy fire sped across oceans of space to land one night on your front lawn as you pause to look up at the stars.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eleusis, Gods, Angels

Erik Davis's podcast hosts poet and translator Charles Stein for a fascinating and very well-informed conversation on the Eleusinian mysteries. Normally I would tweet something like this, but Stein is worth dropping everything for if you're interested in technologies of transformation, the Greeks, or Goddess stuff.

Somehow the Greeks crafted a ritual that freed its celebrants from the fear of death. This ritual is one bit of glass in the vast rose window of spiritual practice that humans have made in response to the immensity of beauty and mystery surrounding us always, and most importantly, dwelling within us-- "closer than your own jugular vein," as the scripture says.

[Angels get a passing but very insightful mention at 57:10, though the etymology given is much more true in lived experience than it is in historical linguistics.]

Now Optimized for Mobile Phones!

Image by Joydeep Mukherjee      

Yes, children of Kali, WiHW is now mobile-ready. I just checked 'er out on my Droid and things look great! You can access pictures, links, etc. just like on the web, and the text is very readable.

Now you can take me to the car wash, the checkout line at Wal-Mart, the waiting room at the doctor's office-- all your favorite places! (I recommend the beach, but that's just me.) (Or your favorite graveyard, at 3:00 a.m. -- maybe I've been listening to too much Coil lately.)

(Thank you for reading. The divine Shakti -- Her infinite unfolding, Her infinite love -- flames all around you, blossoms within you. Don't forget ♥)