["Mexico City Northwest Twilight". Photo by Warren Falcon. August 2009. Click on the image to enlarge it.]
‘I don’t try to reconcile anything’ said the poet at eighty,
‘This is a damned strange world.’
--John Berryman, from "Eleven Addresses To The Lord"
The original fault
Will not be undone by fire.
The original fault was whether wickedness
Was soluble in art. History says it is,
Jacques Maritain says it is,
--John Berryman, from "Sonnet ix"
Once again this babble
for Father Will his Bible
the Holy Surd of God
Context & Conjecture One
Thou knowest my down-sitting...
Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart;
prove me, and examine my thoughts. --from Psalm 139
I have often wondered where Little Miss Muffet was forced to go, and did she, and if she did what became of her, who did she become and what adventures of disorientation did she undergo in order to arrive at a more meaningful reorientation of self with Self--what Carl Jung calls the “greater personality” from which the ego dwells and swells into conscious being with growing capacities to live the questions, to sit in the contradictions, to dwell within and between the conflict of the opposites. Like Siddhartha Guatama Buddha, Miss Muffet had to leave the familiar tuffet, the premature down-sitting, for enough hard living had not been done for she had not yet been more completely exposed to the vicissitudes of existence--disillusionment, moral and other failure, longing, lack, illness, decay, death and, of course, the interplay, the coming and going of their opposites.
Curds and whey, baby food, must be spilled out of the identified-with-Innocence now frightened puerish lap, evidence of the harsh awakening from one form of sitting--unconscious, animal, infantile, collective, dull as a box of hair--into paniced headlong running off the proven riven ways into flight, insecurity, fear, malais. Once more thoroughly exposed to dukkha, meaning suffering, Freud's discontent, the Existentialist's alienation, Miss Muffet can sit down again, having lived and still living the questions, emptied out but for despair, consenting to be there without the collective curd, the theological and cultural whey, with only the weight of existenz pressing her there, now willingly waiting at her Bodhi Tree, now refusing to budge:
A dark theme keeps me here
though summer blazes in the vireo's eye.
Who would be half possessed
by his own nakedness?
Waking's my care.
I'll make a broken music, or I'll die.
--from "In Evening Air", by Theodore Roethke
[Thanks to Thomas Dybek for pointing out the aptness of Freud's term, discontent, for a contemporary rendering of Buddha's dukkha]
Context & Conjecture Two
Or perhaps like Jesus of Nazareth sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane, resisting the cup of affliction, God's Will, then consenting to drain the bitter Law that requires even Deity's obeisance, Miss Muffet, too, consents, forgetting the longed for infantile curds and whey, the childish stool, to swallow an incomprehensible means of grace which first lays waste the human into more grief upon the opposites' Cross without promise of resurrection. There is a resurrection in surrender, in the swallowing, the vinegar sponge thrust into the finite Savior's mouth punctuating the bitter meal that human will and flesh can become, and that killing Will of God. First awakening is to the clot-itude, the clay pushed and shoved by Fated Hands no matter the just protest of beaten, broken dust. When Jesus calls out from the hanging tree, “Father, Father! Why hast thou forsaken me?”, there was no hope in the For-Everyman hanging there. And hang we all must and will and do with or without awareness or understanding, without consent, without familiar comforts, the curds and whey of everyday mind, the historical nostrums, and consumerist collective cures:
Bound to my heart as the Ixion to the wheel.
Nailed to my heart as the Thief upon the Cross I hang
between our Christ and the gap where the world was lost.
--Edith Sitwell, from Dirge For The New Sunrise
Context & Conjecture Three
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. --Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 13:11
In last month's newsletter we read of Father Will's return from a month long retreat from personal and collective comforts and cures at Bone Cabin, a remote desert cabin in the American west, an extreme, austere and overwhelming environment which exaggerated an already present existential opening in Father Will with what Paul Tillich calls ultimate concerns and exigencies (urgencies) insisted within and upon one either lived consciously or, for many people, consciously repressed and studiously avoided or medicated by now even more devices and gadgets of medicine and machinery, the entertainment juggernaut now being one of the largest consumer industries the world over especially in the postmodern Western world. Granted, it is tremendously difficult to endure the questions of ultimate concerns and not rush to “answers” and "solutions". Enduring the questions and the vast spaces they open internally when endured and not medicated or entertained away by doctrinal or other distracting solutions, one may descend into deeper, transpersonal dimensions of Psyche where an authenticating encounter occurs reframing existential dwelling in the world as a regenerative meeting with and relating to Being and Mystery, Existenz consciously discovering its Dynamic Ground in Essence via human awakening. Such relocating meetings at the edge, brief or sustained, require departures from familiar territory, internally and externally, in order to evolve out of these “childish things” St. Paul speaks of, into mature, reality oriented encounter with existence. Often enough, like Miss Muffet, on her secure everyday tuffet one is inexplicably forced out of the comfort and safety of everyday belief and routine.
And so with Father Will I must sit in the questions, in the emptying and not rush to filler solutions. I, too, must empty. Both Carl Jung and W.R. Bion have prescribed this in similar expressions, that when the fellow pilgrim--the patient/client-- enters the room and the door is shut one empties oneself of memory, thought, desire. Existential and phenomenological psychology calls this intentional creating of vacated space Epoché helpfully defined by wikipedia as "the theoretical moment where all judgments about the existence of the external world, and consequently all action in the world, is suspended...One's own consciousness is subject to immanent critique so that when such belief is recovered, it will have a firmer grounding in consciousness...one is thought to be able to suspend judgment regarding the general or naive philosophical belief in the existence of the external world, and thus examine phenomena as they are originally given to consciousness. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoch%C3%A9) (copy and paste this and all links in this text)
In this context of epoché, vacated space, and surrender (etymologically meaning "to render out" much like the slow cooking of meat renders out, separates the fat), one departs the security of belief, even of history, personal and collective, and lives on what Martin Buber calls the narrow ridge, "a narrow rocky ridge between the gulfs where there is no sureness of expressible knowledge but the certainty of meeting what remains undisclosed.’"http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=459&C=371)
The narrow ridge can be stormy and since last month Father Will came in from the violent storm an understanding of storms archetypally may deepen the context of not only his but our collective departure out of the Piscean aeon into the Aquarian:
Context & Conjecture Four
Of storms and absolution at the outset, a context for Father Will, for us all as we fall with our Falling Star:
We know from world mythology that violent storms have served the offended Higher Powers to destroy old and no longer viable divine and human cultural orders. These storms arrive, post-destruction, to restore, renew, relink Creative Power(s) with creation and from that tempestuous interaction, with culture. It can be said, then, that culture is a crime of passion between the sacred and the profane. Even the gods fight amongst themselves as they should for it is from this divine conflict that the "10,00 things" of creation are manifest and are subject to an Order/Disorder which we humans continually try to divine from which neither the gods nor we can escape being "hurled down against the flat stones of our lives", as American poet, Mark Strand, accurately announces. Gods, too, are hurled down upon stone tablets, unyielding codes, calcified cosmologies representing the flat world of old orders no longer viable because they cannot accommodate the horrific fact of their own shadow (projected upon creatures/creations), the shadow of the institutions formed around them, and of what humans with their brilliant but deadly shadows have been able to technologically create and in the creating awaken globally destructive powers. As our gods are so are our determined destructions. Our annihilating bombs along with our balms are images of our contrary and contradictory gods. It is we and creation who suffer them.
Thus we are startled awake, overwhelmed in this age of authentic anxiety, of pandemic sleep disorders, of pathological gods (Jung says our gods now show up as pathologies, as symptoms), their religions and our consequent spiritual bypasses. We remain warily, scarily aware of this cosmic set up in this crushing, cranking cosmological turn of the Wheel since the old and current centers and the meaning they once provided do not, apparently will not, hold because they carry internally their own apocalyptic seeds of destruction in order to be renewed, a process en perpetua, called renaissance, which is a hope but not a guarantee or given. We are in this condition where "the center cannot hold...things fall apart," to quote William Butler Yeats. Carl Jung indicates that we are moving through this threshold of chaos and kairos:
"A mood of universal destruction and renewal has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the KAIROS - The Right Moment - for a “metamorphosis of the gods”, of the fundamental principles and symbols... So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” -C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self
"Kairos is the passing moment in which something happens as the time unfolds...it is a small window of becoming and opportunity. One of the origins of the word comes from shepherds watching the stars. As the night progresses and the stars turn in the sky, they appear to rise and then fall against the horizon. The moment when a star has reached its apogee and appears to change direction from ascending to descending is its kairos." --Corrigall, J, Payne, H, Wilkinson, H (eds), About A Body, 2006: pg. 201
Like it or not, Father Will expresses/compresses/distresses within this context of chaos and kairos, the falling star of our Aeon (symbolically, stars partially represent particular meaning points, archetypally specific constellations/apparitions of consciousness). In so doing he speaks for us all though we may hide our heads in bestseller, consumerist New Age and similar sands, vacuous, temporary spiritualish confections, or alternately/alternatively, calcified and calcifying Fundamentalist invectives and insurrections, denial or bile by any other name, sympathetic magic flailing or doctrinaire dogma flagellating against the tragic condition of gods and man, self-righteous fingers or hand folded namastes pointing actively or passively at the scapegoated causes. This understandable but narcotic narcissism in the end will not lead us through this nekyia ("night sea journey") like Odysseus to that newly discovered inland terra firma where we must plant our hand hewn oar carried far from familiar seas and shores.
The fullness of this time, Kairos of the falling star (which is a violent storm, indeed), of cultural/cosmological dis-aster (meaning, ill-starred), is reliant upon human capacities such as they are but effective enough, to proclaim, reclaim and proceed to ongoingly integrate shadow, human and divine, for this is the work not only of egos but of eras. It is also a time to grow equally enduring capacities for disorder, for chaos, so as not to blame or punish gods, Nature nor humans for what appears to be a primary given of existence, entropy, which is inevitable social, physical and energetic decline and degeneration. In tandem with entropy there are or can be evolving human capacities for what I call syntropy where we may more consciously witness and participate in the inexorable falling apart while keeping meaning-threads in mindful hands while winding and finding our way within and potentially out of one labyrinthine Wheel Turn into newer ones of potentially creative/destructive formations. Ensuing personal, collective and cosmological gains may be derived from willful Time's twining whorl and wheal* for this Fateful ordeal of inevitable wandering is imposed by appointed rising and falling stars, ours and our cultures' scars the signatures of their greater impositions.
Ah, but now I hear Father Will growling, "But who or what is it appoints the stars?"
[* "wheal -- mark made on the skin by a whip," 1808, probably an alteration of wale, possibly by confusion with weal "welt," and obsolete wheal "pimple, pustule" (1440), from O.E. verb hwelian"to form pus, bring to a head."
[Portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer, the 1800's German philosopher and inspiration for our Father Will who reappears in this month's essay to quarrel, and in quarreling make confession, with Existenz, his own, mine, the Church's, the New Age and more because of and amidst the persistent agonies. Father Will returns to us here first introduced in my March and October 2009 Learning For Life Group Newsletter essays also found here on the blogspot (click 'March (2)' and 'October (2) under 'Blog Archive'). The retired and retiring, troubled and troubling, goodly Father is a composite character, a convenient and necessary fiction drawn from my practice comprised of many, composed by one. I've chosen his name, Father Will, to signify Human Volition, Will to Power/Will to Cower in homage to Schopenhauer who wrote The World As Will And Representation (To get a sense of his philosophy go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer). However, any resemblance to an actual person is completely accidental unless it is an oblique locution referring to me. Credit for the painting here of Herr Schopenhaeur is from wikipedia online: "This portrait of Schopenhauer was painted in April 1859 by J. Lunteschutz...This image... is in the public domain because its copyright has expired."
Further Pretexts for Absence:
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd. -- Flannery O'Connor
Artaud warns his readers and listeners that each person who knows conflict and seeks to grow, must expect a shearing of flesh and a letting go of blood in the act of life which is a cruelty.
To be you can let yourself go until you just exist,
but to live,
you must be someone,
to be someone,
you must have a Bone,
not be afraid to show the bone
and to lose the meat by the wayside.
And what is infinity?
We do not know exactly.
It is a word
which we use
of our consciousness
toward the inordinate,
inexhaustible and inordinate
...but there is one thing
which is something,
only one thing
which is something,
that I feel
of my bodily
To live meant to Artaud--to act, to hurt and be hurt, to experience fully joy and pain, and in so doing, to mold, create--and recreate oneself in the process..."I hate and renounce as a coward every being who consents to live without first having created himself."
--from Artaud, Man of Vision, Bettina L. Knapp, First Swallow Press / Ohio University Press edition 1980, from the Preface, pg. 217-218, pg. 214
And if the babe is born a boy
He’s given to a woman old,
Who nails him down upon a rock,
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold. -- William Blake***
Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted") --Arthur Schopenhauer****
According to Julia Kristeva in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk.--from a Purdue University web article:
The abject for Kristeva is, therefore, closely tied both to religion and to art, which she sees as two ways of purifying the abject: "The various means of purifying the abject—the various catharses—make up the history of religions, and end up with that catharsis par excellence called art, both on the far and near side of religion".
At times one might say: "In the beginning there was nourishment."
At times one might say: "In the beginning there was catastrophe."
Bion's writings give voice to the traumatized self. If Walt Whitman sings the body electric and catalogues joys of self, Bion details what it is like for self to be electrocuted and to continue as the remains...Destruction turns up and screaming substitutes for satisfaction. Bion is most keenly Bion in depicting destructive transformations of the scream as link. He is particularly master of the fading scream, the scream that dies forever, background radiation of spaceless space, the dispersed scream...Silence explodes...From nourishment to explosive wipe-out."
--from Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, H. Karnac (Books) Ltd, 2001, pgs. 29-30
In a field I am the absence of field. --Mark Strand
Becoming and transformation are tasks imposed on man by Fate, working both from within and without him, and this is something which man becomes aware of at the turning points, the crises of his existence. In so far as man experiences such crises with anxiety and under the image of inescapable death he also experiences himself as one disposed by nature to transcend his existence as it is at any moment and to experience and express previously unknown possibilities.
-- The Dream and the Underworld, James Hillman, New York: Harper & Row, 1979, pg. 113
This essay is dedicated to dearly departed Karen Eberle, Tien Ho, Walter Schell, and last but not at all least, the astonishing Marianne Annur:
"It means so much that we can be broken..." --Raul Voz, from Las Poemas Cornadas (The Cornada Poems)