"Genuine knowing begins when sentimentality no longer bars the way."
It seems that authentic esotericism of religious traditions (not the non-critical unquestioning, "anything goes" mentality of many current New Agers) turns not away from Death but toward it. From Zoroaster to zen, from shamans to sufis and more, the mystics, those authentic ones who know from experience that ecstasy is not merely a state of manic excitement in dissociative pleasure where one identifies with that state but that, ecstasy aside, one must spend most of waking life cultivating Death awareness in the face of life. This is not mere morbidity nor existentialist fixity. This is also not a quaint technical theory to manipulate feeling states but is a preparation without sentimentality, says don Juan to Carlos in Carlos Castaneda's "wheel turning" necessary fictions about apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer in the Northern Mexican desert, for that one moment that all of life prepares for, Death, which is believed to be a portal into Infinity.
Nevermind for the moment (but let us not deny) the gory factual details of Castaneda's life post-don Juan and international celebrity as a guru to millions (still), the artifice, deceits and lies of of his private personal life (he like all of us is entitled to a private life, that is NOT the issue), teaching spiritual ideas/ideals/sorcerer techniques and fancy while concealing/living an all too human life of malignant narcissism and grandiosity brainwashing many sincere and gullible followers which led to the death of at least 5 women who were of his inner circle. Nevermind the truth about his actual death by normal mortal disease, prescription notes to prove it, and not the sorcerer's death he wrote of and imagined "via don Juan", and supposedly taught to some of his cult followers, a running fast enough in "Tensegrity fashion," Tensegrity being a system of postures and movements supposedly designed by pre-Christian Yaqui sorcerers and codified for modernity by Castaneda to prepare spiritual warriors who would jump, come time for Death, into Light through the veils into Nagual or Infinity.
Nevermind all that. Castaneda, for all his later megalomania, perhaps psychotropically induced insanity from his journeys with jimsonweed and other plant "alchemical choirs", was truly a genius, an artist who drew from and condensed anthropological research and accounts to articulate masterfully a Vulgate (popular) of indigenous teachings and techniques from cultures around the world. Castaneda was a "necessary angel of the imagination" - let us not make the mistake of reading "angel" in Judeo-Christian light as "all good" servants of an "all good" god, the necessary angel of the earth includes good and evil and does not shut out any part of existence. Castaneda offered a death-obsessed culture with it's hubristic H-bombs and techne hastening death to not only the human species but to Gaia Herself, the living green planet of fertile waters and land, of seeded life, of blooded life, of oceanic life, of sky-ey life, which may, because of human hubris, prematurely, become a dried out airless rock, a rock with a history but without anyone or anything to remember this history, no one left to draw it on cave walls or canvas or tattoo it upon bodies to commemorate and stimulate precious miraculous life wanting more of life. Don Juan via Carlos, the character in Castaneda's "necessary fictions", makes available ancient dreaming in and around death which, one had hoped in the reading and rereading (many still do) would make infinity a real event for egos to survive death of the material body. So far in the evolution of human consciousness the collective has discerned that there are "fantastic" (fantasy + ecstatic) aspects to this consciousness, it's capacities to sort and sift and drift into sublimities of awareness, subtle, subtle, which include and, turns out, are dependent upon human bodies, their nervous systems, in, through and by which the flickers and flashes that hint of something like infinity pass through finite and porous beings with witnessing egos, gods if you will, who shit and who do indeed die.
I've no quarrel with infinity. How silly is that, but as creatures of consciousness we must quarrel with every aspect of existence and knowing, test it, play with the opposites, the mercurial nature of mind, show our behinds and sublime smoke rings to wrenching questions. And I have plenty of real fight left for finity (some things are just fun to say) and death. As I grow closer to my own oblivion I have come to all the more honor breath, nerves and, better, nerve endings which lend us universes of sensations. I have come to grumblingly accept even arthritic joints and other insults of body, merely nature being nature no matter the indignant cry of god-almighty egos. Western culture sees an aged man or woman and goes instantly into "denial of Death." This, of course, is karmic retribution as I have done this my whole life, and do it still - mea culpa, mea maxima culpa - see an aged person and immediately cop to puer realms within in order to deny the senex (old man/woman) reality that I truly am becoming all the more still. This, too, is an Eastern culture symptom viz the story of how 2500 years ago Siddhartha Gautama became a Buddha after the severing sights of illness, old age and death which led to the persevering perching in the face of undeniable oblivion opening up into Witness, enabling egos to scan inner and outer plays of nerve endings interpreted into sense and intense "kind king light of mind" (Allen Ginsberg) such are mentations foments and nostrums. Can we not see that all this plethora is what we bring to the table enabling what gods and cattle to step out of concrete into myriad manifestations?
It is hard to daily look at one's own impending death but what can be and should be taken from the esoteric traditions of the world is not a denial of death but that wise and necessary turn toward it in order to make one more present and alive, mentally and bodily, as much as creaking joint and drying orifice allow, dried fruit and lubricants near at hand to command movements of all kinds in the midst of the slowing wheel of life grinding grinding winding sinew by synapse all us we down to ground. Literally, ground, dirt, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, no matter the coffin or urn or the remnant silt be tossed and scattered by tearful friends and family. The purpose of myth is to open eyes wide, hearts wide to mystery even though we have names and faces and learn over and over that "Eternity is in love with the productions of time (things which die)" so why not love ourselves and the productions of time. We do so, importantly, for ourselves and in so doing we do it for Eternity/Infinity. We have all this no-time in mind, at least and last in our hands now to be in love which is all the more because of the "is" of its contingent opposite. Life is love is it not? and that love is friction and fraction in which human consciousness, a prism of dura matter and more, refracts fractyliciously infinity for eyes of surmise/surprise. Love beyond fluff. A fact. Even Death cannot (and probably cares not to) erase such and suchness.
Piss shock hot
on sleeping knees,
the sudden tilted pail,
its wilted contents,
evidence enough to convict.
Slips into focus a memory
of crocus crazed upon a
matriarchal sill, the killing of
a cock, hacked, dimmed
eye sideways turned,
a dying sun behind a hill.
Red the axe clumsily wielded,
but a boy toying at men's work,
killing to eat, her forgiving skirt,
ankle deep, no longer riven to
morning, unable to witness the
last glorious color bleeding out
in less than insect hour.
Not a shout nor
outcry but this
as is now clarity,
of piss, of pail,
bug blear in
and O this,
this midnight stagger,
nothing hurt but trembling
hand shaking to dryness,
the other leaning into yellow,
all the miles it took to get here,
too near, too near, sticky wet,
warm, fearful, roaches and
shadows drawing too close to care
and the nervous clock will not stop
and I am sleepless
beside the night light weak at
her desk dipping ancestral quill
into India ink, a grandmother's
gift upon her quieter end but
equally glorious to the cock's,
her passing from crocus and blood
to this moment, present sparks
wet upon the cleaner page
and I am still at men's work
and I am miserable with failure
but for this goodly work of remembering
her stanching skirt,
her guiding hair, bright,
'Lead, o Kindly Light',
and moving toward the laundry.