Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What The Orphan Knows About Light

[Mexico City Twilight. Photo by Warren Falcon. All rights reserved]

Pretext to season the offering below, giving contexts :

"We love what we lack." - Edward Edinger

"What I find most astonishing--besides that belief of mine, which never ceases to surprise me by the very fact of its surprising lack of unpleasantness, the belief that I might very easily, as they say--lose my mind one day, not that I suspect that I am about to or am even...nearby...for I'm not that sort; merely that it is not beyond...happening: some gentle loosening of the moorings sending the balloon adrift..." - Edward Albee. A Delicate Balance.

"If my life were not a dangerous, painful experiment, if I did not constantly skirt the abyss and feel the void under my feet, my life would have no meaning and I would not have been able to write anything." - Hermann Hesse

"Who has twisted us like this, so that--
no matter what we do--we have the bearing
of a man going we live,
forever saying farewell." - Rainer Maria Rilke

“I am an orphan, alone: nevertheless I am found everywhere. I am one, but opposed to myself. I am youth and old man at one and the same time. I have known neither father nor mother, because I have had to be fetched out of the deep like a fish, or fell like a white stone from heaven. In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for everyone, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons.” - C.G. Jung, this was carved by Jung on a stone at his tower in Bollingen


for Anna Kamienska

'I don't believe in the other world...But I don't believe in this one either unless it's pierced by light.' - A. Kamienska

Seems I've been leaving
a lot, a life theme really--departure. I was born after only 4 hours of labor. Postpartum began the going, going, adios, get me outta here to some where and there which I shall probably be leaving again soon enough--a puer thing?. Still, I'm halitose which belies some earthiness. Now, finally, maybe, I am departing the grandiose search, a Chaplin-esque lurch for omnipotence in the falling apart world, the ceiling collapsing all around me, the heavy once-was-ill-too-depressed-from-the-illness-experience-young-man suffocating me in my dream last night.

Oh snap! And I've had bad asthma for the past two weeks now. Duh. Here we go. Dreams are damned good, know how to give the real story in all the wheeze and "god-almightiness if you pleez." I've been "working air" as friend Joan says of asthma, the work it becomes to breathe makes one very present, concrete. And blue. And the dream provides some meaning to asthma other than just outer dust and a consumptive spirit: there's grief afoot. Grief is about departure, yes? And as anyone who knows me or reads some of the newsletters or essays here, I give much weight to dreams, the one real "thing" that seems to really mean something in all the dumbshow of my grab-atting and scrab-ladder balancing acts, holding on to chandelier which is grandiose lighting, for sure. Oy. Humbling.

Around the time of an unpleasant and inevitable "parting of the ways" from a religious facility I once taught in, I dreamed of a gigantic, overladen, bleacher-like altar which collapses. Trungpa Rimpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist guru/teacher, writes incisively about the "spiritual antique shop" which much American "baby boomer religiosity" has become and is even more so now (note that Trungpa took full advantage of the "spiritual antique shop" and the curiosity of the boomers searching for something other than variations of Christianity and the spiritless positivism of modern science). The altar in my dream was jammed with collective symbols, statuary, rocks, crystals, projected-upon objects of desired power indicating some spiritual arrival, all purchased in spiritual "supermarkets" for the hungry-ghost "boomer" consumers residing at the polluted Western pool of Narcissus, long gazing, addicted, at selves reflected but not enfleshed, real, substantial.

I have most certainly spent way too much time in this "antique shop" (and beside the pool) where one commits to the spiritual delectables displayed for purchase as one does to the hankering of the day for a certain food item, today the potato salad is "it" but tomorrow "it" may be the tuna tartar and on and on, the only commitment is to taste the various offerings. This is puer religion at its "best or worst," depending on how you look at it, the puer (the eternal child) tastes but rarely commits, such is "boomer religiosity." There are, of course, exceptions to the puerish samplers in the antique shop (I've nibbled and dabbled, too, a serious but dallying dilettante), those who have committed to one chosen path who actually fall into the pool of Narcissus and sink to the depths in order to find themselves more truly. Such sinking is initiation into self knowing which means the death of faces and egoic embraces of identity which are (grown) false to fact, no longer authentic, which are shed in the process of self-possession. Jungian analyst and writer, Edward Edinger, speaks of the myth of Narcissus (and narcissism) as the condition of being alienated from the self:

"Narcissus represents the alienated ego that cannot love ... because it is not yet related to itself. To fall in love with the reflected image of oneself can only mean that one does not yet possess oneself. Narcissus yearns to unite with himself just because he is alienated from his own being...we love what we lack. Narcissism in its original mythological implications is thus not a needless excess of self-love but rather just the opposite, a frustrated longing for a self-possession which does not yet exist. The solution of the problem of Narcissus is the fulfillment of self-love rather than its renunciation. We meet here a common error of the moralizing ego which tries to create a loving personality by extirpating self-love. This is a profound psychological mistake and only causes a psychic split. Fulfilled self-love is a prerequisite to the genuine love of any object, and to the flow of psychic energy in general" (p. 161).

This dream altar described above, a version of the pool of Narcissus, was located in the meeting space of the religious facility. The over-burdened altar began to sway, the over burdening being the Narcissus weight of need for self-knowing projected upon the objects/images/totems, et. al. in hopes of gaining self-love, for "fulfilled self-love is a prerequisite to the genuine love of any object, and to the flow of psychic energy in general."

[This photo and the one immediately above, by Warren Falcon]

I knew there was no way I could prevent the altar from falling though I tried (in Chaplin-esque fashion recalling the dream now). As it swayed and shook, groaned and rattled, I tried to stabilize it but nothing doing. It was going down. Just as it teetered on the verge of total collapse I impulsively reached out to grab something from the altar, to salvage something. I remember seeing a Buddha head serenely tilting sideways mid-fall but my hand bypassed that beauty and impulsively grabbed instead a little souvenir from Switzerland, from the Western world, a tiny beer stein. And down went the altar into a pile of rubble and dust.

I stood there in my underwear, an "inconvenient truth" more naked than not, which dreams freely dole out, brutal truth, cold and precise, without mercy, BEHOLD: tighty whiteys, covered with dust billowing up from the rubble. Bewildered, I held the little stein tightly in my hand. In walked two of the faculty whom I experiences as most inflated and overly-identified with the guru/messiah projections they pulled for and got from students and aping disciples. Sneering at me, noses literally up in the air (it wasn't the dust), they passed me by, heads turned away in shunning fashion. I noted that there was no charge at all, no feeling either way about them as they passed. They were dumb but colorful hobby fish in a child's small aquarium. Slicking back my own fins and gills, I happily walked to the front door to fresh air, dry land, terra firma, REALITY; blinking Chaplin-esquely, I opened the door, brushed the altar dust off my feet in good New Testament fashion, stepped over the threshold into the busy street, and left once and for all thinking, "Now, you must get some clothes on and then make something of this stein. No turning back which would be regressive sure." While waking out of the dream I heard within the words of a Bob Dylan song, my favorite, "You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last/But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast/Yonder stands your orphan with his gun/Crying like a fire in the sun/Look out the saints are comin’ through...strike another match, go start anew...It's all over now, Baby Blue."

Well, at least there is a match, what remains a'pocket. Grabbed stein in hand. Match stricken.

Even so, departures are not easy. They are damned hard. The firing and the collapse came at the end of what had already been occurring in me for at least 6 or 7 years before the actual denouement. Good riddance to all that. But the inner departure has been slow, more a "ridding, here, there, now and then," as there is that inner Chaplin (a play, perhaps, upon "chaplain" since it was a religious institution I had taught in after all, and I am a now, ironically, a titled "reverend") who is so naively, bravely invested in doing the impossible, attempting, at least, to keep the ceiling I, a personal sky, and the sky from falling, as well as that overly laden altar crumpled in his head and heart.

Symbolism of Beer, Stein/Stone, Dust, White and Orphan

Now. I don't really like beer. I'll drink it if I must, a dark bitter brew goes down best but it's not my beverage of love or choice at all. I'm a wine drinker. Some tequila makes me scrappy but happy. However, I did not grab a chalice from the altar, nor a shot glass. I grabbed the little stein, a Swiss stein, and in my undies headed away from the New Ager-gods-and-goddesses-R-us comic book illustrated, fluffy world, yet another "spiritual province" tried, tasted, and come to not much at all in terms of planting a spiritual identity flag, pouring concrete around it and proclaiming a temple my own. Makes sense though, the effort, to balance the negative inflation ("I am a worm, a wretch) of Christianity I was fed and fed upon as a kid a la Calvinism and other conservative flavors served up from Catholic to Protestant. Low to high, mud to sky, as James Hillman says in his "Puer Papers" book, "Peaks and vales." Exhausting. Draining. Notice, too, how it's all vertical, up and down which are the same thing depending on where one is heading on the heavenly ladder. Notice there is no horizontal, or not much value given to that dimension. It is, rather, to be escaped, risen above, sublimated, transcended.

But the stein means "stone" in German. And a stone implies weight and ground. Horizontal. And horizon. And Switzerland, peaks and vales notwithstanding, of course, is the very palpable land of Carl Jung who I am convinced is what this grab-stein is all about - Jungian psychology and dreams, a non-grandiose working and living out of and within "the symbolic life" on solid ground, the good earth, the creative play implied in the heady joy of beer drinking, the molding and shaping of clay, of carved, sanded stone into containing vessels for beer and the enlivening it can bring here and now, an intersecting at the horizon line of the 4 directions, above and below which together make a circle, a sphere, here here. Here-ly/highly creative work, the royal road of dreams, working them, an ancient "trade" of "consciousness craft-workers" in all cultures through all ages. The alpenstein, so-called in Switzerland, or white stone- (alpen = white, thus the white snows which name the Alps) -stein is a symbol true. Beer in a stein is an everyday/everyman-woman drink of the masses, the workers, the "volks" of the world. And thus this little stein/stone, a worker's cup for inductive brew - beer is a goddess drink made of Her distilled grains and in some cultures, honey - keeps one in touch with the world, this world, the hard work of it where (no matter what preventions are taken, prayers made and actions forced, prescribed rituals performed and charms laid out) things fall apart, fall down, and one has to do a walkabout for awhile in his skivvies, staying close to the instincts (the "only-skivvies" image symbolizing instinctuality, creative organs and principles less filtered/disguised, skivvies a kind of container, too) but looking for the right clothes (symbols of adaptation to life) which make something of the stein/stone of one's life and self in response/obedience to the Self at play mercurially.

Just a word or two about white-alpen which a Jungian analyst recently pointed out to me is a color signifying the feminine principle, the Material, Earth/Creation dimension, the archetype of the Great Mother. In alchemy white can signify an alchemical phase called the albedo or the whitening which is a pulverizing, the making-most-small, the refinement to dust or fine white ash, white foliated earth, thus a symbol of a process of incarnation, materiality, matter, mater refined (and still or even more earth without devaluing the baser stuff, the gross of earthiness, what loving mothers do all the time with their "beloved little shitters and snotters, sleep blotter-outers," love, love (while taking deep breaths for patience), patiently refining, no matter the effluvium/the muddier, with and out of/up from the primitive consciousness of the child nurtured/channeled into ego, conscious self, thus become self-known creator and maker responding to what presents within and without rather than "only-just" reactions. And one cannot incarnate without a mater, a mudder, a mothering into the matter, and that mattering-forth which dreams (a form of desire, we touch upon logos here, the nous, the mind, the idea, the creative seed and masculine principle, entelechy) of bringing things to matter that matter in and between the deep blue see and me. There's no matter without a mater to matter us. Add this white to the stein/stone grabbed, perhaps even stolen, the cup itself then becomes an alchemical vessel in which the process unfolds/infolds which ensouls matter and matters soul on earth, ensues ensouled, once a meta-matter, into the realer in need of metta (compassion), itself hard, once fallen from heaven in need of earth, the clay and the "say" of its experience here upon/within harder/here-er stuff..."hard nose, the highway," as Van Morrison sings it, the way it is or appears to be, and certainly is real upon and beneath the skin.

Jung carved upon a stone in his garden, some words about an orphan, “I am an orphan, alone: nevertheless I am found everywhere. I am one, but opposed to myself. I am youth and old man at one and the same time. I have known neither father nor mother, because I have had to be fetched out of the deep like a fish, or fell like a white stone from heaven. In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for everyone, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons.” In the text of this Jung-stone the orphan describes itself in part as "a white stone from heaven" fallen to earth...there is no room here for an extended amplification of this heavenly white stone's pointing-to (what symbols do) but to say only that it falls to earth "mortal for everyone [incarnated in and as everyone], yet is not touched by the cycle of aeons.” Falling is an image of coming down from above into material reality, incarnation, what is called coagulatio in alchemy. This process marks the dynamic moment when the high becomes low, ideal/idea/thought becomes act then takes on/brings about material form, limitation, quality and quantity, time and space (in this case thoughts become "things" or are capable of bringing things into material being as extensions and expressions of ideals/ideas/thoughts), giving material and symbolic (symbols are real!) heft to what was and is etheric, the "very or too light" and, limited in its "too-lightness," needs/longs for the low, the thinginess of mind and substance, form and function, compulsion, compunction and a bursting forth into some ever new expression from the conflagration come from mind and matter, spirit and flesh, air and earth, and on and on in these couplings, the opposites.

Poet William Blake says it very clear, that this "too lightness," let's call it Eternity, "is in love with the productions of time." He tells us in many of his poems to take care of the orphans, the lost children, the abandoned ones, the abject "littles" and "lambs" who seek reunion, inclusion and the effusion to be found in the "gardens of love" where uniqueness, individuating ones, can play and grow where "down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind. And...have God for [their] father & never want joy ("The Chimney Sweeper")." And love implies a longing for completeness brought about by the other-than-itself-or-one's- self which is not a static congealment but one which endlessly, in prick-and-puerperal principle, reproduces not just exact uniform copies but diverse, overflowing cornucopias of "little ones," varied, variant, verily valuable...Blake says/insists/counsels us to "tend to the little ones..." Thus in our tending eternity "falls from heaven, a white stone" an orphan stone, say, carved in Jung's garden speaking of these things imbued with and displaying reality, stones, hard, real and more real.

My little alpenstein of dream partakes, I think, in this mystery, my little mind, very small, can barely grab/grasp the preponderance of the small which gets low down and willfully refuses a King/Queen's crown and throne except that of "the prince willingly turned the pauper" choosing his/her stone upon which to sit and rule the ant, "a centaur in his dragon world. Pull down thy vanity, Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down. Learn of the green world what can be thy place In scaled invention or true artistry, Pull down thy vanity [Ezra Pound, Canto 81]"...

Crowned bairn of the barn, the chimney, the alley steep, wears the wreathed crown of pricks which downward brings blood, blood which affirms the reality, the here-ness thick, thusness of incarnate existence, wickedness a vital part, too, Eternity's lover, and vessel, and "shapely mind (consciousness)" with prehensile, yes, tail and hands/tales to give form and forth-ing to and of and for and with the "ten thousand things" which, O Buddha, sorry, are indeed real and not just false products of baseless mind, mere projections/ghosts, mere epiphenomena but rather these things, hard pressed down provided, provisional, base mind and matter ever dividing the swarming swarm teeming torn between the one and the many which partake of each, one or many armed. "Things that have hands take hands," says poet, Theodore Roethke, and thus eternity needs/makes hands/minds, takes hands/minds which take, too, take back, grasp, grab and delight/suffer the grubbiness of the reach, and the consummations thereof. Love plays and is played out in sequences and ever hints to that which extends love, greater's love, the more. But to dwell in "Love Abstract" and not act in tongued and lunge-ed love, is a bore. White stones fall from heaven sure in the need for dirt and time. Love there in the muck and the wash is love all the more because not "pure".

One, then, grabs a little suchness from a falling altar in pretentious postures ("Pull down thy vanity"), a white stone in the hand suffices a mystery, leaves the fishbowl one has confused for the universe, is driven from or abandons yon local central hill and value, a centaur wandering in skivvies and bones, an orphan alone yet everywhere, Kansas (is) Kansas even though "Baltimore gleams in supernatural ecstasy" (Allen Ginsberg, HOWL) yet "in woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for everyone, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons [C.G. Jung].”

Now, the dream stein is a souvenir. And souvenir is French for a remembrance or memory, a memento, keepsake or token of remembrance, an object a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it. Dream work a la Jung (and others) involves working with memories of one's personal past as well as the "remembered" archetypes and symbols of the unconscious. Memories go deep. One reaches, excavates, as do dreams, for personal and collective memories, symbols and their associations which show up in life in order to ken meaning of things beyond what "just presents" but are precisely for what is presented here and now in a life. And dreams are progressive, intending growth, development, advancement, renewal and generativity/creativity. And most importantly, relationship/relatedness, I and other, I and not-I, I and (even) I...dreams expose often enough how we avoid relationship of all kinds (O Narcissus) and thus intrude/relate to us at night or other "in-trusion" which insista on relation. The goal is not grandiosity and escape via dissociation/inflation but the work is grand in the sense of most important and meaningful and available to one and all no matter class, age, education, cultural or spiritual caste and, apparently, species. Animals dream but to what end we can only speculate. As do we. We are caught in the speculum of the dream, the unconscious and may gather another view toward being and relatedness which serves greater and better purpose to more than our own species.

And my little stein/stone is just that, little, small, not very big, won't hold much so it keeps me practical and present with just who I am, Chaplin-esque grabbing at things to stabilize but they do fall. Old orders, structures break apart, burn, come down, and one walks about a bit dazed like Charlie, who nobly picks himself up, smooths back his hair, dusts himself off abit kicking up greater clouds of schmutz, coughing and sneezing, stepping out of the rubble head held high as if to say, "I meant to do that. Now where's my valet?" The I Ching says of the small thing in Hexagram 62, Preponderance of the Small: Success. Perseverance furthers. Small things may be done; great things should not be done. The flying bird brings the message. It is not well to strive upward. It is well to remain below. Great good fortune.

In many myths and religions it is the small, devalued thing of little repute which accomplishes the large, the great task or goal. With me we shall see but I have suffered the disease of my culture, god-almightiness and the need for acclaim. I hope I am done with all that. The dust and the wheeze may indicate some arrival for the departure from Olympus to where I am now, a dusty studio apartment counting pocket change for Kraft macaroni, 4 boxes a dollar at the Dollar Store. Life is good. Cheesy.

Seems I am often enough departing things, grandiose religious schemes and structures even of the spiritually advanced (or so they think) dreams have me regressing or re-vancing or de-vancing, and my own ridiculous pomposity is, really now, to be laughed at. Last night's dream of the wellness doc/spiritual healing man with his destructive "daughter of the damned" makes short work of my loftiness...seems the healing is in the destruction of nothing less than everything, the wholeness is in the breaking apart, the departing. Into the hinterlands once again or perhaps just to take up simple residence where one is and give up the pretensions and insolent grasping. Either way, I gotta breathe. And deal with the old rags once too proudly worn. Perhaps the most appropriate things to place upon any altar anywhere. Dylan again, "The vagabond who’s rapping at your door Is standing in the clothes that you once wore..."

Fine with me. Perhaps tis Chaplin rapping, the repairman with his too long ladder and wobbly walk, very wary of ceilings, continually misspelling and misjudging gravity, who really makes me happy because human is all I ever am and shall be, an utter/eventual cloud of dust, scattered ashes, in Mexico at a highland spot most special to me. Thus, heretofore, or try, I'll be Chaplin-happy humping my way through the lumps and dumps carrying the remembrance stein/stone of the Self, even Its continual breaking apart into some other thingness held in the mind if not the hand which is memory unto wholeness/holdness with holes and cracks still here/there/somewhere or not, announced by a slight wheeze from too much collapsed altar and ceiling dust inbreathed, asthmatic and baby blue.

The first image of the essay is a painting, Escaping Criticism, by
Pere Borrell del Caso, a Spanish Catalan painter (1835 – 1910). The images of Jung's Bollingen Stone and that of Jung are from Google images stock photos. Same for the painting of the Swiss beer stein still life, the lamb painting, and the Charlie Chaplin and the Anna Kamienska photos. All other images are Warren Falcon's photography, all rights reserved.

****[Some poems of Anna Kamienska: