Sunday, July 22, 2012

Toward Erasure No Longer Effortful - Shards & Shadows of Personal & Collective Encounter With What May Be Divine

"Was I too glib about eternal things,
An intimate of air and all its songs?
Pure aimlessness pursued and yet pursued
And all wild longings of the insatiate blood
Brought me down to my knees. O who can be
Both moth and flame? The weak moth blundering by.
Whom do we love? I thought I knew the truth..." - Roethke, Part I of “The Sequel”


American poet Theodore Roethke asks the astute, surgically correct question into the blank stare of the uncomprehending monolith of the American Religion, a multi-faced Beast if ever there was one (in fact, was it ever NOT a Beast given that humans' earliest religions are based upon an primal intution that instincts are archetypally based productions re: "where and in whom or what does absolute power reside - thus the word "omniptence"?) - the now even more pertinent question Roethke timely asked in mid-20th American and World century of World Wars and the victorious domination of the "machine" over the human" (let's face it, that hard truth in which the mechanical Pandora's box of ills cannot be put back in the bottle and the postmodern cyborg was born):  "Was I too glib about eternal things?"

The answer for me is, alas, yes. I come by it honestly, a child of the fundamentalist South in both its Protestant and Catholic guises, skies and dust there coating body and soul with a donut sugar glaze of "spirituality" which is mostly persona and performance while real hell with real deities and devils goes on within. This religious conflagration is often projected without where public spiritual battles beg no questions and have at it, a sanctimonious, flag-draped, Jesus-Jihad warring at infidels "as unto the Lord."

The late, great writer John Howard Griffin of Texas and Catholic shadows born - who though dead is still a clear, urgent voice of authentic conscience in North Americans for justice, equality, and compassion in action - says in the title of his first novel (to the "Christ-haunted landscape" of the South AND the rest of the North American nation) The Devil Rides Outside, said "Devil" being a projected entity disowned personally and collectively with hell to pay by scapegoated Others, those other nations, immigrants, non-white ethnicities, non-Christian religious, those "all-bad factions" (always the shadow of those who point them out then purge), as well as those demonized fellow humans who are sexually inclined toward other cardinal points on the Medicine Wheel of Love even though the Heart is the central pole of the Wheel-entire to which all lovers, all those with "wild longings of the insatiate blood", straight, gay, lesbyterian, transgender, too, aspire as birth right to one and all.

Stuck in "King James", entangled in lyrical tongues, Revelation's Old Virgin, I know only that deep night, that way beyond sentimentality, that way over and beyond 'the Path' into the thicket, the swamp where the god of gators waits, submerged, calling to me to step less lightly upon the world...- from a poem by the author

I come to religion and spirituality as inherited-pathologies-of-location. And consequent dislocation. All deities are local, subjected to collective consent with dissenting individuals shunned or breaking off to form other "god-clots," the common denominator of all clots, their only plot and subtext being that of power over, the power to save, redeem, enlighten, heal, bring collective approval and material gain (to name some of the greatest hits of religion subjected to reptilian sublimations elevated into Absolutes and mandatory codes and promises and/or willfully manipulated for gains of mana, prestige, and power)....all this foregoing any real awareness of the archtypal fundament of the religious project (as in projection...see Carl Jung as well as Ken Wilber to further amplify this Atman or Self project) of Psyche.  Cynical, yes.  Tis the gator who writes compensatorily and knowing that it too is a vital part and fundament of the "Atman" or "Self (god)" project which cannot and shall not be excluded despite fantasies of transcendence. Transformation of the gator (symbol of "life energy", instincts, libido (sexual and others) is a primary project in the alchemical hold of sacred conflict which generates the human production called consciousness and culture which integrates and thrives from the dance or war of opposites.  

I pilgrimage through all this now, my own reptilian self much more exposed - my gator/myself - unwilling and unable to hide the "gator" for what/who he is that will not be baptized or sanctified by a glib "namaste" or a "praise the Lord", who will not (as has happened too often and tis my fault, hating the gator) any longer allow him/itself to be "clubbed over the head, dragged by his arse into some Christian or New Age or other "spiritual charm school" to be baptised, robed in white,  halo o'er his spiney head, arse wiped clean (or so goes the delusion) applied by one or two-ply scriptures, fumigated by clouds of sage, sandalwood, frankenscence and other odorous nostrums dispelling misfortune and what is believed to be his malformations due to lack of conformity to spiritual/dogmatic "norms" and "codes" - "the gator doesn't do process well  tsk tsk" clacks the enlightened tongues of those Select of the Divine Fart-Free Zones - all too often wielded by a spiritual elite who believe they have "arrived"...

Now, with much experience of all this (and mea culpa me culpa a once was inflated member of the "select elect") I am one burnt out, a god-coal to my lips and ass, "feets not withstanding," religious institutions and crypto-religious groups burning upon me, too.  In this fray I try to bare said feet with soul, a conscious faction of one and individuating, before the slow but definitely passing parade of god-images plodding and up-ending since earliest humans scratched images upon a cave wall, a stone, wood or bone turned suddenly into recognized Light, meaning, human consciousness awakening out of earliest animal darkness of primal mind but never, nor should they, leaving their animal tails behind (not yet the "amputations" but only those of mind construction and trances ignoring the companion "animal shadow (Freud's apt term, "ID") trailed clearly behind for all but ourselves to see and own). Many contemporary sojourners are desperately and intuitively returning to primal religions, pre-Christian, earliest homo sapiens religions (too often romanticizing Nature and the primitive above what they in reality harshly are..

However, there is an amazing, and rare for American culture to achieve, attempt to depict and mete out an experience of Nature as She is in Her literal and archetypal formations and expressions, the reality of the Life/Death-bone-crushing-eat-or-be-eaten-I-am-ALPHA-&-You're-Not Force, AND that religious function of the human psyche which discovers/makes meaning in often unconscious primal yet symbolic behaviors revealed in symbol making...all this is wrenchingly and clearly displayed in humans in the recent film, Beast of the Southern Wild, NOT a New Age, fluffy, no-fat, "Nature Lite" "namaste au lait" cloud drift sipping vaporous deities from "green tea" and "perfect purififed moi" but a literal induction into an ancient, presently-lived facticity and postmodern fairy tale (the real kind full of blood and guts, villains and victims, wild psyche romping through human lives at the mercy of archetypal forces contained and disclosed in the tales themselves)...the viewer of the film is gripped in the powerful jaws and maws of primal Nature/Psyche, the viewer is reunited, whether he/she wants to be, with powerful forces which have been deemed evil or "not spiritual", forces which are quelled, destroyed or transformed but are contained in the greater hold ultimately by Love  (those who know me well that I do not use this word often or lightly for it is easily confused for a vapid sentimentality passing for Love which is so frequently schmaltzed in New Age and other popular entertainments and titillation passing for "spirituality", they are, rather, "ethereality"). Rather the film depicts a Love that has been born of fire and water, alchemized and purged via archetypal (archetypes ARE) forces of Nature and refined (not taught just "good manners" and "spiritual persona presentations";l the Love in the mythic tale presented is equally at home in the muck and mud as well as the antiseptic clinics which pass for health and religion on the civilized dry land.  The Love depicted is movingly depicted by a young girl who has owned her inner "wild boar", accepts Nature as it is, then  feeds her  dying father  fried and battered alligator as she eats some with him...eating imagery is assimilation imagery and it is alluswe the viewers/chewers who are observing the film who are being fed our own portion of the "gator", our own shadow which is ultimately a "god" and  life giving force...we become she who confronts and integrates her own species imperative "to take care of her own" by tending to her father on his death bed, his last meal a eucharist of cooked reptile and the healing waters of tears shared between him and his daugher.  The tears are solutio imagery, the alchemical phase of dissolving once solid forms into liquid form which can reshape and further the process of transformation.  Crococile or gator tears indeed, authentic and integrative).

Many postmoderns are drawn to primal mind in honest hope that what got started and "set" earliest on as the Psyche was waking up into human consciousness - not only tool making, shelter making, etc. but essentially Psyche's religious ("meaning making") function in humans - may be recovered, revitalized, and perhaps humans may re-dream the experiment, so far, of human culture with less blood and venom and with less (though understandable) spiritual "sweet talk" and sentimental blather seeking to escape the what is, the facticities of human throwness...such dishonors and distracts from authentic tenderness, also a force of Nature, and meaning-giving expressions of Love no matter the maelstrom or mist one may find oneself in. In a species history of once-were-no-words, not even written words, words  too often neutered of real meaning due to mass production and reduction to mass mind significations/blandishments/encantations-to-nowhere-but-replicant-masses-afflicted-with-echolalia-&-monkey-see/monkey-do now tumble jumbled in streets and dumps, in trash tossed in gutter and wilds, where even bathroom stalls (modern cave walls) srcawl with human presence uttered forth for the "public better and worse", the scroll of one or two-ply toilet paper remains mutely white to wipe the excreting animal we are into no easy bowels of mercy or silence. Uneasy, we shall not escape our tails except through our tales and the power of words ("consciousness which shapes worlds") sublimated to refining purposes which may enable us to let the "god of gators" live with other manifestations, their opposites in conflict which perpetuate the ongoing thrust toward developing consciousness which is not finished in the sacred dance of the 10,000 things which for humans create culture and its discontents (see below for my Jungian reframe re: culture and its myth-contents).

We excrete words. Declare ourselves to exist otherly in a world of finitude we pray will not leave us unfinished in the grave upon a rock will too burn compelled to a dying sun done in by gravity and friction, a "necessarily fiction" but for what and to whom we are not sure (though some, too many, think they are) but we can and should conjecture and live according to such was and are the first dreams gazed at first cultivated human fires.  A good run we've had and some ahead.  We are filled with awe and dread.  And kindled still we sing from our kindling selves for all things AND ourselves, of duende, earth song, and that dream of remoteness, sublimation, of refinement out of dust into what is beyond air and pure we think are ourselves unbounded.  Roethke elsewhere says, "Who would be half-possessed by his own nakedness?  Waking's my care.  I'll make a broken music or I'll die." 

What ensues here below flows from a bilious bowel of a bitter yet blessed bairn, barn-raised and born, torn heart at last letting go that which passes once for "eternal things," the stings, stains, the strings-one-out cruciform or legs crossed while glibness collectively prevails for such is the nature of human groups, spiritual ones not excepted. And I stand accused, most of all.  "Here I stand.  I can do no other."  But I can utter and so I shall, but gallish in Gaul,  nodding toward Golgotha.

Of Shards and Shadows, Regression, or Return In Order To Mature Forward

[The following is excerpted from my very first blog post re: working in a curandismo temple in Mexico.  I then felt it necessary for my own clarity (still do) to explain as a postmodern person my own "view from where I stand" regarding my interest in and involvement with ancient traditions/techniques from still living world cultures who view the sacred via less-filtered-by-reason lenses (adherents more prone to experience the archetypes of nature predominantly more physically/emotionally than rationally, critical intelligence being of less value than direct experience which is fine if balanced but the possibility of two fallacies regarding symbols increases without critical thinking:

one is to the fallacy of concretism, making a symbol concrete. In this case the symbolic image will be lived out concretely.  Ego and archetypal psyche will be one."  Welcome to primal religion (shamanism, animism, etc.). This is not just a primal religion issue but the contemporary New Age priest/priestess/guru who is identified with the archetypal psyche commits the fallacy of concretism, as well.. "The other fallacy is the reductive fallacy..."The ego may be alienated from the symbol [rationalism, scientism, logical positivism]. Although the symbolic life cannot be destroyed, in this case it will function in a degraded fashion outside of consciousness.  The symbol will be reduced to a sign.  Its mysterious urgencies will be understood only in terms of elementary, abstract factors...The reductive fallacy makes the opposite mistake (of the concretistic fallacy [the god in the volcano is angry therefore throw in a virgin quick!]...In this case, the significance of the symbol is missed by misunderstanding it only as a sign for some other known content. The reductive fallacy is based on the rationalistic attitude which assumes that it can see behind symbols to their "real" meaning [the Wizard of Oz is a perfect the story and movie we see "behind the curtain" that the Wizard is nothing but a kindly old human man!  Reductivism reduces everything down to "nothing but-" - "the Wizard is nothing but a little old man behind the curtain of projections...symbols (the Wizard, even Oz itself) are "nothing-but" signs which point to a young girl's life in Kansas.]. Reductivism operates on the assumption that no true mystery, no essential unknown, transcending the ego's capacity for comprehension, exists. Thus, in this view, there can be no true symbols but only signs." - all quotes are from Edward Edinger's most helpful book, Ego and Archetype, Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche]).  

Having spent too much of my own time in groups that romanticize these living traditions for mostly middle-class and upper-class, educated white Americans, I found myself always self-conscious and guilty for their adulteration  into Caucasian-pastiche-tee-shirt/decal amalgams of these various sacred traditions, world treasures of human culture and soul deserving much better than what they are being given in terms of contemporary Euro-Yanko-centric culture.  My little autobiographical diatribe then and now  serves as one man's shaky yet persistent, more and more chastened and (hopefully) humbler "stalking of the Divine," a "stalking" which neither romanticizes nor reduces ancient sacred traditions to "the new consumerism" of the 20th, now 21st, American century, said traditions now suffering what theologian Harvey Cox calls the "trivialization of the Sacred".]

Although I have since childhood been intensely interested in healing techniques and philosophies of many kinds, from Western and Eastern philosophy, official religions, art and psychology to unofficial and local "spiritual" traditions, I want to clearly state here that I am not a shaman, a curandero, a high or low priest of any kind, a healer in any official theological or guilded capacity and belong to no indigenous healing tradition nor do I claim to be of one, nor am I of any indigenous group or tribe though I do like many North Americans have some Native American along with European ancestry, nor do I officially represent any indigenous group, their religious beliefs and traditions, rituals and techniques. My observations are my own as are my thoughts and experiences and I claim sole responsibility regarding my interpretation of them with a wish to do no conscious or unconscious harm to the traditions, practitioners and followers thereof. I am hopefully a humble enough minister officially ordained of an unorthodox and self-contradictory seminary (as are all seminaries) legally graduated and licensed to claim some public authority for my vocation as a counselor and minister. This ministerial training gives me no claims to academia nor to much spiritual authority (for from whence does that authentic authority really come?). Said seminary served as an ongoing spur and burr into my own inquiry regarding the givens, exigencies (demands, urgencies) and expressions of human existence.

The shards and shadows of personal and collective human encounter will out in any group, secular or self-designated as spiritual, and thus after years of fruitful affiliation with the seminary I of necessity claimed my darkness as best I could which is never good enough, packed my snake oil wares and tent and hiked upon a remote and lonely internal hill in effort to re-encounter the questions and vexations which the human community continually evoke for me, questions of one with one's self, of one with others and of one with the Wholy Other. If there is any "juice" in the authority which bestowed my diploma, degree and ordination then I give gratitude where it is due along with consequent and constant gravitas en exilio having escaped the secure islands of the self-proclaimed enlightened self-exclaiming in the midst of the vast and unending sea which is expanding and mecurial human consciousness their arrival in that hodge-podge doggerel, jabberwockish mystico-sprach so prevalent in New Age popular religion, channeled revelations, Americanized (consumerized) Buddhism, Hinduism and indigenous religions. How-to approaches too readily reduce the Mystery and convey the false notion that if one follows the revealed and received recipes and formulas one can ken and con the Mysterious into Presence providing material comfort, health and wealth in vast proportions which serve as the barometer for one's spiritual acumen and favor by the gods. Never mind that religious and mystical sacred literature and oral traditions frequently reiterate again and again, often in most frightening tales and images the trauma that is an authentic encounter with the Sacred. It is not for naught that Jung called "God a trauma" for in such an encounter the ego is slain, its self-will and god-almightiness hostilely and purposefully encountered by That which is greater than the personal self. Rebirth is second to primary death and dying to self and collective values consequent in the traumatic, life altering encounter with the divine.

Critical thinking regarding the mostly co-opted and consumerized once-were-sacred spiritual traditions frequently espoused in alternative seminaries and training programs is a rarity in my experience and appears to be a required sacrifice in many of these new self-identified spiritual groups. To glibly think and blink at all this in humans-in-spiritual-hubris makes me both arrogant and accordant, hostile and humble, killing and kind all the while knowing in my very bones that myself and this doggerel all-too-soon shall be inconsequent dust as it is so even now so I must now sing and say, sting, sling, slay and splay what little grasp of slippery "eternal things" I may have or what I think the eternal verities may verily yet temporarily be due to the shifting nature of human consciousness. But I sing of the human best for it is, indeed, the domain I am of and ever shall remain. I sing of pain and it's agonizing wisdom gained and the humors thereof.

Buddhas and Butt-Holes along the way are hard to distinguish thus the wisdom of sniffing dogs who seem to know the real deal with their noses in passing arses. And we've seen the delight a dog takes in sniffing and licking his own. Take a lesson, laddies and lasses, and look to your asses for Revelations are there more sacred and wise than those extended on all the ethereal wings and bling blings of the subtle Tooth and other Faeries and their Human Avatars, those Profitting Prophets of the Fart Free Zones. I recommend this form of canino-yoga and flatulance in order to compensate that heroic egoic inflamation and inflation called being in the Spiritual Know. All us posers and potentates of the self-appointed spiritual kind ought to sniff muchly and deeply, excrementally and incrementally along the way to the Light but be careful when lighting a match. Catch as kvetch can whilst canine counselors pant and chant in winking oblivions of smells wagging tails and tongue-wagging tales "telling the world to the angels" (Rainer Maria Rilke's phrase) who so discarnately blink in incomprehension at the weal and woe of creaturely material existence.

En exilio I have come to more greatly trust my suffering and my sniffing the humbling, humanizing, humbugging, portentious aromas encountered along the so-called spiritual way though, as I report just below, my intellect has also served not only in differentiating mine own arse and others' from a Hole in the Ground of All Being but has served me in actual authentic worship of "the Ten Thousand Things" and "the Angels of the Face" which come and go in and out of individual human history of encounter with the Divine, fleeting revelations which deconstruct themselves as soon as the reifying tendency of mind kicks in. It is no accident that planetarily there is a Trickster archetype which conveys the mercurial nature and recreating aspects of the Mysteries and that humor (having a nose, canine or otherwise, for shit, human and divine) is best perpetually served else the Guilded Buttocks are Golded and Worshiped guaranteeing misfortune and soporific soap sales intent on cleansing the all too human aromas from the realm of the divine; I quote a poem title of Saint Charles Bukowski, "All the Assholes in the World and Mine."

In saying all the above I also want to continue making a public confession here of having been"too glib about eternal things" in general and specific which I believe is a very real "sin" especially of Western culture and specifically of North American capitalistic adulterative marketing techniques of the once-was-sacred. I have participated in and promoted by my purchases and practices a "trivialization of the sacred", to quote Harvey Cox in his book, Turning East, the Promise and Perils of the New Orientalism, which astutely and prophetically pronounces upon the consumerization of authentic spiritual traditions of the world, especially those of the East and of indigenous cultures of the planet. These are marketed as a kind of spiritual smorgasbord where the ego gets to pick and choose from the spiritual dilectibles packaged and proffered as "must have" soul food promising money, success and spiritual capital, as well.

From my Jungian analysis and studies along with other educational experiences I have rediscovered that there are profound healing traditions in my own culture of the West and spend much of my time in study and developing practice of these theories and techniques. I have also rediscovered the profound and practical mysticism in Western religions and need not search, though study I will, Eastern or other religions and traditions. Carl Jung has contributed a most helpful and practical model with efficacious techniques to approach and understand all religious traditions as "vast therapeutic systems". He is not being reductive in stating it this way for Jung understands that all traditions of religion and healing are derived from the depth dimensions of the individual human soul which impact, shape and formalize group expressions. These archetypes are ferreted out and expressed via human experience of the Unconscious, the depth dimensions of the Psyche, in all of its expressionism, myth, ritual and fairy tales bearing the treasures of symbols universal to all human cultures; it is, rather, civilization and its myth-contents/mys-contents as in mysticism and mystery (to contrast with Freud's "Civilization and Its Discontents"). Ultimately mysterious archetypal productions ongoingly manifesting creatively in indigenous healing traditions continually evolve as they interact with changing culture and consciousness. Individual practitioners follow the teachings and find their personal styles and strengths thus informing and reforming the mostly oral traditions passed on person to person generation to generation and, now, in the 21st century, to others of different cultures who share the same rich layers of the collective unconscious and the same givens of existence with their Ultimate Concerns.

I end this with a reprise, a passage from my essay in the last newsletter which sums how I kneel but not all the way to the floor, reserving an inch or two between my forehead and the floor before any altar for, as Carl Jung says of this very image from his own dream of kneeling before an altar, "I would not be a dumb fish" relinquishing my free will else I'd be just another animal asleep in the instincts:

"After the peak, another flaying... And yet, in the end, Saint Jack and Saint Jill, 
saints of vales, of soul, spill, all the more vessels of clay  made the more sacred 
for the "what is", the reality, of what they consciously contain and convey in 
laughter and tears.   There's no rhyme or time on peaks. No sound there at all.  
Nothing speaks. Utterance is of the gutter, the candle burning, sputtering.  
We stammerers, stutterers, murmurers, mutterers make  matter matter all the 
more ensouled.  Much there is to say and sing of that. Many the tongue wink 
and wag" :
That one day the book shall be written, 
Odysseus come smiling through the door.
That I shall live forevermore free of provision, 
be delivered presently into good, rich life
and unto the richer world, my Lover so long
turning turning turning in distance away from, 
yet to manage a caress, a smooch which
neither dismisses nor fully embraces.
It is I that am and shall be erased into this 
Love which shall then in time be erased 
as well in the greater Sun and that Shining, 
too, shall be erased. Then we shall all be 
scattered, or I shall be only, embrace by 
embrace, toward erasure no longer effortful.

I sift draft by draft rough toward world
now slowing in spite of parentheses these
provisional postulations of 'the good life'
to come. Eventually. There is only this
that I am living now. And my hands feel, 
even perhaps are, strapped to this wheel
that turns me as turns Beloved Earth, 
the Sun, too, each dreaming
near to but apart from each.

My reach is
here on my tongue, 
in my fingers here
grasping words from mind.
I am ever behind in this chase, 
now am further from Love, 
space, than ever
though my heart
is swollen from
wanting It.

Still, world, accept my blessing.

I send this message aloft on kingfisher wings.