Novermber 10.A mystic’s view of the universe looks toward a world unseen, but an unseen world that is believed in fervently nonetheless, like the belief in rainfall, and the belief in water, where there is little, or none. The idea is religious.
It is a religion in which the unseen rain might yet fall, and it is a religion that worships not rain, but the ghosts of rain.2
Spawning trout, the creek roils out of Earth's womb, unaware of time or seasons. "Clearly, spring, summer, and winter, as well as morning, afternoon, and evening are the terms of an inner timetable rather than an outer one."3 Today, the path along its shore is compressed by countless footprints, deep and shallow, shod and bare. I must walk a different way.
On the other side of the country Thoreau's circle is shrinking. "27 percent of the species documented by Thoreau have vanished from Concord and 36 percent are present in such small numbers that they probably will not survive for long,"4
One muggy summer morning. I circumambulated Walden Pond, the famous cabin a memory exhumed from its foundation: "a lightly excavated, cordoned-off square of soil and, to its side, a waist-high cairn erected in commemoration by generations of pilgrims."5 Thoreau had searched for "the hook of hooks," in order to angle for the pond itself. What god can be snared when all the fish are gone?
About 2000 years ago, the zodiacal sign of Aries moved into Pisces. Thus, around 200 A.D., in Alexandra, Egypt, the symbol of the fledgling Christian Movement became Ichthus, the fish—also the contour of the Earth Goddess's vulva, as we left the sea to seek a deeper mind.A nimble snout of flood
licks over stepping stones
and goes uprooting.5
The most pervasive symbol to emerge from Christianity is, of course, the cross, which extends back at least to the ankh of ancient Egypt. The Christian cross didn't appear until the 4th Century, the crucifix and its many variants rising about a century later. In mythology's copse, Christ's elder, the Northern god, Odin, was also "wounded with a spear...on that tree of which no man knows/from where its roots run..." Although, he hung himself up, "myself to myself..."7 No drama here, just the need to know. Not knowing is Divinity's stigmata.
"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." -Rumi
Where a myth has been deracinated, revised or revenanted, we discern the Tree that connects heaven and earth, faith and reality, the sacred and the profane, the Tree that, rooted in the Void, cradles the ghosts of rain.
Last Friday night, Bryan Wittine gave a talk to Oregon Friends of C.G. Jung on "The Mystical Relationship of Lover and Beloved: Sufi and Jungian Perspectives." Dr. Wittine calls himself an "amateur Sufi," who studied the tradition in Turkey.
Wittine began by defining Sufism, the mystical school of Islam, as "a way of experiencing reality as love." This love is for the Divine, and takes place in a reality that "has destroyed its images, and without these images that are so rich in its tradition, they are going crazy because they have no containers for their extraordinary imaginative power."8 But God, Void, Emptiness, Mystery, Spirit, "the Silence before all expression," can't be contained in images, rites, or prayers.
Recently, I dreamed:i’m in my living room with a box fan on the floor that is turned on high, trying to blow fumes out of the room. The strength of the fan is such that i must brace it, but i can’t find anything to hold it without blocking it’s flow. Inside the fan’s housing, a cat is getting angry and trying to get out, grabbing the grading with its teeth. i find a small screwdriver and begin to loosen its screws, but it won't come free. The next moment, the cat is out, and i, with horror, think: “Now i must buy cat food and a litter box!”
"In the Sufi tradition," Wittine continued, "God has 99 names, and each name is a quality of the Divine." Each name ignites an attribute of Allah, the One who would make an even 100, but the godhead doesn't round off.
Like numerous religions, Sufism also inspires "teaching stories," in which one of the most beloved characters is the holy fool Mulla Nasrudin, referred to paradoxically as "very stupid, improbably clever, the possessor of mystical secrets."12
For example, Idries Shah, the eminent Sufi scholar, relates this story:The Mulla bought a donkey. Someone told him that he would have to give it a certain amount of food every day. This he considered to be too much. He would experiment, he decided, to get it used to less food. Each day, therefore, he reduced its rations. Eventually, when the donkey was reduced to almost no food at all, it fell over and died. 'Pity,' said the Mulla. 'If I had had a little more time before it died I could have got it accustomed to living on nothing at all.'12
Wittine comments that "Jung's psychology will bring us to Nothingness." Then why the stories? Shah writes that "it is inherent in the Nasrudin story that it may be understood at any of many depths. There is the joke, the moral—and the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization."13
On the way to the library today, I turned, instead, to the woods— taking a path punctuated with wide eyes of muddy water, and the creek beside it singing like a choir lost in the rapture of ancient rills racing toward the sea.
Rain fell over my open notebook, as Platonic 'Ideas' fall completely to the ground if it is understood that these 'Ideas' have no existence, as Ibn 'Arabi puts it, or in other words that they are not of the nature of distinct substances and constitute only words faded into a proverbial autumn sky."Love," Wittine said, "is the source and essence of our being." Such platitudes collapse the numinous, which can be grappled but not grasped. He also said, "Love shows us that we are part of the whole." I don't know what the whole means here, other than a montheistic shadow. I do know that, to paraphrase Jung, the more conscious we become the more expansive we become,14 and that those who believe in an infinite inclusion are condemned to a cinctured frame of mind. Thus, cosmologists become contortionists when figuring the shape of the universe. Reality is dynamic, not a whole, or a given. In love with a person, not a god, we create who we are together.He embraced her and kissed her eyes
London was deeply sighing
Reflecting the wet pavement in her eyes
Hid in the leaves of the trees.15
This morning, I began to walk to the forest, turning back because of the wind's bitterness. Later, I set out again. The road chosen is like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées: couples, children and dogs promenading, until I'm lifted by a path heading in another direction.
as there's nothing we haven't been for ten million years. And the mountain? What rolls down is the silence of clouds, not words we are wont to repeat.
Thanksgiving Day is anointed with cold rain. I head for the city's Zoo, today open to the public for free. For me, visiting a zoo is like visiting relatives serving a life sentence for the crime of not being human. I have written about this before, because it as long as we cannot share this planet with equality and respect for other species, as humans we cannot live peacefully with each other.16
In an essay on architecture and ceilings, James Hillman speculated that the first zoos were modeled on bear pits, so that the animals were observed from above. Lorded over. Hillman put it this way: "The place from which the gods have fled is now where the planner sits."17 Animals were once our gods, as we see drawn large on the walls of Paleolithic caves, and still hinted at in metaphors and iconography of our religions. Now they are symptoms of our separation from the rest of the world.
Walking past fences and bars, buffeted by children excited to see the animals they saw on TV, I tried to trace what led us here, only to find that everything leads back to a history knitted from an infinite maze of woolly strings.I am in the house of a man who knitted many different ships out of a strong fascination and love for wool and for ships. By doing that he acquired the capacity to attract demons that plagued people. In this way he became the healer of this region.18
Woven tight enough, our theories will float, but we'll still get wet, only slower. The pelting rain attracts demonic thunder to the jostling waterproofed crowd wolfing down corn dogs, as the little tourist train chugs by blowing its loud civilizing horn.Trotting past me
in the rain, the dog
would have my umbrella.
It's not the gazing of humans, but lack of it by the animals that most disturbs me. As John Berger says,The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal's gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond. 19
Silently watching the rain today, curled in corners of their premixed concrete dens, the captives play and replay the smells, tastes and sounds of their homeland. "Not only human memory, but the very ground of imagining is now threatened with extinction."20 Their world is "made of bars, a hundred thousandbars, and behind the bars, nothing.
At times the curtains of the eye lift
without a sound—then a shape enters,
slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
reaches the heart and dies.21
the problem with all interpretation: S.L. Drob, “James Hillman on Language.” In, Archetypal Psychologies: Reflections in Honor of James Hillman. New Orleans, LA., 2008.
1- Rowland, S. Email, 11 Nov 08.
2- Van Noy, B. “The Ghosts of Rain.” High Desert Journal, Fall 2007.
3- Anderson, C.R. The Magic Circle of Walden. New York, NY, 1968.
4- Dean, C. "Thoreau is Rediscovered as a Climatologist." The New York Times, 28 October 08.
5- Smith, D.B. "What is Art For?" The New York Times Magazine, 14 November 08
6- Heaney, S. From, "Gifts of Rain."
7- Larrington, C., Translator. From, Poetic Edda.
8- Corbin, H. Quoted in J. Hillman, Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account. Dallas, TX, 1983.
9- Rowland, S. Email 18 Nov 08.
10- Perry, J.W. The Far Side of Madness. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1974.
11- Hillman, J. The Thought of the Heart. Dallas, TX, 1984.
12- Shah, I. The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin. New York, NY, 1972.
13- Shah, I. The Way of the Sufi. New York, NY, 1969.
Platonic 'Ideas' fall completely: T. Burckhardt, An Introduction to Sufism: The Mystical Dimension of Islam. Wellingborough, England, 1990.
14- Jung, C.G. "On the Nature of the Psyche." The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Vol. 8. Princeton, NJ, 1981.
15- Al-Bayati, A.W. From, "Labor Pains."
16- Weishaus, J. "Zoography." http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/weishaus/Zoo/zoo-t.htm
17- Hillman, J. "Ceiling." In, Thomas Moore, Editor., A Blue Fire: Selected Writings by James Hillman. New York, 1989.
18- Abt, T. The Great Vision of Muhammad Ibn Umail. Los Angeles, CA., 2003.
19- Berger, J. "Why Look At Animals?" About Looking. New York, NY, 1980.
20- Bishop, P. "The Shadows of the Holistic Earth." Spring Journal 1986.
21- Rilke, R.M. From, "The Panther. Jardin de Plantes, Paris." Robert Bly, Translator.
sled dogs always have a goal: C. Ransmayr, The Terrors of Ice and Darkness. New York, NY, 1991.