September 6.

Before setting out on a hike of the 38-acre Old Growth Grove, I returned to the shamanic neuro-symbolism of the Desana Indians who live in the Amazon Basin, an area of extensive deforestization. Here the two cranial hemispheres are separated by a "cosmic anaconda. Near the head of the serpent is a hexagonal rock crystal, just outside the brain," where "solar energy resides and irradiates the brain."3

I find this significant because in the language of neuroscience various areas "fire," or "light up," while a shaman speaks of "'threads' that convey luminous impulses from one kaë (compartment) to another." To Desana shamans, as to neuroscientists, the brain is both compartmentalized and interrelated. But the shaman is also a poet, so each kaë has a name like "the yellow place," "the place of rough stones," "the place of clay," "the place of crystal," relating the mind directly the sensorium as a collection of "places."3 In an alternative image, the Desana see the brain as two connecting spirals, or a serpent that "winds around and through the places of the earth."4

In his important book, The Cosmic Serpent, anthropologist Jeremy Narby discusses a similar Desana image of two intertwined snakes—an anaconda and a boa, representing female and male, water and land—"imagined as spiraling rhythmically in a swaying motion from one side to another."5 In a survey of Cosmic Serpent symbology, ranging from the Australian Aborigine Rainbow Serpent to a Mesopotamian seal, "The Serpent Lord Enthroned," and subsequent mythologies from practically every era and culture, Narby demonstrates the snake's relationship to the double helix structure of DNA.

For Francis Crick and James Watson, the image of intertwining snakes was already undulating in their unconscious, eventually manifesting in the laboratory. Their discovery was not only a major scientific advance, they also demonstrated the relevance of mythological studies. Discovery, after all, is re-membering.

                                                      With me the same cloud      out of the covered bridge6

Narby also mentions Graham Townsley's work among the Yaminahua shamans of the Peruvian Amazon, and their tsai yoshtoyoshto, "language-twisting-twisting." Townsley writes:
Almost nothing in (the shaman's songs) is referred to by its normal name. The abstruse metaphorical circumlocutions are used instead. For example, night becomes 'swift tapirs,' the forest becomes 'cultivated peanuts,' fish are 'peccaries,' jaguars are 'baskets,' anacondas are 'hammocks' and so forth.7
One shaman explains that, "twisted language brings me close but not too close—with normal words I would crash into things—with twisted ones I circle around them—I can see them clearly." Or, rather, "see as," Townsley elaborates. Here is metaphor in the service of healing-in-depth.

and declivities, cambering root systems and rough-hewed steps. I hung back, feeling feral here, stayed clear of the rhetoric. As we neared the partially overgrown road again, our guide stopped to speak of how natural disturbances like fires, earthquakes and abnormally wet winters help with diversity. Not only do trees store memories in their rings, but "the soil also remembers."


As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is fired up in Switzerland today, I returned to an article in Scientific American that lists its five major goals.8

1- Rediscover the Standard Model. This is to “confirm the old,” by producing familiar particles and study them with “increasing refinement.” It will also test the apparatus and set benchmarks, against which new discoveries can be measured.
2- Determine What Breaks the Electroweak Symmetry. This is the experiment to find “the Higgs boson (or what stands in its place).” A playful Stephen Hawkings: “I think it will be much more exciting if we don’t find the Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think again.”9 That the Higgs boson is called the "God Particle," because it may answer the foundational question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?," adds a twist to Hawkings' remark.
3- Search For New Forces of Nature.“Such forces would indicate new symmetries of nature and might guide physicists toward a unified understanding of all the interactions.”
4- Produce Dark Matter Candidates. "Dark matter is presently one of cosmology’s greatest puzzles, one that goes to why the universe is expanding. And to understanding more about the history of the universe."
5- Above All, Explore! Intellectual curiosity is one thing that sets humans apart from the rest of the biota. “Physicists will have to be attentive to connections among today’s great questions and alert to new questions the collider will open up."
For the same issue, Chris Quigg, a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, wrote (there's a picture of him with a backpack broaching his shoulders and a bandana circling his head) instead of the brain, it’s the heart that writers are told they must reach in order to move readers, to stir in them the deepest, most intense feelings of “a property akin to electrical charge, called color. (The name is metaphorical; it has nothing to do with ordinary colors.)10
The metaphorical impulse is—
a process which is certainly linked to the tradition of French poetry from Mallarmé to Blanchot, a tradition in which the emotional impulse constituting the work content is the very same impulse behind the creation of that content.11
Why the burst of emotions when the first particles shot around the loop were confirmed by supercool detectors: CMS, LHCb, Atlas and Alice, the hugs and handshakes, the cheers? Whatever the physicists discover, the original impulse, which remains within the mass of their engineering, has as much to do with poetry as it does with science.
Before Newton, gravity was
the way she released her hair.



At the center of a round table in the Healing Garden, an umbrella's pole stands like a Cosmic Tree. I'm aware of this because the study not only illustrates the link between body art, such as tattoos and intentional scarring, with cultural identity, but it also suggests that study of this imagery may help to unravel mysteries about where certain groups traveled in the past, what their values and rituals were, and how in front of me is a book by Mircea Eliade, in which he writes that the road toward the center "is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to divinity."13
This is the height emerging and its base...
These lights may finally attain a pole
In the midmost midnight and find the serpent there
Is the spiritual ascent so arduous because we've been conditioned to carry the burden of one religion's doctrine or another's? Raised to feel incomplete, inadequate, and alone, we pretend that someone else's baggage is our own. I'm thinking this as the the umbrella's shadow spreads over the table.
There are examples where the Cosmic Tree reveals itself chiefly as the imago mundi, and in other examples it presents itself as the axis mundi, as a pole that supports the Sky, binds together the three cosmic zones (Heaven, Earth and Hell), and at the same time makes communication possible between Earth and Heaven.15


Clocks reset, the night sky arriving earlier, I am thinking about constellations. Bradley E. Schaefer, whose field is ancient astronomy, wrote: "Although the scarcity of evidence makes it hard to reach a confident conclusion, the Mesopotamians apparently had formed only a few constellations before 1300 B.C." Two centuries later, more than thirty constellations had been envisioned "from three bands stretching around the sky,"16 to which the Greeks added eighteen "star pictures" of their own. Heaven was a blackboard on which we drew stories of heroes, animals and gods, "an imaginal approach (that) belongs to the hermeneutic tradition even as it transforms it."17 We learn from what we make, and make from what we learn. Thus, constellations became guides for calendars and navigation.

Away from the lights of Paris, Van Gogh painted "The Starry Night" to ward off the Infinite he saw above him, and the dark matter he felt within. "I'd rather walk my whole life in darkness, Miró wrote to Picasso, "provided that at the end I'd find some spark of pure light, than to walk like all those young people in an artificial lighting."18 Youths are drawn to urban centers, where one can't see that "the absence of a sign can be a sign."19


There are mysteries everywhere, but especially in a forest. I think this is because the footprints of our ancestors are limned in the rills of chlorophyll and cellulose, in oxygen bubbling up from waterways, in the intelligent eyes and attendant ears of animals, even in the hungry bites of insects. And everywhere life is memories are encoded.

Last Friday evening, the monthly talks at Oregon Friends of C.G. Jung began with California analyst Katie Sanford lecturing on “The Serpent and the Cross,” "a modern allegory of a woman's heroic psychic struggle to save her life through understanding and relating to some of the darkest elements of the personal and universal unconscious."20 Now in her 90s, she underwent therapy in Zurich more than fifty years ago, after being told that without it she’d either “become a religious fanatic or a whore.” Isolated in a puddle of light on the church's stage, she warned that she is neither a poet nor a painter, then read rhyming lines she had written that were honey to the ears but stinging to the art.
It is a primary feature of the style of old age that it elicits passionate participation, not dispassionate praise. Otherwise, the writings of the old remain just that—documents of age, as such, or gratuitous caps to honored careers. The writings of the old, to truly attain to a style, must possess an imaginative acuteness that can stir the imagination of readers of any age.21  

Sanford described the images in sixty-three projected slides of paintings she made between twenty and fifty years ago. (I wanted to know who she is now. I wanted to see the style of her old age.) The paintings that flew by, landing only for a minute or two, looked strangely familiar. Variations of them can be found illustrating the dreams of Jungian analysands in so many books and journals that they are almost themselves an archetype.

Repetitions of Christian symbols appeared; in particular, the cross that had been cut out of living wood and hammered together as a rack of torture. Not a symbol but a sign that stood for its own depravity. If I were a Christian, my late style would reflect a life of learning, the wisdom that comes from experience, the sadness that comes from wisdom and a mastery of craft that has nothing left to prove. It might recapitulate a life's themes, reflect on questions answered, and faith would be in an empty tomb, where "ecstatic plenitude is followed by a terrifying condition of inner emptiness, for which the mystics have a number of striking terms: 'Dark night of the soul,' 'barrenness,' 'despair,' mystical purgatory,' temporal hell.'"22 In the psyche's night, where all is lost, including one's self, we begin to see our way.

It is a fatal limitation of the imagination when the unconscious only accepts its own culture. So Jung envisioned a comprehensive thesaurus of metaphoric wealth, reptilian in "the fact that (it) initiates the process of renewal."23 With this in mind, he sailed from under his Protestant shadow to Africa, America, Asia.... And when it was time for him to die, the book by his side was Charles Luk's (Lu K'uan Yü) Ch’an and Zen Teaching.


Of the various serpents that appeared in her paintings, Sanford said, ”In our present age it is no longer possible to kill our dragons.” However,

Yün-men held up his staff before the assembly and said, "This staff has changed into a dragon and swallowed the entire universe. Mountains, rivers, and the great earth are nowhere to be found!"25

In Christian terms, killing one's dragon would be that damned snake who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and thus differentiate herself. From a military point of view, "A newly hatched dragon would fly away immediately after being fed, if not restrained; only if the creature might be persuaded to accept the restraint willingly would he ever be controllable, or useful in battle."26 In a Zen reading, however, the staff, the Buddha's Tree of Knowledge, planted in everyone's mind, transforms into a dragon, representing enlightenment, the total release from illusions. It is not a matter of killing the dragon, a metaphor for suppression, for sublimination. It is a matter of letting it go.

Art, literature, mythology, psychology, theology, technology, science, are all in range of the dragon's instinctual fire. Not comfortably framed, it symbolizes "the undivided One of pre-creation."13 The moment time began the Infinite shattered, creating the universe we're beginning to re-imagine.

1- Barenti, M. "The Swallowing Monster on Pictograph Island." Isle: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. Summer 2006.
2- Weishaus, J. "Marks in Place: Contemporary Responses to Rock Art."
3- Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. "Brain and Mind in Desana Shamanism." Journal of Latin American Lore. 7:1 (1981).
4- Rowland, S. Email, 5 Sept 08.
5- Narby, J. The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. New York, NY, 1998.
6- Tripi, V. "Terebess Asia (Tao)" Modern American Haiku Poets.
7- Townsley, G., "'Twisted Language': A Technique for Knowing." In J. Narby and F. Huxley, Editors, Shamans Through Time. New York, NY, 2001.
8- Scientific American. February 2008. (Box, p.53).
9- Hawkings, S. Quoted in M. Nizza, "Hawking Anticipates Collider's Start." The Lede (blog) 9 Sept 08. Link from The New York Times.
instead of the brain: B. Marcus, “Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life As We Know It: A Correction.” Harper’s. October 2005.
10- Quigg, C. "The Coming Revolutions in Particle Physics." Scientific American. February 2008
11- Lévinas, E. "Transcending Words: Concerning Word-Erasing" Yale French Studies #81 (1992)
12- Steiner, G. “Cairns.” In, T. Frick, Editor, The Sacred Theory of the Earth. Berkeley, CA, 1986.
the study not only illustrates: J. Viegas, "Early Aussie Tattoos Match Rock Art." Discovery News.
13- Eliade, M. The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History. Princeton, NJ, 1971.
14- Stevens, W. From, "The Auroras of Autumn."
15- Eliade, M. "The Cosmic Tree." In, W.C. Beane and W.G. Doty, Editors, Myths, Rites, Symbols: A Mircea Eliade Reader. Vol. 2. New York, NY, 1975.
16- Schaefer, B.E. "The Origin of the Greek Constellations." Scientific American. November 2006.
17- Romanyshyn, R.D. The Wounded Researcher. New Orleans, LA, 2007.
18- Miró, J. February 1925. Les archives de Picasso. Paris, 2003.
19- Merleau-Ponty, M. Signs. Evanston, IL., 1964
20- Mayer, M.J.
21- Rasula, J. "The Style of Old Age." Sulfur 12. (1985)
late style would reflect a life: E. Rothstein, “Twilight of his Idols.” Review of E.W. Said's, On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain. The New York Times, July 16, 2006.
22- Heiler, F. "Contemplation in Christian Mysticism." In, J. Campbell, Editor, Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Princeton, NJ, 1985.
23- Jung, C.G. Mysterium Coniunctionis. Collected Works Vol.14. Princeton, NJ, 1976.
24- Lu, K'uan Yü, Ch'an and Zen Teaching. London, England, 1961. (Three volumes.)
25- The Blue Cliff Records (Hekiganroku) Case #60.
26- Novik, N, Temeraire. London, England, 2007.
27- Schafer, E.H. The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens. San Francisco, CA, 1980. Case #60.
28- Willis, P. "Dinosaurs and Birds."