Heart Sun

The heart of the sun is a good thing to find

when the dark pole of the year can be

the dark pole of the mind

~

the mind can be like the dark yin

on the bright yang of life

or it can be a mote of brilliance

in a dark and fearful age

~

the mind is something like a sun

and something like a salt doll

dissolving in a sea of change

until it somehow learns to be

~

not just the fugitive flesh

but also the fragile planet that upholds

everything that goes whirling by

like an eddy at the edge of a stream

~

where an old fish motionlessly

basks

on green moss

under a clear depth

of flowing light

The world I want to become

One day last fall I went
shuffling thru cold fire
shaped like fallen leaves and thought
after all these years I still don’t know
what they are.

Clearly existence is the dance of inconceivably marvellous matter.

Back in the days before the system crashed physicists used up their their days searching for a fundamental theory about the ultimate nature of space, time and the atom.

Near as I can tell the subject is a rabbit hole into which vast sums of public money and time disappeared while most of us starved. The search sometimes resulted in interesting technology like nuclear weapons and positron emission tomographic scanners but the bottom of the universe was never found and I doubt that it actually has a bottom, or a top.

Which means that no one will ever conceive or even coherently imagine what this universe of matter and energy is, certainly not me.

Turtles all the way down eh? Probing the depths of anything we always find something but probing that we find another something, another turtle.

And that’s cool with me.

How boring it would be if my universe was closed and bounded like the ones so many think they’re living in, if you can call that living.

The laws of marvelous matter are the laws of physics.

Anything which is physically possible is ok with the universe, tho it may not be ok with you or me. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and there’s nothing that is beautiful to every mind. I once told a man that the Holocaust made me aware of how evil humans can be.

The Nazis, he replied, did not go far enough.

Humans naturally hold conflicting perceptions of what is beautiful, good and desirable. And this is the basis of all conflicts, from schoolyard spats to genocide and the present war of terminal capitalism against all other visions of social order and ultimately against all life.

Based on the fact that the beauty or moral qualities of a thing or act do not inhere in anything outside the mind of the beholder some assert that all perceptions of moral goodness or beauty are entirely subjective (which is true) and equally valid (which is false). If all views were equally valid there would be no grounds for saying that some views or viewers are informed or uninformed, wise or foolish, beautiful or ugly. But this relativism ignores the fact that the validity of a perception fundamentally depends on how closely it corresponds to the facts it claims to perceive.

All views and perceptions are to some extent filtered or biased by various factors. But some of us know that the last holocaust was not a myth but a fact, not a good thing but a colossal crime against humanity and we know that minds who think otherwise are blind to the truth, the facts.

Likewise we know that the present holocaust of unfettered industrial depradation of our biosphere is not some weak minded misperception or conspiracy propagated by more than 97 percent of climate scientists in league with left wing liberals. Like most conspiracy theories that one is widely supported by light minded folk who read blogs and websites produced by minds who share their fantasies and also see them as suckers for click bait. Some conspiracy theories turn out to be true but when I look at this one I ask two questions: Who supports climate crisis denialism and who benefits from it?

If you look at prominent sites like Infowars you find that they cater to a perfect zoo of haters, eagerly venting their hatred of women, aboriginals, people of different colours, liberals, intellectuals, gays, refugees from “shit hole” countries and those refused full personhood in the affluent lands of the West: the poor, houseless, jobless, the inadequately schooled and all for whom the fantasy of trickle down capitalism has become a never ending struggle for the rudiments of survival.

Once you see who supports climate crisis denialism it’s easy to see who benefits. You need only ask who is creating this global nightmare. In a world where the vast majority are losers you need only look at the winners. And their servants, the wanna be winners. You know who they are and you know where they are, especially if you live in a place where beautiful vistas command the highest prices such that only the few can ever own a house and most of us spend half our incomes on rent.

You know who they are because, if you have a job, you probably work for them. Maybe you build or sell their lavish homes, log their forests or mine their earth even tho those forests grow on land that supposedly belongs to all citizens. Maybe you make your living running oil pipelines under fragile ecosystems on unceded aboriginal territory or work as a lawyer or banker facilitating the movements of the exploiters’ money and property, perhaps as a civil servant making sure that the wheels of resource exploitation and your palms are constantly oiled.

And all the way down the chain of command mums the word. You have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and send to college. And you’re haunted by the slimy things you see but you also see your less quiet colleagues let go, out of work or working for far less than you and somehow you begin to think that the top predators aren’t so bad. They were just like you, kept their heads down, worked their way up. You learn to keep your head and hardly notice that you’re slowly losing your soul.

Maybe you once had dreams of becoming a better person but now they seem naive. Once you thought like a child but as you became a man you put aside childish things. Now you seldom remember your nightly dreams but when you do they spoil your morning. The crack in the tea cup leads to the land of the dead.

Maybe you try to paint or write but it doesn’t flow and when it does it scares you. It looks or sounds subversive. You paint over the image or shred the rant.

You hear someone talk about a global crisis, coastal flooding, refugees coming in, socialists turning your world upside down. The fools, you think, why don’t they understand that it’s just change. The weather always changes, always has.

Maybe you’ll save enough money to buy a villa in some well guarded secret place. Maybe you’ll get a licence, buy a gun.

 

2   The Vision

Most of us are more or less awake to the fact that our house is burning and fitfully or fervently ask what, if anything, we can do to save it.

We cannot know how many humans and other animals will survive but we must do what we can to save as many as we can. Our first priority must be to save the children and leave them in a world with a healthy and ever evolving diversity of species. This means we must give them the tools and weapons they will need to wage the war for life after we are gone.

The tools/weapons they will need are of three primary kinds: physical, intellectual and moral or spiritual. The physical tools are widely discussed in any catalog of wilderness survival gear. There will obviously be some occasions when physical combat tools and strategies will be needed and these are also widely discussed. In a world where small and large wars are already constant the techniques of war making and negotiation are widely available and the above are not areas of which I have more than superficial interest. But there is a tool to which I have given some thought and I see it as the foundation for a world worth saving. That foundation is a spiritual, moral and intellectual vision of the world we most fervently wish for our children and all other forms of life.

I can only offer my own vision of that world and you must decide for yourself whether any part of it is useful for the work of creating the world you want to become.

In the world I want to become there will always be both poets and philosophers, sometimes embodied in the same person or in couples and groups where some love more wisdom and others live for beauty. By poet I mean a worker in any medium whose intent is to explore and illuminate the tragic absurdities of the present and celebrate the creative possibilities of a mortal but open mind on a fragile but fertile planet in an unbounded universe of beginningless and endless change.

In the world I want to become there will also be books, artifacts and other records of the best and the worst of which humans are capable because only our knowledge of darkness enables us to fully appreciate the value of light and only our records of luminous moments and minds can show us the beauty we have been and may become again.

 

Chapbook Review

Connections In Secret by Brad Bradley

 

This collection of lines surprises with its direct and simple language, void of ‘poetic’ ornament, conventional elegance…

(interruption by toddler in fairy dress riding wheeled hobby horse: Doug! What yer doing? I’m typing, where you riding to? To you, pause turns around, ‘bye.)

… void of philosophical conclusions, irony, innuendo, or explanations, Bradley simply gives us the words evoked by remembered events.

We are given the words only with no presentation of the events that evoked them so we have no way of connecting them directly to those events or to each other.

On first reading it reminded me of overhearing fragments of a conversation behind a wall but this morning, after a second reading I think I see what the poet is doing.

The clue is in the title Connections In Secret.

The connections are the author’s business.

We get only the words and connect them as we will or don’t.

This is an alternative to conventional poetry. I find it intellectually interesting and a relief from the conversational mode which too often is little more than a prosy paraphrase of the writer’s source experience and intention.

It also gives the reader more to do. We’re invited to read, reread and construct whatever narratives we can from the assembled words. No doubt this is particularly fun for the people who shared the original events.

Without attempting augury I prefer to let the words float across the page like blocks of ice refracting mind light as they drift from a melting glacier, to let them sound, resound or echo as they will. Curious objects found in the midden of faux virtuous or genuine revolt at the horrors that vomit hourly from our digital screens.

~

Find more of Brad Bradley at:

mixcloud.com/bradbradley

vimeo.com/bradbradleypoet

twitter.com/bradbradleypoet

bradbradley.bandcamp.com

 


The feast of mystery

Waking in my room above the Clear Light Cafe, I slip into my patched robe and descend to the kitchen where i wash my face, start a fire in the iron stove and make what I call coffee here at the charred edge of history and the end of Time with a big T. A few nows later finds me dining on bannock and coffee in a bombed out upper room that serves as a deck for surveilling the village below and the ashen waste beyond. Presently I notice a figure in black threading the empty street in my direction. Even at this distance I can tell from her gait that it’s a woman, one with no nonsense on her mind and soon I see that it’s my dear Lucida. As she comes near her face turns up to reflect the morning sun and I wave. She waves back and soon I hear the door jingle open, her steps on the creaking stair and here she is, coming for a hug and breakfast. Eagerly she tears into her bannock and something in a tin she has brought with her. She passes the tin which I sniff then taste on my knife. A ghost touches my scalp and I whisper one word: strawberry. You have strawberries, I say. In old cans loaded with sugar that some call white death.

Yes, she says. There are cases of it, in a warehouse exposed by the shifting dunes.
We best call a meeting, I say.
Let sleeping dogs, lie she says.
Yes, but not starving neighbours.
Of course, she says, but that can wait. What you been doing?

Still talking to the Red Monk, I say, roughing out his story. He’s currently locking brows with a philosopher in 5th century Alexandria about his way of communicating with the gods.
Oh the gods, she says. Where were they during the holocausts?
They were burning, I said, and pouring oil on the flames.
And where are they now?
Having breakfast, I say, and doing what they can to survive.

I’d like to talk to a god, she says. How would I do that?
Depends on the god, I say. The philosopher Proclus described it like this. First you have to choose which god you want to link with, preferably one for which you have a natural affinity. If you like the sun you choose Helios, if the moon: Selene, War: Ares, Love: Aphrodite.

What about the children of Night? she asks, with a different voice.
Some like it darker, I say. Perhaps you would like to commune with Fate, Doom, Death, Sleep, Dreams, old Age, Pain, Revenge, Strife, Deceit or Sexual Pleasure.
I thought sex was the province of Eros, she said.
Eros was the god of sexual love, I said, it includes all pleasures that are ruled by love but excludes any that accrue to cold hearted fucking or rape.

Death and I are already close, she says. No help needed there. I could have a better relation to Sleep. I guess belladonna or opium would bring me closer to her but I don’t have either of those, yet.
The Red Monk says he met her once, in a crypt under Alexandria. she was surrounded by torches and her face was hidden behind a mask with two curved tusks, I say. A mask of hide.
An animal, she says, with tusks curved like the new and waning moon. I’d like to meet her.
I know a place, I say.

~

The green hill is still there, half buried in grey sand, its charred top still surmounted by nine grey pillars supporting nothing but the pale sky. Between the pillars we approach the low dome of age worn stones, pass thru the entrance hole and descend the ashy spiral stair by the faint glow of an unseen source and presently come to a tall, curved gap in a curved wall. Stepping thru the gap we find ourselves at the rim of a vast sphere, seemingly clothed in a tapestry of vistas, each framing a long road or avenue along which processions, small groups or individual beings are travelling to, thru and from this intersection, this tiny node in the warp and weft of inconceivable emptiness.

Now Luci and I are moving toward a tall figure which has magnetized our attention. It’s robed in the same fabric as the outer sphere and it seems to be instructing those who come to pass, about which paths are safe or wise or otherwise worth taking. Then the figure turns and I see that its face is a blur of possible beasts except for the bright, curved tusks which resolve at last into a disc of light around a human face. I bow toward that face as it bows toward me and as our eyebrows touch I hear it say, Ah, Light. Things are much more visible when you’re here. Then the moon beast bends to touch brows with my friend, asking her name.

Lucida, she says, tho he calls me the Dark One.
Nothing is more lucid than a clear night, says the Guide, a perfect medium for luminous things.
And you are?
Like you, he says, a medium, a guide. What are you looking for?
Poetry, she says, I weary of all this circumambulation.
Straight to the point then, he says, and sings:

I loved your master perfectly
and I taught him all that he knew.
He was starving in some deep mystery
like a man who is sure what is true.

At this point I begin to feel uneasy. The story is getting away from me the nominal author. But that verse has been going thru my head intermittently for hours, days and I begin to see maybe why. As Lucida and the guide continue to chat I put my guess into the following words:

The deepest reach of my poeticosophical quest so far is my understanding that I don’t and never will possess more than partial knowledge of the ultimate nature of existence, the cosmos, things as it is, what is actually happening here and now: this hand that moves the brush, the brush, the ink, the paper. When I reach this point I am suspended in mystery but I’m not sure what to feel about it. Is this the ultimate epiphany? Part of me hopes not because it wants that hunger for a deeper understanding and the thrill when it is reached.

Lucida and the portal guide are still in conversation, not noticing my absence, which has only been a moment really. If I’m starving in this great mystery I’m like a person at a banquet who can’t decide which dishes to eat before he becomes the skeleton at the table.

The mask and the true face

Lucida disappears for days at a time and when she does my brain starts to play an old song by Bill Withers:

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Only darkness every day

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

And this house just ain’t no home anytime she goes away

Kitty feels the same. We mope around the caff and she steers clear of this melancholy beast who tries to console himself by doing little chores. Like installing an under sink valve I found in the salvage shop, in its original box which said it was made by Honeywell. According to the restored microfiche at the Dead Library I learned that biz was an industrial conglomerate that once sold 20 backpack drones to the US navy for the modest sum of 8 million bucks but the brass valve only cost me a few barter bucks and works well.

In the morning I mix thawed plums with oats, water, ground flax and olive oil then bake the paste into a tasty muffin to go with coffee and read some news from the era just before the Burn. The big stories were about a British populist coup, the impeachment of the clown in the White House and a debate about whether the global heating was real or just a left wing hoax supported by more than 90 percent of the world’s climate scientists.

Since I have a free weekend I have time to read further about Proclus, who lived in Alexandria and Athens fifteen centuries ago and wrote about rituals for linking the soul to its god or gods and ultimately to the inconceivable source of all this flow we call life and existence. No philosopher of his time wondered if the gods and associated invisibles were real tho they were sketchy about where they lived. Some believed they inhabited certain mountains and rivers but Proclus probably thought they resided in some domain beyond any human conceptions of space.

I think it’s obvious that the gods and their associates live in the neural activities of the individual subconscious mind and imagination and in the broader field of conscious and subconscious minds connected by culture, media and conversation. In that broader field they appear as figures of religion, ideology and myth but also disguised as memes, cliches and characters in books and movies.

Looking up from my book I see that the Red Monk has entered the Clear Light and notice as he passes the luminous windows of morning that he casts no shadow. Tho I had not noticed the chair on the other side of my table I wave him to take it and bring a bottle of warm sake with two small cups. He holds it in his mouth before swallowing then, like the spirits in Hades, he is able to speak.

Only one thing I’d rather have on my tongue, he says.

That some zen riddle? I ask.

He only grins and says, I met Proclus in Alexandria, in the new Mouseion which local philosophers had improvised in the house of Theon. A youth 12 years my junior he had begun his education in Xanthos and moved from there to Alexandria to pursue the study of rhetoric in order to become a lawyer but during a journey to Byzantium he discovered philosophy as his vocation. Back in Alexandria he studied Aristotle and mathematics. Learned all of Aristotle’s logical writings by heart. Soon after our meeting Proclus moved to Athens, attracted to study at the Platonic School there. In Athens he would expand and systematize the philosophy of Plotinus which was a response to the sceptical position that we only know the appearances presented by our senses, and not the world as it is. Plotinus believed that the nature of the world is inherent in each part of it, including the part of the world that receives sense data, which he called the soul. This I learned from his lectures at the new Museion and our conversations after.

The soul, he said, knows the world thru sense data but it can also know itself directly by turning away from the senses which are of the external body and the external world. This direct knowing of its own nature is reflected in the insights and epiphanies produced by philosophy, and especially by its three primary practices: meditation, contemplation and theurgy. Meditation calms the mind and enables it to see what controls its attention. How its attention is commanded by habitual practices that offer relief from the pain of want, desire, insecurity, lack of freedom and lack of control, including self control. The soul then sees that the basis of taking command of its life is taking control of its attention.

Plotinus’s extension of Plato described a simple cosmos elaborated from an ineffable One which produced a supreme Intellect which produced a cosmic Soul of which each individual soul was an emanation. The individual soul then somehow produced the body locally as an instance of the cosmic Soul’s production of the material world.

What is theurgy? I asked.

Just as the cosmic soul is the sum of all souls, said Proclus, the One is the sum of all the great ones who are called the gods. Theurgy is the practice whereby an individual soul orients its attention toward the One by prayer or ritual directed to communion with one or several gods. On the day of the Sun, for example, my soul turns like a sunflower toward Helios the Sun who is the god of all sunlike forms.

According to Proclus philosophy was an activity which could liberate the soul from subjection to bodily passions, remind it of its origin in Soul, Intellect, and the One, and prepare it not only to ascend to the higher levels while still in this life but to avoid falling immediately back into a new body after death. Thru these methods, he said, philosophy shows the soul how to resume command of its attention, wake to its origin, resume its journey back to the Source and liberate it from its obsession with the body so that, if death comes before it attains the goal it will not automatically fall into rebirth but, if reborn, will resume the journey at a higher level.

I concluded that Proclus had created an impressive picture of a dynamic cosmos of things, intellects and souls and their relations to each other. But was not convinced that this was the universe I was living in. Even so, I liked the idea of a practical way to find out who or what was really in control of my attention so I asked Proclus to teach me how to use meditation for this purpose.

A few days later I found myself led by torchlight thru a dark cavern beneath the radiant marble of Alexandria. On either side the walls were scooped with shallow cavities filled with bones or dedicated mummies, the entrances festooned with the stink of dying flowers or candles where mourners knelt to murmur prayers, oblivious to the rats whose eyes occasionally reflected our passing light. Finally we came into a deep side channel and I realized that this dry necropolis had once been an underground river that had forked here on its way to the great Middle Sea. Here we stopped and sat on ancient stones to contemplate the walls inscribed with the shapes which ancient plants and fishes had left in the walls before their contents rotted away. I could almost here the sound of waves then I heard a deeper sound, the sound of a conch that seemed to rise from somewhere deep below the ground and a chorus of deep voices began to chant in unison until the torch bearers moved forward to encircle a robed figure with the head of a strange animal.

I surmised that it was a person wearing a mask of hide that enclosed her head, leaving only holes for three eyes that glistened thru the dark above two pale parentheses of horn. Tho the figure had no visible mouth it produced a voice that sounded clear but soft, like a child’s.

I am, it said, the first mother of all animals and men. You are the children of my children and all living are your kin. What can I tell you? What do you most need to know?

What is the origin of evil? I asked.

Look within, she whispered, as the torches withdrew and she melted into darkness.

~

Back above ground I walked with Proclus thru the hot, white city, keeping to the shade of trees and walls as we returned to our apartments. Your question, he said, is probably the most urgent a soul can ask. Plotinus said evil stems not from the soul but from matter. Not that matter is evil, as some Gnostics say. It rises from our fascination, absorption in material forms. Evil happens when we get mired in material concerns and forget to look up toward consciousness and the emanations of the Divine. Plotinus teaches that even tho the soul so distracted may fall into evil thoughts and actions it is still intrinsically good and just has to wake to its true nature and divine origin.

So you believe there are no irremediably corrupted souls, I said.

Plotinus believed that, he said, but when I consider, for instance, what the vile monks of Nitria did to Theon’s daughter I am not convinced. I think they serve an evil god.

But Plotinus probably believes that the souls of gods, like those of humans, are essentially good?

Exactly, he said, I will move to Athens soon, to study at his academy and I intend to question Syrianus his successor about this absurd belief.

But, I said, if the souls of humans and gods can be corrupted how far up the ladder of souls can this corruption reach?

Well, he laughed, if you believe, as we Platonists do, that the gods are real and the myths about them must be taken seriously you must accept that the gods are sometimes ruled, like us humans, by passion, ignorance and hate and these forms of evil go back to the very beginnings of the world as depicted by our creation myths. Shall I go on?

I nodded my eager assent.

According to our earliest myth there was originally a formless state called Chaos from which arose Darkness and Night who copulated to give birth to the bright upper Aether and Day. Then Night by herself produced Fate, Doom, Death, Sleep, Dreams, old Age, Pain, Revenge, Strife, Deceit and Sexual Pleasure which of course leads to all the miseries of embodiment. Chaos also produced Gaia the Earth who gave birth to Uranus the Sky and with him bred the Titans. One of them was Cronus and Gaia persuaded him to castrate his dad with a threshing sickle. (Cronus is also a name of Time which produces and consumes all things.) Because he castrated his father Cronus feared that his own children would do likewise so every time his wife gave birth he grabbed the child and ate it. I could go on but you see my point.

Your gods, I said, have even more mischief in them than you Greeks do.

Exactly, so if Plotinus believes that our gods are real and that they are void of evil then he must believe that our myths about them are lies. But then you are denying the authority of tradition which says that to err is not only human it is also a propensity of the gods. I intuit the truth of that view and I believe the propensity to think or do evil is present in all beings, all the way up to the First Soul and the First Intellect. So I do not accept that evil only arises from us lower souls and our fascination with material form.

So evil is a propensity of being, I said. What about good?

Evil is just good with its power drained by evil and vice versa. Both are polar manifestations of the energeia which stands beyond good and evil.

Energeia? I said.

Aristotle’s word, he said. It has to with the power that enables movement between the possible and the actual, dream and reality, thought and action.

I would like to learn more about that, I said. But what, in your view, is the original or primary good to which good minds aspire.

That’s a good question, he said with a laugh. Plotinus said that the primary good is the One because it makes all things, and in so doing it bestows on each one the primary good of individuality which makes it distinct and separable from all others.

That also describes perception, I said. Maybe things only become distinct when I perceptually distinguish them, from the background.

That would usurp the role of the Creator. We Platonists believe that things first become distinct individuals when the original Intellect so distinguishes them.

But maybe, I said, when you and I perceive a valid distinction between a bird and a tree we are channeling the creative perception of the One and bestowing individuality upon each of them.

I like that idea, said Proclus, it would mean that each of us participates in the creation of each thing in the act of perceiving it.

~

That was my first contact with the idea that mind is the source, the generator of all forms, says the Red Monk. Later, when I reached the lands of the Indus and the Ganges I found the school of Mind Only which takes the idea even further. The Platonists say that the first mind the Nous or Intellect creates all souls and all bodies but that matter so created exists independently of our perception. But the Mind Only schools teach that material forms are forms created by each mind that are fundamentally insubstantial figures of change and the dreaming mind alone is real. That view is erroneous I think because mind can no more exist without body than darkness without light. Mind minds body and body embodies mind. If there were no embodiment of mind in thoughts, feelings, words and acts what would the mind be? Conversely if there were no thoughts, feelings, words or plans for action what would the body be?

In dreamless sleep, say I your humble narrator. Which suggests that matter might exist before mind then evolve into thinking matter.

Yes but at what point does it become mind-like matter? If mind is a function of evolved matter then matter must always be latently mind-like.

Or mind must always be latently matter-like, I say. So the primary delusion of the Mind Only schools is the notion that a mind could exist that is not actually or latently material and the converse delusion, held by materialists, is that matter could exist that was not actually or latently mental.

Yes, says the Red Monk, but the Platonists built a second illusion on the first. They claimed that the Mind bestowed individuality as the fully separable and unitary nature of persons and things. But in deeper meditation we see that no man is an island entire unto itself. Our unity is only complete insofar as we share in the unity of all things.

That suggests an aphorism, I say: only the One is entirely one.

One what? He asks.

One cup, I say, of sake. I pour and we sip in silence then I ask, what does this have to do with your question about the source of evil? Is it not just an inexplicable propensity?

That propensity is at bottom a propensity to see myself as fundamentally separate from others. Ironically the Platonists, however pious their intentions, actually divinized the common illusion that our separate individuality is fundamental. They failed to see that we are only superficially separable and the delusion of a separable self is the source of the constant anxiety and coldness that alienates us from all other beings. Ironically even our mutual indifference and hostility is produced by our inseparable natures because they impel us to act as one in mutual hostility when we fall as one into the collective delusion that we are fundamentally separate, a delusion that denies our natural impulses to love our other selves. All hate is self hatred.

That hatred is really the tension between our true nature and our delusory separate persona, I say, the mask and the true face beneath it.