Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Whim of Ignorant Souls


      You, who are prodded

       by the whim of an ignorant soul,

       the example of others

       has taught you nothing.

      Your one real contribution

      was to build a public convenience,

      that the whole world might come

      and shit upon your good deed.


      What remains for you, O Falsehood

      but to flee the Truth?

      O Poison, what can you bring

      but racking bitterness?

      Love is the Water of Life -- and you,

      who deny it, are an ass.

      So what else can you do, O Donkey

      but piss in the stream?

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi ~

(Image: Pedro Armestre / Greenpeace)


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Prayer for Earth

I offer the sorrow in my heart for this desecration of the waters of Mother Earth
into the agency of Fire, where it may be transformed in prayer and carried upward
to the Heavens. This sorrow is an expression of the love and intimate connection with
Mother Earth. May any tears of sorrow cleanse us of the sense of separation from Her.
May our intentions be received by the Celestials and lead to a restoration of balance to
our planet. So be it.

~ Linda Lauretta


Monday, April 25, 2011

A Sacred Theory of Earth

Nature loves to hide (Becoming is a secret process).
                                                ~ Heraclitus (Guy Davenport translation)

The sciences must all be made poetic.  ~ Novalis

If God can become man, he can also become element, stone, plant,
animal. Perhaps there is a continual Redemption in nature.  ~ Novalis

If the world is a tree, we are the blossoms.  ~ Novalis

Santos-Dumont, the Parisian-Brazilian aviation pioneer and inventor of the airplane, during a sojourn in his native land in 1934, saw federalist planes dropping bombs on rebel troops. He hanged himself later that day. His last words, as reported by an elevator oprerator: "I never thought my invention would cause bloodshed between brothers. What have I done?"


For Historians to say that A inevitably leads to Z -- for example, that German Romanticism leads inevitably to Reaction, or that Marx leads directly to Stalin -- is to mistake the bitter wisdom of hindsight for a principle of fatality. Such determinism also insults all revolutionary resistance with the implicit charge of futility: -- Since the real Totality is always perfectly inevitable, its enemies are always idiots. Global Capital was inevitable and now its here to stay -- ergo the entire movement of the Social amounts to a sheer waste of time and energy. The ruination of nature was fated, hence all resistance is futile, whether by ignorant savages or perverse eco-terrorists. Nothing's worth doing except that which is done: there can be no different world.

The "Ruination of Nature"

For Christianity nature is fallen, locus of sin and death, while heaven is a city of crystal and metal. For Capital nature is a resource, a pit of raw materials, a form of property. As nature begins to "disappear" in the late eighteenth century, it comes to seem more and more ruined. For some perhaps a Romantic, even a magical ruin (as in the dreams of Renaissance magi and their "love of ruins", grottos, the broken and "grotesque") -- but by others felt simply as useless waste, a wrecked place where no one lives except monsters, vagabonds, animals: the uncanny haunt of ghouls and owls. "Second Nature" meaning culture, or even "Third Nature" meaning Allah knows what precisely, have usurped and erased all wilderness. What remains but mere representation? -- a nostalgia for lost Edens, Arcadias and Golden Ages? -- a ludicrous sentamentality disguised as what? -- as a sacred theory of earth?

The view of Nature as Ruin depends in part (or half-consciously) on the concept of a Cartesian ERGO SUM alone in the universe where everything else is dead matter and "animals have no soul", mere meat machines. But if the human body remains part of nature in nature, then even the most consistent materialist would have to admit that nature is not quite yet dead.

Science, taking over the mythic task of religion, strives to "free" consciousness from all mortal taint. Soon we'll be posthuman enough for cloning, total prosthesis, machinic immortality. But somehow a shred of nature may remain, a plague perhaps, or the great global "accident", blind Nature's revenge, meteors from outer space, etc. -- "you know the score", as William Burroughs used to say.

Taking the long view (and allowing for noble exceptions) science does precisely what State and Capital demand of it: -- make war, make money. "Pure" science is allowed only because it might lead to technologies of death and profit -- and this was just as true for the old alchemists who mutated into Isaac Newton, as for the new physicists who ripped open the structure of matter itself. Even medicine (seemingly the most altruistic of sciences) advances and progresses primarily in order to increase productivity of workers and generate a world of healthy consumers.

Does Capital make death ultimately more profitable than life? No, not exactly, although it may seem so to a citizen of Bhopal / Love Canal / Chernobyl / [Japan ~R.S.]. In effect it might be said that profit equals death, in the sense of Randolph Bournes' quip about war as the health of the state (which incidentally means that "Green Capitalism" is an abject contradiction in terms).

Another science might have been possible. Indeed if we reject fatalism, another science might yet come to be. A new paradigm is always conceivable, and theories now considered defeated, lost, wrong, or absurd, might even (someday) be reconfigured into a paradigmatic pattern, a science for life rather than death. Signs of emergence of such a science are always present -- because science itself wants to deal with truth, and life is true and real. But the emergence is always -- in the long run -- crushed and suppressed by the "inevitable" demands of technology and Capital. It's our tragic fate to know and yet be unable to act.

Among those who do act, the scientists and warriors, many believe (for the most part sincerely) that they're serving progress and democracy. In their secret hearts perhaps some know they serve Death, but they do it anyway because they're nihilists, cynically greedy for big budgets and Nobel prizes. A few fanatics actually hate body, hate Earth, hate trees -- and serve as shills for politicians and corporations. In general most people find all this normal. Only a few awake -- but are blocked from action.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a sort of three-way scientific paradigm war was waged in England and Europe. The contenders were, first: Cartesianism -- which denied action at a distance and tried to explain gravity by a corpuscular theory that reduced the universe to a clock-like mechanismset in motion by "God"; second, Hermeticism, the ancient science of the micro / macrocosm, which believed firmly in action at a distance but failed to explain gravity -- and (even worse) failed to achieve the transmutation of lead into gold, which at least would have secured for it the enthusiastic support of State and Capital; and, third, the school of Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, culminating in the Royal Society -- and the Industrial Revolution.

This scheme is vastly oversimplified of course. The actual history of "the triumph of modern science" is far more complex than the usual triumphalist version. We know for example that some of the very founders of modern science were closet Hermeticists. Bacon's New Atalantis exhibits strong Rosicrucian tendencies. Erasmus Darwin, Boyle, Priestly, Benjamin Franklin, and most nototriously, Isaac Newton, all immersed themselves in occult studies. Newton devoted millions of words to alchemy but never published a single one of them. William Blake, who skewered Newton's dead, "Urizenic" rationalism, had no idea that Newton was an alchemist. I've always suspected that Newton simply stole the idea of gravity as action at a distance (an invisible force) from Hermeticism. Amazingly, the math worked. The Royal Society suppressed its own Hermetic origins and (especially after 1688) adhered to the new bourgeois monarchy, emergent capitalism, and Enlightenment rationalism. The spooky nature of Newtonian gravity still bothers some scientists, who persist in looking for corpuscular "gravitations". But the Newtonians won the paradigm war and "Newton's Sleep" (as Blake called it) still dims the eyes with which we perceive and experience reality, despite the new spookiness of relativity and quantum paradoxes.

Admittedly this historical sketch is very rough, and offered with some trepidation. The whole story of the paradigm war remains quite murky, in part because a great deal of research is still being written from a History of Science p.o.v. deeply infected with triumphalism. True, it's no longer fashionable to sneer at the alchemists or write as if everyone in the Past were stupid. But alchemy and hermeticism in general are still viewed in the light of modern science as failed precursors. The central hermetic doctrine of the "ensouled universe" receives no credence or even sympathy in academia -- and very little grant money goes to magicians.

Therefore I offer only a tentative hypothesis. It appears that both the Cartesians and the Newtonians happily agreed in their eagerness to discard and deride the central thesis of the hermetic paradigm, the idea of the living Earth. Descartes envisioned only "dead matter", Newton used the concept of invisible but material forces; and their followers turned their back on any "sacred theory of earth", banishing not only God from their clockwork oranges but even life itself. As Novalis put it, under the hands of these scientists "friendly nature died, living behind only dead, quivering remnants". These loveless scientists see nature as sick or even dead, and their search for truth leads only to "her sickroom, her charnel-house".

Goethe, too, attacked the kind of science that bases itself on death -- the butterfly pinned under glass or dissected rather than the butterfly living and moving. In his great work on the morphology of plants he founded a new branch of botany. Or rather, perhaps not quite "new." Brilliant as it was, it had predecessors. In some sense it was in fact based on hermeticism and especially on Paracelcus, the great sixteenth century alchemist. German adherents of Naturphilosophie, and such independent thinkers as Goethe, or indeed Novalis (who was trained as a scientist and professional mining engineer), might really be seen as neo-hermeticists, steeped in Paracelsus, Jakob Boehme, and the Rosicrucian literature. We might call this whole complex or weltanschauung, "Romantic Science".

I believe that today's ecological resistance cannot afford to ignore its own sources in a vain attempt to reconcile itself with the Totality and scientific apotheosis of Global Capital. Romantic Science is literally a sine qua non for the resistance to ecological disintegration. I would like to argue the case (tho' I'd be hard put to prove it) that the "new" scientific paradigm we're looking for to replace the dead-matter / material-force scientific world-view of Enlightenment / State / Capital, can best be found in the perennial but underground tradition of hermetic-Romantic science. Something very much like a manifesto for this movement can still be gleaned from The Disciples at Sais by Novalis, a.k.a. Count Friedrich von Hardenberg.


         Everything divine has a history; can it be that nature, the one totality by which
         man can measure himself, should not be bound together in a history, or -- and
         this is the same thing -- that it should have no spirit? Nature would not be nature
         if it had no spirit, it would not be the unique counterpart to mankind, not the
         indispensable answer to the mysterious question, or the question to this never-
         ending answer. (85)

         What is the flame that is manifested everywhere? A fervent embrace, whose sweet
         fruits fall like sensuous dew. Water, first-born child of airy fusions, cannot deny
         its voluptuous origin and reveals itself an element of love, and of its mixture with
         divine omnipotence on earth. Not without truth have ancient sages sought the
         origin of things in water, and indeed, they spoke of a water more exalted than the
         sea and well water. A water in which only primal fluidity is manifested, as it is
         manifested in liquid metal, therefore should men always revere it as divine. How
         few up to now have immersed themselves in the mysteries of fluidity, and there are
         some in whose drunken soul this surmise of the highest enjoyment and the highest
         life has never awakened. In thirst this world soul is revealed, this immense
         longing for liquefaction. The intoxicated feel only too well the celestial delight of
         the liquid element, and ultimately all pleasant sensations are multiform flowings
         and stirrings of those primal waters in us. (103-105)

         Within us there lies a mysterious force that tends in all directions, spreading from
         a center hidden in infinite depths. If wondrous nature, the nature of the senses and
         the nature that is not of the senses, surrounds us, we believe this force to be an
         attraction of nature, an effect of our sympathy with her. (28)

         A man born blind cannot learn to see, though you may speak to him forever of
         colors and lights and distant shapes. No one will fathom nature, who does not, as
         though spontaneously, recognize and distinguish nature everywhere, who does not
         with an inborn creative joy, a rich and fervent kinship with all things, mingle with
         all of nature's creatures through the medium of feeling, who does not feel his way
         into them. (109)

         The thinking man returns to the original function of his existence, to creative
         contemplation, to the point, where knowledge and creation were united in a
         wondrous mutual tie, to that creative moment of true enjoyment, of inward self-
         conception. If he immerses himself completely in the contemplation of this
         primeval phenomenon, the history of the creation of nature unfolds before him in
         newly emerging times and spaces like a tale that never ends, and the fixed point
         that crystallizes in the infinite fluid becomes for him a new revelation of the
         genius of love, a new bond between the Thou and the I. A meticulous account of
         this inward universal history is the true theory of nature. The relations within his
         thought world and its harmony with the universe will give rise to a philosophical
         system that will be the faithful picture and formula of the universe. (93)

         Happy I call this son, this darling of nature, whom she permits to behold her in
         her duality, as a power that engenders and bears, and in her unity, as an endless,
         everlasting marriage. His life will be a plenitude of all pleasures, a voluptuous
         chain, and his religion will be the real, the true naturalism. (111)

From ~ The Disciples at Sais: A Sacred Theory of Earth, by Peter Lamborn Wilson
In the book ~ Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology, pgs. 9-13, 14, 15, 22-25
By ~ Peter Lamborn Wilson, Christopher Bamford and Kevin Townley
Novalis quotes from his work, The Disciples at Sais


Sunday, April 24, 2011

One the All: Alchemy as Sacred Ecology

The health, and even the future, of our Earth (which is not other than our humanity) seems under attack. Certainly, it is threatened. But our present scientific and philosophical approaches to nature, though noble and well intentioned in their aspirations, seems able to provide only short-term, band-aid responses that alleviate the symptoms, but provide no fundamental remedy. "Problems" addressed in one area become only more widespread and virulent elsewhere. Meanwhile, we persist in the behaviors that caused the crises in the first place. The situation only worsens. Loss of topsoil, extinctions of species and habitats, wars, droughts, famines, oppressions and toxic pollutants proliferate. It is almost more than a heart can bear.

How much this actually affects Gaia-Sophia herself is of course unknown. She may even be waking up as some visionaries attest. Certainly many experience that nature appears more transcendently beautiful with each passing year. Nevertheless, even if that is the case, and great evolutionary "earth changes" are under way, it is clear that we are being called to learn to think and be in another way, one more in harmony with our Mother, the beauty of the world, who is also comic nature, that Earth in the largest sense, which is for Christians the body of Christ.

It is not hard to see how we have come to this point. Selfishness, greed, and the need for the illusion of dominion and control pervade our thinking. Though allegedly "value free" and "objective", all our actions, based as they are on the radical separation of self and other, subject and object, citizen and stranger, friend and enemy, humanity and nature, earth and cosmos, actually embody the dominant cultural paradigm or value of egotism, which we can call the disease of our time.

At one level, egotism appears as the double (or shadow) of our present "observer" consciousness that reifies the experiences of our psychological consciousness into objectification, reification: the illusion of distance and the fantasy of material causation. We experience ourselves as distant from one another, distant from nature, distant from the stars, distant even from the spiritual world. We find ourselves perpetually "elsewhere", rather than here. And distance in turn gives rise to the urge to separate, dominate, control, manipulate -- and even lie -- in the course of which hate becomes easier than love and prejudice than openness. In other words. we lack intimacy -- with the world, the divine, and ourselves. At the same time and for the same reason, we lack a spiritual understanding of the fundamentals: space, time, light, causation, gravity and so on.

Above all, of course, we lack knowledge of Life -- not just of biological life, but also of the indivisible, invisible Life that animates the cosmos: Cosmic Life. For all its effectiveness and technological range, modern science remains a science of what Rudolf Steiner calls "Sub-nature" -- the world of physics, chemistry and technologically applied mathematics -- is cut off from nature. Sunk far below nature, it has descended into a virtually autonomous lifeless realm of its own. To redeem it requires that we move proportionately upwards -- toward Life, the right orientation for any true path of knowledge.

This has always been known. A sacred science of Nature or Life has existed from the beginning of humanity's spiritual journey. Selfless, dedicated to healing and harmony, and resting upon non-dual experience, it has accompanied, sustained, and underlain each religious epoch and every revelation.

Called alchemy or, loosely, in the West, Hermeticism, it is the ancient, primordial, sacred science of Nature. Present in all historical cultures from India and China in the East to the Abrahamic West and always adapting its practice to its context, its origins are lost in the depths of prehistory. In a sense, it is the primal cosmological revelation. Nevertheless, in the great revival of mystical, esoteric traditions and practices during the last century, the tradition has -- except for a few specialists -- been largely ignored or simply read as psychology.

In fact, not only alchemy, but also nature herself has been largely ignored. In the great revival of mystical, esoteric traditions and practices during the last century, the whole question of sacred or spiritual science has been left to one side. Although we have studied and practiced the teachings of the saints and sagesof past ages assiduously, we have passed over their sciences of nature in silence. Perhaps, therefore, it is time to explore the relevance not only of our Masters' "inner" science, but also their science of Nature, which, because it is whole, includes, transcends, and erases all separations such as inner and outer.

This other science is vast. Its worldview is utterly different to our own, for it seeks to understand nature in itself, for itself, out of itself, as our sacred, holy, even divine source. It is therefore a path of praise, love, and adoration, of knowledge as a donum dei, a gift of God.

Contemporary science for its part, contrary to what we might assume, is not in any sense a path of knowledge. It does not know what it deals with. Indeed, in a way, it renounces knowledge. It is not concerned with truth, but only with what works and false theories, especially with a great deal of money behind them, can be extraordinarily fecund.

True knowledge, on the other hand, is a spiritual reality, a cognitive spiritual state of encounter.

From the perspective of consciousness, the shift from science to technology may thus be seen not only in terms of a movement from unity to multiplicity, but also, as, as has been said, the degeneration of Love into utility. To confuse utility with love is a fundamental loss of orientation, for love resides at the core of all as the tradition bears witness.

Pherecydes of Syros, for example, a teacher of Pythogoras, and "Hermetic" because he was learned in the Prophecies of Ham and the secret books of the Phoenicians, whose revelation is attributed to Thoth or Hermes, taught that:

   Zeus, when about to create, changed himself into Love, for in composing the
   order of the world out of the contraries he brought it to concord and friendship,
   and in all things he set the seed of identity and the unity which pervades everything.

Sacred science, then, works through Love with the Mystery of the World or Nature.

From the essay ~ One the All: Alchemy as Sacred Ecology, by Christopher Bamford
In the book ~ Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology, pgs. 30-32
By ~ Peter Lamborn Wilson, Christopher Bamford, and Kevin Townley


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Al-Khidr: The Green Man of Sufism

and Khezr, the Hidden Prophet, the Green Man, King of Hyperborea, wily servant of Moses, trickster-cook of Alexander, Khezr who drank from the fountain of life in the Land of Darkness. Flowers and herbs spring up in his footsteps, and he strolls across the water, walking toward Ibn Arabi's ship, coming closer; his green robe trailing on green waves -- or perhaps woven of waves. Or Khezr appears in the desert with water and initiation for the masterless ones, the mad and blameworthy, the unique ones. "And three things are worthy of the glance: water, green things, and a beautiful face..."

When you say the name of Khezr (or Khadir) in company you should always add the greeting "Salaam Aleikum!" since he may be there -- immortal and anonymous, engaged on some mysterious karmic errand. Perhaps he'll hint of his identity by wearing green, or by revealing knowledge of the occult and hidden. But he's something of a spy, and if you have no need to know he's unlikely to tell you. Still, one of his functions is to convince skeptics of the marvelous, to rescue those who are lost in deserts of doubt and dryness. So he's needed now more than ever, and surely still moves among us playing his great game.

From the point of view of "History of Religions" clearly Islam inherited Khezr from earlier myths and faiths, a fact recognized by the Islamic tradition which associates him with Moses and Alexander. By the Middle Ages, however, he'd been thoroughly assimilated into the world of Islam and taken on a special role, symbolized by his two titles, "the Green Man" and "the Hidden Prophet". In particular, he comes to stand for a certain kind of esoteric knowledge, which can only manifest in our banal everyday life as shock, either of outrage or of laughter, or both at once....

Khezr is one of the afrad, the Unique Ones who recieve illumination directly from God without human mediation; they can initiate seekers who belong to no Order or have no human guide; they rescue lost wanderers and desperate lovers in the hour of need. Uways al-Qarani is their historical prototype, Khezr their ahistorical prototype.

Some have indentified Khezr with St. George -- but he might more accurately be seen as both St. George and the dragon in one figure. Nature, for esoteric Islam, does not need to be pinned down like some biology specimen or household pest -- there exists no deep struggle between Nature and Order in the Islamic worldview. The "spirits" of Nature, such as Khezr and the djinn -- who are in a sense the principles of natural power -- recognize in the Muhammadan Light that green portion of the spectrum upon which they themselves are also situated. If Christian moralism "fixes" Nature by "killing it", Islam proceeds by conversion -- or rather, by transmutation. Nature maintains its measure of independence from the merely human and moral sphere, while both realms are bathed in the integrative and salvific light of Muhammadan knowledge.

.....As an immortal mortal, Khezr behaves like a figure in a dream; in fact, he behaves as we do in our happiest dreams of flying, or of the quintessence of life, "a green thought in a green shade". He resembles those late medieval paintings of vegetable people, faces made out of fruit and leaves and sunlight: slightly sinister, at once funny and beautiful.....

Nowadays Khezr might well be induced to reappear as the patron of modern militant eco-environmentalism, since he represents the fulcrum or nexus between wild (er) ness and the human / humane. Rather than attempt to moralize Nature (which never works because Nature is amoral), Khadirian Environmentalism would rejoice simultaneously
both in its utter wildness and its "meaningfulness" -- Nature as tajalli (the "shining through" of the divine into creation; the manifestation of each thing as divine light), Nature as an aesthetic realization.

From ~ Sacred Drift: Esasys on the Margins of Islam, pgs. 57, 138-139, 140, 143
By ~ Peter Lamborn Wilson

Al Khidr's Feast Day is April 23.