Saturday, January 14, 2006

Birth of Poet: Fourth Meditation

Meditation IV: Dionysus and Apollo

As I've explored the Birth of a Poet concept, I've been circling around the idea of cyclical time as opposed to linear time. [Please see the first, second, and third posts as a background for this one.] Vocation was the first archetype I wrote about, setting it as the way into deeper meaning in our lives. William Everson, the original impetus for this series of essays, posited two major archetypes for the poet--or anyone who seeks deeper grounding into the mystery of living. To those I will add a third that transcends and includes the first two.

Everson thought that all poets operated under either the Dionysian or the Apollonian archetype. In this view he was echoing Nietzsche and Jung. Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy offered the archetype of Dionysus as the source of intoxication, celebration of nature, cruelty, music, dance, pain, dissolved individuality, orgiastic passion, dissolution of all boundaries, excess, and destruction. Dionysus lives in the realm of cyclical time, closely tied to feminine energies, the seasons, and the consciousness of the body. Nietzsche then offered Apollo as the source for individuation, beauty, adherence to boundaries, individuality, reason, celebration of appearance, self-control, perfection, exhaustion of possibilities, and creation. Apollo lives in the realm of linear time, closely tied to the power of the sun, masculine energy, and rational thought. In essence, Dionysus is god the senses and Apollo is god the mind.

These two archetypes represent the split between body and mind that has plagued humanity for all of our conscious existence. Nietzsche felt that one of these forces was always in control, which would relegate the other aspect to shadow (to use a Jungian term Nietzsche didn't have). The highest form of art, as claimed in The Birth of Tragedy, was dramatic tragedy because it combined the Dionysian chorus with the Apollonian drama.

Jung took up this split in his attempts to explain the psychological sources of creativity. For Jung, the Apollonian artist works with the intent to create an artwork with a specific, well-reasoned message or meaning. The meaning precedes the artwork. On the other hand, the Dionysian artist allows the artwork to flow nearly complete from his/her psyche without conscious intervention. The following quotes from Jung's "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry" (The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature, 65-83), illustrate the point.
There are literary works, prose as well as poetry, that spring wholly from the author's intention to produce a particular result. He submits his material to a definite treatment with a definite aim in view; he adds to it and subtracts from it, emphasizing one effect, toning down another, laying on a touch of color here, another there, all the time carefully considering the over-all result and paying strict attention to the laws of form and style. He exercises the keenest judgment and chooses his words with complete freedom. His material is entirely subordinated to his artistic purpose; he wants to express this and nothing else.

Compare that description of the Apollonian artist to this one of the Dionysian artist.

The other class of works . . . flow more or less complete and perfect from the author's pen. They come as it were fully arrayed into the world, as Pallas Athene sprang from the head of Zeus. These works positively force themselves upon the author; his hand is seized, his pen writes things that his mind contemplates with amazement. The work brings with it its own form; anything he wants to add is rejected, and what he himself would like to reject is thrust back at him.

These are idealized views of the creative process. He based his views on his reading and interpretations of how the text may have been composed.

Yet these ideas are useful and do offer a way to understand two very distinct modes of creation. Most artists/writers fall somewhere toward one mode or the other, but never as extreme as Jung has presented them.

Jung goes on to suggest that the Dionysian artist is working with material erupting from the unconscious mind, and that its wholeness reveals something akin to a complex. For the Dionysian artist, the creative process amounts to being a conduit for symbolic energy to spring from the depths of the unconscious mind--and sometimes, from the collective unconscious. [Jolande Jacobi, the Jungian writer, has written about the close association between the complex, the archetype, and the symbol (Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung), a useful source for understanding Jung's views in the area of creativity.]

William Everson began reading Jung while he was a lay brother in the Dominican Order. The material eventually found its way into two separate books on Robinson Jeffers, both of which approached Jeffers as a religious poet.

Everson saw the Apollonian poet as working on a vertical axis, becoming a prophetic voice working to solve a problem, "a deficit, a hiatus, between the myth, let's say, and the ego-consciousness of the mind. And so he sets himself the great goal of bridging that gap by an adequate symbol" ("The Presence of the Poet," Earth Poetry).

On the other hand, the Dionysian poet works in the manner of a shaman on the horizontal axis, "primitive . . . directly to the infra-rational, the instinctual, the deeps of the memory and imagination. And out of this exposure of themselves, the Dionysian forces in the human psyche will produce a kind of dissolved state of consciousness, where the ego is not sharply focused, is more exposed and open. And out of this open, intuitive state of being the words will begin to find their center of reference and body themselves forth" (Earth Poetry).

To Everson, the Dionysian poet was a shaman, while the Apollonian poet was a prophet. Both are religious, but one is ecstatic (ex stasis, outside of the self) and one is rational. The shaman is a visionary who brings new information from the unconscious into the world. The prophet is the teacher and accuser who both delivers and indicts. As an example, T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland may be the most well-known prophetic poem, while Allen Ginsberg's Howl is primarily shamanic with some prophetic qualities.

The major flaw in this system--as far as integral theory is concerned--is that the two archetypes only cover the Dionysian prepersonal and the Apollonian personal stages of development. Neither offers a stable entry into the transpersonal. Yet each possesses traits of the others, indicating a close relationship--Apollo buries Dionysus at the foot of Mount Parnassus after he is ritually killed and dismembered. While Dionysus can appear as both the youngest of the Olympians and the oldest of the ancient gods, Apollo replaces Dionysus as the Supreme Being when he becomes the sun. Orpheus--the great god of song and music--betrays his allegiance to Dionysus and worships Apollo as the one true god, for which he is killed by Dionysus' Maenads.

Even though Dionysus and Apollo reflect lower human developmental stages, a poet "possessed" by either archetype could experience higher states of consciousness through various modes of ecstasy (drugs, drink, trance, meditation, and so on). These glimpses of higher states would then be interpreted through the lens of the dominant stage of development. [Understanding the distinction between states and stages is important.]

There is nothing wrong with either the Dionysian or the Apollonian archetypes--both can produce important insights and artwork, as well as an ethos for one's life and vocation. However, what is needed is an archetype that transcends and includes these two. We need to transcend and include prepersonal cyclic time with personal linear time to achieve a transpersonal relationship with time (which obviously becomes null and void at the nondual level). We need an artistic archetype that can reach into the transpersonal realm. After searching the Greek pantheon, the only acceptable figure is Odin, from the Norse and Germanic mythology.

Odin combines many of the traits of both Dionysus and Apollo: shape-shifter, hunter and warrior, poet and musician, fury and madness, psychopomp, keeper of wisdom as well as possessor of magic. Odin is both pre-rational and rational, shaman and prophet, perhaps representing his origin at a time when these developmental stages were in transition. Beyond this integration, there are two traits that allow Odin to become an archetype of transcendence.

The first trait is Odin's quest for wisdom and knowledge. "Odin was a compulsive seeker of wisdom, consumed by his passion for knowledge, to the extent that he sacrificed one of his eyes (which one is unclear) to Mimir, in exchange for a drink from the waters of wisdom in Mimir's well" (Wikipedia). He also sends his ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory), to travel the world collecting information whenever needed. The quest for wisdom represents a drive to transcend limitations. But wisdom was not enough for Odin--he needed more.

The second trait that distinguishes Odin is his ritual death and resurrection. Like Jesus, Odin dies for the benefit of humanity. Like Buddha, Odin's "enlightenment" comes at the base of a tree.

He hanged himself from the tree Yggdrasil, whilst pierced by his own spear, to acquire knowledge. He remained thus for nine days and nights, a number deeply significant in Norse magical practice (there were, for example, nine realms of existence), thereby learning nine (later eighteen) magical songs and eighteen magical runes. The purpose of this strange ritual, a god sacrificing himself to himself because there was nothing higher to sacrifice to, was to obtain mystical insight through mortification of the flesh; however, some scholars assert that the Norse believed that insight into the runes could only be truly attained in death.

Some scholars see this scene as influenced by the story of
Christ's crucifixion; and others note the similarity to the story of Buddha's enlightenment. It is in any case also influenced by shamanism, where the symbolic climbing of a "world tree" by the shaman in search of mystic knowledge is a common religious pattern. We know that sacrifices, human or otherwise, to the gods were commonly hung in or from trees, often transfixed by spears. (Wikipedia)

The connection to Jesus had been thought to be a late addition to the myth, but the evidence suggests that the elements of the story predate Norse contact with Christianity (possibly suggesting Jung's collective unconscious as a source of mythic patterns), and likely predate Christianity.

So what we have in Odin is a mythic archetype that offers transcendence as an attribute. Odin offers the possibility of a transpersonal experience in the creation process, and the greater possibility of an integral, transpersonal stage of development. For the Western psyche, he represents the best possibility for a transcendent developmental archetype for the poet/artist (Shiva fills this role in the East).

To my knowledge, Odin represents the first attempt to transcend and include the Nietzschean, Jungian, and Eversonian dichotomy of the religious poet/artist. This is by no means a definitive statement, and I am open to hearing what others think on this subject.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche

My first impressions of Khenpo's teaching from this evening:

The Present Moment. Only this and nothing more, reincarnated again and again, ceaselessly. Past thought is present karma. Present thought is future karma. There is no past and no future. Only the present moment.

We are not the body. We are not the mind. We are not the "I." Self is an illusion. There are only discrete moments. Linear time is an illusion. Self exists only in linear time, therefore linear self is not real. Only the present moment. The present moment is Buddha.

We are not Buddha. We exist in duality. Therefore, strive to increase positive thought (good karma) and decrease negative thought (bad karma). When bad karma is gone, we are Buddha. Until then, do not think, "I must not think." That is thinking. Think good thoughts to eliminate bad thoughts.

Be here now. This present moment. There is nothing else.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tibetan Master Speaks in Tucson

From the Tucson Daily Star:
Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche, who has more than seven years of solitary cave meditation experience in the Himalayas, will give two public teachings in Tucson this week.

His first lecture, "Thinking and Belief," is set for 8 p.m. Friday at the Providence Institute, 3400 E. Speedway, Suite 110. The suggested admittance is $10 to $20. The second lecture, "The Nature of the Mind is True Happiness," is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Bookman's, 6230 E. Speedway, and is free.

Rinpoche is a 33rd generation holder of the Buddhist wisdom lineage of Dzogchen. He also is a lama of Dzogchen Monastery and a professor at Dzogchen Shri Singha University.

I hope to attend one or both of these events.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Poem: Sam Hamill

Black Marsh Eclogue

Although it is midsummer, the great blue heron
holds darkest winter in his hunched shoulders,
those blue-turning-gray clouds
rising over him like a storm from the Pacific.

He stands in the black marsh
more monument than bird, a wizened prophet
returned from a vanished mythology.
He watches the hearts of things

and does not move or speak. But when
at last he flies, his great wings
cover the darkening sky, and slowly,
as though praying, he lifts, almost motionless,

as he pushes the world away.

[From A Dragon in the Clouds, Sam Hamill, Broken Moon Press, 1989.]

Bibliomantic Quote of the Day

Image from Philosophie et spiritualite

This is one of those days when I feel uninspired. It's the busy time of year for personal trainers, so I'm working long days that start too early and go too late.

When I get into a mood like this, I use bibliomancy as a way to peer into what might be going on beneath the surface of my awareness. It's kind of like holding a mirror up to my psyche.

Here's how it works: I pick a book from the stack I am currently reading or one that I found meaningful when I read it. I open myself to whatever I might find in its pages and just open the book. Whatever is on the page I open to, or within two pages of that on either side, is the message for me at that time.

Today I used Pema Chodron's Comfortable with Uncertainty as my book. This is the page I opened to:

Slogan: "Abandon any hope of fruition"

"Fruition" implies that at some future time you will feel good. One of the most powerful Buddhist teachings is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you're wanting yourself to get better, you won't. As long as you are oriented toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.

One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is the feeling that the present moment is not good enough. We frequently think back to the past, which maybe was better than now, or perhaps worse. We also think ahead quite a bit to the future, always holding out hope that it will be a little bit better than now. Even if things are going really well now, we usually don't give ourselves full credit for who we are in the present.

This addresses exactly what I am dealing with right now. I'm working too many hours, and it will go on for a few weeks. I am telling myself: "Just suck it up. You'll get through it, and then you'll have more time to write." Instead of being with whatever is happening right now, I'm postponing my life until these few weeks are over. Rather than BE HERE NOW, I am waiting for "then" to come--and feeling adrift in the meantime.

Putting off "now" until a future time makes me feel disconnected, abstracted, ungrounded, and unhinged. It's like removing my soul, setting it in the corner and saying, "Be good and we'll go out and play in a couple of weeks." I want to play now.

I love my job, so it's not that I hate going to work. I've gotten spoiled only having to work 20 to 30 hours a week, so working 45 to 50 is tough. I need the time to meditate, write my blogs, think, read, spend time with my girlfriend, and be a vegetable. I need to nurture myself better--even when I am as busy as this. I can't put "now" off until tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

So it is resolved: I will try to be here now, and I will try to be mindful of when I am waiting for things to be better at some future time.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How Big Is Our Umbrella?

The debate over Integral and conservative has self-combusted, but some of us learned new things from the experience. Isn't that the point? I want to post one last piece on the subject of Integral, then I will leave it to greater minds to hash out the details of our new Integral vision (at least until I have time to post an Integral "Defense of the Spiral").

Some object to Wilber being the "orthodoxy" of Integral, but we all owe to him our presence in this space discussing this topic. That is no small thing. So I just want to post a few of Wilber's own words on the definition of Integral.

What is important is not my particular version of an integral view, but rather that we all begin to enter into this extraordinary dialogue about the possibility of an integral approach in general, an approach that--we can say this in several different ways--integrates the hard-headed with the soft-hearted, the natural sciences with the noetic sciences, objective realities with subjective realities, the empirical with the transcendental.

And so let us hope that a decade from now somebody might spot a great mega-trend in consciousness studies--namely, the truly integral--and let it start right now with all of us who share this concern for holism, for embrace, for synthesizing, for integrating: let this outreach start with us, right here, right now.

Is a genuinely integral theory of consciousness even possible? Well, that would be my question to you all, and that would be my challenge. How big is our umbrella? How wide and and how deep can we throw our net of good will? How many voices will we allow in this chorus of consciousness? How many faces of the Divine will smile on our endeavor? How many colors will we genuinely acknowledge in our rainbow coalition?

Ken Wilber, One Taste, 376

'Nuf said.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kalachakra Mandala

Image from Buddha Words

It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha's extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, "My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?"
"No," said the Buddha.
"Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?"
Again the Buddha answered, "No."
"Are you a man?"
"Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, "I am awake."

The Kalachakra began on Friday in Amaravathi. Tyson Williams has a link to a photo gallery for the event.

A little bit about the Kalachakra mandala:

The Kalachakra sand mandala is dedicated to peace and physical balance, both for individual and for the world, thanks to the deities carefully among minute human, animal and floral forms, abstract pictographs, and the Sanskrit syllables that comprises the mandala's design.

Although depicted here on a flat surface, the mandala is actually three-dimensional, being a five-storeyed "divine mansion", at the centre of which stands the Kalachakra deity the manifest state of Enlightenment.

A person who simply sees this mandala many feel peace on many levels. According to the Dalai Lama, the Kalachakra deities create a favourable atmosphere, reducing tension and violence in the world. "It is a way of planting a seed, and the seed will have karmic effect. One doesn't need to be present at the Kalachakra ceremony in order to receive its benefits," he explains.