Sunday, April 04, 2010


a Spiral Dance essay

A woodpecker taps in my fruit tree behind the porch, as I sit quietly in the morning. Loud geese fly over at the same moment.

Easter morning. Have I come back to life? “He is risen, indeed.” That’s how I feel. I feel like this is my personal Easter, not a traditional religious one. I went to bed at midnight, and woke early today. Last night I set large candles burning outside the front door, like a stone door’s path into darkness and back into light. I make little rituals intuitively, not always knowing what I’m doing, even later. Last night was a candlelit night throughout the house. The two candles marking the path to my door marked a return of spirit: the trail to the entrance: the way back home, and into the kingdom of heaven. This all sounds so inflated and pretentious, but I feel very humble before the act itself. Words can betray us because they make something visceral into a mere abstraction of itself: the sign that stands in for the thing is not itself the thing. I haven’t listened to any music yet today, yet what I hear in my head is Fauré’s Requiem, which ends with a sublime “In Paradisum.” In Paradise we return home to ourselves, to our oneness with the divine.

A part of the day is waiting. Waiting till I need to leave home to go do what I’m supposed to do. Waiting to come back to life. In the meantime, we sit and contemplate our lives. I can feel the eros moving in me, like a tide of energy that reaches to the ends of each limb; but I feel no need to express it sexually in any usual way today; I am not drawn to physical sex, this morning, even as I feel the tingle of eros everywhere. This is neither denial nor transcendence of sexuality: I neither repress nor exalt. It’s the expression of pansexuality.

Watching a red-headed woodpecker tap his head against the fruit tree’s mid-level branches this morning was an erotic experience, as was hearing the Canadian geese flying north immediately above my roof-beam. Drinking hot sweet tea as I nibbled at fresh warm cinnamon toast dripping with melted butter was an erotic experience. Chickadees bounce in the spruce branches, filled with the quick fire of living. The robins have been around for awhile, but now I am hearing the territorial call of a redwing blackbird, which for me is the true sign of spring’s return. The world is coming back to life, and under every feather and flower bud pulses a white glow and spark of life-force like a river of sunlight fire running across the nerves and veins of the created world. The surfaces of things are the illusion; the fire within is what’s real. Matter is only slow energy—everything is in vibration, even what we consider to be dead.

It is easy to be drawn into simple adoration of the life-force today, the contemplation of the everyday ecstatic awareness. I spend many days with these feelings running through; they become an ordinary experience of the extraordinary. Mostly you must keep silent about it: let it play out, throughout the day, without drawing special attention to it. Nothing dissipates ecstasy like overly-dramatized awe. Sometimes it’s a relief to step into one’s head, and just be notionally rational for awhile. Yet when this awareness of the eros is upon you, it is an affirmation of life, of the return to life, after days spent in the valley of the shadow of death.

The truth of illusion, of maya, of the illusion of existence, is that what we take to be real isn’t, and what we have been taught to dismiss is what’s far more real and solid than we are ourselves. What we take to be real is but a dream, while what we assume to be Dreamtime is more real than anything we can trip over in waking life. Some mornings you see all the sparks flowing, the tracks and patterns of the white light that is the constituent force of being, the inner-visual representation of the vibratory force of living. We know now from the new physics that everything we believe to be solid and material is made of living light: matter is energy, and energy forms into matter. The world is made of light, which strobes in and out of existence nine billion times a second.

I sit comfortably nude on my porch, feeling the sunlight on my thighs, and the soft fabric of the chair against my backside. The wind is christening the tree branches with early pollen. A squirrel jumps up and down on a spruce branch making a small cloud of fog from loosened dust.

Sexuality is a celebration of the life-force, of the eros. Flowers are the sexual organs of plants. Humans expressing sexual union are flowering, and orgasm is the explosion of blooms that emerge from the soil and muck of our lives. We are the healthy roses that grow from the shit and blood.

There is a known and well-practiced sensuality of going through the day naked, physically if not emotionally. Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his Journals of the necessity to wear fine fabrics against the skin, to be sensual and embodied, to live in chambers draped with fine colors and textures, to eat and drink fine foods and beverages; in short, to stimulate the senses so that the mind too is full, sensually alive and aware. I do my morning chores without bothering to get dressed, I sit and write in the morning before dressing. I feel very much alive, although not at the moment explicitly, actively sexual. There is sometimes no need to express sexually the erotics of everyday life. If we focus too much on the orgasm we can miss how the rest of existence is equally orgiastic. Three male robins are chasing each other through my trees, games of territory and dominance, loudly chirping the whole time.

Anoint the body with fine oils and lotions, as depicted in the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. How ironic the paradox of body-hating anti-sensualist clerics whose own scared texts are themselves so sensual; perhaps this paradox can help explain another paradox, that of clerical sexual misconduct. Any good depth psychologist will remind you that what you repress here will emerge over there, twice as strong, often distorted and laced with shadows. The origins of the oppression of others must logically lie in repression of the self: telling others how to behave is but a reflection of one’s deep inner knowledge of one’s own inner misbehavior. What we judge in others is what we hate most in ourselves. What we hide from ourselves won’t leave us alone.

The morning has been clear and sunny, yet now braided clouds are moving in. The winds chase them into whorls of gray ink. The clouds are layered, thick with strange shapes and patterns. A storm could arise at any time.

Too easily we divert eros in orgasm, we go for the payoff and forget to enjoy the journey. I am a very sensual person, a very sex-positive person, and I judge no-one for what they do when they make love. The only sin I can perceive in sexuality is coercion without consent: forcing one’s ego-will upon another person without their agreement. Making love increases the eros, the life-force, it brings more light into the Universe, and if only for a moment slows down the inevitable heat-death at the end of time. Entropy is our great myth of modern times, replacing the doctrines that no longer give us stories we can embrace or believe in. Making love is anentropic. Coercion is entropic. Sin is entropic: it brings about the great death that much sooner. Hatred and unforgiveness are entropic, contradictions of the life-force itself: those who claim to be fighting against the Adversary often do the Adversary’s work when they become humorless and ideologically fixed. The Adversary’s game-plan is to convince you he does not exist; that death and despair are the reality of existence, and that there is no love. But the Adversary’s failing is that in its pride it cannot love: it runs away from the eros, the life-force, it cannot abide genuine love. When you make love, when you anoint the beloved, as in the Songs of Songs, the Divine is what is present. The eros brings us back to life, and closer to life. Entropy is what tries to convince us life isn’t worth living.

Despair is a theology of material rationality without spiritual content. Dry and deadly dull academic literature is a theology of grammar: but all the artistic craft in the world is useless if you have no subject, if you have nothing to say. Subject-subject consciousness, as defined by Harry Hay, and developed by a couple of generations of Radical Faeries in his wake, makes the Other into the Self: we are One. “The spear in my brother’s heart is the spear in my own heart.” If we are all subjects, all one, there can be no separation between us. We may celebrate diversity as many manifestations of the One. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” The masks of god are endless and endlessly strange. Anoint the body of your beloved, as you are anointed yourself by the Beloved. “The eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me.” So said Meister Eckhart, the 14th century mystic.

The 20th century mystic, Thomas Merton, who came into his full flowering after encountering the Zen of Meister Eckhart, and the Zen of Zen, wrote, “It is not true that the saints and the great contemplatives never loved created things, and had no understanding or appreciation of the world, with its sights and sounds and the people living in it. They loved everything and everyone.” A Tungus shaman sang a chant, recorded by a 19th century anthropologist, the repeated refrain of which was, “Everything that is, is alive.” It’s a horrible, tragic mistake to denigrate created things, ti divide and dismiss them from spirit. It is human hubris to imagine that anything created by a loving God could be less than perfect, and less than loved. Spirit that moves in all things, the living spirit, is the same as that living electricity that we can see flowing in the world today, that living fire, the light of creation, the light that is Creation. What is material is not other than spiritual: just as matter and energy are known to be one by the physicists, spirit and flesh are known to be one by the mystics and saints.

Despair is an aspect of hubris, an extreme aspect of self-love: it can see only itself, it cannot see outside the box it finds itself in. Despair says, because we lack the strength to do what we wish to do, we must give up before we even make the attempt. Despair says, why bother? There is no humility in this: no humble acceptance that all of life is greater than I. I see the sparks of eros moving through even the floorboards of my house today, and I know I am only part of a much greater circuit. The electricity that I see moving in all things, and in my self, is all part of a much greater interconnected circuit; I am only one eddy in that greater river, and everything I can perceive is only one bend of that river that flows endlessly on, circling the world, far beyond my sight.

When we say that “god is dead” what we mean is that we can’t find the eros of everyday life. Dryness of spirit, like abuse of power, comes as no surprise. When Nietzsche first proclaimed that “God is dead!” he meant that the old, sterile, facile images of god (imago dei) were all used up and dried out. Nietzsche meant to proclaim this as a liberation, a falling away of the old and sterile in order that something new and very much alive might take its place. Far too many people have misunderstood: Nietzche was not in fact proclaiming the beginning of despair, but it’s end-point. “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” Destroy all images you have of god so that the authentic living Godhead might come in to replace them. Meister Eckhart proclaimed, some centuries before Nietzche, “I pray to God to rid me of God.” He meant that the facile, easy images of the gods that we carry around in us and call upon without much thought, are all false gods. Thomas Merton wrote, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” Love is eros, love is the life-force, love is life: we swim in a sea of lifelove, if only we would take notice. Here is the cardinal pair that lives in my pines, come to stand in the wind on the lawn, and peck after fallen pine-nuts, before swooping crazily home. Everything that is, is alive.

In three days of strange hot afternoons that have come far too early in the year the lawn is green, the flowers have exploded into bloom, and everywhere birds are doing their mating dances. The sap is rising in the trees. In three days, the trees have budded out. In the woods what was dry and brown and gray and sterile is now misted with yellow-green, the tips and fronds of shrubs and trees alike suddenly haloed with new life. The sap is rising in everything that is enfleshed. Anoint the body, the sap is rising. We are all coming back to life, at last.

(Previous Spiral Dance essays can be found here.)

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Interesting. And yet when the Bible talks about God being love the Greek word is agape, not eros. Creation is presented as an act of principle not of passion. I realise you’re talking about God in a much broader sense than the Christian one but it’s still unusual, to my ears, your take on eros. For “erotic” I have to say I read “sensual” and when you were sitting butt naked on your porch I was wandering round with my winter coat, woolly hat and scarf on and there was nothing erotic going on whatsoever.

Of course the way nature (and big business) generally applies the Golden Rule is a bit less altruistic: Do unto others first before they get a chance to do unto you. In other words: Eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, screw or be screwed.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

The Greeks had many, many words for what the English language all lumps into "love." I think the Greeks had a better sense of it, with their distinctions.

Storge, philokalia, eros, agape, mania, etc.

I'd have to go back and look it up, but I'm pretty sure that more than "agape" was used in the Bible.

There's a concept called metalaw, which is pretty advanced. It's basic tenet is "Do unto others as they would have themselves be done unto." That goes a long way towards mutual understanding, if you think about it.

2:00 AM  

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