Poem:When Wanting Overtakes

Cove

When wanting overtakes

Poetry keeps me sane

Eating the scum off lakes

And the potatoes the sun bakes

Jupiter sends roadkill

From the Pathways of Space

It’s nice of them to send charity

At this lonely hour

Of wind and wuthered blankets

And unrivaled showers

We’ll smuggle out the hope

To craggy cove

Before the season’s out

Before the season’s shout

Book Blog: ‘Road To Heaven’ by Bill Porter

Bill POrter

ROAD TO HEAVEN: ENCOUNTERS WITH CHINESE HERMITS

China’s history has long been feted with legends of mysterious recluses and hermits, living in the remote mountains of The Middle Kingdom’s fairy-tale landscapes. These recluses have traditionally been Taoist non-conformists, who have removed themselves from the inequalities and dust of the world, to pursue The Way, and cultivate spiritual immortality. Occasionally, these hermits have appeared from their seclusion to offer wisdom and political advice. But since the persecution of Buddhists and Taoist by Communists during The Cultural Revolution, it was believed that this institution had largely been destroyed.

But was that really the case?

Driven on by rumors and uncertain testimony, Bill Porter – (translator of many esteemed Chinese Poets and Buddhist/Taoist sutras)  – travels into the mysterious sacred mountains of China, hoping to meet some modern-day hermits, who are keeping this tradition alive.

Along the way, he meets myriad Zen and Taoist hermits, living in remote and inaccessible locations; and passes such sacred locations as the observatory tower commemorating the place where Lao Tzu penned The ‘Tao Te Ching’ before disappearing into the West on his ox. He meets  monks and nuns with whom he discusses nothingness and the uneasiness of spiritual practice within modern China, whilst dispersing the accounts of his journey with tales from Chinese history, mythology, and mystical exegesis.

In one amusing account, Bill visits a Taoist temple, where he jokes that his rather wizened looking photographer is at least 700 hundred years old. Given that Taoists take such matters as immortality and longevity seriously, he did feel quite guilty when he had to confide to them that he was not even a-hundred.

And yet, even in spite of the fruits of his search, I can’t help but feel that their must be myriads of  Taoist sages of high attainment, living in locations so remote, no ordinary mortal could possibly access them, untouched by the ravages of time, or the catastrophe of The Cultural Revolution.

An inspiring and exciting read, I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in Taoism, Zen, or Chinese History and Mythology.

Poem: The Violence of Waiting

Shadow

I come into my room

Where the scent of piss

Wafts across the chaise lounge

Nailed up cupids

Disdaining to swear

Lavish the carpet

With their broken teeth

Uniting dentists in yearning

Who can put that brush

Between the gravid teeth

Of my ambition?

Music catastrophizing through my veins

And longing to be sung

I’d feed you my skin

If you could make it all happen

But let’s not turn corrupt

 Through The Violence of Waiting

Mouthed words of violence

Seduce me from my golden tomb

And you’ll find me

In The Palace of Nimrud

Lying in a pile of coats

Until the party’s over

Egyptian Art and the Sacred

XIR218945
Statue of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet,

Last week I went to the Art Gallery and Museum in Bristol. I originally went there to meet up with my friend and my partner. But, as soon as I entered into the main hall, my mind was on other things.

To my right, there were two enormous statues of Gods and Goddesses from Ancient Egypt.  Having long studied this ancient culture, I was familiar with these objects from books and movies; but, actually seeing them in the flesh was not an experience I could have prepared myself for. It was a life-changing experience.

But that was just the intro. The two statues just signaled the entrance to a whole exhibit on Ancient Egyptian artifacts. Within, the exhibit had been carefully crafted to give the visitor a sense of the numinous, the sacred, the mysterious and dangerous. The lights were kept so low that everything except the artifacts was enshrouded in darkness, and overhead speakers played ambient sounds of the birds and other wildlife one would expect to here in The Land of the Nile.

As I entered, I was filled with fear, dread, and awe. I came face to face with ancient sarcophagi, ushabti, and other ritual objects, all engraved with sacred hieroglyphs. Such was my reverence for them that I could scarcely bring myself to look at them. I felt like one of the prophets in The Old Testament or The Book of Enoch, who, coming face to face with an Angel or a Watcher, were unable to look directly into their shining faces. Though these things were fashioned many millennia ago, they still had a living presence, and the prana of those long-passed tingled through my body. The collected veneration, awe, faith, and mystic feelings of millions commingled in my being, demonstrating that time is an illusion for that which is eternal.

The best however, was in the Assyrian exhibit adjacent, which included several walls taken directly from The Palace of Nimrud, including this Gryphon:

Gryphon

The chi still emanating from it was intense. It made me want to fall to my knees and weep, and I came very close to doing so. Even when I came back the next day, the effect had not diminished, and I still felt unworthy and terrified in its presence.

In comparison, the exhibits of the European masters were disappointing. In their paintings (except for one or two masterpieces) I did not find a numinous or living energy; only the dead ego and pomp of vainglorious artists searching for fame, renown, and wealth. There was no spirit in these paintings, and it was a misery to look at them.

Art is never just art for its own sake. Until it is imbued with the sincere and devoted spirit of those who create it, it is just a meaningless exhibition of talent, waiting to filled with truth and life.

 

 

Book Blog:’The Story of Tibet’ by Thomas Laird

Tibet

The Story of Tibet: Conversations With The Dalai Lama by Thomas Laird is a history book with a difference. Though I love learning about history, I find most historians difficult to cope with. With their obsession with dates, factuality, and the arrogance with which they dismiss all mystical beliefs, they are very well-versed in arousing my disinterest. In my opinion, history is not just comprised of ‘facts’ – (an ugly, ridiculous, humiliation of a word) – but of popular belief, folklore, mythology, and philosophy. It is incumbent on the historian to get into the mindset of the people they are historicizing – not to engage in supercilious ‘Aren’t we better now that we have electricity and Bingo’type ignorance.

But, as this history is compiled largely from dialogues with The Dalai Lama, we get an altogether different type of history. Being a Buddhist and a man of wisdom, His Holiness is very quick to assert that every historical event can be witnessed from two perspectives – ‘the mundane’, which deals with the facts and figures capable of being perceived by everyone; – and ‘the special’ in which an extra dimension is added,  and the actions of history begin to take on a more spiritual and esoteric tenor.

Through these dialogues, we are taken from the earliest mythic beginnings of the Tibetan peoples, who were believed to be the progeny of a monkey and a black demon, infused with the spirit of Chenrizi. We learn about the difficult life of the poet and sorcerer Milarepa, who was treated very badly by his tutor to atone for bad karma; and of The “Great” Fifth Dalai who was responsible for initiating the Tibetan empire and bringing the Buddha Dharma into Tibet. All the way up to the present day of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet.

The push and pull between the author and The Dalai Lama in the book enables a positive outcome. Thomas Laird’s willingness to challenge His Holiness enables us to see a deeper and more human side of this spiritual hero than we have been hitherto granted; and The Dalai Lama’s wisdom and compassion rub off on Thomas, which enables him to present this great history in a much broader and multi-dimensional fashion. Underlying all this is the reminder of what this history proves on a political level: that there is no historical justification for Tibet’s occupation by China, and that the state of independence it has long held should swiftly be returned to it.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an insight into this great country, as well as a look into the heart and soul of the great man so emblematic of it. Reading this book was very inspiring to me, and only spurred me on in the pursuit of my Buddhist studies and practice. May it do the same for you.

 

Poem: World’s End

Stained

The sacred will become mundane

The Pyramids of Giza

Will be turned into gift shops

And the Parthenon

Will rehouse

 A shopping mall

Machu Picchu –

Isn’t that just the best place

For a rotating restaurant?

But then the calamity will come

Archaeologists will walk through Aldi

Thinking it a temple of the unknown ancients

Where offerings were stacked out

In neat little aisles

And the priests had nametags

And conveyor-belt altars

On which discount hieroglyphs were inscribed:

World’s End

World’s Never End

World Without End

Mindfulness of the Body: Walking/Standing

 

Tai_Chi1

MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY

Mindfulness of the body is important, because the body is the house of the soul. Anyone who meditates regularly will tell you that meditation becomes much, much harder if we’re ill or in pain, as it triples the number of distractions we normally face.

For this reason, it is essential to cultivate a relaxed awareness of your body at all times. So often, we wear our body like a cheap suit, ignoring the pain we put it through, and treating it badly. As a massage therapist, I regularly treat people who have chronic muscular tension and inflexibility in certain parts of their body, through moving their body incorrectly, or attachment to lazy postures.

The best way to prevent this sort of pain is to adopt an awareness of how to use and move your body, so that such things never occur.

Let’s start by looking at the way we walk and stand.

STANDING/WALKING

When stood upright, do you have a tendency to slouch forwards, or hunch your shoulder? It is advisable to avoid this, as, besides causing muscular tension in our shoulders and neck, it also compresses our chest muscles, reducing our capacity to breath easily and deeply. Rather, our shoulders should be broad, rounded, yet relaxed, causing our chest to inflate.

One good way to reverse this is ‘The Emperor’s Walk’ in which we walk with our hands clasped behind our back, like Prince Charles. This effortless stance bring our shoulders blades together, broadens our chest, and straightens our posture and spine. It’ll also make you feel pretty important and wistful!

One word of advice from Tai Chi masters is that ‘Raising our head raises our spirits.’ Many of us walk around with our gazes lowered, looking at the floor. But when we keep our head and neck upright, and gaze directly before us, not only does it correct out posture, but it helps us to feel more aware, alert, confident, and strong. How can you be truly mindful of yourself and your surroundings if you’re looking at the ground all the time? Raise your head, confront reality, and you’ll feel much better!

In general, when it comes to walking and moving, so long as you remain upright, yet relaxed, you will be in much greater harmony with your body and the world around you.

 

Book Blog: ‘The Journey Through Wales’ by Gerald of Wales

Journey Through Wales

Gerald of Wales was an archdeacon, historian and scholar during the 12th and 13th Centuries of Medieval Britain. His classic ‘Journey Through Wales,’ written for the Archbishop of Canterbury, narrates their Journey through the length and breadth of Wales on a Mission of conversion to The Cross.

However, Gerald is not so much interested in presenting a systematic history of Wales, or on preaching the Word of God, as he is in entertaining the reader. In an idiosyncratic manner that is completely at odds with the dry, ostensibly ‘factual’ histories of today, Gerald bombards the reader with story after story – some personally experienced, others the stuff of legend – that all contribute towards creating a colorful, wild, rambunctious, and idyllic picture of Wales as it existed at that time. I particularly enjoyed his description of living a quiet, monastic life in the unspoiled Brecons, happily embracing poverty, and rejoicing in simplicity. And something of the tangential rambunctiousness of it made me think of those two wild Chinese classics ‘The Chuang Tzu’ and ‘The Classic of Mountains and Seas.’

Keen to show off his erudition at every turn, Gerald inserts appropriate quotes from Roman and Greek poets whenever he can, whilst regaling the wildest of stories. He recounts one lurid tale about a man – presumably impregnated by a demon – who spent 3 years – 3 years! – giving birth to a calf. Gerald doesn’t explain the logistics of it, or why the man didn’t beg to be killed during his bovine nativity, but it certainly gives the reader some discomfited pause for thought, as we imagine what it would be like to give birth to a cow.

He tells stories of men and women eaten up by a plague of frogs; ‘miracles’ in which people become inexplicably glued to monastic architecture; and a magical rock in North Wales, which, no matter how far it is carried from it resting place – even on a sea voyage – it will always return to exactly the same place the next day.

My favorite story of all, perhaps, is about a soothsayer, whom Gerald knew personally, who was renowned for his accuracy in predicting the future and reading people’s minds, thanks to his ability to converse with demons. But he had not always exhibited such psychic prowess. He had once been a humble country man, who was very much in love with a beautiful local lady. Though they were both enamored of one another, they were never able to consummate their union, until finally the right opportunity struck, and they lay with one another, ‘tasting of eachother’s delights.’

But, all was not as fortuitous as it seemed, for, when the man re-opened his eyes to look at his love, he discovered that she was a hideous monster, completely covered with hair – I imagine, looking something like the 12th Century equivalent of Chewbacca. The sight caused him to lose his senses, and he remained in a state of madness for three years. When he finally returned to a state of normalcy, he found he was able to see and speak freely with demons and spirits, whose comings and goings were visible everywhere, and interfering with humanity on every possible footing.

Gerald’s love of the lurid makes reading every page a delight, and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in a much more personal and amusing insight into our ancient past.

Poem:That Golden Thread

The Golden Thread

Crows don’t sing
The same song as Robins
A Fly does not share
The same wings as an Eagle
Every meter
A different culture
A different viewpoint
Is Advanced
We are not the same
But the golden thread of Life
Unites us all
Making us all the same
So cast off deceptive
Outward garments
And walk the tightrope
Of that Golden Thread

Book Blog: ‘Out of Egypt’ by Ahmed Osman

OUt of Egypt

 

The first book to be featured in my book blog is ‘Out of Egypt: The Roots of Christianity Revealed’ by Ahmed Osman. In this book, the author questions the historicity of many of the most prominent Jewish Prophets in The Old Testament of The Bible, and suggests that they may have actually been Egyptian Pharaohs and Politicians. Drawing on both scriptural and historical evidence, the argument he puts forward is both exciting and fascinating.

Joseph and his mistranslated multi-colored coat may have actually been a powerful minister called ‘Yuya.’ Egyptian officials typically took the name of their patron god as their last name. But there is no ‘Ya’ in the Egyptian pantheon, and nor can the name be spelled properly using Egyptian hieroglyphs, causing the author to suggest that Yuya was a foreigner (like the Biblical Jospeh) and that ‘Ya’ was a contraction of Yahweh or Jehovah. His life mirrors that of Joseph, and, beside the Pharaoh, his authority was second to none.

King David is associated with Thutmosis III; Amenhotep III is believed to be the historical King Solomon. Most interesting to my mind, however, was the equation of Moses with the radical pharaoh Akhenaten. The similarities between them are overwhelming. In famously pantheistic Egypt (as all religions were at the time), Akhenaten had the audacity to suggest that there was only one true god – the Solar Deity Aten. Such was his conviction in this, that he banned worship of all other gods and had their temples, artifacts, and mention in scripture destroyed. Sound familiar? This did not earn him any popularity, and he was forced to go into exile and eventually abdicate, just as Moses was forced to flee Egypt after murdering a slave-trader. Most interesting of all was the suggestion that the holy name of god ‘Adonai’ featured in The Old Testament, was actually a Hebraic corruption of the name of Akhenaten’s God, Aten. Other similarities include Akhenaten’s disbelief in the afterlife, and the belief that all that was dark was evil – a corruption of earlier religions, that had been much more balanced in this regard.

Of course, all of this is quite removed from the history Christianity has presented of itself; so Osman delineates the sequence of events, and the purposeful distortion of history, that led to the manufacturing of Christianity as we know it today.

Christianity originally stemmed from two main groups – The Essenes and The Gnostics – who, themselves, stemmed from Ancient Mystery Religions such as The Therapeutae, dating all the way back to the practice of shamanism.

As one of the few people who have read the Gnostic Gospels – (a corpus of early Christian literature, most of which pre-dated, or served as highly-censored source material of The New Testament) – discovered in Nag Hammadi in 1945, I can say that the beliefs of the early Christians bear little or no relation to how Christianity has been understood or practiced throughout the last twenty centuries. Their beliefs are a lot more aligned with those of Eastern philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism, or Hinduism, as well as Platonism and Pythagoreanism; and, indeed, if you were to place these scriptures alongside, say, The Upanishads or the Tao Te Ching, you would find many overwhelming parallels.

The Gnostics believed in reincarnation, practiced meditation, as well as secret initiation rites that would bear a lot of resemblance to Buddhist and Hindu Tantra. Christ is not once spoken of as contemporary historical figure; rather, he is treated as a spiritual principle, representing a state of purified being and consciousness. Interestingly, both these groups, and their Egyptian forebears, would wear aprons during these rites, which, of course, is still a practice carried on in Freemasonry today.

But the enlightened beliefs of the Gnostics were seen as a threat Roman imperial forces. The fact that they were without hierarchy, practiced sexual equality, and believed that one’s understanding of god was a personal, internal experience, and not something that could be mediated by a priest, meant that they could not be controlled or manipulated – something that was anathema to the oppressive Roman State.

Rather than destroy these religious groups, who were fearless and resistant, Rome sought to create its own ‘Official’ State-Approved version of Christianity – a hierarchical, corrupt patriarchy, who would denounce as a heretic anyone who preached a mystical relationship with Christ, or who questioned the historicity of The New Testament. Thus, a religion that was designed to liberate people, was deliberately transformed into a religion to control and enslave, initiating The Dark Ages, and causing an untold amount of deaths and suffering.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in religious history, or who favor a revisionist approach to the stories of The Bible.