OF PASSIONS AND ANCIENT DAYS
Painting in the imperfect tense is a description of people, places, feelings, and incidents of the past not tethered to one specific moment or point but implying continuity.
Painting is always imperfect.
A neutral palette creates a relationship of clarity and obfuscation; such is the way of the murky water and the dusty mirror. Murky water is turbid; let it settle and it clears. A dusty mirror is dim; clean it and it reflects.
The Odyssey began with Odysseus’ first step out the doorway but the minute he got on the boat it became historical adventure. The same can be said for painting. You can begin with an intention, a mark, but the journey is fraught with unexpected tumult.
Painting is chopping wood and carrying water.
“And so, when a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether it’s to young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment.”
We search for meaning when letters can be read. We piece language together like a puzzle. But when we can’t decipher, when we are faced with the appearance of gibberish, letters turn into symbols, lines, and shapes. We must appreciate them as such. One can only imagine what they mean, and it is in the imagining miasma that the past becomes present.
This morning is just as over as the Peloponnesian war.
Perhaps text carries with it emotional implications as it passes through time. I postulate that a present generation’s body-pain is nothing more than an ancestor’s toothache. Why can’t a letter, a glyph, a scribbling on a wall in the Athenian Agora carry a weight and significance still psychically understood today but simultaneously completely meaningless?
It is C. P. Cavafy who writes in poetry the animus of my painting.
In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Carl Jung made some important final remarks about anima and animus: “In so far as the spirit is also a kind of ‘window on eternity’. . . it conveys to the soul a certain influx divinus . . . and the knowledge of a higher system of the world, wherein consists precisely its supposed animation of the soul.”
The writing’s on the wall. Who am I to blow against the wind?
Suppose we felt the way the Ancient Greeks did? Burn some Frankincense, some clove. Sit quietly in a room with a mottled stone floor. Fill a ceramic krater with 3/4 wine and 1/4 water. Try to place yourself out of time, to transcend this consciousness . . . Then breathe deep and inhale the furtive fragrance of the past. Where does it take you?
“Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live. What is required for that is to stop courageously at the surface, the fold, the skin, to adore appearances, to believe in forms, tones, words, in the whole Olympus of appearance. Those Greeks were superficial—out of profundity.”
HOW TO DO ANYTHING II
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MICHAEL DECKER
1. Remember the experience of your own death, that which always precedes you.
2. Get a facelift in Hong Kong. Go to a party two weeks later with the stitches still flossed through your skin, black wires sticking out at the base of your earlobes. Stand by the tiered cheese plate, pinch the wires between your fingertips and pull, undoing yourself, the topography of your face hastily rolling up like a window shade to expose the natural light.
3. Apply the paranoid critical method of perceiving multiple images in the same configuration.
4. Leave your house. Leave your family and all your belongings. Leave everything you’ve ever loved in order to be rewarded with its loss.
5. Revere your cat for her petulance, for her impossible pink sheen.
6. Collect exes like books on a shelf: an encyclopedic library.
7. Become an artist to seduce your father.
8. If you don’t have one already, gain an enemy, so that she may act as a container for your own worst traits.
9. Remember so that you will not forget, but also to remember that the act of remembering can itself be an act of forgetting.
10. Cultivate a sick and elegant mind.
11. Stay up all night fighting until both parties experience a reciprocal loss of will.
12. Watch Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, followed by Semiotics of the Kitchen, and leave the house, wearing what you’ve seen like armor for the day.
13. Transfer subjectivity from one machine (video) to another (body).
14. Be legible to everyone, and indecipherable to yourself.
15. Translate this phrase from French: Holifart whatastink!
16. Become involuntarily confined to a state psychiatric hospital under section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code for a seventy-two-hour hold, whereupon you prove yourself to be a danger to others and yourself by organizing a savage insurrection in the adolescent ward on your very first night.
17. Pervert the situation by performing moves that you know will make him flaccid.
18. Speak in another language when you are approached.
19. Peek through the chipped hole in the painted-over window to see your mother walking past the guards with a visitor’s badge pinned to her chest, and remember when you were eleven, trying on her padded bra in front of the mirror, the soft curvature of the sculpted foam cups a beige three shades lighter than your own.
20. Smell last winter’s perfume on your coat; a message to yourself from the past.
21. Tell them that you’re not here to get well. You’re here to be mad.
22. Bring something out in them that you’re not capable of doing yourself.
23. Eradicate a singular position by changing your identity according to where you are and what you’re doing, inhabiting several realities at the same time.
24. Note the temporal uncanniness of imprisonment. Every day is an eternity.
25. Collect garbage for a week. Wear it as a dress on Sunday.
26. Pull out all your teeth, but grow your hair out long and beautiful.
27. Get lost. Drive around in your old car, park it on the side of the road, and sleep beneath it on the cold asphalt for however many days, weeks, months, years, it takes until you determine a new destination.
28. Fuck the police. No, really, have sex with a police officer.
29. Realize that all your memories are a fiction, a retrospective projection onto the past, date-stamped by subsequent events, delusions, and desires.
30. Prepare your face for public consumption with the knowledge that its presence is a technical infrastructure grounded in specific facial encounters through time and space.
31. Choose your references with intentionality and responsibility.
32. Lace his drink with amphetamines. Talk endlessly about your life and, for once, hold captive an attentive listener.
33. Prove that your analyst is a turd by berating him, week after week, until he breaks down.
34. Search for images of him on the internet. Aggregate a collection of them and arrange them like a time-lapse, a succession of images documenting his rapid hair loss. On your last session, bring them in as evidence of why you can no longer see him.
35. Start following people on the street because you’re bored, because you have no friends. Order what they order in restaurants. Watch what they watch in movie theatres. Climax how they climax.
36. Refuse being psychologically destroyed by others, by allowing yourself to go deep, to be very very bad.
37. Text them photos presenting evidence of the woundings.
38. Take Mandarin language and kung fu classes in order to meet women and communicate with them in their own language.
39. Occupy your time with activities like gluing paper and sorting beans.
40. Change your mind as often as you’d like. Go back on your word. Once you’ve achieved a nadir of disrepute, you will attain true freedom.
41. Work from a position of oppression, because this is the particular locale of all women’s work, explicit and insistent.
42. Look at the sky until it has no color.
43. Look in the mirror at your own reflection until you have no face.
44. Bring a screwdriver with you to the Jane hotel. Sit at the bar. Without looking, unscrew the monkey coat hanger cast in bronze affixed beneath the bar top and slip it into your pocket.
45. Write in fragments. Write an autobiography without an author. Write temporality without time. Write to seek your own erasure.
46. Do not subjugate your language to the interests of the dominant political ideology.
47. Collect the oily secretions of your sebaceous glands and make small-batch candles with your ethically and sustainably sourced ingredient.
48. Lie in your own obscenity, offstage, beyond their grasp.
49. Flaunt your private madness, a truth without knowledge.
50. Allow your immigrant sensibility to take helm by taking multiples of everything offered to you for free—free samples, free trials, free junk on sidewalks—because isn’t that what you came here for, to engage in all variables of freedom?
51. Wear the sleeves of your sweater on your legs so that the neck-hole hangs between your legs. Hold it up with a pair of suspenders. Wear a pair of tabi boots and appear in the mist like a flying Dutchman, a phantom, a composed portent of doom.
52. Lose things so that you can desire them (loss of limbs = the desire to reclaim your limbs).
53. Give your body to others in order to see what they will do with it, to find out if they will accept or reject it, or if they will sublate your body into their own.
54. Gaslight your loved ones so that you may overwrite their reality.
55. Repeat yourself as often as you’d like. Have it all ways.
56. Appear as if you were already there, as if you had been there all along.
57. Become less and less sure of what came from one, what came from the other, and what came from elsewhere, because this is what it means to write.
58. Get rid of your name to make your being impossible. Without a name, you cannot produce meaning. You cannot act and be acted upon.
59. On the morning of your best friend’s wedding, order a turkey and bacon foot-long sandwich with French fries for breakfast. Sit in the pews of the cathedral, hydrogenated and saturated fat pumping through your bloodstream—a fine fuel—watching her exchange vows, and feel the liminal seams of your red strapless jumpsuit as you slip a pill into your maw, spreading the chalky substance across the primed canvas of your dry and yellowing tongue.
60. Turn everyone around you into God, who by definition cannot let anyone down.
Last Resort, no. 6
Last Resort, no. 2
Last Resort, no. 8
Last Resort, no. 3
Last Resort, no. 9
Sarah Wang has written for The Last Newspaper at the New Museum of Contemporary Art; semiotext(e)’s Animal Shelter; The Los Angeles Review of Books; Conjunctions; The Poetic Series; the Pomona College Museum of Art; Night Gallery’s Night Papers; Black Clock; and the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon. Forthcoming publications include an excerpt from her novel "The Artificial Organ" in Story and an essay in Stonecutter.
Michael Decker works in a diverse array of media. He makes installations, drawings, sculptures, videos, and performance art. Born in Spokane, WA in 1982, he received a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts (2005). His work has been included in group exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. Over the past ten years he has had several solo exhibitions at various galleries and artist-run project spaces in Los Angeles.
Katie Aliprando is an artist based in Los Angeles. J.G. Hook is a recent collection of scans from Aliprando’s notebooks selected by the artist; No. 20, No. 24, No. 23 and No. 20.
Miguel Andrade Valdez
Miguel Andrade Valdez is an artist based in Lima, Peru. Sobreplano, his most recent solo exhibition, was on view at the ICPNA Gallery in Lima in December of 2015.
THRILLING DIVINE ROMANCE
Beauty is love kissing horror.
You need not seek Him here or there, He is no further than the door of your heart; there He stands patiently awaiting whoever is ready to open up and let Him in. No need to call to Him from afar: He can hardly wait for you to open up. He longs for you a thousand times more than you long for Him: the opening and the entering are a single act.
The horror is that we know that we see God in life itself.
“Now you shall come to my call. When my brain says ‘Come!’ to you, you shall cross land or sea to do my bidding; and to that end this!” With that he pulled open his shirt, and with his long sharp nails opened a vein in his breast. When the blood began to spurt out, he took my hands in one of his, holding them tight, and with the other seized my neck and pressed my mouth to the wound, so that I must either suffocate or swallow some of the . . . Oh, my God! My God!
[Do] not be overpowered by the spectacle of the multi-form universe.
The final chapter of Meher Baba’s Discourses, “God as Infinite Love,” ends as follows:
The sojourn of the soul is a thrilling divine romance in which the lover, who in the beginning is conscious of nothing but emptiness, frustration, superficiality and the gnawing chains of bondage, gradually attains an increasingly fuller and freer expression of love, and ultimately disappears and merges in the divine Beloved to realise the unity of the Lover and the Beloved in the supreme and eternal fact of God as Infinite Love.
Since all things are understood through their opposites and since “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), the following text takes the form of a commentary on the beginning of this sentence in light of fear. And I am afraid to comment on this sentence. First, because love is fearful and sentences you to itself forever. As Klima says via Helga, “Anyone who falls in love ceases to be human. Will dissolves in its mire. No madhouse is mad enough for one in love. Anyone who falls in love should be hung immediately. There is no corner on earth that would admit such an outcast” (The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch).
And secondly, because this supreme fact is perforce beyond opposition and thus cannot be understood. As Rumi says, “Hidden things . . . are manifested by means of their opposite; since God hath no opposite, He is hidden . . . The Light of God hath no opposite in all existence, that by means of that opposite it should be possible to make Him manifest” (The Mathnawi). There is no darkness dark enough. So, being afraid of love and afraid of God, God as infinite love is my endless nightmare—my love. And, wanting more than I can ever want, this is the way I want it, like the first sentence of Bataille’s The Impossible: “Incredible nervous state, trepidation beyond words: to be this much in love is to be sick (and I love to be sick).” No one can ever tell me that you did not ask for this, whatever this points to. Hell, as we know too well, is only getting whatever one wants, the eternal unasked opportunity to be you—the form of desire—forever. Hell is the minimum of paradise and paradise is the maximum of hell. Says Julian: “Synne is behovabil, but al shal be wel, and al shal be wel, and al maner of thing shal be wele” (Shewings). For all is hell. So beware of love: “She kissed me . . . From that moment—my fate was sealed! . . . I also sucked a sweet from Her lips . . . Oh, but it felt like I had kissed death—and my love was replaced by horror . . . This has been the theme of my life ever since: love—horror, horror—love: one worse than the other” (Ladislav Klima, Glorious Nemesis).
Fear is the best way to actively fail to understand thrilling divine romance, to superiorly not comprehend infinite love, because it pertains directly to the terrifying vista of Reality’s non-intelligibility. Fear is the shadow of the feeling of the thought of the love of the unknowable. It is as if terror’s instant dilates my pupil into the intersection of four statements, the center of a set diagram of Aristotle, Lovecraft, Augustine, and the Psalms: “All men by nature desire to know” (Aristotle, Metaphysics). “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature). “Suppose someone hears an unknown sign . . . he wants to know what it is . . . [this] is not love for the thing he does not know but for something he knows, on account of which he wants to know what he does not know” (Augustine, The Trinity). “Holy and terrible is his name! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalms 111:10). Or, as distilled by Dante into two and a half lines: “Men che drama / di sangue m’è rimaso che non tremi: / conosco i segni de l’antica fiamma!” Purgatorio (30.46-8) [Less than a dram of blood is left me that is not trembling: I know the signs of the ancient flame!]. To approach the divinity of love with one’s intellect, to subject it to reason, is to woo and court the worst horrors, fears leading one only further into the divine nature. So Hadewych, for whom “Hell . . . [is] the highest name of Love,” describes a torturous, logos-crucifying path to God: “They who follow [this] way . . . live as if in hell: That comes from God’s fearful invitation . . . their reason cannot understand it. This is why they condemn themselves at every hour. All their words, and works, and service seem to them of no account, and their spirit does not believe that it can attain that grandeur. Thus their heart remains devoid of hope. This leads them very deep into God, for their great despair leads them above the ramparts and through all the passageways, and into all places where truth is” (Poems and Letters). Fortunately unfortunately, this is the way to go, through the portal where it is inscribed, “Fecemi la divina podestate, / La somma sapïenza e ‘l primo amore. / Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create / se non etterne, e io etterno duro. / Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” [The divine power made me, the supreme wisdom, and the primal love. Before me nothing was created if not eternal, and eternal I endure. Abandon every hope, you who enter] (Dante, Inferno).
THE SOJOURN OF THE SOUL
Seeing that all souls are infinite, eternal, and divinely One, that “there is no difference in souls or in their being and existence as souls,” that there is only difference in the consciousness, planes of consciousness, experience, and state of souls, the sojourn of the soul is like a tarrying of itself from itself, a temporary being-elsewhere than its own identity and being. On the one hand, the soul, as an immutable individualization of the infinite Reality, undergoes this sojourn, which will end in the realization of its own divinity. On the other hand, the infinite soul undergoes nothing, since “Nothing is ever written on the soul” (Meher Baba, Discourses) and everything is already happening in eternity: “In eternity nothing has ever happened and nothing will ever happen. Everything is happening in the unending NOW” (Meher Baba, God Speaks). So, just as it is the nature of ghosts to tarry, to haunt places, your life—the life you call you, the one you are by sticking around for it—is the ghost of a soul, the shadow of your own real existence.
Like in those stories where the protagonist has to figure out that they are already dead, fearing the truth that makes Cotard’s syndrome the essence of misdiagnosis. As Helga explains: “The main thing is, I understood that I was ‘dead.’ That is something none of the dead wants to understand: the idea ‘I have expired’ is lethal to one who has thus far been rooted in this ‘life’ of yours. At first I was taken aback by this idea as well; but a moment later I was laughing at my idiotic mistake: for the whole of your waking is but a terrible error, born of Omni-idiocy. One must be God; everything else having to do with humanity is dung” (Klima, Sufferings). The diurnal nature of the soul’s tarrying (sojourn, from subdiurnare: ‘to spend the day’) follows from its being the shadow of the timeless day of eternity in which “All the so-called births and deaths are only sleeps and wakings” (Meher Baba, God Speaks). Do not tell me that you are never not secretly suspicious—especially at the beginning and end of each day—about everything. Do not tell me that you are not silently and despairingly in love with what you dare not name, something monstrously too close on the other—this—side of sleep’s wall. Isn’t all this vanishing of experience and experience of vanishing simply—thrilling? O how the dead can love!—the truly dead, deader than death.
So the soul’s sojourn is the time of its timelessness, the space of the nothingness of passing experience: “All that you enjoyed in the past, is today nil! All you have suffered, today is nil!” (Meher Baba, quoted in Lord Meher). What a surplus this nothingness is, what a plenitude and space of terrifying play—all or nothing! Transience is one thing, but this is more frightening, the actuality of there being sufficient nothing, an infinite supply, for all that happens in non-stop time to pass into, so much that today is not only the space in which nothing happens but the extra room in which it appears not to: “Today, all that is happening is not happening, although this does not appear to be so now” (ibid.). You aren’t even kidding no one. This is why you are worried, because you are worried about nothing: “all experiences of births and deaths, virtue and vice, happiness and misery experienced by the soul are nothing but the experience of the shadow” (Meher Baba, God Speaks). This is why you are touchy, because your life is the shadow of an all-touching untouchable body: “Existence touches all, all things and all shadows. Nothing can ever touch Existence. Even the very fact of its being does not touch existence” (ibid.). This is why you are afraid. For the object of fear—“pain or disturbance due to a mental picture [phantasia]” (Aristotle, Rhetoric)—is a phantasm and the subject of fear is itself: “That which fear fears about is that very entity which is afraid—Dasein. Only an entity for which in its Being this very Being is an issue, can be afraid. Fearing discloses this entity as endangered and abandoned to itself” (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time). Afraid of ghosts because you are one and because you are a ghost—afraid . . . in love. Fear is the illusion of something to fear—you.
This is why the shadow of holy beings may terrify, because it reflects the body as shadow of the soul in a nearly unwitnessable way. As we read of Christina the Astonishing: “in the last year of her life, the spirit so controlled almost all the parts of her corporeal body that scarcely could either human minds or eyes look at the shadow her body cast without horror or trembling” (Thomas de Cantimpré, The Life of Christina the Astonishing). And why the dismemberment of holy bodies produces something unseeable, like what caused the eyes of St. Alban’s headsman to fall “unto the ground at once with [una cum] the head of the blessed martyr” (Bede, Ecclesiastical History). Because the soul takes place as the fourth dimension of the three bodies (mental, subtle, gross) which are its shadows, so that its unity appears through what in three dimensions is disjoined, just as, inversely, separate objects may appear in lower dimensions to be fused. “‘Un-Dead! Not alive! What do you mean? Is this all a nightmare, or what is it?’ ‘There are mysteries which men can only guess at . . . Believe me, we are now on the verge of one. But I have not done. May I cut off the head of dead Miss Lucy?’” (Bram Stoker, Dracula). Wherefore—for all of these reasons and unreasons—it is written, “pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Peter 1:17), namely, by the inversely crucified apostle who embodies the transposition between love and fear (between love of life vs. love of God and fear of death vs. fear of God). “Do you love me more than these? Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Do you love me? Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Do you love me? Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (John 21:15-7). Augustine comments: “in prolonging it like this the Lord was seeming to say to Peter, ‘You denied me three times out of fear. Now confess three times out of love’” (Expositions of the Psalms). And that is what this sojourn, this temporary dwelling in the three-fold space of time, is like: an extension of the infinite depth of the will, the prismatic duration between fear and love.
. . . IS A THRILLING DIVINE ROMANCE
This beautiful phrase verbally echoes other expressions by Meher Baba concerning the experience of the inner planes—“He thus feels inexpressible thrills of ecstasy during this sojourn” (quoted in Lord Meher)—and the evental depth of the living present: “The greatest romance possible in life is to discover this eternal Reality in the midst of infinite change” (ibid.). The thrill of divine romance thus concerns the mystically necessary conjunction of the immanent Beyond with the pure surface or hyper-specificity of individuated experience. As Meher Baba says, “This realisation must and does take place only in the midst of life, for it is only in the midst of life that limitation can be experienced and transcended, and that subsequent freedom from limitation can be enjoyed” (Discourses). The thrill of this romance is about the indifferentiablility of its divinity and the fact that it is happening to you, the excitement of being touched by the singular fact that you do not need to know: “If I were not, God would not be either. I am the cause of God’s being God: if I were not, then God would not be God. But you do not need to know this” (Meher Baba, Sermons). So also the first doubt or fear or denial which the sentence elicits—as I trust you experience upon hearing it—is that it has not or is not or will not happen to oneself. As if what everyone directly thinks in hearing it is: true—if only it were happening to me.
Thus Eckhart says through the mouth of Augustine, “What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters” (Sermons). And Klima: “My love is alive! She is weird in the extreme, mystical powers at Her command, as is my love for Her! And She loves me, loves me!” (Glorious Nemesis). Or as Lovecraft’s Outsider, weirdly okay with the abyss of his own appearance within the horror of it all, says, “Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed, the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other. I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible” (The Outsider). Is not such cosmic horror the inverted, shadowy creeping insipience of a greater horror still, the more terrifying thrill of divine romance which makes the mystics repeat in drowning unison the words of Isaiah, “Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi, vae mihi” [My secret to myself, my secret to myself, woe is me] (Isaiah 24:16)?
The word thrill, related to the preposition through, signifies the point where being pierced with feeling touches the feeling of being pierced, disclosing the secret relation between excitement and recursivity—a relation which itself stands behind the desire for the repetition of thrill: do it again. Furthermore, as the verbal form þyrlian (‘to perforate, pierce’) comes from þyrel (‘hole,’ as in nostril), the word unifies piercing and holing in a sense that accords with the paradox of love as wound that heals, a hole that pierces and a piercing that wholes. Eventually thrill-seeking gives way to thrill-being: “As the aspirant struggles through the obscuring fog of mental and emotional tension his consciousness becomes more one-pointed, forming a spearhead that eventually pierces through the curtain to the inner path of divine knowledge” (Meher Baba, Listen Humanity). Similarly, Hermes distinguishes between the “singleness of heart” of true philosophy and its corruption with “manifold speculations.” The thrill of divine romance, in these logical terms, is simply—befitting the very simplicity of soul—the experience or out-through-going (ex-per-ientia) of the shape of soul itself, that which “is created as if at a point between time and eternity” (Meister Eckhart, Sermons). Like the pupil or aperture of the eye whose glance pierces with a dark light, the soul as both apex and opening is the ur-weirdness at the center of everything, that which gives the whole event of oneself an uncircumscribable shape. As Eckhart says of the scintilla animae (the spark of the soul which he also terms ground and castle), “All . . . is being wrought by God in the innermost recesses, at the apex of the soul.” The soul is the place where in and out are infinitely changing places: “The more He is in things, the more He is out of things: the more in, the more out, and the more out, the more in. . . . God is creating the whole world now this instant.” Its eye is the identity of God’s vision and the vision of God: “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love” (ibid.). This vision holds the essence of creation (as Carlson explains via Eriugena): “The created world . . . is the vision of God—in both senses of the genitive, for the world is theophany, or self-showing of God, created in and through God seeing of it and himself in it” (Thomas Carlson, The Indiscrete Image). The shapeless shape of the soul is the very thrill of creation, the ecstasy of its eros, as per Pseudo-Dionysius: “the very cause of the universe is . . . beguiled by goodness, by love, and by yearning and is enticed away from his transcendent dwelling place and comes to abide within all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself” (The Divine Names). So Meher Baba says, “God had intercourse with himself through the Om point, and the creation was the result of this act” (Awakener Magazine). The ( )hole universe is one vast divine auto-romance of Love whose most precious possession is the individual soul through which the infinity of Reality realizes itself via the illusion of separation, the Narcissus-split of the One into lover and beloved of which you-your-soul or soul-being-you are the spitting image.
This is why everything always feels so impossible and yet one would never want it any other way. Why one thrills to imagine with Lovecraft things like “that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe, where no dreams reach; that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity” (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath). For in such images you are seeing yourself—and how afraid to actually see yourself as you really are! Flashing across the mirror of the heart, the reflective spiritual space in which body and soul are joined, this love of fear immediately confesses fear of love—a fear whose terror is itself the invisible radical immanence of what it fears, the real living horror of love’s separation: “Beloved and Lover implies separation. And separation creates longing; and longing causes search. And the wider and the more intense the search the greater the separation and the more terrible the longing.” Or as Hadewijch sings, “Sweet as Love’s nature is, / Where can she come by the strange hatred / With which she constantly pursues me / And transpierces the depths of my heart with storm? / I wander in darkness without clarity, / Without liberating consolation, and in strange fear” (Poems). Drive a stake through my heart and sever my head.
. . . IN WHICH THE LOVER . . .
Upon this in we must conclude (there being no we). In sum, this commentary pursues the following three points:
1. That one is oneself an—nay the—‘infra-legible microtemporal event’ seducing being beyond itself, so that you will finally taste the infinite sweetness which cannot wait to feed itself to itself across the abysses of terror. Dying to give you this kiss, the immanent Beyond self-creatively leaks all day every day into life like Krishna’s flute in the mode of uncanny distraction, calling one away from everything, courting one into the loved-feared moment where “I must either suffocate or swallow,” where the I must drown. All means and non-means are at its disposal, just as the divine design does not cause war but “infuses man’s war with the capacity to generate and foster many qualities of divine importance” (Meher Baba, On War). For as Vernon Howard says, “Anyone who spoils the sleep which we take as consciousness is doing us the favor of our lives” (1500 Ways to Escape the Human Jungle).
2. That real experience—experience of the real—is an appalling melodrama, something beginning at the threshold where there is no more and everything to say, where thought and feeling, faltering upon their own abyss, now proceed despite themselves and musically move forward anyway, all flush and pale. Appalling melodrama pertains to affects of inevitable impossibility, to the feeling of what both must and cannot happen, to the intelligence that knows that fear is only the beginning. Whereas thought’s darker affects are characteristically situated inside negative emotion, appalling melodrama calls the horror of thinking into the profounder negativities of positive feeling, the more actual and brilliant darknesses of love and romance. Fleeing in horror from the safety of fear, appalling melodrama occurs in the mutual paling of affect and intellect, the falling of thought before what it will not feel, the plunge of feeling into what it cannot think. Thrilling divine romance and appalling melodrama intersect inside the pulp-cinematic nature of consciousness and around the gravity of the heart as the organ of that positive hopelessness and honest futility which alone leads mind beyond itself. As Klima says, “But what the mind does not believe, the heart does. And in the end the intellect does, too; what else is left for it to do?” (Glorious Nemesis).
3. That thrilling divine romance has nothing to do with sentimental spirituality or intellectualist philosophy or aesthetic art or ritual religion and everything to do with the pure truth of the thrill of itself, with the love that is always more itself than it will ever be. This pure itself-ness of love is the infinite intensiveness of Reality, the ground through which everything is more and more real than itself. Love’s “supreme and eternal fact” is that it is the only real itself. As Bernard of Clairvaux writes in his commentary on the Song of Songs: “Love is sufficient for itself; it gives pleasure to itself, & for its own sake. It is its own merit & own reward. Love needs no cause beyond itself, nor does it demand fruits; it is its own purpose.” As there is no discernable physical cause of the force of gravity—whence relativity’s redefinition of gravity as fact and not force—love is of the essence of spontaneity, something that works inexplicably upon its own ground. “Love has to spring spontaneously from within; it is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together, but while love cannot be forced upon anyone, it can be awakened through love itself. Love is essentially self-communicative; those who do not have it catch it from those who have it. Those who receive love from others cannot be its recipients without giving a response which, in itself, is the nature of love” (Meher Baba, Discourses). And this is precisely the horror, that love is on the order of virusless pestilence no less terrible not to have caught than to have caught, that the more one loves the more one feels that one does not, that love—a spear through the unwillable heart of the will—is not about you but about a you more yourself than you whom you will never know. “This is the sign of the spirit of truth: to realize that God’s being is total love and to acknowledge oneself as total hate” (Angela of Foligno, Instructions). Accordingly, thrilling divine romance is to be approached—if at all—in fear, the disposition most proper to the absence of your Beloved: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). As Meher Baba says, quoting and commenting on a couplet from Hafiz, “‘If you want your Beloved to be present, / do not absent yourself for one moment from his presence.’ . . . So beware, let not the Divine Beloved find you absent when he knocks at the door of your heart!” (quoted in Lord Meher). Then you will not merely scream, but become something wholly unheard of, far beyond the echoing silence of the scream itself.
1. “As Masters, our ways are quite opposite to the ways of the world. We outwardly harass those who love us, and we do nothing to those who despise us. We nourish our enemies and kill our friends! Muhammad was one of us and his teeth were broken by stones. Look at what happened to Jesus—he was crucified. We crush the eyeballs of our lovers underneath our heels and ignore our foes. We mercilessly tyrannize our lovers and even murder them” (Meher Baba, quoted in Lord Meher). “On 2 April, some of the mandali were feeling depressed and complained to Baba, ‘Staying with you is nothing but harassment. Life is so full of hardships now. There is no other thought in our minds and hearts except death. We look happy to others; we eat and spend time with everyone who comes, but who sees the dagger piercing our hearts?’ In reply, Baba explained, consoling them: ‘It is my grace! This is my real mercy which descends on a very, very select few. These are my friends. They are my lovers to whom I give the gift of sorrow and distress. It is a gift much greater than gold—of incalculable value—and not given to all’” (ibid.).
2. “All souls (atmas) were, are and will be in the Over-Soul (Paramatma). Souls (atmas) are all One. All souls are infinite and eternal. They are formless. All souls are One; there is no difference in souls or in their being and existence as souls. There is a difference in the consciousness of souls; there is a difference in the planes of consciousness of souls; there is a difference in the experience of souls and thus there is a difference in the state of souls” (Meher Baba, God Speaks).
3. “Sai Baba was a ghous type of spiritual personality. One who is a ghous has the occult power to dismember his physical body and later reconnect his limbs. At times, for their inner work, Perfect Ones enter the ghous state and parts of their physical body separate. When that particular phase of work is finished, their body automatically joins together again. Once a man went to the mosque where Sai Baba slept and found the physical limbs of the Master's body lying separated on the floor. In one corner was the Master's hands and arms, in another his legs and feet, and in another his head! Every limb was separated from the torso. The poor man was aghast. Terrified, he thought of notifying the village police that the fakir had been hacked to death. But he feared that the police might implicate him in the crime, and so he went home and kept silent. The next morning the man anxiously went back to the mosque. To his shocked surprise he found Sai Baba alive, giving a discourse to some of his devotees. The man did not know about this rare characteristic of the fakir, and he wondered if what he had seen the previous evening had been a nightmarish dream. It is said that Sai slept on a bed about six feet off the ground, but there was no ladder. Once when he had gone to retire to his room, a man quietly crept to the window to see Sai levitate to his bed. But he was aghast to see a body without arms, without legs and without a head! Instantly the man was blinded, and his blindness served as a source of repentance for the rest of his life” (Lord Meher).
4. Augustine comments on Peter’s denial, as quoted by Aquinas: “While our Lord was being condemned to death, he feared, and denied Him. But by His resurrection Christ implanted love in his heart, and drove away fear. Peter denied, because he feared to die: but when our Lord was risen from the dead, and by His death destroyed death, what should he fear?” (Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea in Ioannem). Peter’s fear is the intimate opposite of the God-given fear of God: “Now it is not human fear, according to Augustine, that is a gift of God,—for it was by this fear that Peter denied Christ,—but that fear of which it was said: Fear Him that can destroy both soul and body into hell” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica).
5. “The wound of love is a wound that heals. In the Song of Songs the spouse of Christ sings, I am wounded with love. And this wound, when will it be healed? When our desire is satisfied in good things. As long as we do not possess what we long for, it is called a wound. When we come to possess what we desire then the pain passes, but the love will never pass” (Augustine, Sermons). In Piers Plowman, love, exemplified by Christ who “was myghtful and meke, and mercy gan graunte / To hem that hengen hym heigh and his herte thirled,” is described as “portatif and persaunt as the point of a needle” (William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman).
6. “Philosophy is nothing else than striving through constant contemplation and saintly piety to attain knowledge of God; but there will be many who make philosophy hard to understand, and corrupt it with manifold speculations . . . a cunning sort of study, in which philosophy will be mixed with diverse and unintelligible sciences, such as arithmetic, music, and geometry” (Hermetica).
7. The amorous trajectory of the visionary process of the soul is clarified by Meher Baba as follows: “When the internal eye is opened God, who is the object of search and longing, is actually sighted. As the gaze of the soul is turned inward and fixed upon the supreme reality, the desire to establish union with it becomes much more ardent than when the soul is groping for God through mere speculation or imagination. When the time is ripe the Master can open this internal eye in less than a second. Ultimately the aspirant has to realise that God is the only Reality and that he is really one with God. This implies that he should not be overpowered by the spectacle of the multi-form universe. In fact, the whole universe is in the Self and springs into existence from the tiny point in the Self which is referred to as ‘Om’. But the Self has become habituated to gathering experience through one medium or another, and therefore it comes to experience the universe as a formidable rival other than itself. Those who have realized God constantly see the universe as springing from this ‘Om-point’ which is in everyone. The process of perception runs parallel to the process of creation, and the reversing of the process of perception without obliterating consciousness amounts to realising the nothingness of the universe as a separate entity. The Self sees first through the mind, then through the subtle eye and lastly through the physical eye; and it is vaster than all that it can perceive. The big ocean and the vast spaces of the sky are tiny as compared with the Self. In fact, all that the Self can perceive is finite, but the Self itself is infinite. When the Self retains full consciousness and yet sees nothing, it has crossed the universe of its own creation and has taken the first step to know itself as everything” (Discourses).
8. “God is Love. And Love must love. And to love there must be a Beloved. But since God is Existence infinite and eternal there is no one for Him to love but Himself. And in order to love Himself He must imagine himself as the Beloved whom He as the Lover imagines He loves. Beloved and Lover implies separation. And separation creates longing; and longing causes search. And the wider and the more intense the search the greater the separation and the more terrible the longing. When longing is most intense separation is complete, and the purpose of separation, which was that Love might experience itself as Lover and Beloved, is fulfilled; and union follows. And when union is attained, the lover knows that he himself was all along the Beloved whom he loved and desired union with; and that all the impossible situations that he overcame were obstacles which he himself had placed in the path to himself. To attain union is so impossibly difficult because it is impossible to become what you already are! Union is nothing other than knowledge of oneself as the Only One” (Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing).
9. “You love-craftian hero! You have resurrected the fossil of myself, the one that I cannot experience but that is speaking through me, seeping into my words and my lack of words! The monster is here and I cannot stop it, I don’t want it ever to shut up. Whatever happens in this life there will be the fault of this cataclysmic now screaming to me, deafening me with the echo of a deformity that I always was” (A & N, Autophagiography).
Nicola Masciandaro is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and a specialist in medieval literature.
MUSIC FOR A MARIAN APPARITION
All the forsaken female deities of the old and new worlds have gathered together into a single etheric body. That body, whose name no one has forgotten yet, shelters in itself the life forces of territories, oceans, stars, rites, medicines, textiles, dead humans....
Occasionally their combined energy, erupting into the sublunar world, takes the form of an image. As if by chance, some indifferent bits of visible reality—shadows on a wall, pixels in a youtube, burn marks on a piece of toast—are configured into the resemblance of a face.
I accidentally made a Mariah Carey/Enya symphony a few months ago. When I listened to it I thought I could hear Stella Maris, the star of the sea, rising above the Atlantic.
Silvio Carr — Careybean Blue (excerpt)
Alkaline — On Fleek
Fatima Al Qadiri — Hip Hop Spa (Nguzunguzu Mix)
Lucio Battisti —La cinta rosa
Blaze Kidd — Suave
Lucia — Marinero
Radha Krsna Temple — Govinda
Rihanna — BBHMM (Gil Edit)
Bobby Beausoleil & The Freedom Orchestra — Lucifer Rising theme
Hemant Chauhan reciting the Gayatri Mantra
Alice Coltrane — Jai Rama Chandra
Harold Budd & Cocteau Twins — Sea, Swallow Me
Quays — U Stay
Roberto Pregadio — Mondo Cannibale theme
Brühwarm & Ton Steine Scherben — Sie ham mir ein Gefühl geklaut
Azena Ramanda channelling Saint Germain
Enihcam Dnous Imaim — Agnoc
Fito Blanko & Black Jonas Point & Jowell — Show privado
Silvio Carr lives and works in Mount Shasta. This mix first appeared on the October 13, 2015 episode of Notes, on KCHUNG 1630 AM Los Angeles.