René Daumal (1908 – 1944)

January 31, 2009

“I am the great inside – out man…”

René Daumal was one of the most gifted literary figures in France in the early part of the twentieth century, René Daumal was a genuine seeker of truth. He was a philosopher and poet. In the later part of his life, he had the good fortune to meet and work with G I Gurdjieff.

Rene Daumal

René Daumal

 

I first came across his work while I was reading William Blake for my honours thesis. I was struck by the similarity of their outlook even though they lived a century apart. They both shared a vision rooted in a sense of the real that was not dependent on the consensus reality they were embedded in. They were both spiritual in their own idiosyncratic way without recourse to traditional religious structures of church or temple. René Daumal speaks to me in a clearer way, maybe because he lived closer to my own present moment. 

 

 Daumal’s unfinished novel, “Mount Analogue: A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures” is a story about a group of people who are on a journey to visit a mountain that connects heaven with earth. They sail on a ship called “Impossible”  encountering their “soft pillow of doubt” and the “relatively real.” He uses the universality of the Mountain symbol to convey the sense of ascending towards Truth in a non religious way. One of the themes is that advance can only happen in a one step up, two steps down way. It is a spiritual approach that is connected to a secular and a modern sense of the sacred. In Erik Davis’  words, “In his [Daumal] life and mind, we can trace the prophetic outlines of a genuine ‘mystical modernism’, a mode of spiritual practice that is experiential, anti-religious, and counter-cultural — even to the point of being counter-modern.”

 

I believe the challenge for us in the 21st Century is to somehow feel a sense of the sacred in a community that no longer has belief in an anthropomorphic God. The battle is against ALL fundamentalist belief structures – whether they’re informed by religion, science, economics or apparent rationalism. Mount Analogue points towards an approach that is both universalist and uniquely individual. 

A diagram from Mount Analogue

A diagram from Mount Analogue

The book is an allegory of creative practice, the skills required to bring something into existence from nothing, the process of work.

The end of the book was completed mid sentence when he passed away. His wife, Vera Milanova, included the following poem in the Post Script of Mount Analogue.

 

This poem has fed me ever since I first came across it:

Mount Analogue book cover.

Mount Analogue book cover.

 

 

 I am dead because I lack desire,
I lack desire because I think I possess.
I think I possess because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing:
Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Poem

 

 One cannot stay on the summit forever –
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below –
But what is below does not know what is above

One climb, one sees-
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

 

Another Poem : Skin of Light

 

The skin of light enveloping this world lacks depth and I can actually see the black night of all these
similar bodies beneath the trembling veil and light of myself it is this night that even the mask of the
sun cannot hide from me I am the seer of night the auditor of silence for silence too is dressed in
sonorous skin and each sense has its own night even as I do I am my own night I am the conceiver
of non-being and of all its splendor I am the father of death she is its mother she whom I evoke
from the perfect mirror of night I am the great inside-out man my words are a tunnel punched
through silence I understand all disillusionment I destroy what I become I kill what I love.

 

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Some René Daumal quotes :

 

“Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety. “

from “Poetry Black, Poetry White,” no. 19-20, Fontaine (Paris, March/April 1942)

The Lie of the Truth

“Art has a double face, of expression and illusion, just like science has a double face: the reality of error and the phantom of truth. ”

from Vol. 2, Essais et Notes

“Man is head, chest and stomach. Each of these animals operates, more often than not, individually. I eat, I feel, I even, although rarely, think…. This jungle crawls and teems, is hungry, roars, gets angry, devours itself, and its cacophonic concert does not even stop when you are asleep. ”

from Vol. 2, Essais et Notes

“Truth is one, but error proliferates. Man tracks it down and cuts it up into little pieces hoping to turn it into grains of truth. But the ultimate atom will always essentially be an error, a miscalculation. ”

from Vol. 2, Essais et Notes

La grande beuverie (A Night of Serious Drinking)

“Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable. ”

“It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content … it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to confusion.”

“Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our pronouncements are cheques drawn on insufficient funds.”

 

daumal-youve-always-been-wrong

 From the Publisher of  “You’ve Always Been Wrong”.

A fitful interloper among the Surrealists, Daumal rejected all forms of dogmatic thought, whether religious, philosophical, aesthetic, or political. Much like the Surrealists (and French theorists of more recent decades), Daumal saw in the strict forms and certainties of traditional metaphysics a type of thought that enslaves people even as it pretends to liberate them. These “cadavers of thought”, Daumal wrote with youthful bravado, “must be met with storms of doubt, blasphemes, and kerosene for the temples”. Daumal tied Surrealism with mystical traditions. A devoted student of Eastern religions, philosophy, and literature, he combined his skepticism about Western metaphysics with a mystic’s effort to maintain intense wakefulness to the present moment and to the irreducible particularity of all objects and experience. Such wakefulness, according to Daumal, leads inevitably to an overwhelming (and redemptive) “vision of the absurd”. Daumal’s important place in French culture of the late 1920s and 1930s has been assured by both his writings and his role as cofounder of the avant-garde journal Le Grand Jeu. Written between 1928 and 1930, You’ve Always Been Wrong reveals Daumal’s thought as it was coalescing around the rejection of Western metaphysics and the countervailing allure of Eastern mysticism.

 

 

 

 

 

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Living in a Maze

January 31, 2009

Are we “rats” living in a maze, a labyrinth in which we do our thing as sleep walking voyagers in a multidimensional maze of flesh, bone, muscle, life, thought and soul energy which has as its determining edges and surface – ordinary life, consensus reality? We get lost in this labyrinth, this maze through our habitual reactions and our mind’s tendency to reduce everything to the familiar. Is the “world a vampire” as the Smashing Pumpkins put it? I believe it is, when we live our lives as robots giving food of our being to the forces around us rather than making the extra effort to BE. The big question is HOW to be and I believe an approach to this answer may lie in the fact that the “rat in the maze behaviour” may be the habits of our biological destiny locked in the “mind forged manacles” (William Blake) of our attitudes.

world-is-a-vampire-lyrics

If we acknowledge this then we may be open to the possibility for help from another level of existence, a level above the maze of consensus reality. Consensus reality, to me, is the wall to wall world of the labyrinth that appears automatically to our senses five in this culture. It is the reality that statistics places under a Bell Curve and measures standards and their many deviations. Consensus reality is the “common sense world” where Newton‘s Laws hold sway though we may know of Einstein‘s relativity and quantum physics. Consensus reality bases itself fundamentally on the dichotomy between I – and – the – world, I the knower and the world – the known. In this consensus world we do our shopping, we make love, we learn, we walk, we talk, we climb mountains, we give birth and we bury our dead. This consensus reality is what we naturally know, this is the world which Blake’s “Vegetative Eye” beholds.

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Blake’s Newton (1795) demonstrates his opposition to the “single-vision” of scientific materialism: Newton fixes his eye on a compass (recalling Proverbs 8:27)

It is difficult to speak of consensus reality because the language used to speak of it can be seen to be the guiding parameters of the / this world. Each language, thus each culture has its own consensus reality. The Inuit people who can discern over 20 different types of snow and white hues, the Aboriginal people of Central Australia who discern many different types of sand demonstrate different consensus realities which have “facts” that the western positivistic consensus reality does not acknowledge. We can go further and say that one consensus reality (a reality consented to by the participants) may include events and actions which through the window of another consensus reality would appear to be miraculous or impossible. To one reality this piece of ground means an energy resource and dollars, to another the same piece of ground may be sacred and the navel (Omphalos) of the world. Of course we have the Common Ground on which we stand and live within the Common Maze and thus communicate with our diverse languages and translations of same.

I’m interested in the realm outside the maze, the a – maze. This is where the allegory of Plato’s Cave makes amazing sense. Check out this diagram it “tells” Plato’s story in few words. The cave is the maze, is the world of senses five, the beholden of the Vegetative Eye.

Plato's Cave - the labyrinth analogy we live in is the same as this cave.

Plato's Cave - the sunlight is the Light of the Real World, the shadow world is the world seen through the Vegetative Eye.

What I’m saying in a round about way is that there are as many realities as there are consensual agreements. These realities have their own maps and means of orientation. The western positivistic reality is just one. It may be possible to change channels and tune into other frequencies…using the language of the net – we may be able to browse other patterns of meaning and thus participate in another reality. The trick is to be able to shift.

In terms of futures – each consensus reality will create its own consensus future. If enough people believe and act as if the future they want will be and is perhaps the consensus reality of these people will make it happen.

Having said all that, I use the above as my departure point when I attempt to manifest events which may assist in reducing the suffering of sentient existence – both my own and others.

The next question that arises from this is HOW?  Traditionally, the work which makes the HOW possible, the “technology” has been known as Magic. Later posts will explore this.

I can’t remember where this quote came from but I totally agree with it, “The GOAL is to become so aware of all of the levels of all of the forces determining your behavior that you can make a Real Choice.”

This real choice is the foundation of one’s true freedom.

Plato's Cave

Plato's Cave

So, we sleep in our caves and those in power can tell us any old story that we believe in our hypnotised state.

So, we sleep in our caves and those in power can tell us any old story that we believe in our hypnotised state.


A TAFE experiment with Astrology and the I Ching.

January 5, 2009

The experiment concerned whether the mantic techniques of “astrologising” and casting a hexagram would assist in focusing an intention for change.

 

Say our ordinary experience of time is like driving down a road. We look ahead, we look at the rear view mirror and the side mirrors as we drive down the road. Occasionally we come across a dip in the road and we can’t see very far ahead except for the dip. If we have driven on this road before, we recognize the dip and we know from previous experience how deep it is and how far it extends. If we haven’t, we take it as it comes. Now, what if we look at the dip on the road as the unknown and hazardous element of the near future where we are concerned about a particular issue. Can we do anything which will assist us in knowing the dimensions of this “dip” and what may lie just beyond it?

 

//pacificcoast.net/~wh/Index.html

I Ching Hexagrams. These are the 64 hexagrams used in the        I Ching.

 

 This is where the intuitive arts of I Ching and Astrology come in. They may be methods which can measure the dimensions of the “dip” and give a glimpse of what lies just beyond it.

 

The experience that the horoscope was drawn for, a couple of weeks ahead, would validate what the I Ching showed. In this scenario the I Ching reading is a signal from the dip ahead in number patterns and the horoscope gives a synchronous timescape illuminated in signs and symbols of astrological lore after the hexagram was cast.

 

The situation I drew up the horoscope for was a meeting with Management of our Institute. I needed to get an OK to push for a more proactive role in our influence on training for non English speaking background workers at BHP. I don’t want to bore you with the details but basically it was very, very important to me because it would open the door for 1000 migrant iron workers to get skilled so they could move up the ladder of qualifications classification…for more money and better recognition of their already learned skills. The educational need was for more English language tuition with vocational courses thrown in. They’ll learn English and arm themselves with vocational skills in preparation for the time when BHP would close down. The whole access and equity, social justice bit together and to boot, my father was a steel worker at the Port Kembla Steelworks.

 

Karmic payment time, big time. So, it was important that this deal went through.

 

I don’t know about you, but I when I really want something and I believe in my heart of hearts that what I want is also for the betterment of others, I realise that I can’t do it alone. The job’s too big to do on our own.

 

Sometimes it is important to have a periscopic picture of the dip ahead and its terrain. I called on the assistance of the invisible forces and they answered in astrological signs and ideographic hexagrams. The conjunction of the mantic techniques pointed to a favourable outcome. Advisedly it also indicated the potential hazards. 

 

After the appointment with management I reviewed the readings of both the horoscope and the hexagrams of the moment with the benefit of hind sight. Here comes the clincher – without the readings’ advice and warnings the outcome may not have been the same … so, do the readings predict the future or do they assist in making the future by engaging their energy? What I mean is, the myth of star and hexagram consultation is more like a partnership in creating the future rather than a one way line of “future” information. The “gods – the invisible forces” operating at this hinterland of observation and coincidence are functionalities and not separate cartoon figures of winged feet and curly tails. These “gods” enter through the mantic operation of “casting a hexagram / casting a chart” and assist in the arising of the outcome that is required for the moment.

I Ching traditional coins. I use 3 ordinary dollar coins. Heads and Tails are the same on any coin.

I Ching traditional coins. I use 3 ordinary dollar coins. Heads and Tails are the same on any coin.

 

From this vantage point, I don’t do anything except open the door for the “gods” to finish what is intended to blossom.

 

The focus for me in that exercise was not so much the external details of the events but rather their symbolic connection. The question for me is how to focus with more of myself than just the “rational  – informational” shell? The cracking of the shell is the equivalent of gaining a helicopter view over the dip in front of us.

stavros

Flotillas of Hope Astrological Sky Map - Horoscope.

Flotillas of Hope Astrological Sky Map – Horoscope.


Caught up in a Duality – Within or Without Me?

January 3, 2009

 

 Below is something I wrote a few years ago after bumping into a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. The feelings expressed, I think, are just as relevant today as they were then, when I, along with others, was preparing for the Woomera Action in Easter, 2002 with Hope Caravan. Check out the Hope Caravan yahoo group by clicking here. 

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When I saw him yesterday, he seemed so at peace with himself. He was sitting in a half lotus with his bare feet crossing over each other on his sofa. The mandala tattoo just above his ankle balanced with the diamond shaped crystal dangling from his neck. We shared some green tea and he smiled gently as he closed the book before him.

 

He was an old friend, someone I hadn’t seen for a long while and in that time our paths had diverged. He found spiritual bliss and I found more reasons to struggle for peace. He found inner peace, so he told me, whereas I found inner warfare, so I told him. His holy war had been won, mine had just started as it had done so continuously for a long time.

 

“You are caught up in a duality,” he said smiling with a humility that seemed calculated, “You think that you can change the world but all that you can change is yourself.” 

 

He was referring to the fact that I had asked him to join me in action, an action to support those who cannot speak or act for themselves because of their current circumstances. I asked him to join me and others to act in support of the refugees imprisoned in the concentration camps of Australia. In particular, to join others in the Festival of Freedoms at Woomera in Easter, 2002.

 

I replied, “But what if my self is larger than that circumscribed by my skin? What if my self includes the whole planet? In that case when I see suffering and injustice outside of my body, then it is still within me.”

 

He laughed, “Well, in that case your ego is bigger than mine!”

 

He adjusted his posture by letting go of his half lotus and allowing his leg to fall straight down over the side of the sofa. He leant forward placing his elbows on his knees and his dangling crystal now swayed like a pendulum between us.  Incense smoke spiralled upwards from the joss stick burning on the coffee table before us.

 

I could see his point but somehow it still didn’t feel right. I said, “Ego, big or small is always going to be here. Tell me what do you do if you see your neighbour’s house burning down? Do you say that your house is OK so why worry about your neighbour’s?”

 

“I would immediately help extinguish the fire. For me the plight of refugees and wars on the other side of the planet are things I can’t do anything about. I aim for inner peace through my meditation and this in itself will do far more for the refugees and war than anything your protests and actions will ever do. Why? Because I am changing myself, I recognise that all true change must start with my self. Your protests and actions add more ‘noise’ to the whole situation. Create an oasis of silence and peace within yourself. This will have far more impact than going out on the street or facing the razor wire of the camps. Change yourself – that’s all you need to do!”

 

He took another sip of his tea and stared me in the eyes…. or was he staring at the point between my eyes in my forehead, the so called third eye? I couldn’t tell except that I felt a certain intensity of effort from his gaze, that he was trying to change my perspective by using subliminal energies directed at me. Of course, he was kidding himself if he was trying to do this.

 

Yes, our paths had diverged. While I saw that it is important to work on one self and to recognise that what goes on inside, behind your eyes, affects what goes on outside oneself, I also felt that one could not just rest in one’s relaxed navel and allow others to suffer. Can one carry the “oasis of silence” found within to external places of sorrow and injustice, to share the peace? I asked myself.

 

 

 

 

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met his gaze and then wondered if it was within or without me as I walked away.

 

stavros

 

 

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” – Dante

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

 

 


Lance Gowland, 1935 – 2008, Skipper of Eureka

January 1, 2009
Lance Gowland, Skipper of Eureka on the way to Nauru with the Flotillas of Hope.

Lance Gowland, Skipper of Eureka on the way to Nauru with the Flotillas of Hope.

 

On Saturday, November 22, a celebration of Lance Gowland’s life was held in Sydney. I couldn’t go because of my broken leg but I did send some photos and and some words to be recited as the photos appeared in the appropriate space of Lance’s life in the slide show.

I first met Lance when he answered the Call to Action, for the Flotillas of Hope, to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru. He wrote me an email saying he had a boat and he was willing to sail it to Nauru. For him very simple words to utter, but for me, they were miraculous sounds that further crystallized the dream of going to Nauru. Now we had at least 2 boats – Eureka and One Off in Brisbane. When the Call to Action was sent on its email trajectory, there were no boats, no money, no technology, no crew. All there was, was a dream quickening into life any time someone offered some support for the dream to manifest.

Lance also asked me later on the phone if there was another experienced sailor that was going on the trip to Nauru. He wanted to know because he had a terminal illness and he didn’t want the people like me who had never sailed, to be stranded out in the deep blue ocean with no way of returning to Australia. He also asked me to not say anything to anyone about his condition until we returned safely.

Luckily I could answer with a resounding YES!

Ruth Boydell on Eureka.

Ruth Boydell on Eureka.

 

Ruth Boydell, a Maritime Teacher at Newcastle TAFE, was not only an experienced sailor who had sailed solo from India to Australia but was also a TAFE teacher of sailing and other maritime esoterica. Ruth and I both work in TAFE at Newcastle. I work in Multicultural Education.

(By the way, we are campaigning to save TAFE , so click here to check out the blog.)

The words below were recited on 22 November, 2008 at the Celebration of Lance’s Life.

It was a windy night, the Southern Cross flag flapped behind us, we the crew of Eureka, sat listening to Lance telling us the story of the Eureka Stockade. We were about 400 miles away from Nauru out in the deep blue without any certainty that we would arrive safely and even if we did whether the Nauruan people would greet us peacefully or with the Australian Federal Police armed with their guns.

The Souther Cross flag on Eureka. Photo taken on the night that Lance told us the Eureka Stockade story.

The Southern Cross flag on Eureka. Photo taken on the night that Lance told us the story.

After a short spell of silence, with the wind blowing, Lance with great feeling quoted these words from the Eureka Stockade:

“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and defend our rights and liberties”.

For most of us, it was the first time we heard these words and on Eureka out in the deep blue, sailing to Nauru to bring hope to imprisoned refugees, hearing our Skipper, Lance say them, made it an unforgettable moment.

Lance, our Skipper, thank you for standing by me and the crew.  Thank you for your courage and generosity of spirit standing by the impoverished refugees who sought hope on Nauru. 

You, Lance,  are a man who will live on in any action done by any person for the cause of social justice.

stavros


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