Inquire within

Inside each of us is a fount of knowledge, an intuitive sense of what is real.  It is there when we quiet our minds’ flow of words and focus on open-ended questions.  But we are given to know only so much as we can assimilate and use in our lives. As we step into a wider scope of action and take on larger challenges, the knowledge we need will be available.

— Josh Mitteldorf

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A century before Bach

A fountain of gardens, a cascade of living waters, streams from Lebanon.  Awake, O north wind, and come, thou, south!  Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat partake of its gifts.

Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.  Make haste, my beloved, to this mountains of spices.

In 1584, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina set the entire Latin text of the Song of Songs to music.

I only walk on water when I need to

There is the story of an Indian peasant, known to those in his village as a pious, humble, simple soul.  He had a son with vision and ambition who went far away to Tibet, and came home after many years of study, a man of many talents.  Among other things, he had learned to walk on water. Proudly he started to show his simple, ignorant father how he could walk across the foaming river which passed near the village.  He was halfway across when the swirling water frightened him. He fell and would have drowned, but his father calmly walked out, picked him out of the water and carried him to shore.

 

“Father!”, the young man exclaimed, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“My son, that is the difference between us.  You know many things and I know nothing at all except what is required of me.”  

— as told by Shamcher Bryn Beorse

 

Away!

I AM the tender voice calling ‘Away,’
Whispering between the beatings of the heart,
And inaccessible in dewy eyes
I dwell, and all unkissed on lovely lips,
Lingering between white breasts inviolate,
And fleeting ever from the passionate touch,
I shine afar, till men may not divine
Whether it is the stars or the beloved
They follow with wrapt spirit. And I weave
My spells at evening, folding with dim caress,
Aerial arms and twilight dropping hair,
The lonely wanderer by wood or shore,
Till, filled with some deep tenderness, he yields,
Feeling in dreams for the dear mother heart
He knew, ere he forsook the starry way,
And clings there, pillowed far above the smoke
And the dim murmur from the duns of men.
I can enchant the trees and rocks, and fill
The dumb brown lips of earth with mystery,
Make them reveal or hide the god. I breathe
A deeper pity than all love, myself
Mother of all, but without hands to heal:
Too vast and vague, they know me not. But yet
I am the heartbreak over fallen things,
The sudden gentleness that stays the blow,
And I am in the kiss that foemen give
Pausing in battle, and in the tears that fall
Over the vanquished foe, and in the highest;
Among the Danaan gods, I am the last
Council of mercy in their hearts where they
Mete justice from a thousand starry thrones.

— AE
George William Russell was born 10 April 1867.

 

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George William Russell (1867-1935), better known by his spiritual name “AE” (short for Aeon; simultaneously the mortal incarnation of the Logos and the representation of the immortal self). AE was a great man of a great many talents: poet, painter, novelist, economist, editor, critic, mystic, pacifist, patriot, literary facilitator, visionary.

Bacteria can Learn

Bacteria have individual lives, and also collective lives. They can form films that support a communal existence, protecting one another at a cost in individual autonomy.

UCLA press release

In this study published last month, bacteria remember the surface they were attached to and pass this information along to their offspring. This is learning, combined with inter-generational memory. Bacteria are the smaller kind of one-celled orgnisms, and science has no understanding of how memory is stored. The article doesn’t describe a mechanism. The most likely candidate would be epigenetic. In other words, markers on the DNA that tell what genes to turn on and off are persistent, and can be passed to offsring when the DNA is copied.

James Shapiro has written a book describing how bacteria modify their own DNA. This is full Lamarckian adaptation.

Forbidden Knowledge

Las de chercher en vain la substance sous le voile des modes qu’elle subit et de buter sans cesse au rempart des apparences formelles, conscient d’un formidable au delà, le moins mystique des penseurs a voulu sonder un jour les arcanes du monde extra-sensible. Il a gravi la montagne jusqu’au temple du mystère ; il en a heurté le seuil de son front et de sa pensée.

Mais quoi les générations, avant lui, ont assiégé le sanctuaire sans y jamais découvrir une issue, et renonçant à ce soleil intérieur qui fait fleurir aux vitraux des rosaces de lumière, elles n’ont gardé que l’éblouissement de son mirage éternel. Les degrés solliciteurs du temple aboutissent au granit inhospitalier des murailles. Au fronton sont gravés deux mots qui donnent le frisson des choses inconnues « SCIRE NEFAS ».

Un caveau, dont la clef est perdue, s’ouvre quelque part dans le val. On dit qu’au cours des siècles de rares audacieux surent forcer le secret du souterrain où des galeries sans nombre se coupent, entrelacées ; là, siège l’inexorable ministre d’une loi qu’on n’élude point. L’antique gardien des mystères, le Sphinx symbolique, debout sur le seuil, propose l’énigme occulte « Tremble, Fils de la Terre, si tes mains ne sont pas blanches devant le Seigneur! Iod-Hévê ne conseille que les siens.

Lui-même conduit l’adepte par la main jusqu’au tabernacle de sa gloire mais le téméraire profane s’égare infailliblement et trouve la mort dans les ténèbres du barathre. Qu’attends-tu ? Reculer est impossible. Il faut choisir ta route à travers le labyrinthe ; il faut deviner ou mourir. 

Gardez-vous de voir en ces symboles effrayants l’appareil d’une vaine menace. La haute science ne saurait être l’objet d’une curiosité frivole le problème est sacré, sur lequel ont pâli tant de nobles fronts, et questionner le Sphinx par caprice est un sacrilège jamais impuni, car un tel langage porte le verbe en soi de sa propre condamnation.

« Mon cœur n’a que faire de battre plus vite : la force invisible qui déplace ces meubles avec fracas est un courant odique soumis à mon vouloir ; la forme humaine qui se condense et se masse dans la fumée de ces parfums, n’est qu’une coagulation fluidique, reflet coloré du rêve de mon cerveau, création azothique du verbe de ma volonté. »

Celui qui se parle ainsi sans trouble ne court, certes, aucun danger; il mérite le nom d’adepte.

— Stanislas de Guaita, des Essais de Sciences Maudites

Wearied by the search for substance beneath the veil, the least mystical of thinkers is drawn ineluctably out from the convention life, stumbling incessantly on the rampart of formal appearances, vaguely conscious of a formidable beyond. He ascends a steep path to the temple of mystery, where he strikes his forehead at the threshold of his thought.

He is preceded by countless generations of seekers who have besieged the sanctuary of knowledge without ever discovering a way out, and renouncing this interior sun which is the source of the rosy bloom in the stained glass, they have retained only the dazzle of its eternal mirage. The beckoning facade of the temple leads to impenetrabl granite walls. Over the pediment are engraved two words that allure with the thrill of the unknown: “SCIRE NEFAS”.

Somewhere this valley opens to a subterranean vault, the key to which is lost.  It is said that over the centuries, a few daring bandits have succeeded in forcing the secret from a tessellation of chambers without number that intertwine below.  They are guarded by the one minister of an inexorable law, the keeper of ancient mysteries, the symbolic Sphinx, standing on the threshold, who poses the eternal enigma “Tremble, Son of Earth, lest though should approach the Lord with unclean hands!”

He takes the adept by the hand, personally shows him to the tabernacle of glory; but the reckless, the profane, he who bears any faint mark of unworthiness inevitably loses his way in the dark, and perishes in the Barathron.

What are you waiting for? There is no way back. You must choose your route through the labyrinth; if you cannot divine your path, you must die.”

Ignore these warnings at your peril. The sacred science will not be decrypted by a dilettante, when so many noble minds have withered before the riddle of the Sphinx. To approach with frivolous intent is a sacrilege that never goes unpunished, for the very language of the insincere is the seed of his own damnation.

Proceed, and repeat this mantra:
“Still my breath and steady my heart: the invisible force that arranges the furniture on this cosmic stage is an odic current subject to my will; my human form is but a condensation of the ether, a colored reflection of the dream of my brain.  The world and I are azotic manifests of the words I speak.”

Whosoever, with untroubled mind, keeps these words upon his tongue thereby avoids all treachery, for he has earned the title of the true seeker.

— Liberal translation by JJM with the aid of Google Translate

Stanislas de Guaita, born this day in 1861, drew inspiration from the Rosicrucian order, a 500-year-old sect with roots that go back to Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Gnostics.

Clear Light holiday

Some time in the 7th century BC, Jie Zhi-tui was a modest sage in the court of Duke Wen of Jin (aka Chong-er), softspoken, unassuming, and easily overlooked.  His counsel was taken for granted until he retired to the forest to care for his aging mother.  Only then, the Duke realized how much he missed Jie’s wisdom, so he did what Dukes usually do, seeking to gain what he wanted by an overwhelming show of force. He ordered the forest to be set afire to drive Jie out from wherever he was hiding. But by an unexpected twist of fate (how could he possibly have foreseen this?) Jie Zhi-tui and his mother both perished in the fire.

For hundreds of years, The People commemorated Jie by not lighting fires for a full month in the dead of winter.  But this was a hardship, especially for aging dowagers.   So the Emperor, in his divine wisdom, decreed that the not lighting of fires shall be prohibited, except for a three-day holiday in Jie’s honor.

Today, Qing ming jie is a national holiday in China and a cultural holiday for overseas Chinese.  It’s a time to remember the wise people in your life, parents, grandparents, mentors and teachers, who are no longer with us.

I’m remembering Mrs. Resnick, my Jr High School guidance counselor who covered for me and got me out of trouble when I was sarcastic to my 9th Grade geometry teacher, and who arranged for me to avoid the Pingry Prep School and accelerate through public high school instead.  I’m remembering my Dad who quietly broadened my perspective while allowing me to make my own choices.  I’m remembering Shamcher Bryn Beorse, a U.C. Berkeley professor of environmental engineering and a Sufi guru on the side, who caught my eye at a 1979 alternative energy conference and made a friend of me.  I’m thinking of Sam Litwin and Nick Fisher, and Debbie Rogow, living friends who lent me their wisdom at crucial moments in my life.

Along the River during the Qingming Festival painting