The Dharma Bum Gets His Own Wiki Entry

Jack Kerouac and the other Beats were my heroes (I was, of course, not alone) when, in 1991, I moved to Boulder, Colorado… home of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute (now known as Naropa University). I could not afford to attend Naropa — who can? — but I did meet Allen Ginsberg on several occasions, which made relocating here worth it.

Kerouac, Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs have all moved on to adventures beyond my wildest imagination… and, of course, I’m still in Boulder, wondering when my boat will leave the dock.

Here’s a random Kerouac quote that reflects my own reality at different times in this life:

I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

And here’s something from his Wiki entry (sans irritating Wiki footnote numbers and internal links):

Kerouac is generally considered to be the father of the Beat movement, although he actively disliked such labels, and, in particular, regarded the subsequent Hippie movement with some disdain. Kerouac’s method was heavily influenced by the prolific explosion of Jazz, especially the Bebop genre established by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and others. Later, Kerouac would include ideas he developed in his Buddhist studies, beginning with Gary Snyder. He called this style Spontaneous Prose, a literary technique akin to stream of consciousness. Although Kerouac’s prose were spontaneous and purportedly without edits, he primarily wrote autobiographical novels (or Roman à clef) based upon actual events from his life and the people he interacted with.

Many of his books exemplified this approach including On the Road, Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur, and The Subterraneans. The central features of this writing method were the ideas of breath (borrowed from Jazz and from Buddhist meditation breathing), improvising words over the inherent structures of mind and language, and not editing a single word (much of his work was edited by Donald Merriam Allen, a major figure in Beat Generation poetry who also edited some of Ginsberg’s work as well). Connected with his idea of breath was the elimination of the period, preferring to use a long, connecting dash instead. As such, the phrases occurring between dashes might resemble improvisational jazz licks. When spoken, the words might take on a certain kind of rhythm, though none of it pre-meditated.

Kerouac greatly admired Gary Snyder, many of whose ideas influenced him. The Dharma Bums contains accounts of a mountain climbing trip Kerouac took with Snyder, and also whole paragraphs from letters Snyder had written to Kerouac. While living with Snyder outside Mill Valley, California in 1956, Kerouac was working on a book centering around Snyder, which he was thinking of calling Visions of Gary. (This eventually became Dharma Bums, which Kerouac described as “mostly about [Snyder]”.) That summer, Kerouac took a job as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascades in Washington, after hearing Snyder’s and Philip Whalen’s accounts of their own lookout stints. Kerouac described the experience in his novel Desolation Angels.

Desolation Angels, by the way, is my favorite Kerouac novel — and I do believe I’ve read them all.

I don’t care what anyone says about his place in the literary pantheon: Jack Kerouac was an original from head to toe, and I’m glad I went through a life-phase with him at the center.

Advertisements

Nietzsche: Parable of the Madman

I’ve always thought that Nietzsche has been misinterpreted by religionists who thought he was attacking them in some way.

Truth is, Nietzsche described the horror of a humanity that has lost its deep connection with God — which is to say, a humanity that thinks it has outgrown God and could therefore safely forget Him.

Madness is the only possible result, as Nietzsche himself discovered.

THE MADMAN—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

Madman as prophet.

And yet… we are a humanity that never quite eradicated God, and are awakening to our Divine nature just at the moment of no return.

Which is why I say, it’s good to be alive in these times.

The Real Yogananda

Yogananda with close disciple Swami Kriyananda

Many of us have read the “authorized” version of An Autobiography of a Yogi, by the great Indian spiritual teacher Paramhansa Yogananda.

Few of us, however, realize that the “authorized” version has been posthumously altered — some would say sanitized — and that the organization founded by Yogananda to carry on his legacy has systematically sanitized the founder’s teaching over the years.

Thankfully, one of his closest followers, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) has maintained a “parallel” organization called Ananda, which has sought to offer Yogananda’s undiluted teachings, in letter and in spirit.

From a website, Yogananda Rediscovered, dedicated to this task:

We offer this website to you as fellow truthseekers and devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda. It contains many facts not commonly known about Yogananda, his teachings, and the organization he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship.

For a long time we have hesitated to speak out. But difficult circumstances and a sense of responsibility require that we come forward now. Many people do not know that in 1990 SRF filed a massive lawsuit against Ananda. Their goal is to gain a monopoly on Yogananda’s teachings.

Ananda is an autonomous network of spiritual communities and churches, founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Ananda has specialized in building world brotherhood colonies, the ideal lifestyle Yogananda recommended for householder devotees. Though Ananda has won nearly every issue in court, SRF continues its litigation unabated. Millions of dollars that could have been spent serving Yogananda’s work is being spent instead on this courtroom battle.

But we would not be writing if the issues affected only us, personally. What is happening now will affect Yogananda’s mission for centuries to come. Certain attitudes and actions by SRF are causing that mission, we believe, to drift from what Yogananda himself intended. (The attack on Ananda has also taken a very personal turn, with charges that Swami Kriyananda is a spiritual charlatan, and Ananda is an abusive cult. For the other side of that story, see www.AnandaAnswers.com)

Changes to Yogananda’s teachings after his passing

In the past fifty years, significant changes have been made to Yogananda’s books, teachings, ideals, and to his image—changes which emphasize SRF as an institution and limit how Yogananda is presented to the world. Kriya initiation, discipleship, Autobiography of a Yogi, and even Yogananda’s own signature have been altered. Edited versions of many of his writings have been greatly changed. All references to colonies have been removed from Autobiography of a Yogi. Even a cross Yogananda wore around his neck at the dedication of the Lake Shrine has been airbrushed out of that photo. Devotees have no access to the movies, recordings, photos, and writings of Yogananda still stored in SRF archives.

Lifelong disciples have shared heart-breaking stories of unkindness by SRF. Of grave concern is SRF’s increasing assertion of itself as a required intermediary between the disciples and their own master. This is what the Catholic Church did to the teachings of Christ centuries ago.

We hope, after reading this website, that you will share our concern about the issues raised here. Only a handful of direct disciples still remain alive. The mantle of responsibility is about to pass to the next generation. The guidance and legacy of “those who were with him” will long endure, but we will also be called upon to use our own judgment. Let it be an informed judgment. All of us as Yogananda’s devotees hold the future of his work in our hands.

As a confirmed iconoclast, spiritual rebel and anti-authoritarian (contrary to what those feisty rascals who’ve been banned from commenting on this site may say), I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for Swami Kriyananda for years now. Through his organization, Ananda, he’s been working ceaselessly toward a better life for all, building intentional communities around the world that are based on spiritual practice and attainment. He understands the Divine nature of this particular reality, and has harnessed the laws of creation in order to build his vision into a unique global movement that will gain in importance as the structure of society continues its race to oblivion.

In short, he is an essential model for me during this lifetime, and I offer his example to you, no matter what tradition you do or don’t follow, no matter how jaded you may have become toward the tradition through which you may or may not have been raised. He’s all about possitivity, all about the power of prayer, all about meditation, all about loving one’s fellow humans and the world we’ve been given.

Swami Kriyananda represents a particularly beautiful solution to the world’s problems, and we absolutely should give his ideas the attention they deserve.

Another Bittersweet Goodbye

vonnegut.jpg

R.I.P., you modern-day Socrates.

I already miss your watery eyes, your cigarette curls and your linguistic sword slashes.

The world can hardly afford your absence… but lucky for us, you left plenty of grist for our collective mill.

Stealing from a wonderful Poputonian post at Hullaboo, here’s a final salute from A Man Without a Country:

I apologize to all of you who are the same age as my grandchildren. And many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.

Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any “Good Old Days,” there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me, I just got here.”

There are old poops who will say that you do not become a grown-up until you have somehow survived, as they have, some famous calamity — the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, whatever. Storytellers are responsible for this destructive, not to say suicidal, myth. Again and again in stories, after some terrible mess, the character is able to say at last, “Today I am a woman. Today I am a man. The end.”

When I got home from the Second World War, my Uncle Dan clapped me on the back, and he said, “You’re a man now.” So I killed him. Not really, but I certainly felt like doing it.

Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a man can’t be a man unless he’d gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Goodbye, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Masterly Advice

kurt-vonnegut.jpg

For everyone who plans to write good fiction (or who already does but hasn’t quite figured out why it’s good), here’s some sage advice from a truly wise person:

Kurt Vonnegut

Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

— Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

I’ve been struggling to get back into the fiction-writing vibe, having spent several years living with a professional writer who finally moved out to get married, leaving me with meditation, blogging and the overall spiritual pursuit. I can feel the call of creativity returning, however, and this is the sort of information that inspires me to dive back in.

I hope it does something similar for you.

Perennial Wisdom

thoth.jpg

It’s all here:

The Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean

The Emerald Tablets of Thoth is a very important spiritual work. It is probably the oldest mystical work. The current work can be traced back to European alchemists in the 13th century, but the tablet dates back much further. Some say it was originally written in Atlantean characters, others Phoenician script. Hermes (Thoth) is alleged to have lived about 1900 BC, but other sources attribute him with immortality dating him back to the time of Atlantis and crediting him with the construction of the pyramids. His contribution to Egyptian society, including the introduction of writing, was merely another step in raising the consciousness of society following the fall of the Atlantean empire. Alexander the Great may be the discoverer of the Tablet (which may actually be green glass, rather than green stone granite), and it is one of the few remaining works of Egyptian (many burnt in the library at Alexandria). The work was known to Appollonius of Tyana (1st century Greek philosopher).

And here’s the text:

The Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus

I. True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.

II. That which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of One Thing.

III. And as all things have proceeded from One, by the meditation of One, so all things are born from this One Thing, by adaptation.

IV. The Sun is the Father thereof. The Moon is its Mother.

V. The Wind carried it in its belly. The Earth is its Nurse.

VI. The Father of all the Telesme (works of wonder, hidden treasure) of the whole world is here. Its strength and power is complete if it be converted into earth.

VII. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with unremitting care.
VIII. It ascends from the earth to the heaven, and again descends to the earth,

IX. and thereby gathers to itself the strength of things above, and of things below.

X. By this means, all the glory of the world shall be yours, and all obscurity shall flee from you. It is the strong strength of all strength. For it shall overcome every subtle thing, and penetrate every solid thing.

XI. Thus was the world created. Hence shall wonderful adaptations be achieved, of which the means is here.

XII. Therefore I am called Hermes Trismegistus. For I hold three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.

XIII. That which I had to say concerning the operation of the Sun is completed.

Here endeth the Emerald Table of Hermes.

Indepth information at the link….