NEPSIS from the Third Century is to Western Religious Traditions what ZEN is to Asian Religions…
But, as one of the Nepsis Foundation fictions has it, ‘Bishop, I am not a new age dragon and crystal dilettante!’ However, dragons figure largely in this presentation. Dragons are nature as in St George (Greek- ‘earth-worker’) who tamed the dragon starting with agriculture but might kill it still.
Here art, study, and metaphysical practice explore human perception and values through the ages for one’s own self-knowledge, but under the looming threat of nuclear and/or environmental self-annihilation. A ‘response’ is fashioned in what was discovered.
This work began in the fall of 1973 and extends through 2013 with its ‘final’ configuration indicated in the sitemaps below and in the 2010 UC Berkeley promulgation. This present work is ‘final’ in the sense that it links to all the related art and musing of the NEPSIS project, including 100 significant artworks not counted in the 2010 University of California, Berkeley promulgation.1
About Nepsis it has been said:
“This is serious work… Pioneering effort… and a Victory…” Rev. Dr. Raimon Panikkar, Peritus at Vatican II, 1989 Gifford Lecturer, et al.
“Frost’s ‘Nepsis’ is like Mozart, and monastic choirs singing one to the other…” UCB Professor Lewis Lancaster Ph.D., Ph.D., et al.
“I paint the inner sensations of what I’m thinking and feeling/experiencing- engage Archetypes, Angels, and Seraphim, the Gen Loci/Gen Mundi, et al- Run with the Gods…
TOPIC: Spiritual Birth, Initiation, Practice- An Interpretation of ancient material for a different age- Open to various Systems and Symbols of Deity. Suspend unbelief, at least for a while, long enough- to know: NEPSIS2 What you will find here is either a close description of the phenomena itself, a valid though fictional recreation of what people of the past have experienced in this regard, and/or an attempt at the thing itself that makes inroads, ultimately fails- but maybe learns/teaches more than the easy accomplishments of a savant.
The Nepsis Foundation is about
VAULTING SPLENDOR, ABSOLUTE INTIMACY…
That, from a Seraphim-like presence at a certain wild place, beneath a star-encrusted grandeur of night in the Great Basin of North America- IT FILLED THE SKY. Then, we in our vehicle were transported about 15 miles without going in-between.3
The grandeur of the experience cannot be denied, nor can the holy terror in the face of such otherness. Needless to say, there is more to it- Or, the human path to self-justifying, radiant simplicity [SPIRIT] is not as simple as it sounds,
thus this Litany of Adventures.
Objective phenomena and/or subjective emotion, this experience is memorable enough to justify attention and serious consideration. See also, PhD Dissertation
Nepsis Foundation’s four pillars are Visual Arts and Poems, Prose-[Non-fiction Narratives, long and short Fiction, Essays]- and Metaphysical Exercise (described in the Narratives). All of these attend upon a complex of phenomena by which we know being. Ample warnings are issued about unusual style and grammar- abuse of hyphens, shifty gerunds, thematic but swishy tense formulations- even allegory. The paintings are more straightforward and the Poems… well, see for yourself, as we reconsider Art, Religion, Devotion and the Critical Method.
Well, is it by a
Religious Pilgrim? Or Secular Picaro?
A Berdashe? Warrior? Priest. Professor? Saint? Wizard?
‘Who climbs up upon the cross?’ Who can help themselves? Who casts the spell of Being?
And who can Redeem it?
SEE FOR YOURSELF!
This painting represents a series of more than 90 works in a series that stretches over several years. The main formal elements here are the amorphic color and space in counterpoint relationship with hard edge, linear and geometric embellishments. It is about the relationship between the general context of being and specific experience as open and luminous. This subject might also be likened to the Sipahpuni (Hopi), the point of emergence from mythic underworlds as well as the physical and psychic womb, to levels of increasing realization. Thus, this painting indicates secondly, a poignant moment of transition in physical and personal evolution guided by the Dragon Lord, i.e., a salvific, catalytic function of Spirit in Nature; God, if you like, or Grace.
Expanding on the contents referenced above with the labyrinthine curiosity of this venture:
FATHER ADAM’S LAST WORD
Steam of Consciousness Streams to the Sea,
From Priesthood to Sorcery,
SEX: Though the drama of “spirituality” is the topic- Sex, any graphic sex, is used here to explore the biosphere of human experience as it relates to ultimate reality. Sexual imagery is a necessary vehicle in the discussion of biological life. It’s not ‘real.’ It’s poignantly symbolic- so arousal, at least interest, would not be a surprise. But the vision is inclusive and does not reject what is given. It is a way of truth, not extremes. It is a way through- The direction is transcendent.
When Adam and Eve are found hiding from God in the Garden of Eden, God replies to Adam’s complaint about being naked with the above query. “Who told you you were naked?” Before the Resurrection and after the creation of Adam and Eve, this question might be the most important moment described in the Bible. How do we lose our innocence, i.e. our natural relationship with the divine spirit… and everything else? This painting in combination with #105, #129, and #143-147[84-88], comment upon the ‘answer’ to the problem of the Fall in Genesis–The Christos, or our Christic identity—or as Panikkar would have it, a “New Innocence.” The old innocence is lost. It cannot be reclaimed by Modernity. But there is the possibility of a “new” state that comes from the influence of all the “wisdom traditions” of the past and the altruistic intentions of our own secular age. In relationship to the “New Innocence” is the ancient Church teaching about Theopoeisis, the ‘Rhythm of God’ or the movement of the Divine Spirit in creation. This refers to an early, predominant teaching, or spiritual method, in the Church concerning how such original innocence is rediscovered in one’s life. To live life according to the Rhythm of God, is to discover one’s true identity- and holiness as the completion of nature. The “horns of light”, yellow shapes around the central figure are a reference to mandala themes. See #143-147[84-88], or dissertation appendix “Buddhist Notes.”This painting is the seventh in a series of male nudes at first overtly sexual in the practice of sex magic—the most powerful and dangerous of magics. Working through issues of sexual identity, one comes to a NEW INNOCENCE, with sexuality a discreet mystery—even abstinent, certainly chaste. See also: #s 119, 120, 133, 105[93, 93c], 239…
Acknowledgements and Unresolved Elements: Where my knack turns more to the art studio and metaphysical practice or recreation, see bibliography for knowledgeable sources. Especially, I recommend Raimon Panikkar for in-depth, serious scholarship experienced in these issues and recognized around the globe on the highest levels.4
But there is MORE and enough uniquely here to begin anew.
From Nepsis Fictions: Who really killed the Exorcist? Why did the Golem have to be destroyed? -And by such ‘good’ people? Who finally is Stephanie? Why was she exiled to the Island of Ghosts? How did she really gain freedom? How and why did she create the Golem? What outside influence increased this creature’s danger so terribly! What is its true purpose and capacity? What is it that required all this art and studies and hard travel- ‘stopping/seeing.’ What is it that requires something more than sweet reason and determined vigor?
…Shamanistic themes involving earth powers and metaphysical energies in a relationship with the Passion of Christ, expressed here with ancient symbols for the divine hunt–antlers, and the crucifix display an underlying unity in a variety of spiritual traditions and experience. Elemental Powers, Angels, Archetypes are suggested on the horizon where they keep their vigil. In this work, the practical influence of shamanistic elements is beginning to be apparent. Abrahamic and Asian religions live on their inheritance from the Animist/Shamanistic intuition.
THE NEPSIS FOUNDATION AND THE ORACLE OF XIBALBA is the core composition: And its more than reflections upon ten to fifty thousand years of spiritual attitude- i.e., the notice that there might be two essential aspects in our cosmic construct: One ruled by the laws of physics, the other– life with, in, containing the Spirit(s)! –These two find perfect union in animate sensibility as ‘Consciousness itself is untouched by temporality.’ [R. Panikkar.]– There have been many theories over millennia about how all that works. Nepsis invites/provides an experience that illumines such qualities. See Visual Art and Narratives above especially in this regard.
Extensive studies, Art theory and practice, Metaphysical exercise influenced by Hesychast/Christian ‘stillness’ and ritual processes, developed over millennia, that ‘out’ the ‘inner world,’ are compared with Buddhist method, ecstatic mastery in Shamanism- Modernist and Animist insight.
One salient issue involved that helps make commentary possible about such a broad spread is the genius loci– the spirit of a place or places. While there is a history of this sensibility exercised in various cultures around the world, I posit that encountering this phenomenon expanded to cosmology is a foundation for most experiential and theoretical religion. It was noticed early that there is something about places, even objects, that exhibit relational character, even power and this is important in the development of religious sensibilities and even economies. We would be in a very different position on every level, if we still believed that ‘the land’ is thus sacred, for instance.
The Nepsis Foundation is a Mandalic configuration. The Nepsis Foundation is an elaborate ruse, an art form, that tries to tell the truth. As in a traditional mandala, once having ‘gained entrance’ through its four gates (here Paintings, Prose, Poems, and Metaphysical Exercise described in non-fiction narratives) and various initiations, one moves in a sacred circle growing to ultimate Realization. This is accomplished, or at least expressed via “10,000” evocative symbols and activities laden with meaning- “Who climbs up upon the Cross?” -as a prominent Zen Roshi once asked me. Or who is the Buddha, for that matter- (Who is it that can help themselves or anyone else?) What is a Shaman? Saint? Sorcerer? Poet? Artist? Scientist? What spell is cast to fulfill the human capacity? And who casts it?
Why this complex for a spiritual excavation? Because more than just an intellectual evaluation of experience, ideas or objects are required to explore the inner treasures of human perception. Encounter the genius loci, the spirit of place—Dragons of Being. Know the Mercy of God—the Elohim, for instance. Religious, aesthetic, sexual initiation must be reconsidered in our cultural and individual evolution. Ecstasis! Spiritual transcendence may be the ground of the Biosphere. Animism, Shamanism, Insight (Siddhartha et al) and Revelation (Abraham …),
Light Mysticism and Visionary consciousness combined with the critical method are the vehicles of my explorations.
From the offerings above, view first the principal POINTS OF ENTRY, VISUAL ART with its Annotations, NARRATIVES, “SELECTIONS” or”A Poem of Voices,” and “Art, My Art, and Religious Aesthetics,” “A Case for Religion,” “Nepsis Rational I-V,” et al. As well consider, from outside evaluations, Raimon Panikkar’s ‘Response‘ under ESSAYS, the 2012 IBook, Nepsis Foundation, and finally, the UCB/ECAI Site’s Menu Page,
147  Oil on Canvas 5’ x 5’ 1990. Nature is the first Mandala, the human person is the second. Paintings #84-87 were painted upon my return from India in1990. I had journeyed to India to study Tibetan Buddhism (1980): in particular, Tibetan Mandalas, (1990). Paintings #88 and #94 continue the influence of this study and practice. (Painting #30, 1980, reflects an early interest in this complex of themes.) The Mandala in Tantric Yoga, like the Christian Icon and its theologies, is the Great Art of Divine/Mundane union, the Symbolon. This practice and product require the reconfiguration of intellect, emotion, imagination, and physicality of the practitioner for the re-creation of the whole human person in its ‘true’ or ‘divine’ image. In other words, this attempts full, true ‘conversion.’ That is the intention for both the practitioner and for the world. Thus, an actual mandala or mandalesque (truly iconic) art carries that same intention: the ‘salvation’ or ‘realization’ of individual and the world by seeking and telling—being—this truth. This is the touchstone for the whole of NEPSIS.
“Sit in your ‘cell’ as in Paradise,” St. Romuald advises. There are states of ‘consciousness,’ or ‘awareness’ if you like, from which all things flow in the vales of perception: Compassion, creativity, para-rational phenomena, even material processes- unimaginable happiness, satisfaction, and peace. Creation itself is subject to this animation.
‘Nepsis,’ thus, comments upon the “inner life.” ‘Foundation,’ in the title above, refers to the “Clear Light Realization” of Buddhism and the “Lamb whose light casts no shadow” that is the foundation of mysticism and from that perspective, all reality. Because my theme focuses on an essential thread that weaves itself through these various religious traditions, I have had to familiarize myself with them to follow its course. Thus proceeding, one will realize the significance of the shift of consciousness within the fabric of the whole and consequently to perceive its significance in the works of Raimundo Panikkar, (as 1989 Gifford Lecturer, with three doctorates-Chemistry, Philosophy, Theology- and fluent in twelve languages, his significance is easy to note. See Bibliography.) His understanding of human perception with distilled simplicity and the quality of his expertise in the history of religion and the philosophy of science is useful for these studies and exposes my theme as central and universal to the history of human perception itself.
In 2005, there occurred a coalescence of Frost’s visual arts, prose, poetry and metaphysical exercise that resulted in a ‘composition’ first expressed in a Table of Contents, see below, then a University of California, Berkeley Internet Site, (2010) including a further distillation of elements in THE NEPSIS FOUNDATION AND THE ORACLE OF XIBALBA, an Anti-Novel.
-In Ambulando Solvitur, the latent faith of the pilgrim. I.e. walking long distances with the pilgrim’s intentions in itself resolves a lot of issues. Nepsis acknowledges and practices a number of such yogic/ascetic or metaphysical forms. But the real exercise of the Nepsis project is to inculcate the vantages of such ancient attitudes and experience as well as those of Modernity—to address its ‘Problem.’ Nepsis Pilgrimage puts one at the Mercy of God by hitchhiking. Any such venture, months in duration will always involve a lot of movement. Nepsis tries to address personal salvation, enlightenment, and health, but something more as well. One example: The re-urbanization of Europe in the late Middle Ages, pushes God further and further away into a distant Heaven to be obtained by an obscure moral perfectionism only satisfied by death. The Renaissance, Commercial interests, soon joined by the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, slowly replace spiritual immediacy of high Medieval mysticism (including the remnants of 50,000 years of mystical consciousness). Even today, hopeful lip service is paid to the Divine Presence, but just enough to get back to the real business of running highly monetized institutions. Spirituality becomes a convivial grease for the skids of Big Business—even small business—the real interest that dominates contemporary consciousness. Everything is sacrificed for the ‘bottom line,’ including the very environment that gives us a place to be. Nature’s wanton destruction continues, without taking the time to notice its significance in the construction of ‘who and how we are.’
Because of the multiple categories and sheer volume of expertise under consideration here, the accuracy of these ambient references does not depend alone upon my intuitive sensibilities or my research to represent these great traditions of human understanding and expression- This accuracy also depends upon verification from the dissertation committee members in Berkeley, outside readers, and other respondents, including Raimundo Panikkar, chosen for their particular expertise in the different themes of that work.
The 2010 NEPSIS FOUNDATION hosted at the University of California, Berkeley advanced and archived the essential elements of this project: See UCB/ECAI MENU PAGE
The pivotal 2005 NEPSIS FOUNDATION Table of Contents included:
SECTION I FIRST STATES
PAINTINGS: 1973-1987 Last College Work, Canyon Studio, Monastery, Wilshire Studio, Venice, Seminary, Orange, Long Beach POEMS: 1970-1980
To consider is to “draw the stars together” or to give/find order in one’s universe. To desire is to “tear the stars apart.”
First Interstate Reflection: Religious Initiation and States of Consciousness
INTERSTATES An Investigation into the Inter-phase Between Discursive and Non-discursive Perception according to Pertinent Criteria in the Works of Raimon Panikkar.
Second Interstate Reflection:
SATISFACTION: An Essay: Introduction FURTHER ESSAYS on Satisfaction: Icons, Mandalas and the Nude:
FICTION FOREWORD SECOND FICTION THE COMPANYAs with all the fiction works here, “The Company” is developed from “Second Fiction” above and properly belongs in LETTER TO A BISHOP, Part II. Here are distinguished five characters and five stories: Chris, Agnes, Stephanie, Catherine, and the Priest (See Section III, “What Georgia Did” endnote, for a recent edit.)
Paintings and Sculptures Then from:
THE NARRATOR, A Businessma
INTERSTATES, A Novel
ADAM’S WAY, A Novella
CHRIS AND STEPHANIE, A long Short Fiction
HOW DIONYSIUS SAVED HIS MOTHER FROM HELL and Thus Saves the World. Three Short Fictions of Magic, Mysticism and Rocket Science…
PAINTINGS: 1987-1995 Long Beach, Berkeley POEMS: 1980-1995
…neither separate from, nor subject to, oneself…
IMPORTANT FICTIONAL AND ‘REAL’ CHARACTERS: WHAT THEY DID
Some of the following characters are ‘real’ characters unheard from in NEPSIS before this. They stand here with imaginary characters and scenes from NEPSIS fiction and poems and other fragments from this collection so as to draw together ‘internal’ processes of perception with ‘external’ processes. Thus, knowledge is integrated, history is transformed and the world is saved!
TO ACCESS THE FOLLOWING REFERENCES FROM THIS SECTION
1. The Narrator’s Last Note and Dread Conclusion (From NEPSIS, Section II Fictions.)
2. What Mike Did
3. What Georgia Did
5. The Company Disbands
6. The Author’s Last Note: Last Luxor, i.e., Yemen and the Great Experiment.
7. HOW DIONYSIUS SAVED HIS MOTHER FROM HELL:
POEMS: 1995-1999 PAINTINGS: 1995-1999
Agree with this direction or not,5assuming the effects of an American Liberal Education, Systematic Catholic Theology, Scientific Scripture and Religious Studies, traditional training as an artist in the conjuring of Paintings and Poems, and the glamor of a Genius Loci- the intuition of the Nepsis Project is to live and explore a deeper way of being in this world, to experience certain core practices and states of awareness to re-animate an immediacy of Mystical Union and to resolve “the problem.”
Reader, see for yourself what happened. Decide for yourself how you want to be in this world.
- There was no way to know at that time when or if the artist would finish the project. Against the opinion of several doctors, he survived… So, find here new configurations, and newly edited versions of old works- The 2010 UCB version also inspired new configurations such as THE NEPSIS FOUNDATION AND THE ORACLE OF XIBALBA. [↩]
- Nepsis is a metaphysical process for the spiritual observation of Self. Nepsis is a New Testament Greek term that implies sobriety, certain kinds of preparation (Yoga for example). Nepsis implies being awake spiritually so that one might notice the ‘coming of the Lord’ i.e. clearing away obstacles and distractions to the Beatific Vision, epiphany in a general sense. See Matthew 25:1-13. Nepsis is a method of inner examination conversant with Buddhist meditation and many other traditions for exploring perception and the nature of reality. NEPSIS as a doctoral project–a life project for this editor– ranges across cultures, academic and religious disciplines; Art, Religion, and Science (i.e. critical methodology); Cultures and the Individual; Identity in Nature, Civilization– Human Identity… But always in these travels, there are certain themes and practices that express themselves as essential. The following indicates a core of content and activity thus distilled and expressive of this search for human identity and meaning. [↩]
- See “Nepsis Foundation, Cycle III- Resolution” I determined this to be of God, rather than otherwise, since at the time I felt suffused in love and that has never changed. Some might claim that this is the result of hallucinatory alkaloids. That is not the case. There is a valid place in the History of Religion for such. But this experience that expanded to transcend the laws of Physics was unmedicated. [↩]
- The theology of Raimundo Panikkar provides a context large enough to accommodate a wide array of important human elements. This is of particular significance since an expansive context is necessary for the operation and discussion of the shift of consciousness between discursive and non-discursive perception. Perhaps that is the signal characteristic of Panikkar’s schema in relation to the interests of this project. His work, his system of values referent to the history of religion and modern consciousness, provide the context in which the operation of the shift of consciousness is always implicit and sometimes an overt requirement. Three terms, Pratityasamutpada, Nairatmyavada, Avyakrtavastuni, from Panikkar’s SILENCE OF GOD, describe generally the parameters of our discussion. I use them to subtitle, respectively, the three chapters of this section.
Chapter 2 discusses the general themes and positions that characterize the works of Raimundo Panikkar necessary to the research.1
Pratityasamutpada refers to the primordial law or essence of how things work, from the Buddha’s point of view. This understanding results from the Buddha’s enlightenment experience in Bodhgaya when he came to understand the past, present, and future in its essence. Thus, Chapter Two displays the essence of Panikkar’s system of thought in the face of what he calls ecstatic consciousness 2 or that particular shift of consciousness studied here from the prehistorical period to our own age of rationalism and logic.
Chapter 3 treats specifically the role that the shift of consciousness plays in his work.
Nairatmyavada refers to the question of a self, or human identity, Atman or Anatman. What is the nature of human experience in time and out of it? Who is it that has the experience? Is there no self to experience? “…there is no ‘itself’ to change skins: the ‘selves’ are precisely dynamic points” in a network of relationships of dynamic points, according to Panikkar.3
Chapter 4 projects these views into the future of the world and into certain cosmological concerns, such as “the rhythm of Being”, that develop in Panikkar’s world-view pertinent to the shift of consciousness, art, and the experience of religion.
Avyakrtavastuni refers to the typical Buddhist calm. “The gentle, smiling Buddha does not refuse to speak, but as we see from our texts, he surely refuses to answer”, i.e., to enter into a dialectic about ultimate things, about God.4 Without avoiding the issue of eternity, in Chapter Four we explore Panikkar’s projections about the world in the face of the unspeakable. In other words, building upon the discussion of temporal and non-temporal reality from Chapter Three, we examine the processes of the world that bring us to silence, the peace of Christ. See: Raimon Panikkar and the Nepsis Foundation under ESSAYS above. [↩]
- I debate all this more fully beginning in the content and forms of the LETTER TO A BISHOP series including: Introduction to Letter…, “Memo to a Bishop,” “Brilliant Passages,” “A Case For Religion,” -See POINTS OF ENTRY above. Before CHAPTER NINE of CYCLE I of the NEPSIS FOUNDATION AND THE ORACLE OF XIBALBA is the account of sincere research while living a religious tradition. WHAT FOLLOWS SPECULATES, EXPERIMENTS AND EXTRAPOLATES FROM THE PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE. It’s allegory- sorry. And there be monsters… [↩]