we had a baby. beautiful and healthy it seemed. at first. but, from the beginning something was wrong. at two years. he died of leukemia. i’m telling you this because it had an important effect on Chris’s development. otherwise, i wouldn’t tell you at all. the pain in me is still too strong, too awful. but for chris it made him crazy for a while. the baby for him was the cure for all of the negative things in his life. he delighted just in looking at our baby. when it suffered and died so horribly. he was numb and desolate. beyond that. then, he was angry. furious. with god. he rebelled against the Church, against everything. i tell you this only because it might help explain the intensity of what happened later.
_____________________ In order for me to survive the loss of my child, I started to work and to write again. I wrote mostly about Chris. Work? I volunteered mostly. I also went back to school. Graduate work. It was the writing that occu- pied my mind best. The following is an introduction to a collection of short fiction. There is something in it that became a self-fulfilling prophecy…
This work addresses a broad spectrum of spiritual and material issues: from a priest who inherits 3 billion dollars to the motley com- pany that seeks his treasure; from real god killers, to a way through their murderous dilemma; from gods to God; popular fiction to poetry; issues of masculinity and the feminine; sex, flesh and the spirit; animals, plants, rocks and and what parents teach their children about human perception re: this world and the “other” one. Brilliant Passages addresses this spectrum through an adventure in consciousness with roots in Shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Scientific, Critical Method—from the vantage of personal witness. Though this errant vacation once expressed itself in someone else’s Ph.D. dissertation, the present work is a series of prose, fiction selections; stories, vignettes, and episodes with a sub-text of scholarly references, poems, original paintings and appendices. Brilliant Passages is a web1 of sensate con- frontations that might be read as a series of short stories. But I hope, because of the interconnections between the stories, that it will also produce some satisfaction and relief.
We begin like this:
The priest walked onto the balcony patio of his rec-
tory about midnight. There he conducted a ritual of the wind, fire and
sacred objects. Objects and the fire—molded and remolded. Until, in the
crepuscular moment of tender light, that night’s work seemed complete.
An unseasonable (the news said “freak”) squall hit the church. Winds
struck, stronger than the mighty Santa Ana winds of that California
clime—Rain, unseasonably tropical and terrific. The priest had con-
ducted the ritual for a benevolent purpose. He wondered, well, half won-
dered, about any connection between the ritual and the storm.2
1 This “web” indicates an “associative” type of thinking in comparison with linear, logical perception, that might be distinguished respectively as “non-discursive” and “discursive” consciousness. Non-discursive per- ception is exemplified by Zen Buddhism, or some forms of Art, or Christian Contemplation. As well, associative thinking is closer to shamanistic thinking and is the method of processing information pri- marily in computer programs.
2 What follows, entitled here, “Brilliant Passages.” is an abstracted refer- ence to a reformatted version of “Nepsis.” “Nepsis” is a picaresque nar- rative. When it dealt with Tantric or magical issues, it was a grimmoire with a certain literary flavor in a modernist sense. When it dealt with the Church, “Nepsis” is in the form of a letter addressed to a Roman Catholic Bishop from a priest who feels compelled to follow a certain spiritual path that he thinks the Bishop misunderstands. This letter for- mat harkens back to the New Testament for its epistle format. It relates to letter writing motifs in literature, as well as other patterns typical of religious literature and myths. This approach maintains a certain ironic admiration for classical or medieval, less-technocratic worlds. At over 400 pages, the letter format of “Nepsis” continues the irony and aban- dons the discreet brevity of previous communications between priest and bishop. “Nepsis” and subsequent fiction derived from it, i.e., Interstates, Adam’s Way, and Brilliant Passages, represent a search for the format appropriate to the subject matter of this material. The narra- tive format of “Nepsis” seems now to be more successful than the novel- istic style of Adam’s Way. Perhaps the poetic prose style in “To Eat With Long Ass Chopsticks” is most appropriate after all. My experiments with popular evangelism, represented by these (Adam) fictions have lead me back to a literary approach similar to, but in a significantly dif- ferent mood from the abstract, poetic base in which I originally felt most comfortable. However, this loosely connected web of stories, inci- dents, (paintings and poems), and other excerpts that tell what has hap- pened, and why the tale is worth re-constructing in this fashion, is a form that might facilitate presentation of this topic best of all.Brilliant Passages, continues the sardonic hope of “Nepsis” in love with “the light”, while it depends upon dark forces to effect its salvific intention. Brilliant Passages is a collection of fragments that tries to cre- ate a network, a web of meaning—a mosaic if you like, wherein one might still just perceive a figure, an environment—but much is missing. It is truly an “artifact” of the unconscious trying to effect conscious expression.
This story in fragments, is entitled “Brilliant Passages” because, as a Hollywood movie producer who read parts of the longer original works remarked:
“…your book has some brilliant things in it but… it rambles, it roams, it circles, it meanders, and it really goes nowhere…”
However, a world class scholar, in a recent interview, remarked about “Nepsis” that it is just this labyrinthine fantasy, this tortuously circuitous, often obscure expression and re-expression of an inner experience, turning again and again in on itself- that is the success of the pilgrimage art and stories. It is exactly as real symbols of the inner processes of this “erring” way that the [art has its] meaning. These works are artifacts from a particular spiritual, aesthetic, and psycholog- ical process. Carl Jung, in his “Commentary” on The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese mandalic, alchemical text, comments more generally upon such a ‘method’ of reflection and distillation:
…Yoga teaching rejects all fantasy contents and we do the same, but the East does it on quite different grounds. In the East, concep- tions and teaching prevail which express the creative fantasy in richest measure; in fact, protection is required against the excess of fantasy. We, on the other hand, look upon fantasy as valueless, sub- jective day-dreaming. Naturally the figures of the unconscious do not appear as abstractions stripped of all imaginative trappings; on the contrary, they are embedded and interwoven in a web of fantasies of extraordinary variety and bewildering abundance. The East can reject these fantasies because long ago it extracted their essence and condensed it in profound teachings.” p. 199ff
What has characterized the Western, and increasingly, the universal mindset, is a nearly psychotic break between discursive and non discursive processes. We have attempted to overcome this dualistic split by pursuing knowledge from both discursive and non discursive points of reference, thus spontaneously engaging the shift between painting and research, or, pilgrimage and study (of the Tibetan mandala, for instance).
The dominance of discursive consciousness and its isolation from its own roots was diagnosed as a problem early in this century by Carl Jung. In his “Commentary” on the same text mentioned above, The Secret of the Golden Flower, p. 88ff, he warns about the effects of repressing the anima,
The more powerful and independent consciousness, with it the conscious will, become, the more the unconscious is forced into the background. When this happens, it is easily possible for the conscious structures to detach themselves from the uncon- scious archetypes. Gaining thus in freedom, they break the chains of mere instinctiveness, and finally arrive at a state that is deprived of, or contrary to instinct. Consciousness thus is torn from its roots and no longer able to appeal to the authority of the archetypal images; it has Promethean freedom, it is true, but also a godless hubris….
Quite obviously, the Chinese owes the finding of this path to the fact that he was never able to force the opposites in human nature so far apart that all conscious connection between them was lost. The Chinese has such an all-inclusive consciousness because, as in the case of primitive mentality, the yea and the nay have remained in their original proximity. None the less, he could not escape feeling the collision of the opposites, and therefore he sought out the way of life in which he would be what the Hindu terms nirdvandva, ‘free of the opposites.’
Notwithstanding the correct wisdoms of many scholars, they might agree with the Hollywood pundit above, that few could follow the whole of this work without being likewise lost in its maze, not thinking it very brilliant at all, perhaps. This network of fragments and subtext (footnotes, paintings and appendices) that constitutes Brilliant Passages [is an earlier attempt that] hopes to overcome that barrier. Yet, I don’t really know if the passages included here are those the producer thought to be brilliant or not! Brilliant, more importantly, refers to a “self-justifying radiance” that is the inner force animating the world. Passages refers to the shifts of consciousness and the growth necessary to access that radiance. The title refers generally to both the heights of this topic and the vanity of those who would dare to talk about it.
chris and i seemed to recover from the death of our child slowly over the next couple of years, but chris started to spend more and more time at the monastery. then, finally, he entered a seminary and eventually—five years?—was ordained a priest. odd. really. that he should do that. we long since had given up our sexual relationship. he transferred all that energy and grief into religion. he both loved and hated different aspects of the religious institution. but he felt driven. driven by some spirit, the Spirit(?), to pursue this course.