A barrier to Yin,
See the closing.
The snake bows to the mud.
Lesson IX - Sharing Our Joy
Our Lord, Jesus Christ said, "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law of the prophets."1
We have focused most of our attention on the first commandment, for, by now, our every action should be an expression of love for God. We have experienced the actions of others as part of the universe that is doing its loving dance with us. As we now see every event as an expression of God's loving providence,2 we cannot even perceive the sins of others. Sin is most likely to occur in ourselves when we judge our neighbors, so the Lord said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; . . ."3 To the unfaithful, our actions will seem as mad as those actions of St. Marcel Duchamp, who was St. John's most influential teacher and mentor.
Today, we will have new neighbors over as our guests. Some have participated in these meditations before and some have not. They will all be aware of the rule of Soft Tablets and will know of the designated areas. Some will be participating while others will only watch shyly. We will love them as ourselves, or even more so, for they are a part of God's perfect order. They will assist us greatly in eliminating any new habits that may have acquired over our practice. God may show us worlds that are more complex or simple. Certainly, much of what you have achieved over these nine days will be communicated to others in a most gentle and loving way. This love will be made stronger today as we feel ourselves become one unified soul glorifying in the Lord. If we remain true to our purpose, this love shall spread around the world. May God's great love be with us as we share our love for Him. Amen.
Rule for All Time: Love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and all thy mind, and all thy soul. Love thy neighbor as thyself.4
To our most beloved Brother Robert, greetings:
I have read your late epistle concerning the Rule of your Order and the proper of your novena, and my inward ears have been enraptured by the heavenly beauty of your words. Truly the divine spirit has spoken in you, making you a door through which the worldly and despairing may see and even visit the true country of their souls. And yet you ask me, who am all unworthy and untutored in those mysteries of which you are master, for any correction or reply that the Spirit prompts me to offer. In fear and trembling, then, this:
Consider the wisdom of the Upanishadic books, where the wisest of the Brahmins or saints is often brought face to face with some pure youth or hardened veteran of that calling called the way of the Kshatriya, the warrior. Read how the warrior, who must serve earthly justice and work in earthly ways, even of pollution, blood, divided or corrupted loyalties, is found often to be of deeper wisdom and holiness than the ascetic--and how the ascetic himself comes to understand this paradox, and to reverence the man of blood. Consider the great Gita, where the Lord of Hosts, the Ancient of Days Himself, appears as a charioteer, as a mortal friend, and how he instructs the prince Arjuna not to take the path of asceticism and purity, but to plunge into a terrible war against his very cousins. Let our harmonies not ascend too far from the realms of the world and the senses; if we fly, let it be with real wings above a real ground, bearing a real weight against the pull of a real world.
Consider deepest of all how our Savior became such through the mortal fluids and fleshly cave of Mary's womb, abhorring them not; and taking flesh that He might delight in it at the wedding feast and suffer in it at the hill of Golgotha, of skulls. Surely at the feast there was music and dancing; and if His asceticism had been pure, there had been no violation of the Sabbath, no entry into Jerusalem, no blood and myrrh, no accusation against Him by the scribes and pharisees, and no salvation. Let us not be counted among the elect, the chosen, the despisers of the common people! Let us not be counted among the scribes and pharisees!
The mystics whisper to us that God became flesh because eternity is in love with the productions of time; that God Himself would be lesser had he not descended among us and tasted the mortal pains and pleasures of the flesh. Let then our music be a music of paradise, that is, let it always be mixed of heaven and earth, and not be purely of heaven. For this is the mystery of the incarnation, in which I sign myself your most unworthy servant and brother.
To my dearest Father and spiritual guide, Frederick; Warrior in Christ:
You were so kind to respond favorably to my little offering. I quickly made all of the corrections that you suggested and have undergone a severe self-examination, particularly in response to your warnings against spiritual pride. Again, you were being kind, suggesting that this may be my greatest fault, when, in fact, I am guilty of the much greater sin of spiritual gluttony, among many many others. For this I am not proud but very much ashamed. I have undertaken many disciplines, not out of the pride in suffering through them, but for that great feast that comes to my spiritual senses resulting from them. It must have been quite obvious that I easily represent that Eagle in my parable of the four animals, while intellectually I believe we must be all four of those animals at once. God has responded to my tendency to go too far in this by putting a small child almost completely in my care. Also, my abbey, being still rather new, does not completely provide food and shelter for this child and myself, so I have taken many other different occupations to support us. I, indeed, must be in this world for my child just as Christ came in the flesh to take care of us. I am learning to be as conscientious in all that I do as I have been in seeking new spiritual experiences in my art. However, these gluttonous eyes are particularly sensitive to what seems to me spiritual sloth in others. When I am gorging myself to excess, it is very difficult for me to see why others would not even bother to try a taste of what is so delicious for me.
Krishna told Arjuna not to become an ascetic and to fight, but he needed to show him his spiritual (four-armed) form and his universal form in order to convince him to do this and to understand temporal reality in the light of eternity. Certainly, you are right in saying that none of our experiences should be discarded and the perfect way in which we must see the world is as a mixed one. I also attempted to make this point in my Novena, that we must be able to find God in all of his creation. However, my own sinful nature causes me to put too much emphasis on transcendental experiences. I will retain this emphasis in this work, though, because it seems a necessary stimulus to prod others from their sloth. The first part of your letter implies that you would not object to this.
It seems that God may be sending my child and myself farther away from you in the Body of Christ to the holy city of Santa Fe. Therefore, with much weeping, I must say farewell and thank God for the many blessings that are in you and have shone new light in my heart and mind. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.
Robert, most unworthy member of your flock.
Dear Brother in Harmony:
Last night as I read your Novena a deep sleep fell upon me. I saw before me a flute of the finest wood, jewels of every kind glistening on its surface. Though unskilled in the musical arts, I placed it to my lips, and to my utter surprised delight there issued forth melodious sounds that stirred my very soul. So intense was my delight that I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them again, a horrific sight assailed my eyes. The flute had turned into a snake, the gems were sores from which there flowed foul-odored substances of different hues.
Dear friend, this world is so easy to love. I confess that I am drawn to lovely sights, pleasing aromas, beautiful sounds. But we all must beware of mistaking that which leads us to joy for joy itself. What an intolerable and tragic error it would be if a man walks along a path but does not direct his steps to the place where the path leads! What blindness of his eyes if a man eats in the palace of a king and remains unaware of the king's presence! What incredible laziness if a man climbs eleven steps and neglects to climb the twelfth, where a seat awaits him! What deafness of the soul if the music of Truth is drowned out by the sounds of lesser instruments!
Your Novena brought joy to my soul, but it filled my heart also with foreboding. Sights, sounds (and yes my harmonious kinsman of belief even silence) can either lead us to the recognition of the higher Beauty that truly exists or mire us in the mud of momentary delight. I have come to realize that intention is all. If your brothers indulge in silence or in music only for the sense of inward delight that their mastery brings, then the harmony they seem to create is but a lure to perdition. True harmony always seeks to join the true sounds of Divine Truth. Every moment of every day we choose our path.
Be well, my brother. May you live long and prosper in the Holy Faith. And forgive the chirpings of the strident cricket who presumes to call himself your fellow searcher after euphony.
The preceding piece hints at what the Hindus would call my parampara or disciplic succession. One line would follow along the entire history of Western European music, especially through the three Viennese schools (Mozart, Brahms, and Schoenberg-Webern-Berg) leading to John Cage who was a student of Schoenberg's. I have also been very influenced by the line of French composers which leads to Dukas who was Olivier Messiaen's composition teacher. He told Messiaen, "Ecoutez les oiseaux, ce sont de grands maitres." Messiaen took his teacher very seriously and has cataloged hundreds of transcriptions of bird songs. He has used many of the birds songs for musical symbolism in his compositions. He was the aesthetics teacher for Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, and Pierre Boulez who formed the Darmstadt school. These New Music composers were my mentors through recordings and the few appearances they made in Texas. My friends and I would make pilgrimages to see them.
When I met Cage, he indicated to me that his relationship with Schoenberg was rather strained. It is possible that Cage was coming more from the perspective of a visual artist rather than that of a musician. Cage started his studies in France as a visual artist and was most greatly influenced by his association with the acclaimed Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp. I believe that Cage's cross-disciplinary influences are partly responsible for his being able to turn the world of classical music on its head. The piece 4'33'' was Cage's version of minimalism in music. Cage was the "spiritual father" of the Judson Church Group. Judson Church had been a church, in the vicinity of the New York University campus, which was changed into a sort of underground art center. Robert Dunn had been a dance accompanist and with Cage helped father a group of people (mostly dancers) who vigorously sought themselves through "pure" or "authentic" movement. The experience of this kind of movement became a priority over the display of movement that would be seen in ballet or more traditional forms of modern dance. I have worked with some people who have come out of that community, including Robert Dunn and Deborah Hay. I was drawn to their emphasis on the experience of the performer. The use of minimalism in performance forces the audience to become a part of the piece. All become very aware of the even their own stomachs' growling and the sounds' effects on the performers.
As a Texan, I have been somewhat isolated, importing my influences through recordings and, later, by getting grants to bring my mentors to me. My mentors must form part of my personal cosmology. I have made them "greater-than-life" and their physical presence did not destroy my excessive admiration for them, but rather gave me access to the other-worldliness that I had associated with them. Pauline Oliveros entered BL Lacerta's and my life through Deborah Hay. In my Tempest, she and Cage were the mother and father of New Music. They were the Gods who were controlling the universe, turning things towards Ariel Duchamp's favor. I feel that I have drawn these mentors to me after the influence of my first mentor, the Mockingbird. The Muse/Lizard could be in the form of a mentor. Oliveros and Cage were represented by Radha/Krishna during one performance of the Tempest.
1 Matthew 22:37.
2 Boethius; Consolation of Philosophy.
3 Matthew 7:1.