The Birth of the Novena Project 329-333

The Great Year receives;
Error changes.

One of the ways in which I explore my inner self is by juxtaposing complex systems until they seem to tell me what needs to be done. The relationships that I derive from the juxtapositions are internal and subjective but seem to be given to me by some outside force or intelligence.


Active flux.
Surpassing abundance; bottled up;
This element shows genuineness and certainty;
Entirely full, symbolizing ideas.

The entire Novena Project was created through these kinds of juxtapositions. In fact, even this work that you are reading is evolving along a complex series of juxtapositions. The T'ai Hsuan Ching is forming a very complex structure in which I am forcing my ideas. Some of my journals, in which I have been logging my dreams and ideas for many years, have incorporated verses of the T'ai Hsuan Ching and each verse served as a prompt for new ideas. When structures are layered against each other new ideas inevitably appear. Often the ideas seem to be coming from an outside source and apply uniquely to my needs.


SHENG is not dark and abstruse;
It is an arrow pointing to correct action.

Synchronicity is a term coined by Jung to refer to the meaningful relationship of events which has no cause that can be understood by the intellect. This covers premonitions, coincidences, etc. He explains in his introduction to Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching that the Chinese (or more generally, the Eastern mind) see time as occurring in a vertical fashion rather than in a linear cause and effect sequence.1 The I Ching, T'ai Hsuan Ching, reading tea leaves, the Tarot, etc. draw upon the significance of events occurring a certain way at a certain moment. These divining methods attribute their power to the supernatural and/or intervention of spirits. A supernatural cause cannot be explained by the intellect and is explained through the acceptance of entities which cannot be perceived by the senses.

The I Ching and the T'ai Hsuan Ching use chance methods for consultation. The answers are then subjectively interpreted and they almost always seem to fit the situation of the questioner. Many contemporary composers, such as John Cage and Pauline Oliveros, have been influenced by this style of thinking and therefore are continually finding order and meaning in seemingly random events. Randomness is inspiring to creative individuals because it juxtaposes a complex structure against the established structures of the individual. It often seems to me that something that is random is just structured in a way that is beyond our comprehension. Trying to understand randomness creates new structures.


Deeds are not dependent
On having great possessions.

Many "coincidences" led to the development of the Novena Project. First, I used the T'ai Hsuan Ching's verses, as they have been arranged in correspondence to each day of the year, to help determine the program order of Stockhausen's Aus den Sieben Tagen. Next, I wanted to use astrology along with the T'ai Hsuan Ching to help create rules for a longer performance for the same core group of artists that performed Aus den Sieben Tagen. I was told that the planets would be doing something that very rarely happens for a time lasting nine days. The Catholics use the word "Novena" for their rituals which last nine days. I learned as much about astrology as I could in order to better interpret the planets' movements for the Novena. I kept running into more and more people who knew about what was going to occur in the Heavens. Someone gave me a Xerox of an astrologer's detailed interpretation of the horoscopes for the nine days after I had learned to do my own horoscope and even a progressed chart. I found a place to perform, got my rules together, and started recruiting participants and getting out publicity. Later, I kept finding references to the nine days in widely published periodicals (like The Wall Street Journal). The "Harmonic Convergence" became a household word and even Jay Leno was making jokes about "Harmonica Virgins." An international publicity campaign had been happening unbeknownst to me about the planets over the days of my Novena. This had been kicked off by Jose Arguelles who wrote the book, The Mayan Factor, about ideas he had intuited from the Mayan Calendar pointing to the significance of the first day of my Novena. I had not read the book until after it was all over. Many years later, I ended up working on a Ph.D. at the Union Institute where Jose Arguelles had once been a faculty member.


Deeds are not dependent
On being in concordance with the secret in the bosom.

The Novena I planned to perform with an intimate group of friends was part of a front page story in the Dallas Morning News. Over a thousand people attended the first day, August 16, 1987. The piece was overwhelmed by the expectations brought by each participant. My ideas concerning performance were greatly altered by this experience. I have become much more pluralistic and no longer feel the need to take credit for creating art.


Nurturing advantages in the bosom of the full-hearted:
There is no advantage for the Duke.

Since the larger idea of the "Harmonic Convergence" enhanced the piece I was planning in such a dramatic way, I began to look into the ideas that brought this happening on. Someone gave me the book, The Mayan Factor.


Small abundance:
Officers of state and civil servants
Wait at the great man's door.

Jose Arguelles had been working with a particular shape which evolved through his many paintings. He found this shape somehow reflected in the Mayan Calendar.2 It is difficult, when reading his book, to determine exactly what is coming clearly from an ancient text and what is being intuited from ancient text and what is coming purely from Mr. Arguelles's imagination. I have tried seeking out some of the original texts from which he has gotten his material and it seems that much of what is being represented as ancient Mayan is possibly coming more from an internal source of Mr. Arguelles' consciousness. I really have no problem with that. I became attracted to the shape that Arguelles was working with. It was interesting seeing how many associations that the artist, Jose Arguelles, could find concerning his shape in relation to the Mayan Calendar and Mayan prophecy. And, Arguelles is part Mayan which could help some people feel better about his own authenticity. For me, authenticity in the arts is concerned more with the sincerity of the artist rather than the accuracy of the artists research.


Whosoever, when happiness is full, mentions calamity,
Should resign, should resign.

When I was looking at the shape that Arguelles calls the Mayan Factor, I noticed some new associations. (If, for nothing else, his book is a very good example of how to milk new associations and ideas from a single visual form.) My father is a geophysicist, so the shape of the tectonic plates is firmly implanted in my mind. I traced Arguelles's Mayan Factor from his book on to a map of North and South American in a Rand-McNally Atlas. The shape of the Mayan Factor looked like the plates if one made them a bit more regular. I drew out the patterns of the edges of the plates and found that often the patterns fit perfectly together, particularly around the Caribbean and Nazca plates (see insert).


Producing fire, producing cold,
The fountain is reached.

I began imagining what it is like in each area marked by the Mayan Factor. The edges of the plates are our worlds hot spots where there is the most volcanic and seismic activity. Those places would also be some of the most beautiful sites in the world.

1 The I Ching; n.d.; rpt. 1977; Princeton University Press.
2 Arguelles, Jose. The Mayan Factor; Bear and Company; 1987.

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